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Monday, May 27, 2019

Advance Preparations for a Big Party: The Cake

So, I'm working on menu items for the graduation reception for my daughter. I am preparing as much as I can ahead of time and freezing. I figure that if I do at least one thing toward the reception each day, I should be able to put this together as much from scratch as possible, without fully exhausting myself. The other day, I baked the cake part of a quarter sheet carrot cake and two dozen cream puffs (using the recipe in this post, but making 24 cream puffs instead of the recipe's yield of 12-15). I stashed both in my freezer. I'll frost the cake and fill the cream puffs the morning of the reception.

I was pricing sheet cakes at WinCo the other morning. Their quarter sheet carrot cakes begin at $19.98.  By baking my own cake from scratch, I believe that I will save at least $12, and I think it will taste much better.

I wanted to make my cake look as much like a bakery cake as I could, so that meant taking it out of the pan to frost the sides as well as the top. I baked the layers in a 9 X 13-inch rectangular pyrex baker. If you've ever tried to get an entire cake out of an extra large pan, you know that keeping it from cracking is a bit tricky. I followed a trick of my mother's and lined the baker with waxed paper.

My mother would grease and flour the sides and bottom of the baker, then line it with waxed paper, using one sheet across the length of the pan and another across the width. There would be overhang on all four sides. After lining the pan, she would brush oil lightly on the waxed paper, to ensure the cake would release without pitting. She allowed the cake to cool for 15 minutes in the pan on a rack. After this brief cooling, she would lift the cake out of the pan, using the overhang on the long ends as handles. After another 10 minutes of cooling, the cake would be carefully turned onto a large rack, and the waxed paper would be peeled off. I can tell you, this worked like a charm for me. I was able to get both layers out of the large baker without sticking to the pan or developing cracks.


  1. It's always fun to watch you get ready for a party because you are so organized and you make everything look so good. Looking forward to seeing the rest of your preparations.

    I have to bring the cake to a family birthday party this weekend. I'm still on the fence as to whether to get one from COSTCO or make one. COSTCO cakes are cheaper than bakery or grocery store cakes and they taste quite good. I think it's the filling they put in. However, that's more expensive than making one from scratch. This is an extremely busy week for me, so COSTCO may win. We also have to bring baked beans, a salad, and the appetizers. We'll see at the end of the week how the tide rolls.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Costco cakes are something of a bargain. I don't have a Costco membership, but I did check their prices about a year ago. I found you could buy a half sheet cake for just a little more than a quarter sheet cake at WinCo. The Costco ones are pretty popular with our friends, I think because of the filling, as you said. Your family birthday party sounds like a very fun event. I hope that you all have a wonderful time together.

  2. Sounds like you have everything under control for the party! Have you ever tried placing a cookie sheet on top of your cake pan and flipping it over? I do that when I make either a pineapple upside down cake or a regular cake. Run a knife along the edge and sorta "shake" it a little in the pan to loosen it from the sides, I haven't had any problems with that method.


    1. Hi Shelby,
      Not with a cookie sheet, but this is how I turn the cake over, once it's out of the pan for a large cake, using a cooling rack. My mom always used waxed paper to line cake pans, so that's what I've always used. I'll try your method on a cake coming up. Thanks!

  3. Lily, congratulations to your daughter for reaching this achievement! I am planning on following your advice about the cake as my husband has a big birthday coming up in August. I am eager to learn about the cakes decoration, but need advice about an easy version for a man! On a more urgent note, I have the rind of a watermelon in my fridge and would like to pickle it. You posted the recipe several years ago, and I don't know how to access it. We are really trying to not waste a scrap of food these days. Life is difficult for many retirees here in the Chicago area now. Your blog has been a terrific inspiration. Bless you for continuing this blog as I realize that it takes a lot of time and effort.

    1. Hi Bonnie,
      Thank you, on behalf of my daughter.
      I hope your husband's birthday celebration goes well. Your cake will turn out splendidly, I'm sure.
      Here's the post with the watermelon rind pickles:
      I want to say -- good for you for working so hard not to waste any food right now! And enjoy the pickles! The rind from 1 melon will make several jars.

  4. I'll have to remember your trick! I've done something similar with round cakes and parchment paper, but I've never attempted a 13x9 before. I dislike decorating cakes so I have to admit, the Costco option would look good to me; however, I admire how you are working to make a nice celebration for your daughter with minimal spending.

    1. Thank you, Kris.
      I can really see the appeal of a Costco cake. If I had the money and didn't have time or would rather use my time for something else, then I could see myself buying the cake. I wouldn't fault anyone for choosing to buy a cake instead of baking it.

      Do you ever reuse your parchment? I was reading some comments on another site and one person said she washed her cake pan parchment pieces and re-used them. I've never tried washing parchment, but I may have to give that one a try. I do save used parchment in the freezer, all rolled up, to reuse for baking. I just brush it off before rolling it up.

    2. No, I confess I don't reuse my parchment. I mostly use it when I make my no-knead bread; that bakes at such a high temp that the parchment is brittle by the time it is done. I do wash and reuse baggies and foil. I have 2 Silpat mats (one was a gift, the other was the Aldi version for 1/5th of the price and I like it just as well!) which I use for cookies and they just need to be wiped off after using.

  5. Congrats!

    I wash my parchment paper and baggies and aluminum foil! Well, not really wash but wipe them down. We use and re-use as often as we can! I save tortilla bags with the ziploc and resuse those after I make a huge batch of breakfast tortillas!

    Carrot only problem is that most carrot cakes seem greasy to me. Could you share your recipe?



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