Hello, my strain is: Cake

The terpenes of “cake” strains

Anyone who knows cannabis, will tell you about the absolute importance of terpenes. Total terpenes, for example, is a good indicator of how fragrant a bud will be, while specific terpenes are known to modulate the particular smells, tastes and even the effects of cannabis.

Many, if not most, strains are named after their smells which, in turn, are mostly due to terpenes. There are lots of guides out there that talk about the particular smells of terpenes and what other foods or plants they are found in: Myrcene is found in mangos, Pinene is found in pine trees, Caryophyllene is found in black pepper and so on. While the presence of those terps can explain some basic smells, what about the complex smells that cannot be explained by the presence of a single terpene?

For the purpose of this post, we’ll be exploring “cake” strains and what exactly makes them “cake”. For example, there is no specific “ice cream cake terpene”, so what causes strains to have that particular smell? Also, is the terpene mix in other cake strains the same? If so, can we predict precisely how a strain will smell based on terpene data alone?

To answer these questions, Cannametrics has teamed up with Molecular Science Corp (MSC) to compare strains on the legal market. We’re taking a look to see how similar products with the same names, as well as smells, compared when it came down to their terpenes. What we have found so far is very interesting and we’ve begun to answer these questions through MSC’s analytical capabilities.

Firstly, we began by grabbing  5 representative “cake” samples and ran them through MSC’s advanced analytical testing. Of the 5 samples, 2 were “Ice Cream Cake” strains and 3 were “Wedding Cake” strains.

Here are some of the key insights from our experiment:

The “Cakes” have a lot in common

The first striking study result is how similar all these flower samples were in terms of their terpene profiles. The graph below shows how closely the terpenes of all 5 of our Cake samples match up.

You don’t need statistics to interpret this graph:

With such a high degree of similarity in terpene content, we can start to map what makes a “Cake” cultivar.  For example: In 4 out of 5 strains, Caryophyllene, Limonene & Linalool were the 3 most abundant terpenes suggesting that this mix is a “terpene signature” for Cake strains. 

These results in themselves were fascinating, but we wanted to go deeper, so we prompted the next question:

What makes Ice Cream Cake strains and Wedding Cake strains different?

Once again, the answer was clearly underscored in our testing results. Caryophyllene was the most abundant terpene in all the “Wedding Cake” strains whereas Limonene was the top terp in the “Ice Cream Cake” strains. It seems, in terms of these samples, that the “cake” component was defined by the particular mix and the difference between the kinds of cake by the top terpene.

Insights into the Lineages of Wedding Cake & Ice Cream Cake

Wedding Cake

  • Widely believed to be and advertised as “Cherry Pie” x “Girl Scout Cookies” cross. However, only some of the products acquired for this investigation were advertised as this, while others were less clear.

Ice Cream Cake

  • There’s no doubt about Ice Cream Cake’s lineage, as it is:

    Wedding Cake” (Breeder = Seed Junky Genetics)  x  “Gelato #33” (Breeder = Sherbinskis & Cookie Fam Genetics ).


Looking into the analytical chemistry of Cake strains, we were able to find that there is a signature terpene mix that makes a strain “Cake”.  Interestingly, we were also able to see a clear distinction between “Wedding Cake” and “Ice Cream Cake” in the order of the terpenes.

The samples analyzed here had such striking similarities and such clean distinctions between them. We are excited to continue to explore how terpenes define our favourite strains and how they come together to express their characteristics and complex smells.

Coming next in Hello, my strain is… the terpenes of Cheese.

Cannabis Terpenes 101: Secondary Terpenes

Understanding terpene basics and why they matter​

Terpenes are aromatic molecules that give cannabis and other plants their distinct aromas. In our previous post, we got acquainted with dominant cannabis terpenes.

This time around, we’re focusing on secondary cannabis terpenes, which are typically present in much smaller concentrations. While they might not be as important as their dominant cousins, secondary terpenes still contribute to the flavors and effects of cannabis.

Strains Rich In Secondary Terpenes

Although all cannabis strains contain them, secondary terpenes rarely break into the top three terpenes by concentration. For example, linalool is the third most abundant terpene in only a handful of strains, including Do-Si-Dos, Scooby Snacks, and Zkittlez, making these strains rather unique. 

Here’s a closer look at the ten most notable secondary cannabis terpenes: carene, camphene, caryophyllene oxide, fenchol, humulene, linalool, phellandrene, beta-pinene, terpinene, and terpineol.


Also known as delta-3 carene, this terpene has a sweet smell reminiscent of turpentine. Aside from cannabis, it’s also found in pine trees, rosemary, and other plants.Studies have shown that carene has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties 1 and may support bone health.2 It’s also been shown to promote sleep by interacting with GABA receptors in the brain.3


Camphene is another terpene common in conifer and camphor trees, as well as valerian, nutmeg, and other plants.

It has a cooling, piney, camphor-like odor with hints of citrus. Early research suggests that it may be able to lower cholesterol and triglycerides4 and help with inflammation and pain.5

Caryophyllene Oxide​

Caryophyllene oxide is a different form of beta-caryophyllene, one of the dominant terpenes in cannabis. It’s found in the same kinds of plants, such as basil, cloves, and pepper, and has a woody scent.

Caryophyllene oxide has similar effects to regular caryophyllene, including pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antiviral properties.6


Also known as fenchyl alcohol, fenchol is common in basil and aster flowers. It has camphor and lemon-like flavor and may have pain-relieving qualities.7


Humulene has an earthy, woody, and spicy scent and is common in hops. It hasn’t seen much research aside from studies highlighting its anti-inflammatory properties.8


One of the most recognized secondary terpenes in cannabis, linalool has a floral odor and is also found in lavender and coriander.

