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Mar 23, 2012 03:33 AM

A birthday cake recipe for 30

Hi there, I posted a couple of months ago about hosting a surprise buffet lunch for my mum's birthday, and it really helped me figure out what to serve - however I have the problem of the birthday cake.

I do have cake recipes, but they generally serve around 8-10 people so I don't want to have to make 6 8in cakes. I am also not sure about doubling or tripling recipes in one go ...

Do you think that if I made 2 13 x 9 x 2 cakes and stacked them, that would work out ok? If so, does anyone have a good recipe - from scratch not boxed - for this quantity.

If this is not a good suggestion, does anyone have any other ideas?

I want a relatively plain sponge cake, not chocolate - not one that requires a really creamy filing (was going to just fill with either lemon curd or jam).

I should also say that I don't have a stand mixer - if that makes a difference to any suggestions, and also that I am in Scotland and the cake will be being made in the middle of May (in case of seasonal suggestions)

Thanks once again for your help Chowhounders!!

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  1. Doubling a cake recipe will give you enough for 30. I'd make two individual cakes, either:

    1) 2 13x9, cut in half, filled w/ lemon curd or jam as you were thinking) . Don't stack the two on top of each other or you'll end up w/ a too tall cake that is hard to serve.

    2) 2 9" layer cakes.

    Make one cake and then the other, so the batter doesn't sit around. Since you don't have a stand mixer, this recipe would work well for you. It starts w/ melted butter and it's one of my favorite yellow cakes (though not a sponge cake--you'd have to beat the eggs/whites for the sponge and that might be time consuming/difficult w/out a mixer unless you do it often):

    If you're looking for a good frosting with lemon curd, this is one of my favorite frostings:

    5 Replies
    1. re: chowser

      or you could make tiers if you have different size pans

      1. re: danna

        Stacking looks nice and I thought of the lopsided tiers, too--I think they're fun for a party. But, unless the OP has experience in it, on top of doing the buffet, it would be a lot of work. I also think there's a skill to taking a tiered cake apart. Much easier, I forgot to add is just doing cupcakes. It would be so easy to do tiers or different presentations. Making 30 cupcakes is just a batch and a half of batter, too.

        BTW, beautiful cakes! Are you doing it professionally?

        1. re: chowser

          oh god, no. I'm semi-embarrased to post the pics lest someone think I'm a really crappy professional instead of an stubbornly optimistic amateur. but thanks.

          Oh, it's work, but not that much worse than two cakes, I wouldn't think. I cut the cardboard cake rounds to exact size minus a fraction, and stabilized the cake under each tier by inserting 5 drinking straws at just the right height. I cut the layers while still on the cake. You just have to remember to pull the straws before you start the next layer.

          Here's a pic of my test run cake. Notice my attempt at making gold wedding bands out of white chocolate and luster dust. They looked exactly like onion rings.

          1. re: danna

            As a cake baker, I know how much work all that takes and I'm sure your family and friends appreciate them. I think you do a nice job! I also found, at least w/ my cakes, that they don't photograph as well--in video, they look much better. I've only been able to upload one picture of a cake (done years ago). I'm a terrible photographer! How do you get the picture on your post?

            As stacking goes, I've heard/read that straws work but have been afraid to risk it. I use wooden dowels or cut Wilton plastic tubes to size and that takes time. I also use precut rounts because I can get overwhelmed w/ everything that can be done (I have packs of each size). I un-tier the cake before slicing because I find it easier to cut the cake but finding the space and lifting it up takes time. I guess it's really 6 of one and we do the one we're used to doing.

            1. re: chowser

              just click on "attach photo" on the grey bar at the bottom when you are replying, then "browse" to find the find pic on your computer, then "post my reply"

              II know what you mean about a cake getting out of hand. the one I posted here was three big 9" layers, and it was too tall to serve properly. Plus I had to dismantle the chocolate leaves before I could even get it in the cake carrier.

    2. Are you serving the cake(s) in the same location where you made them? If not, consider ease of transport while you're deciding.

      Pics show you what two 13x9 inch layers look like. (apologies to those bored senseless by this cake over the last few years)

      2 Replies
      1. re: danna

        Wow these cakes look amazing - fancy coming over to do mine?!
        Thankfully I am baking and serving in the same location so there is no transportation worries. I am also not experienced in baking on such a large scale - hence my apprehension about doubling recipes straight off - even if technically volumes of batter are equivalent.

        Chowser, the recipe looks amazing. I am going to do a practice run through with 2 x 9 in pans just to test, but looks like a great recipe. When I said sponge, I did mean an 'all in one' type sponge rather than a victoria sponge type thing - too much hassle on such a large scale and this is too important not to keep the recipe simple. (In the UK we tend to use sponge to mean all cakes that are plain rather than carrot or coffee if you see what I mean.)

        All my mum's friends are amazing bakers, and whilst I am a decent enough home cook, my baking can be a bit hit or miss so I am a bit worried. However, we never buy cake in our house so I need to make one - even if it isn't amazing my mum will still appreciate the effort!

        I think that the chocolate cake picture looks the shape and size of what I am looking to do. Was that what you were meaning Chowser?

        Many thanks for your help so far !!

