Category Archives: Cakes & Cupcakes

Friday Favorites: The Last Five Years

Leading up to this site’s five year anniversary earlier this week, I spent some time scrolling through my archives in search of my absolute favorite E2 Bakes recipes. I stand by them all, of course, but there are over 500. I have favorites. There, I said it.

For context, these favorites are the ones I return to time and time again, or those that are simply the best I’ve ever had in various categories. After going through the recipe index, this list was 50 recipes long! I could absolutely write a little blurb about each of them, but I didn’t want to subject you or myself to that. I’ve painstakingly pared it down to ten twelve fifteen. So here they are: fifteen recipes to encompass the last five years.
Friday Favorites: The Last Five YearsCocoa Brownies

Of all the brownie recipes I’ve made I’m the last five years, these are my favorites. Even with a cocoa base, they’re fudgy as can be. Oh, and they’re easy too—you can mix the batter right in the pot you use to melt the butter, sugar and cocoa! These were my first post (and my 544th!), and I can guarantee you that I’ll still be obsessed with them when I hit a thousand posts and beyond.
Friday Favorites: The Last Five YearsOvernight Yeast-Raised Doughnuts
I grew up near a truly excellent doughnut shop, and have been surprisingly disappointed in the quality of doughnuts in New York City. (For your safety and mine, let’s never discuss The Doughnut Plant.) I’ve found one (!) doughnut that I like in thirteen years of residency. One! That’s unacceptable. Long story short, I started making my own yeast-raised doughnuts and never looked back. These are legitimately the best doughnuts I’ve ever had. Ever. In my life. And I know, because I have used this recipe over and over to make twists and cinnamon roll doughnuts and…again, they are *the* best doughnuts I’ve ever had in my life.
Friday Favorites: The Last Five YearsBanana Pudding Cookies

These cookies were my first baking Everest. Inspired by the phenomenal Banana Pudding Pudgies at Evelyn’s Kitchen in East Harlem, these took me a year to perfect, but it was entirely worth it. These soft, chewy cookies are beyond delicious, and they taste *exactly* like banana pudding. Exactly.
Friday Favorites: The Last Five YearsBrown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

Cookie cake is probably one of my top five favorite desserts ever. I mean, who wouldn’t love a giant, sliceable soft-centered cookie with a buttercream border? It’s the dream.
Friday Favorites: The Last Five YearsSour Cream Waffles

These are the best waffles I’ve ever had. Period. Every time I have leftover egg whites or sour cream, these are the first things that get made. This means I have an ample freezer stash for waffle emergencies, of which there are many. Many many many.
Friday Favorites: The Last Five YearsNeapolitan Cake

Confession: I have never worked with fondant and am actually kind of afraid of it.

Another Confession: I don’t quite get the obsession with super tall cakes with an absurd amount of buttercream and drips and all that. Just give me the cake! I don’t need all the stuff.

All that said, this Neapolitan Cake is probably as close as I’ll get to any intricate layer cakes. Checkerboard inside, heavily piped outside, and not a drop of food coloring—that strawberry pink is the real deal. This one is super fun to make, even if it is a labor of love.
Friday Favorites: The Last Five YearsPretzel Shortbread

Last fall, I heard about Lost Bread Co.’s pretzel shortbread, and instead of being a normal person and ordering some, I made my own. That sort of stubbornness is kind of my thing, and how I got into this whole baking racket in the first place! Made with crushed up pretzels in the dough and then pretzeled themselves (much easier than it sounds), these little cookies are salty, sweet and fabulous, just like me.
Friday Favorites: The Last Five YearsWedding Cake Trilogy {I, II & III}

There is no single recipe for this wedding cake. Instead, it was made with my go-to vanilla cake, filled with alternating mocha and caramel puddings, and frosted with creamy Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Oh yeah, and it was served to hundreds at the Central Park Boat House back when we used to go do things inside together and the idea of attending a wedding didn’t give me heart palpitations. But for real, this is one of the proudest accomplishments of my baking journey, and I was honored to have the opportunity.
Friday Favorites: The Last Five YearsSweet Cherry Rhubarb Galette

While Cocoa Brownies were the first recipe to appear on this site, a tiny Sweet Cherry Rhubarb Galette was the first baked good to be pictured. Three years later, I still loved it and posted the recipe. Fast forward two more years and I’m looking forward to spring so I can make this simple sweet-tart galette again!
Friday Favorites: The Last Five YearsHot Fudge

This is a warning that if you start making your own Hot Fudge, you will be ruined for all other hot fudges forever. This stuff is dark and glossy and sooo much better than anything you’ll find in stores.
Friday Favorites: The Last Five YearsPumpkin Oatmeal Creme Pies

Making these Pumpkin Oatmeal Creme Pies was the first instance in which I didn’t feel like a food blogging impostor. I knew what I wanted, I knew how to make it, I knew how I wanted it to look, and then I freaking did it. Five years later, I’m still over the moon for these soft pumpkin oatmeal cookies and their perfect marshmallow filling. Little Debbie who?

(If pumpkin isn’t your thing, I’ve got a regular version too.)
Friday Favorites: The Last Five YearsSlow-Roasted Pulled Pork

I get so overwhelmed by holiday baking every year that I’ve taken to mostly posting weeknight meals every January. I’ve never publicized it this way, but I personally refer to this time of the blogging year as “Savory January,” because by that point, I can barely stand to look at dessert. There are lots of meals in my archives (scroll to the Savory section at the bottom!), but this Slow-Roasted Pulled Pork is probably my favorite. It’s perfectly seasoned throughout, and where some slow cooker pulled porks get soggy, this version has crispy cracklings and is moist but never wet. Seriously, it’s the best pulled pork I’ve ever had. And while it takes time and preparation, it’s shockingly easy and makes enough to freeze for later. You know, for when you feel an enchilada craving coming on.
Friday Favorites: The Last Five YearsButtermilk Biscuits & Chocolate Gravy

Chocolate…gravy?! You better believe it. My grandma made this classic southern combo for my sisters and me every chance she got. Super flaky, savory biscuits and sweet chocolate gravy are a match made in breakfast heaven.
Friday Favorites: The Last Five YearsToasted Oat Graham Crackers {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

If you had told me five years ago that I’d have a startling number of vegan, gluten-free recipes on this site, I wouldn’t have believed you. I previously saw leaving out dairy, eggs and flour as near-impossible limitations, but now I look forward to the challenge of developing these recipes…and the dessert. Especially when it’s s’mores made with these delicious Toasted Oat Graham Crackers.
Friday Favorites: The Last Five YearsChocolate Mousse Pie {No-Bake}

This is one of the easiest pie recipes on this site, and also maybe ever…? It’s deeply chocolaty with a smooth, light texture and an Oreo crust—oh, and it’s no bake. So, like, best pie ever? You tell me.

What are your favorite E2 Bakes recipes? Tell me in the comments or on social media! I want to know what you love to bake!Friday Favorites: The Last Five Years

Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}A week on Swan’s Island is never enough time. It simply isn’t. Yes, there’s relaxing and hiking and quiet, but just when you start to fully decompress, you have to get back on the ferry, drive ten hours, and return to your real life. It’s the worst.Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}We keep saying “two weeks next year” but only getting half of that. I’m putting it out to the universe now: one month next year. That way, when we only get half, it’ll be two weeks. Am I trying to con the universe in to more vacation? Sure, why not. You can’t blame me for wanting to spend time with the friends we’ve made up there (even socially distanced) instead of carrying on entire relationships via Facebook.Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}I mean, would you believe that I’ve pretty much never baked for anyone on Swan’s Island? It’s true. I’ve been going there regularly for the last six years, made some friends, and know the people who own the general store well enough that they recognized me immediately with my mask on, but I’ve never really baked for any of them. They know, of course, that I bake and blog, and I always say I’m going to make something for them, but then time gets away and suddenly I’m on the ferry back to the mainland.Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}All that said, when we booked our trip in July, I decided this year was *the* year. I tested a recipe before I left Brooklyn, brought a box of potato starch and the vegan butter I like, and it took until the second-to-last day, but I baked this Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting for my Maine people. Finally.Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}I’ve never put a sheet cake on here. It’s not because I think they’re “less than” or something—I just have occasions for other configurations of cake and frosting far more frequently than I do for this super simple slice-and-share situation. But our annual Swan’s Island trip? That’s a slice-and-share situation if I’ve ever seen one. Especially in COVID, when get-togethers with people outside my immediate germ pod aren’t a thing, it was so nice to be able to wrap up and dole out slices of this Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting without having to worry about keeping layers intact.Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}As with most of what we eat on Swan’s Island, this cake was made with my trusty co-traveler/fellow Maine enthusiast, VJ, in mind. I’ve mentioned many times that she is a gluten-free vegan, and though I am not either of those things, I greatly enjoy the challenges and rewards of baking (and cooking) that way when we are together. It’s far more fun to bake when people can eat what you make…not that I’d be particularly mad about being saddled with all 15 slices of this cake. I mean, do you see that vegan Maple Frosting???Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}The pumpkin cake is a variation on the vegan, gluten-free chocolate cake I posted last year. It relies primarily on almond flour, potato starch and cornstarch for structure, and pumpkin purée and pumpkin pie spice for flavor. There are other things in the batter too, of course (granulated and brown sugars, vanilla, leaveners, almond milk), and they all bake up into a moist, tender, nicely-spiced sheet of cake. Vegan and gluten-free or not, this pumpkin cake is legit.Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Believe me when I tell you that I understand wanting to eat this cake by its lonesome straight out of the oven, or with a simple dusting of confectioner’s sugar…but also? Believe me when I tell you that a swoopy layer of Maple Frosting takes this seasonal dessert from very good to fabulous. For real.Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting is very good the day it’s made, but as with many pumpkin spice things, it’s actually more delicious the next day, after the flavors have melded. But with a cake this good around, I can’t blame anyone for not waiting to dig in. I mean, I certainly didn’t.Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}
makes a single layer 9×13-inch sheet cake

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
~1 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk
1/3 cup pure pumpkin purée
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour (not almond meal)
3/4 cup potato starch
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1/8 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/8 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

For finishing:
Vegan Maple Frosting (recipe below)
sprinkle of ground cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9×13-inch cake pan. Line with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Pour apple cider vinegar into a liquid measuring cup. Add almond milk until liquid reaches the 1 1/4 cup mark. Stir and let sit for 5-10 minutes, until curdled. Stir in pumpkin purée and vanilla. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together blanched almond flour, potato starch, cornstarch, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add liquid ingredients in two installments, whisking until combined.

Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth to the edges with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Tap pan on the counter 5 times to release any large air bubbles. Transfer to the oven and bake 32-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each layer comes out with only a few crumbs.

Let cake cool completely in its pan on a cooling rack. Run a thin knife along the edges of the pan before inverting to release onto a platter (alternatively, you may keep it in the pan and serve from there). Frost as desired with Vegan Maple Frosting (recipe below). Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.

Frosted cake will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days and refrigerated for up to 4. Unfrosted cake may be triple-wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before frosting.

Vegan Maple Frosting
makes enough for the top of one sheet cake

4 ounces (1/2 cup) vegan butter, room temperature (I like Miyoko’s)
2 ounces (1/4 cup) shortening, room temperature (I like Nutiva)
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat vegan butter and shortening until light and fluffy. Mix in confectioners sugar in two installments, mixing until combined and fluffy. Mix in salt, followed by vanilla and maple syrup.

Use to frost the top of the sheet cake.

Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Maple Frosting {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Friday Favorites: Pumpkin II

Okay, I give in.

I’m a real stickler for keeping pumpkin (and other fall flavors) off the blog until it’s actually fall—I’m not a year round pumpkin person and you’ll never see me breaking out my stash of Libby’s on August 1st. That said, insufferable as I am, I could really go for a Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookie Square right now. So, there will be no *new* pumpkin content until Wednesday, when it will finally be fall. Pre-existing pumpkin though? Don’t mind if I do.

If you’ve been here a while, you may know that I did a Friday Favorites for pumpkin three years ago, but I’ve made a lot of new pumpkin recipes since then, so let’s call this a companion piece. Enjoy these favorites from the archives! Oh, and come back Wednesday for a new pumpkin recipe, and in three years for Friday Favorites: Pumpkin III.
Friday Favorites: PumpkinPumpkin Spice Snickerdoodles

These soft, chewy cookies have a double dose of pumpkin pie spice! It’s mixed into the pumpkin dough and then whisked into a sugary coating before baking. If you are a pumpkin spice purist, these are for you.
Friday Favorites: PumpkinPumpkin Chocolate Chunk Cookies {Vegan}

If, however, you like your pumpkin extra-shareable and with a side of chocolate, go this route. Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Cookies are vegan, due in large part to the fact that pumpkin makes a great egg substitute. From there, I just swapped the usual butter for coconut oil. Easy peasy.
Friday Favorites: PumpkinPumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies

I love a good blondie recipe! These are quick and easy and studded with chocolate chips. Can’t wait to make a batch in Maine in a few weeks.
Friday Favorites: PumpkinPumpkin Spice Latte Cookie Squares

I’ve never loved Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Lattes, but I will gladly throw pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and granulated espresso into cookie bars and then top them off with a thick layer of vanilla buttercream. What can I say? I’m filled with contradictions.
Friday Favorites: PumpkinPumpkin Babka

This, the one and only babka on this blog, was a labor of love. I made 18 of them before I got this recipe how I want it. This is so delicious, y’all. Buttery brioche dough is filled with pumpkin pie filling, twisted together, baked until golden and made glossy with a pumpkin spice syrup. Enjoy this yeasted cake for breakfast or a snack, or use it for a hyper-seasonal French toast.
Friday Favorites: PumpkinPumpkin Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}

Puff Pancakes are my all-time favorite weekend breakfast, so of course I had to make a pumpkin version! Super easy, super delicious. This is perfect for any lazy morning, or as a Thanksgiving breakfast.
Friday Favorites: PumpkinCheesecake Swirled Pumpkin Bread

This quick bread is actually a half-batch of my Pumpkin Bundt Cake swirled with cheesecake and baked in a loaf pan. It’s very simple and a stunner every time.
Friday Favorites: PumpkinPumpkin Pie with Toasted Pecan Crust {Vegan, Gluten-Free}

Everyone needs a great pumpkin pie recipe, and while I have a more traditional one in the archives, I think this vegan, gluten-free version is my favorite. The filling is lightly sweetened with maple syrup and coconut sugar and the crust is made primarily of pecans, cornstarch and coconut oil, and the whole thing is really fantastic. Put it on your Thanksgiving menu, or maybe just make one for the hell of it.
Friday Favorites: PumpkinPumpkin Oat Dog Treats

Yes, I even have pumpkin for pups! These nutritious five ingredient treats come together in a food processor, and though they are for dogs, they are delicious for humans too. That’s right, I have to taste test everything on this blog. Even the dog treats.

Have you made any of these or any of my other pumpkin recipes? What’s your favorite thing to make with pumpkin? Let me know in the comments or on social media!Friday Favorites: PumpkinFriday Favorites: Pumpkin

Mini Mason Jar Chocolate Cheesecakes

Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesIt has been documented on here that I fear making cheesecakes, but that’s not exactly true. I don’t fear cheesecake, I fear a leaking springform pan in a water bath (bain marie). Yes, I know you are supposed to wrap it in foil, but I’ve never seen anyone explain in exacting, painstaking, borderline-dull detail how you should do that so that there is absolutely no risk of leakage. And so, I have still (!!!) never made a traditional baked-in-a-springform cheesecake.

