Cake pans too small!
April 16, 2005 4:41 AM   Subscribe

Cake emergency! Bakers please hope me! It's my husband's birthday, and I want to actually make him a cake for a change, but I can't find cake pans where I am for some reason... So, I finally got hold of a couple of pans that look like they might do, but they aren't the right size...

These are slightly less than 8 inches round, by about one-and-a-half deep, and I know that must be way too small, but I don't mind a smaller cake. The thing is, how deep do I fill them with batter? And do I need to adjust the cooking time? I'm wondering if I should even half this recipe. Help?
posted by taz to Food & Drink (19 answers total)
Oh, I forgot. Another problem here is that I also can't find buttermilk, so I plan to substitute the I cup of buttermilk in the recipe with 1 cup of about half yogurt and half milk. Does that seem reasonable? Can you tell I don't bake?
posted by taz at 4:45 AM on April 16, 2005

Putting the half yogurt will alter the wet proportions. Better to use 1C buttermilk 1C milk. Split the batter between the two pans evenly. It will crown over the top. That's OK - you'll cut off the crown after it cools so that the layers stack.
posted by plinth at 5:05 AM on April 16, 2005

I can help you. I bake many cakes:

1) relax. it will work out fine. Your hubbie will appreciate the effort no matter what.

2) it is fine to use smaller cake pans. Make the whole recipe-- do not mess with halving it. If you have to, you can either make cupcakes with the rest of the batter or just toss it.

3) the recipe you linked to doesn't even let you know what size pans to use! check out some other recipes on where they always provide a lot of detailed directions about greasing and flouring pans and baking time. They also have tutorials about cake-baking. Check these out.

4) do NOT fill pans up too high or you will have a huge mess on your hands. Aim for about 2/3 full, no more!

5) I am surprised that you couldn't find buttermilk anywhere. You can make a substitute by mixing 1 Tbs. vinegar in one cup of milk. This is definitely better than yogurt.

6) Do not overbake the cake. If you have a cake tester (or shish kabob stick), put it in the center about 5 minutes before the allotted time. It should come out clean, perhaps with some crumbs attached to it.

7) I make a similar cake that is to die for. It looks very similar to your recipe, so it should be fabulous.
posted by picklebird at 5:07 AM on April 16, 2005

Leave a half an inch or so of space at the top of the pans when you pour in the batter.

As for the buttermilk, I use some lemon juice in the milk. 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per 2 cups of milk.
posted by briank at 5:07 AM on April 16, 2005

Since the pans are so small, would it be possible to make 3 layers (baking in one pan twice) instead?
posted by Monday at 5:44 AM on April 16, 2005

briank is right-- lemon juice in milk works also as a substitute for buttermilk.
posted by picklebird at 5:46 AM on April 16, 2005

Okay, kids... I'm going in! Cross your fingers. Will report back.
posted by taz at 6:37 AM on April 16, 2005

Very sour yogurt (I seem to recall Greek yogurt is very sour) will do well, adding milk to make it thinner. Buttermilk is a source of acid in a cake recipe, which is why others add vinegar or lemon juice to milk.

OMG, the page you linked to is down, but it appears from picklebird's recipe, you're making my favorite, the Chocolate Decadence layer cake.

The cake seems very forgiving, it never fails me and I'm not very experienced with cakes. You better invite guests, this cake is a killer! Can't stress that enough. We eat too much of it in my house.

Please note, the recipe asks for NON-ALKALIZED cocoa. Where one would find such a silly substance I've no clue, even the famous Callabaut only sells alkalized. I use alkalized without a problem. The "Dutch Process" (alkalizing) gives more cocoa flavor for less powder. Some cocoas say they are alkalized, many do not, but I find no difference and suspect they all are. I have a cookbook that swears Nestle is NOT, but my local Nestle here is the only one that is labeled as alkalized! I use it, no problem.

The pan size is not a problem, you'll have extra batter. It will be fine to wash and do an additional pan, the batter is happy waiting for the second bake.

The frosting: I'm not entirely happy with it, but I can't seem to find a better one. My partner says its fabulous.

Measure all your ingredients before you start mixing! This batter is thin and loves to spatter. Be careful.

In South Africa, this cake is too strong for local taste. You might be stuck eating it all yourselves. It is very chocolate, and will SCREAM at you to eat MORE!

Do use the best dark chocolate you can find, BUT DO NOT USE 70% cocoa chocolate! Ordinary semi-sweet (noir pure) is what you want. These fashionable 70% bars are a real joke, "cocoa mass" (cocoa powder) is much cheaper than the cocoa butter it replaces. The 70% stuff doesn't do well in the cake, especially not in the frosting.

Funny, come to think of it, its my partner's birthday today, too! I didn't make cake, we both are recovering from a battle with salmonella, mine combined with a cold. YUCK

Happy Baking!
posted by Goofyy at 6:54 AM on April 16, 2005

Well, the recipe I'm using is kind of like the "Idiots Guide" version of picklebird's lovely recipe. I wasn't brave enough to try anything more difficult than something that looked kind of like "throw it all in a bowl, and pummel it". But it's in the oven now, and I can say that the batter is delish! I would be pretty happy just eating that.

