Bring On The Madness! Basketball-Themed Cake Adds Fun To Final Four

Americans might be fiercely divided in many areas, but NCAA basketball doesn’t appear to be one of them. We love our college basketball – an estimated 40 to 50 million people will fill out March Madness brackets this year.

Some are seasoned professionals, while many more are just having a little fun in an office pool. Either way, the odds of walking away with a perfect bracket are astronomical – anywhere from one in 128 billion to 1 in 9.2 quintillion, according to Business Insider.

However, the odds of enjoying college basketball goes way up if you make a basketball court-themed cake to go along with your b-ball viewing. (I have absolutely no evidence to back up this claim except the assumption that cake makes everything better.)

Because I didn’t fill out a bracket this year, I had time to monkey around with ideas on how to make a March Madness cake.

I chose to make a Southern Caramel Cake as the base. Southern teams are expected to do well – CBS’s says 6 out of 9 teams expected to make the Final Four are from the South. More importantly, in this case, the caramel frosting on this Southern cake looks like a wooden basketball floor.

Let your imagination run wild on how to decorate the cake, but I used Pop Tarts, pretzel rods, Nutter Butter cookies, almond bark, Mini M&M’s, orange frosting and black and white icing.

All in all, it’s a fun addition to any Final Four party – no bracket-filling out needed.


March Madness Cake

Serves: 25

For the cake:

3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 cup milk
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the caramel frosting:

One box light brown sugar (1 pound)
1/2 cup butter
7 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the decorations:

1 package Nutter Butter cookies
1 ½ packages almond bark (or colored candy melts)
Food coloring
1 bag of pretzel rods
2 Pop Tarts (I used Brown Sugar Cinnamon because I liked the color)
1 tube of black icing
1 tube of white icing
1 tub of orange frosting
1 small container Mini M&M’s


Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray non-stick spray on bottom of  9-by 13-inch pan. In a small saucepan, cook the butter and milk over low heat until the butter melts. Stir well and let cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar on high speed until light yellow and smooth. Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture, just until combined. Add the cooled milk mixture and vanilla; stir well.

Pour batter into cake pan and bake for approximately 30 to 40 minutes or until center of the cake springs back when touched. (Watch it carefully. At about the 35 minute mark, the middle of my cake was still jiggly, but three minutes later it had hardened to the point of being slightly overbaked.) Let cool completely.

Start making the frosting shortly before you’re ready to put it on the cake. In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, evaporated milk and vanilla extract. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Stir well and turn heat down so mixture boils gently. Cook for 7 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Beat the frosting with a wooden spoon for 2 to 3 minutes to thicken. Frost the cake.

Once the caramel frosting has hardened, pipe white icing to make court lines and orange frosting to make a basketball for center court.

I made the basketball hoops by connecting Pop Tarts to pretzel rods using almond bark. I made it stand up by forming Rice Krispie treats around the pretzel rod to make a stand. Players and referees were made from Nutter Butter cookies dipped in almond bark mixed with food coloring. (I think colored candy melts might work better, but I didn’t have any in the house). Icing and mini M&M’s were used to make faces and hair.

Recipe altered from Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations