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Sheet Cake and other help


Kim Shook
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A few questions for the more experienced folks here. My daughter's sorority is having a big alumni dessert gala for 100 to 150 people. They are doing chocolate fountains with fruit, etc. and want me to do something less sweet and sheet cakes. For the less sweet, I thought I might do cheese straws with pecans. If anyone has another idea for this I'd love to hear it. All of this will be prepared ahead at my house and taken over there the day of the party - no cooking/reheating facilities on-site. I can do the cheese straws ahead of time and freeze them.

My other concern are the sheet cakes. I have a million questions! I'm planning on buying disposable 12x18 sheet pans and cake boards just a little larger. I want to do an assortment of cakes and I want to use my own recipes (NOT the time to experiment, I think). If I have a recipe for a 2 layer cake, will that fit in the sheet cake pan? I know that I'll have to adjust the timing, but do I have to back off the temp a little? And will the recipe itself need any adjusting? I keep seeing that a 12x18 cake will serve 32-48. Does that sound right? For one layer? It sounds a little skimpy - should I make them 2 layers?

I'm sure I'll think of other questions, but that should do it for now. I'm getting back with the organizer Tuesday and I'm spending this weekend trying to come up with prices. I love all of this except pricing - it's boring. The only way that I know of doing it is going around to the stores that I'll be using, pricing things, adding everything up and then checking store prices for the same items and trying to see if I can make a profit and not get too high above them. Not terribly professional, I know, but then I am a 'hobby cook' (I love that phrase).

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I'm pretty sure a cake that yields 2 layers will fill a sheet cake pan. Are you planning on just having the one layer of cake and frosting the top in the pan, or flipping them out?

When I make a sheet cake, I usually use half sheet pans and make 2-3 layers with buttercream in between. I get a half sheet from a recipe that yields 2 8-9" layers. I think you would need more than one layer of cake.

Baking in the type of pan you are talking about shouldn't effect the temperature, it will just take a little longer. A half sheet cake, stacked like I mentioned before, should serve about 40 people.

Hopefully some of that helped :smile:

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My other concern are the sheet cakes. I have a million questions! I'm planning on buying disposable 12x18 sheet pans and cake boards just a little larger. I want to do an assortment of cakes and I want to use my own recipes (NOT the time to experiment, I think). If I have a recipe for a 2 layer cake, will that fit in the sheet cake pan? I know that I'll have to adjust the timing, but do I have to back off the temp a little? And will the recipe itself need any adjusting? I keep seeing that a 12x18 cake will serve 32-48. Does that sound right? For one layer? It sounds a little skimpy - should I make them 2 layers?

If you are using disposable foil pans, you may want to put the pans onto a cookie sheet before baking to prevent over-browning of the bottoms. If you line the bottoms with parchment, you can reuse the pans.

Based on an average serving of a 2x2" piece, a 2-layer, 12x18 cake should cut into 54 pieces, if you used a ruler :P Realistically, if ONE person is cutting all the servings, 48 is the max. But if people are randomly serving themselves, 32 sounds reasonable, and the servings will be large-ish. Besides, there is "other stuff".

If you have time and space, I would recommend baking and assembling the cakes, and then freezing. Transport to the venue frozen. A 12x18 sheet cake will probably thaw in about 2-3 hours at room temperature, and still be cold enough to cut easily.

Congratulations on the gig!

ps. I have a simple spreadsheet for costing. PM me with your email addy if you want to see it.

Karen Dar Woon

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Pricing - I would recommend downloading Mastercook 9 for ~$20. Enter all the prices once and then just update from time to time from your receipts. This program also makes scaling your recipes and creating shopping lists very easy.

Sheet pans - Why are you using disposable if you aren't serving on them? Half-size sheet pans are about $10 at a restaurant supply and you can only bake at most two cakes at a time in a home oven so you won't need many. When cool you can tip them onto the cake boards and bake your next batch. I would definitely use two layers and to do this successfully the single layers should be put in the freezer before frosting. This size of sheet cake is difficult to handle when it's not frozen. I've pieced together a few layers over time and no one will know but it's just easier to freeze them first. Fill and ice the tops and freeze again. While frozen, trim off edges and score top into the size of pieces you want. That will be a guide for whoever is cutting, whether a server or the guests.

