The Best Cakes You'll Find At Chain Restaurants, Ranked

The term chain restaurant is slightly vague — it can incorporate many establishments that often differ in price point and service style. What they all have in common is the ability to deliver identical food items in different locations. The menu is usually the same, and this familiarity attracts us along with the idea that the products and the service are consistent, reliable, and relatively affordable. Though we sometimes tend to think less of them, the truth is that these establishments mostly deliver what they promise.

Unfortunately, chain restaurants are not big on desserts; they mostly rely on small, individual portions and simple combinations that can be pre-made or quickly assembled on the spot. The situation is especially dubious when it comes to cakes — you will not often see them on the menu. If they do make it to the list, they are often sad and disappointing.

Luckily, some chain restaurants do not ignore the sweet section and believe that well-made, consistent cakes can be a standard part of the menu. This list will guide you through the best options and show that chain restaurants can deliver elaborate, creative, and delicious cakes.

13. Chocolate Lava Crunch Cakes — Domino's

Domino's lava cakes are small, round, and utterly chocolate treats featuring all elements of classic restaurant lava cake. If baked right, these chocolate discs have a thick, slightly crunchy shell — hence the name — surrounding a liquidly, fudge-like chocolate center. The cakes typically ooze a delicious wave of melted chocolate as you slice into them. They are baked in tins and come packed inside attractively designed boxes. Each cake is generously dusted with powdered sugar.

Crunchy lava cakes were introduced in 2009 and have remained a permanent fixture on Domino's menus. Though some disgruntled customers label them "too sweet," the reviews are overwhelmingly positive, largely praising the flavor and the sublime combination of a gooey center and crunchy crust.

Just like any lava cake, you want to eat a Domino's lava cake while it's still warm, as the center will surely stay runny and soft while the outer layer is at its ideal level of crunch. Domino's lava cakes won't be the best lava cake of your life, but for a quick dessert from a pizza place that you can easily order or pick up, they are a pretty decent option.

12. Gooey Buttercake-on-a-Stick — White Castle

Gooey butter cake is a St. Louis staple invented in the 1930s. Though it has never been officially confirmed, the local lore claims the invention occurred when a baker accidentally mixed up another cake recipe's butter and flour ratio. The switch resulted in the unusual combination of a cakey bottom and a gooey top layer. Traditionally, the cake features a leavened base topped with a custard-like filling, but many homemade versions use a cake mix and add cream cheese to the topping. Though it is a relatively simple and unpretentious combination, gooey butter cake is a beloved dessert occasionally featured on restaurant menus. If you are a fan, a very good version of the cake is sold at White Castle, the Midwestern chain best known for its top-notch sliders.

White Castle's Gooey Buttercake has been on the standard menu since 2014. It comes on a stick, and though it is relatively small, it packs a lot of flavor. The classic sturdy crust is topped with a fudgy layer, and the cake is finished off with a crackling, sugary top. The combination of these diverse textures and a custardy vanilla flavor is why this cake finds its place on the list. The cake comes straight from the freezer, so try heating it or leaving it at room temperature to loosen up and attain that classic gooey character.

11. Chocolate Cake — Carl's Jr.

Though Carl's Jr. is a go-to place for hamburgers and sandwiches, the dessert menu carries a few favorites including a delicious, pre-packed chocolate cake. This is a relatively small, round cake topped with a dollop of frosting. It is neatly packed inside a plastic box, keeping the cake's structure intact and preventing the frosting from getting smushed all over it. The base of the cake is a classic chocolate sponge cake that is soft and easy to break into. This light and airy texture makes it ideal after a heavy fast food meal. There is not a surplus of icing on top, but the portion is perfect for the size of the cake. Though the cake is not too dense or dry, the icing does improve the overall experience. It also adds flavor and helps to break those chocolatey flavors.

Carl's restaurants usually get mixed reviews with many unhappy customers who either complain about the food or the service, but this packed dessert has a lot of fans. It is often described as "delicious" and some even claim it is "the best thing on the menu." Though it might be too sweet for some, and it probably won't compare to a cake you could get at a regular pastry shop, Carl's Chocolate Cake is a pretty good, reliable choice for those who prefer to pair their chocolate cakes with a bit of classic icing.

10. Oreo Cheesecake Cup — Popeyes

Cheesecake and Oreos are perfect companions, and Popeyes decided to turn this loveable partnership into a new dessert option on its menu. Although it is a brand-new addition, this cake has already won over the public and deserves its place on the list of best desserts at chain restaurants.

Unlike many cheesecake options that are usually just a slice taken from a whole cake, Popeyes' version comes as an individual dessert reminiscent of a classic cheesecake cup. Crushed Oreos make the bottom crust, topped with a creamy cheesecake layer swirled with an extra handful of crushed Oreo cookies. The cheesecake is finished with larger pieces or more crushed Oreos stacked on top.

