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Birthday cakes for the opposite of a crowd


So I have a bit of a dilemma. My mother's birthday is coming up; this is the first time since I started baking that I've been around for her birthday (I lived elsewhere during college) and so I'd love to make her a nice birthday cake! (I'm thinking the classic Orangette/Epicurious chocolate cake with ganache frosting: http://orangette.blogspot.com/2004/09...) However, the only people that will be around for her birthday are myself and my parents. They've never been the type to take sweets to work from home and I'm self-employed, so taking leftovers to work doesn't really seem to be an option.

I'd include my fiance on that list, but his own birthday is coming up very soon after my mother's! (And besides, he's two hours away right now and busy with work - doubtful he'll make it here for her birthday and it's not like we're planning a party.) He probably could take the leftovers of his own cake to work but I'm less concerned in his case, but still, it's worth asking.

How should I scale down the cake recipe to be manageable for the lack of people? I know cupcakes are an option but I would really like to present, you know, a cake with layers and blowing of candles. Any ideas?

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  1. I made a single-serve chocolate layer cake for Mr. travelmad478's last birthday--it was just the two of us and I don't like chocolate. It was a big hit--helped out by really nice frosting and a candle on top. I baked the tiny cake in a cleaned-out Progresso soup can, oiled and floured, and it slid right out with no problems. I sliced it in half and frosted/layered it. Worked very well.

    I found the recipe online somewhere--I can't remember where, but it might be this one: http://cakeonthebrain.blogspot.com/20... I did it with chocolate frosting.

    1. The recipe indicated it was for 3 8 inch pans or 2 10 inch pans which would be 18 to 22 cups of batter. Let’s figure 20 cups. If you cut the recipe in half, you could use 2 8 inch pans. An 8 inch round pan usually holds about 6 cups. Instead we will be putting 5 cups in each. That’s not to bad. Hopefully you have 2 8 inch pans or it is worth buying them. You could use one 9 inch square pan but you would have to buy one of those, too.

      Here are the conversions:

      From 3 to 1 ½ oz semisweet chocolate
      From 1 ½ to 3/4 cups hot brewed coffee
      From 3 to 1 1/2 cups sugar
      From 2 ½ to 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
      From 1 ½ to 3/4 cups cocoa powder
      From 2 to 1 tsp baking soda
      From ¾ to 1/3 tsp baking powder
      From 1 ¼ to a heavy 1/2 tsp salt

      From 3 to 2 whites + 1 yolk large eggs or you could mix 3 eggs and weigh or measure then use half. That’s what I would do.

      From ¾ to ¼ + 2 Tbls cup canola oil
      From 1 ½ to 3/4 cups buttermilk
      From ¾ to 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

      1. If you're not set on making that particular cake, here is a recipe for a single 9" chocolate cake. It has a wonderful dark chocolate flavor and is very moist. I do add 1 1/2 tsp. instant espresso which just enhances the chocolate. You don't taste the coffee. I just noticed that it has a link to a ganache recipe, but I always make the white frosting (with flour!) from Pioneer Woman's site. It is a great combination.



        1. It's the same recipe as the Hershey black magic cake, only you melt some chopped chocolate into the coffee. The black magic cake is 2/3 the size. Chop 2 oz chocolate and add it to the hot coffee.


          1 Reply
          1. re: chowser

            Oh, and this cuts in half very easily. I've done it when I just want one layer. You can slice the layer in half and frost that, if you want a layer cake. Or, bake it in a square pan, cut it in half and layer that for a small rectangular layer cake.

          2. There are all sorts of small cake pans you can buy. Some are sets of 2 or 4 so you can use a whole recipe and end up with multiple cakes. If you don't have anyone to give the others to, most cakes freeze really well.

            I have a mini springform set that works well for individual cheesecakes or as small layers for a nice tall cake. You can Google mini cake pan and find all sorts of shapes and sizes available.

            1. Here's an idea. Get a 9 in square pan and make 1/2 a cake recipe in it. Cut the square into 4 quarters. Wrap 2 in plastic wrap and freeze, and frost the other 2 as a square layer cake. Use the ones in the freezer for your fiance next week. This requires no special pans or crazy cup conversions. I like the Hershey's cake recipe which is the same as an Ina Garten recipe, and I second the boiled flour icing. I made that combo for my daughter's birthday and it was a huge hit!

              1. Or bake it in a bread pan as if it were a pound cake from Sarah Lee. Easily cut into three layers, maybe with cream anglais as a layer filling and a complementary flavor icing.

                I have a Mary Berry cake recipe from the internet for a cake that is a vanilla-chocolate swirl and it just looks so very special, even when I didn't know what i was doing.

                1 Reply
                1. re: shallots

                  The Mary Berry recipe (and it's not as sweet as most American cakes)


                2. I find that leftover cake freezes quite nicely, and thaws quickly - a great treat to have on hand for those days when you'd like something sweet, but don't feel like putting any effort into it. By cutting it before freezing, there's also some portion control built in.
                  I say go ahead and do the classic cake - offer the leftovers to your parents, smile gratefully when they decline, and enjoy over the next few weeks!

                  1. You used to be able to get miniature cake pans in Target, so you could make a 4-inch cake and not have any left-overs to worry about.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Kajikit

                      I really like the idea of a miniature layer cake. How about a large coffee can, larger than the Progresso soup can above, but still smaller than a cake pan.

                    2. Kawatan, I have been in the same predicament that you are in, a whole lot of times and because I love to bake I have quite frequently scaled down my recipes and used 6" inch pans instead. I highly recommend investing in 6"inch pans because there is just enough for four people to have a nice slice of cake and enough for the birthday girl or man, whatever the case, to have one for the next day. I recommend scaling down a recipe by at least a third. I sometimes make the recipe as is, but just make more cake layers, and filling layers. My family and friends adore how cute the cakes look and you still get the emphasis of having a whole cake.