        1. re: alisonk

          I would recommend doing each batch individually, especially if you're mixing it by hand. It will double your time but it would be a shame to do both at once and ruin the whole thing by not mixing it well enough (or over mixing and making a tough cake). The chocolate cake that danna posted looked great--the layers of the chocolate cake I made in a 9x13 pan was taller so my doubled cake was VERY tall. Good luck with it all! You have a lot on your plate, so to speak.;-)

      2. Just be aware that if you decide to upsize the layers or put, say, the whole batch of a layer cake batter into a single larger pan you'd need to increase the leavening a bit. IIRC there are specific guidelines, but I don't have them at hand at the moment. You can look here or The Cake Bible.
        I can't find a link to the recipe anywhere, but I have a fantastic white cake recipe that I have used for years that I can post for you. It makes a nice moist, fine crumb that works well no matter how you want to finish and present it and it's proportioned for large size pans/big cakes.

        6 Replies
        1. re: splatgirl

          HI splatgirl - I am so sorry I didn't reply to this - I thought I had posted... If you could please post me that white cake recipe that would be absolutely fantastic. I didn't realise about the leavening so I will definitely keep that in mind.

          Many thanks

          1. re: alisonk

            It's called "Orange Buttermilk Cake" and it calls for orange juice concentrate, but I have substituted Amaretto or other concentrate or liquer to excellent result.

            11c. sifted cake flour
            11t. baking powder
            2 1/2t. salt
            3c. buttermilk
            6T. thawed frozen orange juice concentrate or liquer
            5T. vanilla extract

            1 1/2c. unsalted butter at room temp
            6 1/2c. sugar
            1 1/2c. vegetable oil
            2 1/2c. egg whites (about 20 large, or use powdered whites)
            1/2t. cream of tartar

            Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour 12", 9" and 6" diameter cake pans with 3" high sides. (I also use a buttered, floured parchment round in each pan)
            Sift dry ingredients together. Combine buttermilk, vanilla and concentrate or liquer. Beat butter in large bowl until smooth and fluffy. Gradually beat in 4 1/2c. sugar, alternating with oil in two additions. Beat in flour in four additions alternating with buttermilk mixture, scraping down bowl often.
            Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a separate large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining 2c. sugar and continue beating until whites fall from beaters in a thick, puffy ribbon, about 4 minutes. Fold whites into batter in four additions. Transfer batter to prepared pans, 1/2 of total volume into 12" pan, 8 1/2 c. into 9" pan and 4c. to 6" pan. Bake cakes until brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 70 minutes for 6" cake, 78 minutes for 9" cake and 85 minutes for 12" cake.
            Cool in pans 30 minutes. Run knife around pan edges to loosen and turn out onto racks.
            Cool completely.
            (I usually brush with simple syrup flavored to compliment whatever filling or flavoring I'm going for.)
            Freezes beautifully.

            I've made this many, many times. It's the best white cake I've ever had, with a moist, fine crumb. If you want something besides a tiered cake, I've noted in the margins that it makes (3) 6" pans AND (1) 9" square OR 6 jumbo muffins and (3) 4" pans and (3) 6" pans. I've also noted that one batch of batter makes one 14" layer, ~1 1/2" tall. With this pan I would add an extra tsp. of leavening.
            One fun thing I've done for a big party was mini-layer cakes each decorated differently, one for each table. Photos here:

              1. re: roxlet

                Your pictures are AMAZING. All these wonderful bakers really put me to shame!! Recipe looks great - I am DEFINITELY filing that away as a maybe and it is DEFINITELY one to keep for the future.

                I don't know whether to go for fondant icing with a lemon curd filling. My mum isn't a major sweet frosting fan - fondant is easily picked off if necessary. As I have never worked with fondant before, do I just buy ready rolled stuff?



                1. re: alisonk

                  Those were such fun projects. I'm always looking for an excuse and the time to play with food!

                  Normally you'd still do a stiff frosting layer under the fondant--a crumb coat at the very least but I always fully frost the layers.
                  I think if you haven't worked with fondant before and are already working on a larger scale than you are used to for this event cake, I would probably avoid it unless you have time for some practice. I love fondant for all of the same reasons everyone else does but frosted cake can be just as lovely and is much more straightforward--much less time consuming, too. Fondant can turn into a huge, terminal mess in a hurry.
                  I have always used purchased fondant but never anything pre-rolled--I assume you mean in sheets already? That would be interesting.

                  1. re: splatgirl

                    So thought I would let you all know that the party went really well and the cake was a hit! I went with this recipe in the end, as it was super easy!! It was a very moist cake - wetter than say a victoria sponge (or equivalent), but it froze and defrosted really well and was quite sturdy to handle to decorate.


                    Ready rolled fondant must have been a figment of my imagination - but I think that there is definitely a gap in the market there!

                    I don't have a photo of it as we had to decorate it last minute as we got fresh flowers from a florist on the morning. Hopefully some of the guests will have taken a snap or two. Although it was NOTHING in comparison to your creations.

                    Just wanted to say thanks so much for your advice. 2 of the 9 x 13 pans were perfect for that number and everyone got a piece to take home as well. You have given me some fabulous cake ideas and I will definitely try them for perhaps less ambitious undertakings.

                    Thanks again,

                    Edit: should also say that we stuck the fondant on with an apricot jam glaze which added even more moisture to the cake. We just filled it will a simple jam - which was perfect as being from Scotland, our cakes are traditionally not quite as sweet as some of the cakes you get in the States with the frosting on - heck, we quite often just put jam between sponge layers and top with some sugar!!

                    Anyway, thanks again,