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Help! I'm baking a 16" layer cake


mzrb
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Hello there,

I've just spent hours reviewing old posts and am overwhelmed by the wonderful information on this site. Not to mention the kindly people willing to help others when the cause is pastry!

But do you know the feeling when you've read so much, you can't make sense of anything any more?

My question: Am baking a two-layer 16" chocolate cake for a party. I have read Rose Levy Berenbaum and am convinced that I need to do more than just multiply a recipe to get the right number of cups of batter. Her point being that you must adjust the leavening (lessen it) to make adjustments for structural tension.

Am getting nervous enough that I might cave and buy a million boxes of duncan hines to alleviate worry and ensure success...but i'd always know that I cheated.

Anyone out there willing to hold my hand and talk me through this one? Fool-proof chocolate cake recipes for a 16" pan? Fearless ways to go about this?

Thanks in advance.

(and if anyone is wondering...it's for a "Summer of Love"-themed birthday party, so the cake will eventually be trimmed into a peace sign shape, glazed with chocolate glaze and then decorated with smiley face-iced butter cookies.)

Edited by mzrb (log)
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You mentioned RLB-- do you have her book the Cake Bible? I've used the book's chocolate butter cake recipe to make a 3-tiered wedding cake and the recipe is very exact, adjusting leavening for each layer size. I followed the recipe exactly (a lot of calculation required, unfortunately) and they came out perfectly. The cake is very rich; I'm not sure if that's what you're looking for. If you don't have the book and you want the recipe, just let me know and I'll send it to you. The recipes in the Cake Bible are insanely detailed and exact, which is perfect for you since you're looking for a fool-proof recipe!

A couple of other tips (which I also learned from RLB's book)-- be sure to use a heating core (Wilton makes them) to help cook big cakes evenly and use magi-cake strips to produce level cakes with a tight crumb (easier for decorating).

Good luck!

Hello there,

I've just spent hours reviewing old posts and am overwhelmed by the wonderful information on this site. Not to mention the kindly people willing to help others when the cause is pastry!

But do you know the feeling when you've read so much, you can't make sense of anything any more?

My question: Am baking a two-layer 16" chocolate cake for a party. I have read Rose Levy Berenbaum and am convinced that I need to do more than just multiply a recipe to get the right number of cups of batter. Her point being that you must adjust the leavening (lessen it) to make adjustments for structural tension.

Am getting nervous enough that I might cave and buy a million boxes of duncan hines to alleviate worry and ensure success...but i'd always know that I cheated.

Anyone out there willing to hold my hand and talk me through this one? Fool-proof chocolate cake recipes for a 16" pan? Fearless ways to go about this?

Thanks in advance.

(and if anyone is wondering...it's for a "Summer of Love"-themed birthday party, so the cake will eventually be trimmed into a peace sign shape, glazed with chocolate glaze and then decorated with smiley face-iced butter cookies.)

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Anyone out there willing to hold my hand and talk me through this one? Fool-proof chocolate cake recipes for a 16" pan? Fearless ways to go about this?

Have you considered baking layers in smaller pans, and then piecing together? Once the frosting is on, very few people would notice the difference. Then you could probably get away with making less cake (and wasting less, too)

Karen Dar Woon

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I'd go to the lcoal hobby store and buy what's called a flower nail and put it in the bottom of the pan so it can conduct heat into the center of the cake for more even baking. Like with potato spikes. With this size cake I might even consider using three flower nails. I would use these instead of a heating core, it leaves a big hole. You put the flower nails into the pan flat side down and let the sharp pointy end stick up through the parchment. The holes will be hidden by the icing. I'd use parchment to line the bottom of the pans to be sure it would unmold. Make sure you have a large enough cooling rack. If the cake does hump, make sure to cool it bottom side down so it doesn't crack. Soak some rags or papertowels in water and wrap the outside of the pans with them, secure them with pins before putting them i n the oven. This will help even the baking out. If you think this is the beginning of a baking career, buy a set of Bake Even strips to use to wrap your pans. Baking the cake evenly helps keep it level and prevents a moist center with overcooked edges. Bake a few practice layers and if they turn out, freeze them in case you have a problem along the line.

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I had heard about the flower nail technique, and intrigued, I decided to test it out. I baked several sizes of cakes, some with flower nails, and some without. The results of my experiment told me that the flower nail doesn't make a darn bit of difference. :wink:

The most important thing to remember when baking a larger cake than the recipe calls for, is to turn the oven heat down. If your recipe is written to bake two 9 inch layers at 350, then bake a larger one at about 325. If your cake domes in the middle, that's a sure sign your oven is too hot.

One other comment......in my 16 years as a pastry chef, I have multiplied cake recipes many times.

I have taken recipes written for the home baker and multiplied them to bake 20 cakes or more. I've never "adjusted" the leavening for the differing sizes. I have always multiplied the leavening proportionately as I do the flour, sugar, eggs, etc. Think about it. I've used 20 qt, 30 qt and 60 qt mixers to make a large amount of batter to bake off cakes ranging from 6 inches to 18 inches in diameter. They all baked off fine. If I had to adjust leavening for each size, I never would have gotten anything done. :wink: There is some advice out there that doesn't make much sense to me, and the advice about adjusting leavening is one of those things. To me, it's confusing and just plain unnecessary.

Edited by chefpeon (log)
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Your advice is helping to steady my nerves, thanks. I'm going to do a test run this afternoon and see how that goes. Chefpeon, am i correct in thinking I should just ensure I have enough batter for the 16" pan (apparently I'll need 15 cups) and that is good enough?

Berenbaum has a recipe for a wedding cake that serves 11 and can easily be scaled up to suit the number of people. Assuming a 16" double layer cake feeds 70, as some suggest, i was thinking of taking her recipe and multiplying it by 6 to get the amount of batter I need...

???

Okay, so i'm still in the a-little-nervous, overthinking-it stage...

i appreciate all your thoughts!

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I'll second what chefpeon has said so far and add:

what kind of oven are you going to be baking your cake in? will you be able to fit this sixteen inch pan into your oven? if you decide to bake more than one layer at a time in separate pans, please don't over fill your oven. the mass of the batter and pans will change the heat distribution in your oven which will cause uneven baking.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just wanted to thank you for all your help. Esp alanamoana...and her tip about seeing if the pan fit in my oven.

D'OH!

wow. who has no brain cells in her head? ME!

anyway...i returned the 16" and bought a 14" instead (and was interested to see that Sur La Table's prices for pans were 2 dollars cheaper than craft store ACMoore, FYI. Anyway, did a dress rehearsal of the cake today and it baked like a dream. Iced it with two kinds of whipped ganache (used different chocolates/one batch had cognac and butter in it along with the choc and cream) to see which I liked best.

Now I have a 14" humongo cake downstairs, and I guess, some very lucky neighbors...

Here's hoping I can have a good dress rehearsal and a good performance.

Thanks for all your help.

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