4" High Wedding Cake Tiers - Recipe Help


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Hi all!

I am hoping to make a three tier naked sponge cake like this for my wedding:

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I have bought three 4 inch high tins - 6", 8" and 10" - and will be using this Victoria Sponge recipe as a base: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/6603/classic-sponge-sandwich

Can anyone suggest how the above recipe for two 8" x 2" cakes will need to be adjusted for 6" x 4" / 8" x 4" / 10" x 4" cakes? I was thinking of just tripling the ingredients and using flower nails, but would love any tips about adjustments to the temperature, eggs, baking powder, etc.

Thanks in advance!
 
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Scaling recipes and baking tall layers requires advanced baking skills.

You need to know baker's percentages and you need to know how to find the area of a circle. Since the height of the pans are different, in this case you need to find the volume of a cylinder.


Your recipe must be in weight not volume, and preferably in metric weight because metric weight is far more accurate. If your recipe is written in volume it cannot be scaled.

Sponge cake is not a cake for the novice baker for a number of reasons.

Achieving rise is easy. Maintaining that rise are lessons in practice and experience. The layers in the cake pictured are not 4". And they are not 4" for very good reason: keeping a sponge cake from collapsing is no easy feat.

The French version of the sponge is leavened by nothing but egg whites. All egg white leavened cakes are notorious for deflating and shriveling. They deflate while baking. They deflate while cooling. They deflate for the pure sake of deflating. If your recipe is the Italian version, the genoise, you have a better chance, but the Italians do not like to be out done by the French, so their version is also a persnickety little cake that will deflate for no explicable reason.

Given the sponge cake's propensity to deflate and shrivel, it's not advisable to attempt to bake one twice the height of a standard cake.

This event is your event. This is your wedding. The days leading up to your wedding date will be filled with work and stress. Do you really want to pile on the stress of producing your own wedding cake, and of the sort that's given to collapse?

There's also issues unique to naked cakes. Naked cakes need to be sturdy since they do not have buttercream to support and camouflage the sides. A soft cake will collapse at the sides.

With so little buttercream, naked cakes dry out very quickly. So your cake recipe should be a very moist one.

Since naked cakes dry out very quickly, your baking schedule and storage prior to event is critical. You cannot use the same bake and storage schedule as a cake that will covered in icing. You cannot bake the layers three days in advance and store them in the refrigerator. By the time it's decorated and served the cake will be as dry as the desert.

To mitigate drying out while on display, naked cakes are normally assembled at the very last minute to minimize the time the uncovered cake is exposed to air.

It's not just the bake and assemble schedule that will effect the cake quality. The type of cake is a component as well. Sponge is dry. It's the nature of the beast. All those egg whites give a sponge cake it's characteristic dryness. All those sponge cakes you eaten at other people's events and from bakeries have been moistened with simple syrup. Simple syrup is added to each layer during the decorating process. Too much simple syrup will make the cake soggy and the cake may collapse. Too little simple syrup, then the cake is dry.

Naked cakes are not glued it together with icing; so you must support the tiers properly for stability.

Baking tall layers have their own issues as well. Given the volume of batter, the center of the cake will take a lot longer to bake. Cakes 3" and taller require a heating core. A heating core will leave a hole. The size of the whole depends on the type of core you use. Some bakers improvise and use flower nails as heating cores. For a 6" cake, 1 flower nail; 8" cake use 2 flower nails. For a 10" cake use an actual heating core. A flower nail won't radiate enough heat in a cake 9" or larger. If you do not use a heating core, the center will bake much slower than the rest of the cake. The cake will be dry all over except the very center.

For 3" and taller cakes you must reduce the temperature and increase the bake time. The only way to know how much you need to reduce the temperature and increase the bake time is to bake the layers and find out for yourself what the adjustments should be. You can scale a recipe for batter quantity, but there's no way to "scale" temperature and time accordingly.

Given the increased bake time it is best to use a pan made of uncoated metal. Non-stick pans conduct way too much heat. If you purchased Fat Daddio pans you will need to drastically reduce the temperature. The anodized aluminum conducts way too much heat. I am not a fan of non-stick and Fat Daddio--they all create a very brown dry crust to begin with. Extended bake times mean an almost burnt looking cake with a dry chewy crust.

If after all I stated, you want to proceed here's how to scale the recipe.


============

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Since the pan depths are different, you have to calculate for volume rather than area. Keep in mind that there's some unknowns--mainly the volume of batter the original recipe produces, and the rise and shrinkage after cooling. Even though it calls for a 2" deep pan, the cake after baking and cooling may not be 2" high. Since the volume of batter itself is an unknown the calculations are not specific to the batter. Rather the calculation addresses maximum volume capacity of pans.


