While few things say a party, or a birthday, like a layer cake, the ones we always made at home came out on the short and stocky side. I thought the issue was that the cake just didn’t rise like it should have while it baked, but that’s not really it. Cake recipes, and boxed cake mixes, are typically designed for two 8- or 9-inch cake pans with 2-inch sides, a configuration that presents a nice, but hardly tall, cake. If you want tall as I do (perhaps this is inborn petite-girl’s-longing?), seems you’ve got to double it up for these larger pans, then make four layers from there.
At Tante Marie’s, we baked cakes in a slightly smaller pan, a 6-inch pan with 3-inch sides that looked doll-sized to me when I first saw it. That was a plus in my mind, given that I am a sucker for miniatures, but was the cake for American Girl or this girl? Turns out a cake of that size makes three layers when cut across, and with that height it cuts at least six nice slices. Plus it’s a cake that is beyond pretty.
I’ve been devoted to the classic Miette cakes since I first had a glimpse of them in San Francisco. Then when the Miette cookbook came out, I devoured the thing to understand as many of their secrets as possible. Their beautiful, tall, sweet layer cakes (ironically dubbed Tomboy) are made with the 6-inch pan with 3-inch sides. The recipes make two of the cakes, and they freeze like a dream. How great it is to have a second cake on standby in the freezer, or to have two cakes on the table instead of one for any given good time. I’ve been known to use tall cakes on stands as centerpieces…now that was something special.
Get the reasonably priced Fat Daddio’s 6×3-inch pans here, or any number of places online. Take good care of them once they are in your possession—the pans, constructed of anodized aluminum (heat conduction, non-reactive, non-stick but you’ve still gotta grease them), must be hand washed; once they go in the dishwasher they are tarnished for good. You’ll note from my photo that I had a how-bad-could-it-be (lazy?) moment and put one in the dishwasher, only to regret it. I still use the pan, but it has a gray tarnish that has to be scrubbed before I use it, every time, to get the residue off. I’ve tried all manner of remedies to bring back the original luster, none of which worked.
Our deep chocolate, supremely moist layer cake this week is for the small pans, but not to worry if even the name Fat Daddio’s doesn’t inspire you to buy them—you can bake the cake up in another size, or as cupcakes, and it’s still going to say a party, a Valentine, a happy day.