How to Make a DIY Money Cake for a Birthday

Girl on her "sweet 16" birthday celebration excited as she pulls out a money roll out of her birthday cake.

Our daughter turned 16 over the weekend … I can’t believe it (she was only 5 when I started this blog)! And with it being her “Sweet 16,” we wanted to do something a little extra special to surprise her since we weren’t buying her a car as a gift. A DIY money cake seemed like just the ticket!

Tutorial for How to Make Money Cake

She is getting her license though, so we decided to hide a roll of money in her cake that she can use for gas money. What a fun way to get it rather than just finding it inside a card! After sharing this on social media, quite a few commenters requested a tutorial on how we did it … so I’m excited to share the details in today’s post!

Birthday Surprise Moment

As you can see in the video below, she was pretty surprised at her birthday party! I love when she stops after the first bill and says “yay” like that was it. As you can hear in the background, a couple of her friends had seen money cakes before, presumably on TikTok or their Instagram feeds. But it was a new concept to our daughter so she was super surprised, and it was so darn fun to watch. :)

Money Cake Video

My daughter’s reaction to the money cake surprise!

DIY vs. Amazon “Cake Money Box”

Things do exist like a “cake money box” on Amazon, but that is not what we used. Honestly, the money box kits you can buy are so large that there’s usually not much cake left to eat, and they don’t get very good reviews. That’s why we took the creative way with this fun DIY method, and you can see all the steps below. This is the perfect gift idea for graduation, wedding, birthdays, or any special occasion.

Money Cake Tips

The best cakes to use are those that are layered with at least two tiers and frosting in between. I used this Whole-wheat Chocolate Cake recipe, but another fun one to try would be this unicorn-inspired “funfetti” cake.

You’ll also want to make sure that it is tall and wide enough to fit the money tube inside. I would suggest using at least a 9-inch cake pan. And to make sure you don’t make a mess, leave frosting the outside of the cake until the very end after you’ve placed the money inside.

What You Need to Make a Money Cake

I can assure you, the final outcome is worth going through these steps. It really is like a magic trick watching it happen, and the recipient’s surprise is just priceless! The first step is to gather your supplies…this is what you’ll need:

DIY Money Cake Supplies

  • Treat Bags
    We used fifteen 4″X9″ treat bags, but a tad smaller (closer to the size of the dollar bills) would be even better if you can find them. We do not recommend zip lock bags. 
  • Money (or notes)
    We put a variety of bills in the bags (from $1 to $20) sort of building up to the bigger amounts, and at the very end, we put in a check to help her cover car insurance for the first year. Any sort of bill, check, paper note, etc. would fit in the bags. A few commenters said they were expecting her to get a car key at the very end. Haha! That would’ve been fun, but nooo! She already knew she has use of our third/older car until she can help pay for her own car, so she definitely was not expecting that. (But that would be fun if you are gifting a car and the key is slim enough to fit!)
  • Cardboard Tube
    This can be from a paper towel or wrapping paper roll or, better yet, something sturdier. I used a pretty solid one from a Cricut vinyl roll. You can also buy cardboard tubes online. 
  • Plastic Wrap
    To wrap around the filled tube so the cake doesn’t get all over it.
  • Tape and Scissors
    For assembly.
  • Hole Punch
    If you don’t have one, scissors will probably work. It’s to cut a hole in the first bag so you can tie the string.
  • String
    The type we used did get a little covered in chocolate. Probably the plastic-type typically used for balloons would’ve been better/cleaner.
  • A Cake (of course!)
    I used this recipe for the cake and this recipe for the icing.

Step-by-Step Instructions for a No-Fail Money Cake

And here are the exact instructions on how to make it work! My husband has an engineering degree so I knew I could count on him to make this work without fail. These instructions include all of his very precise tips so you can have your very own no-fail money cake as well!


  1. Gather supplies.
    Money Birthday Cake on 100 Days of Real Food
  2. Insert bills/notes into fifteen 4×9 treat bags.
    Money Birthday Cake on 100 Days of Real Food