For chocolate I use Double Chocolate Cake With the Mastercook program I scale them to use 2 eggs and that's perfect for a sheet pan. Same temp just a lot less time.

Good luck :).

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Orison Swett Marden

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Thank for all the help and the good ideas. I want to make sure that we’re talking about the same thing. I have what I think are half sheet pans – 12x17 and a whisper under 1” deep? I will just use those, if that is what you all are talking about. That’s why you want me to use 2 layers per cake, right?

The planner says that there will be between 100 and 150 people, so I thought 3 cakes would be plenty (they are doing chocolate fountains also). I was thinking of pitching a coconut cake w/ 7 minute frosting, a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and a gingerbread cake with pumpkin/cream cheese frosting. These are all T&T cakes for me. If a 2 layer recipe will fit in one sheet cake pan, then I’d need a double recipe of each cake. Now, considering that I’ll need to cover the cakes twice (filling and top), all around the sides and enough to do any embellishments, do you think that making twice the frosting will do? I know that I can’t freeze the 7 Minute or the cream cheese frostings, but do you think that this one will freeze ok? Also – with the cream cheese frosting – I know that it needs to be refrigerated. I’m planning on frosting the cakes in the morning and they won’t be eaten until that night – do I need to refrigerate the cake all day?

I’ll put them together and frost them when frozen – thanks for that advice – I can just see myself trying to handle SIX giant floppy cake layers :wacko: !

As far as the not-so-sweet things, all I’ve come up with so far is the cheese biscuits with pecans, that I mentioned, a bleu cheese biscuit with preserves (like a savory sandwich cooky) and spicy glazed nut clusters with sea salt. Does anyone have any additional ideas, keeping in mind that they have to be made ahead of time (preferably freezable) and no heating at the venue? And not too fussy, time-wise?

Thank you again for all your help!

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Yes, those are the right pans. You will probably have leftovers, 3 is tons.

I think the chocolate icing will be fine frozen and my cream cheese icing freezes well, I'm sure yours would too. No need to chill all day, especially if you are taking them right from the freezer to the event. If you are scoring the top I've found it looks nice to put some kind of decor in the center of each square. Then every piece looks pretty and it's obvious what one serving is.

If you have The Cake Bible she has a chart to help you figure out how much you'll need. If you don't have it let me know and I'll look it up.

For savory, are you going to have dips?

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Orison Swett Marden

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Yes, those are the right pans. You will probably have leftovers, 3 is tons.

I think the chocolate icing will be fine frozen and my cream cheese icing freezes well, I'm sure yours would too. No need to chill all day, especially if you are taking them right from the freezer to the event. If you are scoring the top I've found it looks nice to put some kind of decor in the center of each square. Then every piece looks pretty and it's obvious what one serving is.

If you have The Cake Bible she has a chart to help you figure out how much you'll need. If you don't have it let me know and I'll look it up.

For savory, are you going to have dips?

Thank you! I’ll frost and freeze those two then. That will be nice to have that out of the way. No dipping things. People will have just come in from dinner and I think that they want to stay with after dinner stuff. I’d love to do a big cheese/dried fruit platter, but don’t think that their budget will allow for that. I will score those two (I don’t think scoring would work for the coconut cake) and put a little something in the middle of each square – I was thinking little gum paste leaves for the gingerbread cake (if I can find tiny little leaf cutters – I might even have some) but haven’t thought of what to put on the chocolate.

I don’t have The Cake Bible yet, unfortunately – it’s on my abebooks.com wishlist. I’d really appreciate the list.

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I’d love to do a big cheese/dried fruit platter, but don’t think that their budget will allow for that.

A couple of platters totalling 10 lbs would be more than enough. And the cheeses wouldn't need to be exotic; would even the pre-sliced cheddar, swiss & provalone from Costco work?

I was thinking little gum paste leaves for the gingerbread cake (if I can find tiny little leaf cutters – I might even have some) but haven’t thought of what to put on the chocolate.

