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Apr 24, 2012 08:55 AM

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: 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: 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.