Which cake pan do I use?
October 15, 2011 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Emergency baking question - I don't have the size pan that I thought I had, and am not sure what to do. Help me figure out the alternative!

So I am trying to make this Peanut Butter Texas Sheet Cake, and I thought I had a 10 x 15 jelly roll pan, but it turns out that it is a 12 x 17 baking pan instead. I can use either the 12 x 17 or a 13 x 9 pan, but am not sure which will get me the results that I want.

If I do the 13 x 9 pan, it is the same volume, but will be deeper. If I use the 12 x 17, the batter will be shallower. Looking at this website, I see how to adjust the baking times and temperatures to accommodate the different sizes, so that's not a problem. But what I really like about texas sheet cake is how dense and chewy it comes out, and I don't know which size is the best one to get that result. I am inclined to do the shallower pan, but wonder if I am going to wind up with a cake that is only half an inch tall! Either way, I'm sure it'll be tasty, but I'd like to get it as close as possible to the original.
posted by Neely O'Hara to Food & Drink (6 answers total)
You're correct in your assumptions about the height variation with either of your two pans.

If I were in your situation, I would probably go with the 13x9. I don't think it will be super fluffy or anything. 12x17 would make a very short cake, as you said.

If you're really freaking out, you could just not use all your batter (make some cupcakes with the extra)!
posted by pupstocks at 11:48 AM on October 15, 2011

This isn't a very authoritative answer since I haven't really tested this systematically. But I have made texas sheet cake in a variety of pans at a variety of depths, and I don't really think that this will make a huge difference, it is a very forgiving thing. Just monitor the cooking (possibly with an instant read thermometer) more carefully if you are worried. That said my slight inclination is to use the 13x9 pan, it maybe would come out a little more dry if you go with the thinner version. In fact if you use about 3/4 of the batter you will match the height that it would be, and 13x9 is still plenty of sheetcake. (You could just bake the rest in some kind of small pan.)

Also I just checked the test kitchen recipe for standard sheetcake, and depth of the batter when baking wasn't even something they bothered varying, or at least reporting on.
posted by advil at 11:51 AM on October 15, 2011

The 13x9 pan should give you a cake that's only about 25% thicker than the 10x15. You probably won't even notice the difference.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:52 AM on October 15, 2011

ooh, hold on, lemme check my cookbooks...there's a trick for this...you can adjust the size of a baking pan by putting in a divider and filling the remaining space with rice or dried beans...i forget what they used for the divider though...brb
posted by sexyrobot at 3:12 PM on October 15, 2011

tinfoil! use a sheet to cover the entire bottom of the pan folding it up to make the divider....here's a side view (sorta): ______A__, except you'd fold the 'A' flatter to make wall...like so: _____I__...you want to keep your area the same, so 10x15=150, 150/12=12.5...so you will want to lop off 4.5 inches from your 12x17 pan...basically almost square. i hope this trick works...it sounds like fun!
posted by sexyrobot at 3:23 PM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

12 x 17 - 15 x 10 = 54

sqrt(54/𝜋) = about 4.14

So put an 9" round cake pan inside the 12 x 17 sheet pan and weight it down with pie weights or whatever, then pour the batter around it.
posted by nicwolff at 3:45 PM on October 15, 2011

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