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The Not-God of Cake


So yesterday was Noah's birthday party. We had it at the same indoor bouncy place as last year's Noah/Ezra Duo Extravaganzalooza, mostly because 1) repeating the venue and format makes it easier on Noah to handle the transitions and general overwhelmingness of a party, and 2) it's easy and you can book online and not have to talk to people on the phone and basically I am lazy.

But after outsourcing just about everything party-related, I did have a flash of I AM MORE THAN A CREDIT CARD guilt and decided that I would at least bake Noah's birthday cake. We made a plain chocolate layer cake for his "real" birthday and he loved it, so I figured I'd adapt it into a sheet cake and do some rudimentary decorating (translation: toss some candy or something on top, I dunno). Just to Pinterest this joint up a bit, is all.

I baked the cake on Saturday and it was fine. A simple but good-lookin' from-scratch cake. On Sunday morning I whipped up a batch of frosting, and that was...less fine. I'm not sure what I screwed up but it was more like a cake batter than a frosting. Jason offered to try his hand at the do-over — we had time to make it again, he assured me, since all we had to do was show up. DON'T PANIC, he assured me. Or do that thing you do where you fall apart and panic in the face of the mildest of failures. 


What we did not have time to make again, however, was an entirely new cake, on the off chance the one I made on Saturday refused to come out of the baking pan.

Which is exactly what happened. The cake stuck to the pan, and once we finally got it OUT of the pan, a very largeish chunk of it stayed behind while the rest of fell to the counter in a sicking THUMP and promptly split ito three more separate pieces.

(Then it turned inside out. AND THEN IT EXPLODED.)

So that was awesome. We spent a few minutes debating whether or not we could like, frost the cake back together and how noticeable it would be that the cake had several serious fault-lines running through it before realizing that our time would probably be better spent getting everybody in the car and driving off in search of a Last Minute Panic Cake. 

(And yes, I totally did that thing that I do, because I could not think of a single place in the general vicinity that sold cake. This was an insurmountable quest of quixotic proportions, according to me. Cake! Cake? Like for you to just go and buy on an as-needed basis? Without special ordering and costing many tons of dollars? DOES SUCH A PLACE EXIST YOU ARE SPEAKING MADNESS WORDS oh right the goddamn grocery store bakery never mind we're cool.)

We drove to a grocery store that has a nice bakery and I ran in and started frantically waving my windmill arms at the display cakes, like CAKE CAKE IS THAT CAKE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE AND CONSUMPTION BY 20 HOPPED-UP BOUNCED-OUT CHILDREN WITHIN THE NEXT 10 MINUTES. I spotted a particular generously-sized chocolate cake and asked how many people it served.

"That one serves 15, tops. So maybe you should buy two." I was told, and suddenly this shocking bit of upselling snapped my squirrel brain out of my panic, because 15? Maybe 15 professional football players, because I was pretty damn sure I could get more than 20 damn slices out of that cake. I bought one cake.

(And then spent the next hour and 45 minutes stressed out that we were totally going to run out of cake.)

We did not run out of cake, and in fact had exactly five leftover slices to take home for dessert. That would have meant one slice per family member except that we got home at 3:30, I put Ike down for what I assumed would be a short power-nap at 4:00, and I never saw my youngest child again until 8:00 A.M. THIS MORNING. That's some damn good bouncing, y'all.

(In the meantime, I ate his cake. It was delicious.)

So now I get to decide whether to risk a rerun for Ezra's birthday party this Saturday, or just cave and order a stupid cake, ESPECIALLY in light of the fact that I have confirmed that the party invitations I sent with him to school last week were not actually distributed and I may end up stocking his party with some stand-in party attendees I hire from the nearest playground. "What? Of course you know that boy, Ezra. He is one of your oldest and dearest friends. I paid his mom $5 and promised an extra slice of Panic Cake.")




Kim Mackrill

You can do it! Next time let it cool for ten minutes and then turn it out of the pan onto a cooling rack. It will work if you've buttered and floured the pan. You've got this!


Smear shortening on the bottom of the pan, add some flour and move the pan until it is completely coated in flour. Shake out the rest of the flour that is not sticking to the bottom.