The last unknown is the expansion of the batter. If the egg whites are beaten separately and fold in, the batter will expand considerably. The amount of expansion depends on the amount of air that has been beaten into the egg whites. If the egg whites are under or over beaten, there will be less than ideal expansion. In that case. even if you fill the pans with the appropriate amount of batter, the cakes will not rise to maximum height.


Adjust the original recipe for a single pan:

  1. Calculate the baker's percentages of each ingredient in the recipe. While US weight will work, it's far better to use metric weight when scaling. If your recipe is in volume (cups, teaspoons) it cannot be scaled.
  2. Since your recipe yield is two 8" layers, after you calculate the baker's percentages, reduced it by 50%. This reduced amount will be the basis on which you make the batter calculations. I'll call this the "adjusted original recipe"


Calculate the area and volume of the original 8" pan

  1. Find the volume of the original cake pan. Volume = pi x radius² x height
8/2= 4

4 x 4 = 16

16 x 3.14 = 50.24

50.25 x 2 = 100.48 (round down 100)


The original recipe will yield enough batter for a pan with a volume capacity of 100.


  1. Find the volume of the 10" cake pan.
10/2 = 5

5 x 5 = 25

25 x 3.14 = 78.5

78.5 x 4 = 314


The volume capability of the 10" x 4" pan is 314


  1. Calculate the difference in volume between the original 8" pan and the 10" pan. Divide the larger size pan into the small size pan
314/100 = 3.14.



The original recipe need to be increased by 3.14.


  1. Using the baker's percentages for each individual ingredient, multiple by 3.14.

Repeat calculations for 6" x 4" and 8" x 4" pans


NOTE: when scaling for pans of same height, do not factor in pan heights. Just calculate area. Area = pi x radius² .


Keep in mind, The calculations are for maximum capacity of the pan. Cake pans are not filled maximum capacity to allow room for the batter to rise. The assumption is the original recipe has been scaled to allow for the appropriate rise. The conversations are based on the rise of the original recipe.
 
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You also might try finding a bakery who specializes in wedding cakes and ask them how much batter is required for the size cake you want.

When I was a baker, we had specific amounts of batter to make/use for the wedding cakes. In other words, somewhere down the line in the bakeries history, someone got the bright idea to use the formulas mentioned above and just created a chart of how much batter is made for each specified sized cake. So, we only made an amount of batter required for the specific sized cake we were going to use.

This way, nobody had to guess at how much batter was needed for each pan.....we just made the batter per sized cake and filled each pan 3/4 of the way full before baking.

Kind of like a pre-measured chart for what is needed for the different sizes of cakes.
 
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You also might try finding a bakery who specializes in wedding cakes and ask them how much batter is required for the size cake you want.

When I was a baker, we had specific amounts of batter to make/use for the wedding cakes. In other words, somewhere down the line in the bakeries history, someone got the bright idea to use the formulas mentioned above and just created a chart of how much batter is made for each specified sized cake. So, we only made an amount of batter required for the specific sized cake we were going to use.

This way, nobody had to guess at how much batter was needed for each pan.....we just made the batter per sized cake and filled each pan 3/4 of the way full before baking.

Kind of like a pre-measured chart for what is needed for the different sizes of cakes.

But batter weight and volume varies dramatically by type of cake. My chiffon cake batter is feather light, but does it create volume. As soon as the egg whites are folded i have a cloud of batter. I use 410 grams of batter per 8" x 2" round.

My standard butter white cake for the same pan weighs considerably more. For the same pan, the butter cake per pan is 510 grams.
 
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Thanks so much for your replies! I really appreciate the time and effort you have put in.

I was already planning on using simple syrup and flower nails, and a classic British sponge uses whole eggs, so is a lot denser than other sponges. We're having a super casual wedding, so I will bake the cakes the day prior, and then cut into 1 inch layers and assemble the morning of, with dowels and cake boards for support.

I do have Fat Daddio pans, so thanks so much for the tip about the cooking times. I'm going to start doing some test runs this week.

Thanks again!
 
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Tamika,

With Fat Daddio, try 300 degrees. I know that sounds insanely low for a cake, but just two weeks ago I performed a foam cake recipe test using a 6 x 4" Fat Daddio and a Chicago Metallic, uncoated. The Chicago Metallic was 2" deep pan. Pans had equal amounts of batter by weight. The attached photograph is of the two cakes.

Both cakes were made from the same batter, mixed in the same bowl. Both baked at 325 on the same rack, at the same time. The only difference was the brand of pan, type of metal. I had to pull the Fat Daddio out 5 minutes before the Chicago Metallic.

The top cake is the Fat Daddio

The bottom cake is the Chicago Metallic uncoated

The Fat Daddio was dramatically darker all over. Even the crumb inside was darker compared to the Chicago Metallic.