I have, however, made cheescake bars, cheesecake thumbprints, cheesecake brownies, cheesecake blondies, vegan cheesecakes, and now two different kinds of Mini Mason Jar Cheesecakes, because while I may not be super brave, I am nothing if not a problem solver.Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesThese Mini Mason Jar Chocolate Cheesecakes are SO good, y’all. So. Good. And they come in very cute, water tight, social distancing-approved serving vessels. Super rich, chocolaty filling, Oreo crust *and* no fiddling with a springform pan? Sign me up!Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesThe crusts for these little cheesecakes are just Oreos and melted butter blitzed together in a food processor. Spoon a couple tablespoons into each of your mason jars and give them a few minutes in the oven before adding your filling.Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesThis chocolate cheesecake filling is super chocolaty from melted dark chocolate and cocoa powder, and has a little extra depth from light brown sugar (though granulated works too). The rest of the ingredients are standard cheesecake fare: cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla and an egg.Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesBy far, the most important advice I can give you about making cheesecake is to make absolutely sure that your ingredients are at room temperature. If you’re more organized than I am, you can set your cream cheese out the night before. If you’re like me, just let it hang out (in its packaging) in a bowl of lukewarm tap water for 15 minutes. Throw your egg in there for maximum efficiency.Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesMini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesYou can make the filling in your food processor (just wipe it out) or use a mixer. Either way, make sure to give the bowl some taps on the counter and let it rest a few minutes to release any large air bubbles before baking. Then spoon it onto your crusts and bake for about 25 minutes. Let the baked cheesecakes hang out in their water bath for five more minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. This brief step helps them transition from the hot oven to your cooler counters more seamlessly. Cheesecakes are divas, in case you couldn’t already tell.Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesOnce your chocolate cheesecakes hit room temperature, throw them in the fridge for a few hours to get nice and cold. This will seem endless, but will give you plenty of time to dream up toppings. I went for my new favorite Chocolate Whipped Cream and chocolate sprinkles, but you could do chocolate shell, chopped candy bars, fresh fruit or anything else your heart desires.Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesI won’t lie to you, Mini Mason Jar Chocolate Cheesecakes are a commitment, but take one bite and I promise you’ll agree that theyre entirely worth the effort. They’re super smooth and tangy with a big hit of chocolate, and that Oreo crust…well, I think we can all agree that Oreo crust should probably run for president.Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesAnd on that note, enjoy this unofficial last weird weekend of this extremely weird summer. It’ll be two more weeks before I break out the pumpkin, and while that seems like eternity, I hope these chocolate cheesecakes soften the blow.Mini Mason Jar Chocolate Cheesecakes

Mini Mason Jar Chocolate Cheesecakes
makes 6 small cheesecakes

Crust:
12 Oreos
2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake Filling:
1 8 ounce brick full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup full-fat sour cream (or Greek yogurt), room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2.5 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled
1 large egg, room temperature

For Garnish:
Chocolate Whipped Cream
chocolate sprinkles (hagelslag)
Homemade Chocolate Shell

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease 6 4-ounce mason jars.

Make the crust. Place Oreos and melted butter in the bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture resembles wet sand, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the crust mixture into eat prepared mason jar. Press down to form a crust. Place mason jar crusts in a high-rimmed dish. Bake crust for 10 minutes. Cool on a rack while you prepare the filling.

Make cheesecake filling. You have two options:

If using a food processor: Wipe out any errant crust pieces. Add cream cheese, brown sugar and cocoa powder to the bowl of the food processor and process until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides as necessary. Add sour cream and vanilla and process until smooth. Whirl in melted chocolate. Add egg and process just until combined. Tap bowl on the counter 10 times and let batter rest 10 minutes.

If using a mixer: In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in brown sugar and cocoa powder, followed by sour cream and vanilla, until mixture is smooth. Mix in chocolate. Add egg and mix just until combined. Tap bowl on the counter 10 times and let batter rest 10 minutes.

Once your batter is rested, divide the cheesecake mixture into the mason jars, about 1/4 cup each. Use the back of a spoon to lightly smooth out the tops, then tap each one on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles. Return jars to the high-rimmed pan, and place the pan on a counter near the oven.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Remove from heat. Carefully pour water into the baking pan until it is halfway up the sides of the cheesecakes. Do not get water in the mason jars. Carefully move pan into the oven. Bake 25 minutes, or until puffed and *barely* jiggly in the centers. Let cheesecakes stay in their water bath for 5 more minutes.

Use tongs to carefully remove mason jar cheesecakes to a rack. Do not get water in the mason jars.

Let cheesecakes cool completely on a rack; the centers will collapse a bit. Transfer to the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, or until thoroughly chilled. If not serving immediately, cover with plastic wrap. Garnish with chocolate whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles, homemade chocolate shell, or other desired topping before serving.

Store leftover cheesecakes in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. To freeze, press plastic wrap to the surfaces of the cheesecakes and screw on mason jar lids. Freeze for up to one month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight or in a dish of lukewarm water at room temperature for an hour.

Mini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesMini Mason Jar Chocolate CheesecakesMini Mason Jar Chocolate Cheesecakes

How to Make Mini Layer Cakes

How to Make Mini Layer CakesI have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to celebrate this year. Does it feel like the world is crashing down around us and everything is at least vaguely scary? Sure. Is there still stuff to celebrate? You know it.

