Cook’s Country rated and reviewed cake carriers a while back, and picked out the Progressive International Collapsible Cake Carrier as its top choice for being sturdy and easy to store. The only problem with the carrier, which holds up to two dozen cupcakes or a single 9-inch layer cake, is that it really only works for a certain type of cake. In fact, not too many cake carriers are made for rectangular cakes, even though rectangular cakes (such as those baked in 9×13-inch pans) are one of the most popular cake sizes for parties and events. Fortunately, Progressive International makes a Collapsible 9×13 Cake Carrier that uses the same space-saving collapsible system that its round carriers use.
This carrier measures 16×20-inches and holds a 9×13-cake with ease. When not in use, the carrier folds up to be only 2.75-inches high. There is plenty of room on the tray for your entire baking dish, if you don’t want to take the cake out, and you can also place a cake directly on the base, turning into a serving platter. It can also be used to transport and store other casseroles or baked main dishes, as well as for cupcake, cookies and smaller baked goods. The base reverses to turn into an appetizer tray – with higher sides to hold small veggies and crackers in place – which is convenient for any event where you’ll be bringing snacks, rather than dessert.
You know you’re on the right track with a cake recipe when the kitchen smells fantastic while your cake is in the oven. In fairness, not everything that smells great will turn out perfectly, but I tend to think that it increases the odds. This pumpkin cake is one that will fill your kitchen up with the fantastic scents of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg while baking. It’ll put you into a fall holiday spirit, inspire you to bake more and – of course – make you very hungry for that first slice of cake.
The cake is extremely moist and tender, with a fluffy crumb that melts away on your tongue and only leaves pumpkin and spice behind. Most of the spice comes from my homemade pumpkin pie spice mixture, although there is vanilla and a generous splash of brandy in the cake. I think that sweet and spicy brandy (bourbon is a good substitute) works well with with the pumpkin in both the cake and the frosting, although you get a much more generous dose of the brandy in the frosting than you do in the cake!
Like many other recipes that use a small amount of alcohol for flavoring, you’re not going to get much alcohol in the finished product. I can guarantee that no one is going to get drunk on this even if they eat the entire cake (I suspect that you might get sick if you try, though). That said, if you prefer to leave out the brandy because you intend to serve the cake to kids, you can substitute water or orange juice. Alternatively, you might just opt to take the brandy out of the frosting, where its flavor is much more distinct, and simply add milk and vanilla extract to the buttercream that tops the cake.
Any way you slice it – and hopefully you’re slicing this in large pieces – this is a delicious fall cake that is perfect for serving a crowd. As a sheet cake, it’s not too fussy to make or to serve, and it is very easy to enjoy. The cake will stay moist for several days when well wrapped, too.
If you’re wondering where the Chocolate Fudge Frosting that is supposed to top this cake is, you’ve already seen it in a previous post (and can see it again below), but this shot of the unfrosted cake shows the chocolate and vanilla swirls closeup, in all of their glory.
Backing up, this is a large sheet cake that is perfect for birthdays and other celebrations. The large, flat surface is easy to decorate and the cake can certainly serve a lot of people. In addition to the logistical advantages, a swirled cake is the way to please those who like both chocolate and vanilla . It was moist, with a tight crumb, and had an excellent flavor from butter, sour cream, chocolate and vanilla – a flavor that is best achieved in a homemade cake.
The trick to a good marble cake is not to over-swirl the batter, because that can cause your cake to lose the distinction between dark and light into a medium brown. Swirl a knife through once, making a serpentine through the batter, to get an even marble. If this is too minimal for you, add the batter to the pan in alternating dollops, then swirl the knife through.
The frosting was just amazing. It had a smooth, rich texture and an intense chocolaty flavor. Thick, but not stiff, it ran easily over the top of the cake and set up by itself. Unlike ganache, which could be described in the same way, the creamy chocolate fudge was not heavy. I definitely felt like a kid again when making it – not because I made chocolate fudge frosting as a kid, but because I was tempted to lick the bowl.
Honestly, I like baking my own birthday cakes. I always have and always will. I feel like there is a lot of freedom for me to choose what my favorite cake is. Unfortunately, I don’t really have a favorite. I like some things better than others, but when it comes right down to it, baking a birthday cake with no one’s preferences but my own in mind is a tricky thing: I want it to be for me, but I want everyone else to love it. I guess I get selfish around my birthday. After much deliberation about flavors and a strong leaning towards doing something complicated and “fancy”, I did a 180 (meaning that I changed my mind) and baked myself a yellow sheet cake.
I’m certain that the only yellow sheet cakes I have ever eaten, until now, have come from boxes. Yellow cake is a vanilla cake that gets a faint yellow color from egg yolks. Many cakes are slightly yellow, so in the realm of birthday cakes, it’s just about as basic as you can get.
I would say that there is nothing wrong with boxed cake mixes, but if I had to compare them to this cake, I would be lying. This cake is moist and incredibly fluffy, soft and tender. It is easy to make and easy to handle. It tastes amazing, not due to some exotic flavor, but because it absolutely tastes homemade.
The method is the best thing about this cake. I use the same one for white cake, actually. Beating the butter into the dry ingredients gives the finished cake a beautiful and tender crumb, inhibiting gluten development by creating a protective coating of fat around the flour. Beating the flour/butter mixture with some of the eggs gives the remaining gluten a chance to develop and incorporate air into the cake. The little bit of gluten development is a good thing in this case. I’m not going to nay-say all the warnings about over-mixing, but we do need some gluten to hold things together and let the cake rise. If we didn’t mix at all, we’re just have a big bowl of butter, flour, milk and sugar. Yum.
This cake can also be baked in round cake pans and layered. The baking time will need to be reduced, probably to 25-30 minutes, depending on the size of your pan. Also, note that the cake itself is not super rich (in fact, I used skim milk to make it, though whole and lowfat are fine), so you can go crazy with a real buttercream icing.