I cut both of these cakes lengthwise is examine the crumb. The Fat Daddio crumb was noticeably drier. I double wrapped both cakes in plastic wrap, then checked the crumb at one hour intervals for three hours; then a final check after sitting on the counter overnight. Double wrapping did help; both cakes were moister in the morning.

The recipe I used has the following percentages of eggs and sugar.

.66 egg yolk

1.33 egg whites

1.33 sugar
 

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But batter weight and volume varies dramatically by type of cake. My chiffon cake batter is feather light, but does it create volume. As soon as the egg whites are folded i have a cloud of batter. I use 410 grams of batter per 8" x 2" round.

My standard butter white cake for the same pan weighs considerably more. For the same pan, the butter cake per pan is 510 grams.


We used 3 different batters, white, wedding white, and chocolate. Different recipes, but all made the same amount of batter for whatever cake was to be made with it.

White cake was more "fluffy" and filled up the pan when baked. Wedding white was almost like a hard sponge or soft pound cake....dense and firm. It pretty much baked at the same level you put in the pan. The chocolate was a combo of the white and wedding white, as the chocolate drew a lot of moisture from the cake and firmed it up quite a bit.

Whoever made the batter chart for the cakes we made, made sure every aspect was covered. It made things a lot easier on the rest of us.



There is also information out there that will tell you how many boxes of store bought cake mix to use for each pan size for wedding cakes. I've had to use boxed mix before and I add less water to get a firmer cake, when using for wedding cakes.
 
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ChesterV, you illustrate my point beautifully--you cannot determine volume for your pan based on two different recipes. You can fill two different pans with batter with two different recipes using the same amount of batter, but that does not determine volume after baking. Baked volume is determined by each individual ingredient you use to create a batter.

CIA is up the road from me. I have a couple of cake recipes they use in their pastry program and for cakes served in the restaurant. I got these recipes from classes I took there.


White/yellow high ratio cake
Chocolate high ratio cake


Both scale at 1 pound, 8 ounces per/10" x 2" round cake pan

Both scale at 3 pounds for a half sheet pan


Based on volume you would think that these were identical and interchangeable recipes, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The white cake has 7 pounds of sugar
The chocolate cake has 3 pounds of sugar

The white cake has 6 pounds of flour
The chocolate cake has 2.5 pounds of flour

The white cake has 0 ounces cocoa powder
The chocolate cake has 9 ounces of cocoa powder

The white cake has 1 pound, 6 ounces high ratio shortening
The chocolate cake has 1 pound, 6 ounces high ratio shortening

The white cake has 1 pound, 6 ounces butter
The chocolate cake has 0 pounds butter

The white cake batch total weight is 20 pounds, 14 ounces
The chocolate cake batch total weight is 13 pounds, 4 ounces

It takes far more ingredients AND different ingredients for 1 pound, 8 ounces of the white cake batter to produce the same level of finished baked volume that 1 pound, 8 ounces that the chocolate cake batter produces.

So Bakery X uses 1 pound, 8 ounces of their batter for a 10" x 2" round cake pan. And that recipe works for Bakery X. But I don't have Bakery X's recipe.

So if I put 1 pound, 8 ounces of batter, based on my recipe, in my 10" x 2", I may or may not get that same baked volume because my recipe is not the same as Bakery X.

Even if I had Bakery X's recipe I still would not be able to achieve the same results. There is the lost in translation factor from commercial production to home baking. Commercial production uses ingredients that are not readily available to the home baker. A commercially produced cake of the same type (i.e., butter cake) will be greater in volume and lighter weight than a home baked cake of the same type.

That's due to the ingredients and equipment. An example is the use of high ratio shortening so ubiquitous in commercial baking. High ratio shortening is much lighter than both butter and Crisco shortening. Yet the emulsifiers in the high ratio shortening produce a batter with considerably more volume. The first time I ever worked with high ratio shortening I couldn't believe it was shortening-- it resembled whipped butter rather than shortening.

Factor in the use of a commercial mixer and the bakery produced cake is so light it'll practically float. The power of a Hobart far exceeds a home KitchenAid mixer.

For cakes, most bakeries use commercial grade bleached, high ratio cake flour and high temperature milk powder. There is no cake flour or milk powder on the grocery store shelves that compare. These ingredients enchanted flavor, moisture, and volume. The rise is greater than a cake baked with retail store ingredients. That's the reason why when I convert these exact CIA recipes for my home use, I don't get the weights or same finished products. Yes, I have tweaked these so that I can achieve comparable volume, but there is no way for me to replicate the mouthfeel and texture absent the commercial grade ingredients and the Hobart.

When people lament about not being able to reproduce a cake or pastry from their favorite restaurant/bakery despite having purchased the cookbook written by the celebrity chef, I explain to them it's just simply is not possible due to these variables. I tip my hat to Elizabeth Prueitt for stating in her preface that it is indeed an impossible task to translate the recipes they use at Tartine for the home baker.
 

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