It’s been shown to have many beneficial properties, including sedative, anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing), antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antimicrobial, neuroprotective, antidiabetic, and pain-relieving effects.9, 10


Phellandrene is an under-researched terpene that’s found in eucalyptus plants and has a complex flavor with hints of mint, citrus, pepper, spice, and wood. It may have antidepressant and antihyperalgesic (reduced sensitivity to pain) effects.11


Beta-pinene is the lesser-known cousin of alpha-pinene, one of the dominant cannabis terpenes. It has a woody, pine-like aroma and is common in pines and some other trees.Studies suggest that it may have anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anticonvulsant, antimicrobial, anticancer, antioxidant, and gastroprotective properties.12


Terpinene is common in eucalyptus, citrus, cardamom, tea tree, and other plants, and has a refreshing, woody scent. It’s been demonstrated to have anti-inflammatory,13 antioxidant,14 and anticancer effects.15


Terpineol is abundant in lilac, pine, and lime blossom, and has a lilac-like aroma. Research suggests that it may have anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anticancer, and antidepressant properties.16, 17, 18

Summing Up

Secondary terpenes contribute to the flavor and effects of cannabis, with each strain having a unique terpene profile.

While they might not play as big of a role as their dominant cousins, secondary terpenes are still important. For example, strains rich in limonene can be a good option for calming, uplifting effects.

You can search products by their terpene profile and look for specific secondary terpenes in our Producer Connect database.

1 Huang, Xia-Ling, et al. “Anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive effects of active ingredients in the essential oils from Gynura procumbens, a traditional medicine and a new and popular food material.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 239 (2019): 111916.2 Jeong, Jong‐Geun, et al. “Low concentration of 3‐carene stimulates the differentiation of mouse osteoblastic MC3T3‐E1 subclone 4 cells.” Phytotherapy Research: An International Journal Devoted to Pharmacological and Toxicological Evaluation of Natural Product Derivatives 22.1 (2008): 18-22.3 Woo, Junsung, et al. “3-Carene, a phytoncide from pine tree has a sleep-enhancing effect by targeting the GABAA-benzodiazepine receptors.” Experimental neurobiology 28.5 (2019): 593.4 Vallianou, Ioanna, et al. “Camphene, a plant-derived monoterpene, reduces plasma cholesterol and triglycerides in hyperlipidemic rats independently of HMG-CoA reductase activity.” PloS one 6.11 (2011): e20516.5 Quintans-Júnior, Lucindo, et al. “Antinociceptive activity and redox profile of the monoterpenes.” International Scholarly Research Notices 2013 (2013).6 Fidyt, Klaudyna, et al. “β‐caryophyllene and β‐caryophyllene oxide—natural compounds of anticancer and analgesic properties.” Cancer medicine 5.10 (2016): 3007-3017.7 Takaishi, Masayuki, et al. “Inhibitory effects of monoterpenes on human TRPA1 and the structural basis of their activity.” The Journal of Physiological Sciences 64.1 (2014): 47-57.8 Rogerio, Alexandre P., et al. “Preventive and therapeutic anti‐inflammatory properties of the sesquiterpene α‐humulene in experimental airways allergic inflammation.” British journal of pharmacology 158.4 (2009): 1074-1087. of Medical and Biological Research 49.7 (2016).9 Pereira, Irina, et al. “Linalool bioactive properties and potential applicability in drug delivery systems.” Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 171 (2018): 566-578.10 de Moura Linck, Viviane, et al. “Inhaled linalool-induced sedation in mice.” Phytomedicine 16.4 (2009): 303-307.11 Piccinelli, Ana Claudia, et al. “Antihyperalgesic and antidepressive actions of (R)-(+)-limonene, α-phellandrene, and essential oil from Schinus terebinthifolius fruits in a neuropathic pain model.” Nutritional neuroscience 18.5 (2015): 217-224.12 Salehi, Bahare, et al. “Therapeutic potential of α-and β-pinene: a miracle gift of nature.” Biomolecules 9.11 (2019): 738.13 de Oliveira Ramalho, Theresa Raquel, et al. “Gamma-terpinene modulates acute inflammatory response in mice.” Planta Medica 81.14 (2015): 1248-1254.14 Rudbäck, Johanna, et al. “α-Terpinene, an antioxidant in tea tree oil, autoxidizes rapidly to skin allergens on air exposure.” Chemical research in toxicology 25.3 (2012): 713-721.15 Ya-Nan, Wang, et al. “Anticancer effects of Chenopodium ambrosiodes L. essential oil on human breast cancer MCF-7 cells in vitro.” Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research 14.10 (2015): 1813-1820.16 Vieira, Graziela, et al. “Antidepressant-like effect of terpineol in an inflammatory model of depression: Involvement of the cannabinoid system and D2 dopamine receptor.” Biomolecules 10.5 (2020): 792.17 Nogueira, M. N. M., et al. “Terpinen-4-ol and alpha-terpineol (tea tree oil components) inhibit the production of IL-1β, IL-6 and IL-10 on human macrophages.” Inflammation research 63.9 (2014): 769-778.18 Hassan, Saadia Bashir, et al. “Alpha terpineol: a potential anticancer agent which acts through suppressing NF-κB signalling.” Anticancer Research 30.6 (2010): 1911-1919.