Last week I made a cake for 70 for a friend’s birthday party, and I thought I’d share a little of the process I use to make one of these giant cakes. I learned this method from a former neighbor of mine who was a professionally-trained pastry chef. About ten years ago, when I was preparing to make my first-ever wedding cake, she was generous enough to sit down with me and share a few tricks of the trade. Thank goodness for her, because my cake would have definitely been a hot mess without her advice!
The main gist of this method is that the cake are built using cake rings, which is what you see here. Just a simple metal ring with straight sides. I bake the cake itself in half-sheet pans, then use the cake rings to punch out the size cake layer I need, then build the layers inside the ring. I have rings ranging in size from 14″ down to 2″. So, in this picture you see my 14″ cake ring as well as several sheet cakes in the background. (The cakes all get baked on parchment paper, which allows them to be moved around easily during this process.)
The thing about this method is that you get all these leftover corner pieces. But that’s really not a problem! These are perfect for quality-control taste testing, and they can also be made into mini cakes. (I usually use my 2″ cake ring to make tiny scrap cakes which I store in the freezer for late-night cake emergencies.) Also, obviously, these are good for snacking! Trust me, everyone is always more than happy scarf up the scraps.
Once all the cake layers are prepared, it’s time to build the cake. The ring is used for this as well. I make all my cakes on disposable cake boards so that they can be left behind at the party venue and I don’t have to worry about getting them back. So, just place the cake ring on the board, and spread some frosting on the board. (I always use Italian meringue butter cream – it’s like cement. Delicious, delicious, buttery, sugary cement.)
And just keep repeating all the way to the top. Another great thing about using the rings is that you can check at the top to see if the cake is level with the edges of the ring, and it’s easy to correct at this stage by either trimming the cake or adding more frosting.
Then, I run a small offset spatula between the cake and the ring, and the ring lifts right off, revealing a perfectly straight and even cake! And of course at this point it can be decorated however you like. At this stage (after frosting the naked sides) you could freeze the whole cake and decorate it later. Perfect if you’re throwing a party or making a wedding cake, so that you can get some of the work done ahead of time. Frosted cakes freeze like a dream.
So why cake rings instead of round pans, you may be wondering? At the end of the day, I think it’s probably just a matter of personal preference. But the rings really do allow you to achieve perfect results, with completely straight sides and even, level tops. My personal favorite thing about using cake rings is that all the scrappy pieces allow you to taste the cake, then taste the cake with the frosting–and anyone who watches food TV knows chefs must taste their food! Actually I get completely nervous if I bake a cake in a normal pan and I don’t have any scraps to taste before serving it. In that case, I usually cut a small bite from the inside of the cake to taste, then fill the hole with frosting. And every single time, it makes me think of this: