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How to make an extra large cake

While most people will have to scale a recipe from time to time, doubling a batch of rice pilaf for a crowd or halving a batch of pancakes to feed only one or two, not everyone will be require to scale recipes for baked goods. You have to be exact with a cake recipe. The first thing to do is determine what size pan you’re going to use. For this cake, I used a 14-inch by 2-inch round pan to make a 2-layer cake. I only had one pan this large, so I used it twice: once for each layer.

Depending on the increase you’re going to make, you will need to dust off your multiplication skills. I learned the hard way that trying to multiply more than a few ingredients at a time in my head was simply not practical, so it’s important to write down all your ingredients on a separate piece of paper. Before you can calculate the new ingredient amounts, you need to know how much batter you’ll need.

My usual chocolate cake recipe makes two 8-inch layers. A reference sheet like this one is useful for conversions between pan sizes, but my 14-inch pan is too large to be on a list of common sizes, so I used an easy volume calculation to find out that I needed triple my usual amount of batter, or 1 1/2 batches for each layer. I multiplied my ingredients and wrote them out. It’s easier if the ingredients are in grams or ounces and you can weigh them all, but using fractions is fine when you’re not opening a bakery. The baking time should not really change when you’re going from one pan size to another if the pan is the same depth. If you switch to a different style of pan – a bundt, for example – the time will definitely be affected. My baking time was identical to the time for 8-inch layers.

Once the layers were baked and cooled, they were put together like any other cake. It was, however, rather difficult to maneuver such large pieces of cake without breaking them because this cake is so moist. I actually ended up placing the larger piece on the cake stand (specially sized), frosting it and cutting the upper layer into quarters before laying them on. Frosting covered my cuts and it was dramatically easier to position the top layer this way.

Decorating is always the most fun part of baking a cake. I used the idea for the Snowflake Cake on Leite’s Culinaria and made an uncounted number of white chocolate snowflakes to cover the mascarpone frosting. They were delicious and beautiful and it turned out to be a very simple way to dress up the cake.
When it came time to serve, I cut the cake in concentric circles, not slices, like a wedding cake. It served about 36.

Large Scale Mascarpone Frosting

This recipe can be cut in half for a smaller cake and will frost, thinly, a 14-inch layer cake.
1 cup butter, room temerature
24 oz mascarpone, room temperature
8 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Beat together butter and mascarpone in a mixer. Add vanilla extract and gradually add all of the sugar until the frosting is thick, fluffy and smooth, about 5-10 minutes.
Makes about 7 1/2 cups

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  • Tokyoastrogirl
    December 22, 2005

    Beautiful. Do you have any photos of the cut cake? I love the snowflakes- initially I thought you had piped them on but what a great idea to make them out of white chocolate (one of my favorites).

  • mngirl
    December 22, 2005

    Wow. It’s gorgeous! I love the piped snowflakes.

    Is the link to the conversion wrong? It’s a repeat of the link to the chocolate cake program.


  • Rainey
    December 22, 2005

    Lovely! How did you adjust the baking time to accommodate the larger volume? I’ve tried baking huge pans of brownies and gotten burned edges and gummy middles.

  • Nic
    December 22, 2005

    Tokyoastrogirl – Sorry, I don’t have any photos of the cut cake at the moment. I couldn’t really stop to take one as I was serving it, but if I come across one, I’ll put it up.

    Mngirl – I fixed the link, but it’s just to a chart of pan sizes, not an actual conversion program.

    Rainey – I didn’t need to adjust the baking time. The 14-inch layers took as long as 8-inch layers because they were the same thickness. I think a lot of brownie recipes come out with harder edges and a gooier middle. You might try baking it in a water bath, like my Boca Negra recipe.

  • Clare Eats
    December 22, 2005

    wow that is fab Nic!

    good job 🙂

    love it and the idea for the snowflakes!

  • Cindy
    December 22, 2005

    Beautiful cake. I’d never heard of mascarpone as a frosting ingredient before. I’m not even sure I would try that, but seeing your gorgeous cake makes me thinki about it.

  • Amy
    December 22, 2005

    That is soooo beautiful!!!!

  • Nic
    December 22, 2005

    Clare – Thanks!

    Cindy – I bet that the first time someone at a cream cheese frosting they never thought to put it on a cake either!

    Amy – Thanks so much.

  • J
    December 22, 2005

    hi nic, WOW! what a grand and surreal beauty of a cake – i really love the snowflakes…happy holidays!

  • sarah
    December 23, 2005

    IF i ever get married (that’s a big IF) will you please make those goregeous snowflakes on my cake?!??!?!

    i plan to get married in whistler at the height of ski season (or telluride), so no flowers! LOL!

  • Anne
    December 23, 2005

    Nic, that’s an awesome cake. I have a huge crowd – well, 35, mixed kids and adults – to cook for on the 26th.. and I have no idea what to make for dessert. Any ideas? I’m thinking some kind of simple sheet cake, but I’m completely blanking. Something that can be prepared a couple of hours in advance is crucial… any ideas? 🙂

  • Nic
    December 23, 2005

    Anne – I would go with a sheet cake (try the one I made in October for my birthday), which can be made a day ahead or earlier in the day, or cupcakes. This cake was done by request for a birthday party and they really wanted a layer cake. Cupcakes are great for a crowd, though.

  • Anne
    December 23, 2005

    Cupcakes is definitely a good idea – I should look at the IMBB round-up! First stop though: your birthday cake. Thanks! 🙂

  • Chan
    December 26, 2005

    very pretty cake! love the snowflakes!!

  • Sara E Anderson
    December 28, 2005

    I have to say it too: the snowflakes are gorgeous. Great job.

  • Anonymous
    May 17, 2006

    Thank you for your advice on how to layer a large cake! I’ve been reading your blog and have loved all of your ideas and recipes, but this saved me, as I (what was i thinking?) decided to make a 4-layer sheet cake…cutting the layers into pieces was absolutely key…

  • Anonymous
    July 26, 2006

    hi what is butter milk

  • liv
    February 9, 2008

    Hi I am making a huge heart cake for 35 kids and I would like to know how to make it really big. any suggestions?

  • Ailing
    June 17, 2008

    Hi I would like to know do you have the conversion from cups to grams as I saw all your recipe measurement are all in cups. Thank you. Hope to heard from you soon.

  • Sarah
    November 19, 2009

    Hi Nic, you mentioned at the end that you cut the cake into concentric circles instead of slices – would you have a photo of that? I’m trying to figure out how that works!!


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