What about 1) candied ginger and 2) chocolate curl in a contrasting color. Would it be tacky to tint white chocolate to one of the sorority colors?

I am a simple person...

Karen Dar Woon

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I’d love to do a big cheese/dried fruit platter, but don’t think that their budget will allow for that.

A couple of platters totalling 10 lbs would be more than enough. And the cheeses wouldn't need to be exotic; would even the pre-sliced cheddar, swiss & provalone from Costco work?

I was thinking little gum paste leaves for the gingerbread cake (if I can find tiny little leaf cutters – I might even have some) but haven’t thought of what to put on the chocolate.

What about 1) candied ginger and 2) chocolate curl in a contrasting color. Would it be tacky to tint white chocolate to one of the sorority colors?

I am a simple person...

Thank you, Karen. I'm going out on a pricing mission in a few minutes and I'll check the prices of cheese and dried fruit at Costco! And I like the idea of candied ginger - I'll stop by the Asian grocery, too. And I don't think that using the sorority colors is tacky at all - I thought of doing buttermints in the colors and letters (APO) :biggrin: !

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The candied ginger works great cut into little cubes and it freezes and thaws well. After I score that type of cake I would put a small rosette of buttercream on each square and put a piece of candied ginger right on the top. I have a great picture of this in mini cupcake form but I can't get it to post at the moment.

I would use the rosettes on the chocolate cake as well and the chocolate curls would look great.

Icing: The Cake Bible says for an 18x12" cake you need 4 cups between layers, 4 cups on top and 2 cups to cover the sides so 10 cups per cake.

I hope you can pull off the dried fruit/cheese platter in your budget, it's a great idea.

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Orison Swett Marden

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CanadianBakin' - thank you! That will help

Well, we spent last night doing the pricing. I'll call the organizer tonight and we'll see. I'd like to get this job - it would be a fun challenge and it would please my daughter - but if I don't, that's ok, too. Mr. Kim and I were talking last night and I was worried that it was beyond their budget, but my daughter says not and she used to coordinate stuff for them when she was an active member. If they want supermarket cakes, they can just get them from the supermarket - I don't feel like doing all that work on boxed cake mix cakes. Thank you all for your help and advice! I'll let you know what happens!

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  • 9 months later...

Bringing up an old topic. . .

May I ask how you figured out the pricing for your cakes? I know someone who is thinking of starting a home bakery business, and we're sorting through the details now. We still have to contact the Dept. of Agriculture for proper licensing, etc., but she and her possible business partner (i.e. her daughter) are discussing how much they could charge for one cake. She does 1/2-sheet chiffon cakes with either whipped cream and fruit or buttercream. Her daughter is aiming to charge about $60/cake (the whipped cream and fruit cake costs them about $20-30 in ingredients alone), but from my point of view, that's rather expensive for a home-baked cake.

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I think you have to acknowledge what people are paying now for cakes and then be realistic about how theirs will compare. If they are buying their ingredients retail, versus wholesale (from a distributor or even if the local warehouse store is cheaper) that will make the difference in their pricing. Don't forget to factor in labor, overhead, advertising, packaging .... all of that contributes to the price of goods sold.

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She has already taken into account (to some extent) overhead, etc. in her pricing (clearly, since she's planning on charging $60 for a cake that costs her about $20-$30 to make). She's only planning on selling to friends and acquaintances, many of whom have already asked her to sell her cakes. She priced cakes at a local grocery store and at a local nice-ish bakery (she's in the Portland, Oregon area), and her price is firmly between the two. I think she said the grocery store 1/2 sheet was about $40 or $45 (fake buttercream-type), and the local bakery was $80 or $90.

I'm more-or-less wondering if Kim charged a specific mark-up on her cakes (100% markup, 200% markup, 50% markup?) or if she just chose a random amount based on her costs for making the cakes (including overhead, etc.).

I know the markup percentage is a personal decision, we're just trying to get a feel for what other people do. And I also know different items might have different markups, but since Kim made sheet cakes, and my aunt is planning to make sheet cakes, I figure her experience with this particular item would be helpful to us.

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