Popeyes uses real Oreos and does not skimp on the amount, making this cake a perfect choice for all diehard Oreo fans. However, the cheesecake base is the focal point and does not feel overshadowed by the cookies. The cheesecake is firm and creamy, and the cookies simply boost the flavor and make the texture exciting and more fun to eat. The cake is described as "not too sweet" and as "everything you want a cheesecake to be," so it seems that Popeyes successfully pulled off a cake and cookies combo.

9. Ultimate Chocolate Cake — IHOP

Customers mainly flock to IHOP for top-notch pancakes and other perfectly crafted breakfast foods, but this chocolate cake might be the new reason to plan your next visit. As the name suggests, Ultimate Chocolate Cake is an utterly chocolaty treat consisting of a chocolate cookie crust topped with a smooth chocolate ganache and a feather-light chocolate mousse. As if that wasn't chocolate enough, the sides of the cake are also coated in dark chocolate chips for an extra crunch and an additional chocolate kick.

The cake was introduced in 2023, so it has yet to be seen whether it will become a customer favorite, but it has great potential to become the star of the dessert menu. The mousse and the ganache make it incredibly creamy and moist, while the crust and the chips add structure and crunch. This will be a dream cake for any chocolate lover, but it could be over the top if you like lighter desserts or prefer to partner chocolate with additional flavors to break through all that chocolate decadence. A dollop of whipped cream on the side is a necessary addition to this cake.

8. Chocolate Overload Cake — Jack in the Box

As you may guess from the name, Chocolate Overload Cake from Jack in the Box is all about chocolate. Resembling a small, individual-sized Bundt cake, this chocolate treat is made with cocoa and bittersweet chocolate chips that are incorporated and melted into the cake. For the ultimate chocolate kick, the top is generously drizzled with glossy chocolate icing. The cake is packed in individual bowls, so you do not have to eat it all at once, but you will probably want to. Although made at a fast food chain, this is an impressive chocolate cake that should become part of your standard order at Jack's.

Though it may sound too chocolatey, this cake remains light and does not come off as overpowering. Most reviews praise the fantastic texture that stays moist but not too wet and avoids the usual perils of pre-made cakes that tend to be dry and dense. The flavor is dominated by chocolate, but the bittersweet chocolate flavors are balanced with just enough sweetness. The flavor of the base cake is so good that it does not need that additional icing, which some folks may find too sugary.

7. Chocolate Wave — Red Lobster

Chocolate Wave is Red Lobster's most indulgent dessert. As the name suggests, this is another chocolate treat, but this item is utterly decadent and only reserved for true chocolate lovers. The cake is assembled with five thick layers of incredibly moist, dark chocolate cake coated with an equally rich chocolate frosting. Even the sides of the cake are generously covered with chocolate chips that make the texture more interesting. The cake is stacked high, and the slices are massive, so leave some room for this dessert, as it's even big enough to be shared after a heavier meal.

Red Lobster is known for indulgent over-the-top combos, and this cake aligns with that philosophy. Though this is a heavyweight in the cake category, the incredibly moist cake layers and the perfect distribution of the velvety smooth frosting make it incredibly pleasant to eat. It's definitely one of the best chocolate renditions you will find at chain restaurants.

The cake is served with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Adding ice cream on the side is the perfect maneuver as those gentle, milky vanilla flavors manage to tone down the powerful chocolate character of the cake, somehow making the whole experience much better. Chocolate Wave fans will be delighted to know that this cake is also sold as a whole dessert. If you order it that way, make sure you have somebody to share it with.

6. Original Cheesecake — The Cheesecake Factory

Despite its name, The Cheesecake Factory is not exclusively dessert oriented. Still, sweets are undoubtedly its forte. Naturally, The Cheesecake Factory is represented on this list with one of its signature cheesecakes. Though it was not easy to choose one cheesecake from the impressive selection and many creative combinations, the classic is still one of the finest options at The Cheesecake Factory.

Labeled as the Original, the classic cheesecake features a graham crust base that holds creamy cheesecake filling. The top is sealed with a thin layer of sour cream. This cheesecake is simply done right; it has the perfect ratio of crust to filling, so each mouthful gets the ideal amount of creaminess and crunch. The sour cream top adds a nice tang and perfectly complements the sweetness of the filling, while the subtle nuttiness of the graham crust rounds up the whole tasting experience. This is a classic for a reason, and the item that launched the business, so it is always consistently good and the most reliable option at The Cheesecake Factory.

A similar version that is just as good as the Original is the classic cheesecake topped with glazed fresh strawberries, so if you want perfection with the twist, this is probably the best option.

5. Gigi's Butter Cake — Maggiano's Little Italy

Maggiano's Little Italy is a chain specializing in classic Italian American cuisine. The business was launched in Chicago, and after several successful years it changed hands and expanded nationally. The chain continues to follow the original idea of serving family-style Italian-American classics. The dessert menu at Maggiano's is not extensive; it carries several quintessential restaurant desserts, such as tiramisu and the New York-style cheesecake, and one cake that we can easily classify as a true hidden gem.