I mean, all of us are going to have pandemic birthdays this year. Every last dang one. Birthday parties are inadvisable, but cake? That’s non-negotiable. If we can’t have cake in times of both joy and crisis, then what on earth are we even doing here?!How to Make Mini Layer CakesIn that spirit, today’s post is not actually a recipe, but instead is all about how to make a layer cake fit for a pandemic…er, small group. Sure, you could make a single layer of cake for any occasion you have coming up, but some things require a cake that’s stacked up tall, even if it’s on the miniature side. I’ve been making Mini Layer Cakes for years, for everything from birthdays to baby showers to wedding cake practice. It’s super fun and a great way to brighten someone’s day (or your own!) in these rough times.How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer Cakes

How Big are Mini Layer Cakes?

The cakes pictured are 4 inches in diameter and 2.5 and 2.75 inches tall, respectively.How to Make Mini Layer Cakes

How Many People Can Mini Layer Cakes Feed?

Well, it depends. I think of these as being 4-6 servings, but could go up to eight in a pinch. I’m sure some of you are looking at these and thinking they’d only feed two–I suppose it all depends on exactly how much cake you want to eat in one go. Use your judgment.How to Make Mini Layer Cakes

What Flavors are Best for Mini Layer Cakes?

The answer here is pretty much anything your heart desires. The cakes pictured are Vanilla Cake + Nutella Buttercream and Chocolate Cake + Strawberry Buttercream; I chose these flavors based solely on what I had on hand.

The general rule for my Mini Layer Cakes is to make roughly half the recipe of any normal 9-inch layer cake. If you need some inspiration, here are some ideas off the top of my head:

Funfetti cake + vanilla buttercream
red velvet cake + cream cheese frosting
carrot cake (without nuts/fruit) + cream cheese frosting
white cake + seasonal fruit or jam + whipped cream frosting
vanilla cake with a little almond extract + mocha buttercream
-vanilla cake + key lime curd + whipped cream frosting
-vanilla cake + lemon syrup + lazy lemon curd + vanilla buttercream with lemon zest
chocolate cake + Oreo Buttercream
peanut butter cake + chocolate frosting
Black Forest Cake {Schwarzvaldtårta}! <—Yes, it works!How to Make Mini Layer Cakes

Things You Need to Make a Mini Layer Cake

-a single 9-inch layer of cake
-a half-batch of buttercream
-filling of choice, if not using buttercream
-a serving plate or cardboard round
-a ruler
a 4-inch ring cutter
-a serrated knife for trimming
-an offset icing knife

First things first, you’ve got to have the supplies. This list is pretty similar to what I use for regular layer cakes with a few exceptions. To start, you’ll need one 9-inch layer of cake and a small batch of buttercream…or roughly a half the quantity of most layer cake recipes. I understand that not all cake recipes halve easily (splitting eggs!), so I’ve included halved versions of my vanilla and chocolate cakes at the end of the post.How to Make Mini Layer CakesThe major specialty item here is a 4-inch ring for cutting small layers. Can you just bake your cake in 4-inch pans? Sure, and I have on many occasions, but they tend to produce dramatically domed cakes, and frankly, you’re never going to get as much use out of those pans as you think you will. As a person who has nearly every piece of kitchen equipment anyone could ever need, please trust me on this. It is much easier to bake a single larger layer of cake and then cut it into smaller ones.

With a 4-inch cutter, you’ll be able to get two small layers out of a single 9-inch round layer. If you measure/have a keener eye than I do, you can bake a 9-inch square layer and get four small layers out of it. That way, you can make two mini cakes at once or freeze two of the layers for another occasion. Either way, you’ll have leftover cake scraps, but I don’t see that as a problem.

Don’t have or want a 4-inch ring? Find a 4-inch circular object, trace it onto parchment, then cut out the circle and use it as a stencil.

How to Assemble a Mini Layer Cake

Mini Layer Cake assembly isn’t rocket science, but has its challenges. There is a lot of measuring and evening out of things, but rest assured that you’ll get the hang of it quickly.How to Make Mini Layer CakesStart by using your cutter to cut two small layers out of your larger layer. Make sure that the cutter is as close to the edge of the larger layer as possible, so as to make room for a complete second layer. <—This is important.How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer CakesUse your ruler to measure your layers for height. There is a good chance your layers will have an incline, as cakes tend to dome a bit as they bake. Grab your serrated knife and even out the top of one layer. Make sure it’s even (or very close) and measure it again—this how tall you want your other layer to be. Repeat that process to even out that second layer, until they’re identical in height (or very close). Mine are all about an inch tall.How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer CakesNext up, stacking. Swipe a tiny bit of buttercream on your plate or cardboard round, then place one of your layers on top. If you’re a messy froster like me, tuck bits of parchment under the cake all the way around for clean edges. Frost the top of your layer, then stack the second layer on top and press down lightly to adhere.How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer CakesFrom here, frost as normal. For me, that means a very light crumb coat (thin layer of buttercream), a 20 minute chill, then a thicker layer of buttercream, piping and decor.