Thanks for mentioning that it's runny, Goofyy, because I was a bit worried. It seemed way too liquid-y to me (I'm only used to baking stuff like gingerbread and carrot bread).

And, oddly, the batter seemed to fit in the two pans, leaving about a half-inch to spare (which also look to be about 2/3 full). Very unexpected. Maybe the recipe is actually meant for smaller pans like I have (and, as picklebird noted, it doesn't even mention pan size). Or maybe this recipe really balloons up, and my oven is in for a rude surprise. We'll soon find out! (The drama... the suspense!)
posted by taz at 7:16 AM on April 16, 2005

posted by andrew cooke at 7:27 AM on April 16, 2005

oh. didn't realise only 11 minute had passed! i thought it was PST here (10:23).
posted by andrew cooke at 7:28 AM on April 16, 2005

And... Success! They are cooling now. No problems; they puffed up nicely (and quickly), but stayed right in their little pans, and they look great! I used the "tablespoon of lemon" trick to substitute for the buttermilk, btw. (Where I am in Greece, buttermilk is not so common. There is a specialty food store nearby that sometimes has it, but when I passed by there was a huge line of people waiting to check out, so I didn't even dive in to see if they had any.)

Thanks for the handholding, everyone. And picklebird, thanks for the calm reassurance; I really needed it! Now, everybody's invited over for cake!

(Let's just see if they come out of the pans nicely once they are cooled - I buttered the pans, but forgot to flour them. D'oh. But they are Teflon-coated anyway... so should be okay.)
posted by taz at 8:02 AM on April 16, 2005

Congrats! Make sure they are 100% cool before trying to frost, or there is yet more potential for absolute mess.

Keep us posted.
posted by picklebird at 8:09 AM on April 16, 2005

I will! I'm not touching them until they are totally cool. Anyway, the easy-easy frosting also came out very nicely, despite the fact that the powdered sugar I had must be at least two years old. Aren't I a fun cook?

So, now I need a nice cup of tea to soothe my nerves before I start on the risotto. I will let you know later how this magical mystery cake actually turns out tasting.
posted by taz at 8:18 AM on April 16, 2005

"Please note, the recipe asks for NON-ALKALIZED cocoa. Where one would find such a silly substance I've no clue, even the famous Callabaut only sells alkalized. I use alkalized without a problem. The "Dutch Process" (alkalizing) gives more cocoa flavor for less powder. Some cocoas say they are alkalized, many do not, but I find no difference and suspect they all are. I have a cookbook that swears Nestle is NOT, but my local Nestle here is the only one that is labeled as alkalized! I use it, no problem."

Gooffyy--In the northern US, I find Dutched & non-Dutched cocoa to be about equally available. Hershey, Guittard and Ghirardelli all make non-Dutch-processes varieties. You'll find endless discussions about which is better for various uses in many cooking magazines here. I'm told by a friend in the south that it's impossible for her to find Dutch processed cocoas at all. They're not always swappable since the huge difference in pH will alter the rising process.
posted by bcwinters at 8:30 AM on April 16, 2005

bcwinters: Yep, and I would expect a big difference, especially in a cake. I haven't had a problem with this specific recipe.

Here in my part of South Africa, you are lucky to find any respectable dark chocolate, much less a choice in cocoa variety. Small city. Folks don't care that much for other than their mild chocolate and milk chocolate candy bars.
posted by Goofyy at 1:40 PM on April 16, 2005

So, okay — the cake came out great, especially for a super-simple recipe, and it's now clear that it was really meant for 8-inch cake pans; even the frosting was just exactly enough to ice this size cake, so I just happened to stumble upon the proper size pans for the great adventure.

But now I know what to do when I want to use a recipe meant for a larger cake, which will come in handy, because now that I have this under my belt, I've already selected my next victim, something just slightly higher up on the complexity scale.

In the process of looking around for information about cake pans, I also came across something that seems quite useful for those who, like me, often won't have precisely the proper pan size, so for general information for seekers and size queens, I'll put it here:

Cake Pan Size Conversions


Thank you, kids. The birthday was a resounding success, and my hips will never forgive me for learning how to bake a cake!
posted by taz at 10:51 PM on April 16, 2005

I just wanted to suggest Nigella Lawson's book How to be a Domestic Goddess. I'm sure ppl in this thread have their opinions about Nigella since I for one am not a fan of her savory recipies, but I learned how to bake and love baking from this book. She has a dense chocolate cake that uses dark brown sugar that is by favorite chocolate cake anywhere. How she talks about cooking, about the process of cooking as fun, and lets go of it as an exacting method of weights and measures, is what distinguishes her cookbooks from other baking books.
posted by scazza at 7:49 AM on April 17, 2005

Another suggestion for the buttermilk: I use powdered buttermilk all the time for baking, and it works really well. Most supermarkets in my area have it, though I don't know if that's true everywhere--it's usually either in with regular powdered milk or with baking supplies. It's incredibly easy to use: you just add the powder to the dry ingredients, and the water needed to reconstitute it to the wet ingredients. I've used it in cake, bread, pancakes, and waffles, and it really is just as good.
posted by cerebus19 at 10:12 AM on April 17, 2005

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