Officially labeled as Gigi's Butter Cake, this dessert is the restaurant's take on a classic butter cake featuring a seemingly simple, light, and airy sponge cake. With a few tweaks that entail a handful of fresh strawberries and the flavor-packed brown sugar glaze, Maggiano's turns the tender butter concoction into one of the best cakes you can eat at a chain restaurant. To round up this sweet affair, a dollop of whipped cream is usually served on the side, which helps to balance out all the sweet buttery richness. Customers rave about this cake, with some even naming it the best dessert they ever had.

Don't get fooled by its unpretentious appearance. This decadent dessert packs over 1000 calories in a regular serving, so think of it as a well-deserved treat.

4. Molten Chocolate Cake — Chili's

It's hard not to like molten lava cakes, especially if they are correctly executed. The oozing center paired with a soft cake is a straightforward recipe for success. However, not all lava cakes are created equal, and not all places manage to take this cake to the next level. Luckily, some chain restaurants, including Chili's, mastered the craft and created a superior version of this classic.

Molten Chocolate Cake at Chili's is a far cry from the inferior versions found at many restaurants. The dessert consists of several elements, starting with the chocolate base hiding molten chocolate in the center. The bottom cake is topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The combination is then doused in dark chocolate. When the melted chocolate is poured on top of the ice cream, it quickly sets, creating a thin, crunchy layer that adds an enjoyable textural component to the dessert. A drizzle of caramel is usually added as a finishing touch. As you crack into the cake, the pressure will squeeze out all the melted chocolate and create a sweet, gooey puddle on the plate.

Though Chili's played it safe with vanilla, chocolate, and caramel, this is still a masterfully crafted cake that deserves all the love that it gets.

3. Strawberries & Cream Shortcake — Longhorn Steakhouse

The full-cake version of the classic strawberry shortcake is not an item you will regularly see on a menu. This relatively complicated dessert consists of several layers of vanilla sponges coated in whipped cream or frosting and layered with some fresh strawberries or strawberry jam. When you spot it on the menu, make sure to order one, as it could be a good sign that the restaurant has put a lot of effort into its dessert section. One such example comes from LongHorn Steakhouse, a restaurant chain mainly known for its juicy steaks and other grilled delicacies. This casual steakhouse also carries a masterfully assembled Strawberries & Cream Shortcake.

The cake consists of tender sponge cakes layered with vanilla-flavored cream and strawberry jam, all topped with a heap of fresh strawberries and a drizzle of strawberry syrup. The cake is soft, tender, and incredibly moist. As vanilla and strawberries are natural partners, the flavors blend perfectly. Though this is a hefty cake, it tastes light, juicy, and refreshing, making it an ideal sweet treat following a hearty steak dinner.

The cake has many fans and is often praised for its flavor and quality. One enchanted customer described the experience as "biting into a strawberry filled cloud."

2. The great wall of chocolate — P.F. Chang's

P.F. Chang's The Great Wall of Chocolate is an appropriately named dessert, and it looks just as you imagine it; a massive, layered cake completely made of chocolate. The cake is assembled with six fudgy chocolate sponges coated in a silky chocolate frosting, with the sides covered in semi-sweet chocolate chips. In the realm of chocolate cakes at chain restaurants, this is the absolute pinnacle and a must-try for all chocolate aficionados. The Great Wall of Chocolate delights with its rich texture and deep flavors, but all this chocolate energy is somehow not totally overwhelming and avoids smothering its character. The cake is served with a handful of fresh berries and a drizzle of raspberry sauce that add a refreshing, fruity touch.

P.F. Chang's may have established its brand on savory Asian-inspired dishes and craft cocktails, but this dessert is a serious contender to become the restaurant's biggest attraction.

1. Black Tie Mousse Cake — Olive Garden

Black Tie Mousse Cake is one of Olive Garden's classics. This layered cake is beautifully assembled, has perfectly balanced flavors and just enough textural diversity. With such impressive characteristics, it easily takes the title of the best cake you can find at a chain restaurant.

Black Tie Mousse Cake starts with a fudgy chocolate base that is topped with a creamy dark chocolate cheesecake layer. The feathery light custard mousse comes on top as an ideal complement to those rich chocolate flavors. A thin coating of chocolate ganache is added last, and the chocolate chips are used as a finishing touch to cover the sides of the cake.

In its essence, this is an unpretentious chocolate cake. It does not have all the impressive layers or copious amounts of chocolate built into it, but it does show technical precision and skillful play with flavors and textures. This may be an old-school dessert, but it is a perfect example of how a well-designed cake looks and tastes. Nothing here jumps out or seems forceful. The flavors are distinctive but subtle, and they don't feel smothered or lost. Every element fulfills its purpose, and they all function in perfect harmony.