Keep in mind that Mini Layer Cakes are smaller and lighter-weight than what most of us are used to, and therefore cannot take as much physical pressure as a larger cake, particularly when frosting around the sides. Be gentle with the cake and with yourself, and remember that there is no shame in having to move layers back into place and frost over flaws. Buttercream is a surprisingly forgiving medium.How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer CakesAt this point you can serve your cake. I, however, like to let mine sit for an hour or two ahead of serving, just to let everything adhere nicely. This isn’t strictly necessary, but I find it makes slicing easier and prettier. If you’re refrigerating your cake, make sure to let it sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before serving.How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer Cakes

How to Transport a Mini Layer Cake

If you’re making a Mini Layer Cake (or any layer cake), chances are you have to take it to a celebrant or they have to pick it up. In more normal times, I box and transport cakes all over NYC. The most important thing in this process is to make sure your cake fits the box beforehand—this is why I have a ruler in my kitchen. My cake boxes are 3-inches tall, so the cardboard round, both layers of cake and any filling and frosting need to be shorter than that when stacked.How to Make Mini Layer CakesOther important things? Keep your box as level as possible. I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping them level while walking and riding in cars and on the subway. It’s just a matter of remembering that pretty much everything (your body, a car seat, etc.) has a natural slope, and then carrying/positioning your box in a way to counterbalance that. Also, remember that cold cakes are easier to transport. When delivering cakes, I refrigerate them as soon as I’m done assembling, and then let them come back to room temp while en route to wherever I’m going.

Please know that I have shown up a few times with cakes that did not look the way they did when I left the house. This is a hazard of the job–rest assured that ugly cake is still delicious. If you make somebody a cake and they don’t like it because it’s a little disheveled, take it back. You don’t need that negativity.

And on that note, if you are inspired to make a Mini Layer Cake or two and need a place for them to go, I’m gladly accepting donations.How to Make Mini Layer Cakes
Are there any Mini Layer Cake tutorials you’d like to see? Thinking of doing one for tiered cakes (wedding cake). Let me know what you think in the comments.How to Make Mini Layer Cakes

Vanilla Cake {Half Recipe}
makes 1 9-inch layer or enough for 1 mini layer cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 batch Nutella Buttercream or other buttercream

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a 9-inch round or square pan. Line the bottom with parchment. Grease again. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, granulated sugar and light brown sugar. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating completely after each addition. Mix in half the dry ingredients, followed by half the buttermilk. Add remaining dry ingredients followed by the remaining buttermilk. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Tap full pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Bake cakes 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cake cool in its pan for fifteen minutes. Run a small thin knife around the edge of the pans and invert the cakes onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off and discard parchment.

For a Mini Layer Cake, follow instructions detailed in the post above. Fill and frost with Nutella Buttercream or other buttercream.

Chocolate Cake {Half Recipe}
makes 1 9-inch layer or enough for 1 mini layer cake

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons espresso granules (optional, but recommended)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup boiling water
1 batch Strawberry Buttercream or other buttercream

Preheat the oven to 325F. Grease a 9-inch round or square pan. Line the bottom with parchment. Grease again. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, espresso granules, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together oil and egg, followed by vanilla and buttermilk. Whisk in half the dry ingredients, followed by half the boiling water. Whisk in remaining dry ingredients, followed by remaining boiling water.

Pour batter into the pans. Tap full pan on the counter five times to release any air bubbles. Bake 25-27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cake cool in pan for fifteen minutes before running a small, thin knife around the edge. Invert cake onto a cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature. Peel off and discard parchment.

For a Mini Layer Cake, follow instructions detailed in the post above. Fill and frost with Strawberry Buttercream or other buttercream.

How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer Cakes