  3. Tape bags together securely (completely covering any overlap, including folding the tape over the sides).
    Money Birthday Cake on 100 Days of Real Food
  4. Cut a slit in the top of the tube about 1/4″ wider than the short side of the bag (leaving at least 1/2″ of the tube intact on each side for structural integrity). My husband used a knife to do this since our tube was pretty sturdy.
    Money Birthday Cake on 100 Days of Real Food
  5. Roll up money as tightly as possible.
    NOTE: The first attempt was too big to fit, so it had to be rolled a little tighter (next step).
    Money Birthday Cake on 100 Days of Real FoodMoney Birthday Cake on 100 Days of Real Food
  6. Hold the center of the roll on the sides, pull the end to tighten, roll up the slack you create, and repeat until the roll will fit in the tube.
    Money Birthday Cake on 100 Days of Real Food
  7. Punch (or cut) a hole in the middle of the top of the last bag (we folded over and taped the end first to ensure it would’t rip when pulled), securely tie the string, and insert into the tube.
    Money Birthday Cake on 100 Days of Real Food
  8. Wrap the tube in plastic wrap and put tape around both edges.
    Money Birthday Cake on 100 Days of Real Food
  9. Keeping scissors flat against the tube, cut a slit for the opening.
    Money Birthday Cake on 100 Days of Real Food
  10. Pull out about 1/2″ of the first bag.
    Money Birthday Cake on 100 Days of Real Food
  11. Hold roll above the cake to figure out what size hole to cut.
    Money Birthday Cake on 100 Days of Real Food
  12. Cut a piece out of the cake to fit the tube and place the money holder into the hole. Slice off the bottom of the piece removed and place into back into the cake on top of the tube to weigh it down (otherwise the tube might get pulled out).
    Money Birthday Cake on 100 Days of Real Food
  13. Carefully make a slit down the center of the cake piece for the bags to come out of, cover with icing (while holding the string up), and hide with a berry. I’ve heard people using a lollipop stick attached to the string to place on the top of the cake as well.
    Money Birthday Cake on 100 Days of Real Food
  14. Continue decorating as you normally would and then tell the recipient to pull on the string carefully and slowly (after blowing out the candles)! As you can see, I carefully put the candles around the edge of the cake to avoid the cut part over the tube in the middle.
    Money Birthday Cake on 100 Days of Real Food

Printable Money Cake Instructions (Image)

Click the image below to open it in a new tab, and then print.

Collage showing how we hid a roll of money in a our daughter's birthday cake.

And that’s how you make a no-fail money cake! Do you think this is something you’ll attempt for a birthday coming up? It really is a fun surprise … especially for our kids who’ve had to give up so much over the last year. Let us know how it goes! :)

Money Birthday Cake on 100 Days of Real Food

Printable DIY Birthday Money Cake Instructions (Text)

Really surprise someone with this extra-special DIY money cake! It would make the perfect surprise for a birthday, wedding, graduation, or any other special event.
Cook Time: 2 hrs
Print Recipe
Servings: 1 money cake

Equipment

  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Tape

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • Gather supplies.
  • Insert bills/notes into fifteen 4×9 treat bags.
  • Tape bags together securely (completely covering any overlap, including folding the tape over the sides).
  • Cut a slit in the top of the tube about 1/4″ wider than the short side of the bag (leaving at least 1/2″ of the tube intact on each side for structural integrity). My husband used a knife to do this since our tube was pretty sturdy.
  • Roll up money as tightly as possible. NOTE: The first attempt was too big to fit, so it had to be rolled a little tighter (next step).
  • Hold the center of the roll on the sides, pull the end to tighten, roll up the slack you create, and repeat until the roll will fit in the tube.
  • Punch (or cut) a hole in the middle of the top of the last bag (we folded over and taped the end first to ensure it would’t rip when pulled), securely tie the string, and insert into the tube.
  • Wrap the tube in plastic wrap and put tape around both edges.
  • Keeping scissors flat against the tube, cut a slit for the opening.
  • Pull out about 1/2″ of the first bag.
  • Hold roll above the cake to figure out what size hole to cut.
  • Cut a piece out of the cake to fit the tube and place the money holder into the hole. Slice off the bottom of the piece removed and place into back into the cake on top of the tube to weigh it down (otherwise the tube might get pulled out).
  • Carefully make a slit down the center of the cake piece for the bags to come out of, cover with icing (while holding the string up), and hide with a berry.
  • Continue decorating as you normally would and then tell the recipient to pull on the string carefully and slowly (after blowing out the candles)! As you can see, I carefully put the candles around the edge of the cake to avoid the cut part over the tube in the middle.

Notes

I used this recipe for the cake and this recipe for the icing.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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3 thoughts on “How to Make a DIY Money Cake for a Birthday”

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  1. I think your daughter will remember this BIRTHDAY CAKE til the days she dies.
    WHAT AN AMAZING IDEA !!!!!!!!!!!

    Sincerely
    Bay Mac