Take a butter knife around the outside edges before you pop the cake out. Works every time. :)


Cake Release Recipe: equal parts of flour, vegetable oil and shortening in a blender. Generously apply to cake mold. Keep in the cupboard for about 3 months.


I see comments on how to get cakes to release. My comment is to say what fun for children to set down pan full of cake and hand out forks. Slow eaters beware.


I'm a stuck cake veteran. I've learned to grease generously with butter and sprinkle in cocoa instead of flour. It's a chocolate cake, after all. You can also line the pan with parchment paper.


That, and parchment paper are going to be your BESTEST FRIENDS. Lightly grease the edges of the cake pan with butter, and then line the bottom of the pan with parchment. I used to be a pro at cake-stuck-to-pan-disaster but this really helped. I haven't had an "incident" as I prefer to call them ever since I got the nicer pan and started using parchment on the bottom. Good luck!


As a terrible baker yet stubborn person, I bake all of the party cakes. As a result my family has enjoyed many trifles: Get yourself a pretty bowl, crumble the broken cake and layer it with the frosting/whipped cream/candy/fruit/whatever you have. Everyone honestly loves them. Plus there are no forced serving size.


The beauty of sheet cakes is you can LEAVE THEM IN THE PAN. Trust me, your kids don't care if it is in the pan or not. They just want CAKE. And frosting. Last minute if you screw up the frosting? Buy it in a can. your gourmet club.


My 5 y.o. is free on Saturday, and can totally be bribed with cake (and the promise of a Ken doll, which she NEEDS).

Heather (Laptops to Lullabies)

Oh Amalah, thank you for the hearty laugh at that awesome cake cartoon. I think it's the crazy eyes that made it extra-awesome.

I wish we had indoor bouncy places in my corner of Canada! We are pretty limited for indoor party places, so we're forced to make up for it with really fancy cake or cupcakes. At least that's how I see it.


Mad props to all of you who do multiple steps of pan prep, but may I suggest Baker's Joy, the lazy baker's spray-friend?

Also, I totally support bakery cake for parties. It's pretty cheap, feeds the masses, and that FROSTING is just the stuff of dreams. If your Target has a bakery, try their cakes and cupcakes (there's a hint of almond in the white cake/frosting). YOU'RE WELCOME.

Felicity Marie

Wait...your child slept for 16 hours in a row? What witchcraft is this?


LOL...I am with JulesInNC..baking spray all the way. If it makes you feel better I bagged having parties last year because I was tired of juggling the everyone is away on spring break for my kids parties every damn year. And, we were traveling 9 hours each way for my brothers wedding right after their birthdays. I had a big ole BJ's cake for them at the BBQ my Mom threw the day after the wedding because all the family was in town. Called it a day and moved on. I'm already dreading this years planning.


So see, because I couldn't figure out a way to make the details funny: I used a super awesome nonstick pan, baking spray and powdered with cocoa. We were out of parchment paper but the layer cakes (same recipe) popped out of the pans (same brand/coating) just fine w/ the spray/cocoa combo. I guess we left it in the pan too long? Or just should've run out for parchment?

Either way, I totally just served my children busted-ass unfrosted cake topped with some random candy and marshmallows. They gave it two thumbs up.


Everyone has already given you the best ways to get cakes out if pans (bakers joy, or spray plus flour, definitely a rectangle of parchment in the bottom) but the most important tip was only given once, so let's confirm: your biggest problem was leaving it in the pan overnight! Almost all cake recipes will tell you to let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes, then invert to remove onto the rack to cool completely. I'm a caterer and layer cakes are my specialty, so here's the next tip: if you get it out of the pan after 10 minutes and then let it cool completely, you can then wrap the whole thing (yep, all the way around the cooling rack) with plastic wrap. The next day the cake won't be dried out. Then you cut the plastic wrap off, hold your platter over it, and invert the whole shebang and let the cake slowly release from the cooling rack. It's so easy, just a couple of extra steps. . .but so worth it to never have a cake disaster again. Oh, and if you want the most heavenly chocolat buttercream frosting you'll ever make in 3 minutes, email me, i'll share the recipe!


Parchment paper will solve all your exploding cake problems forever! I never bake a cake without first lining the pan with it. Won't ever come out otherwise...

Maxine Dangerous

I already liked you(r blog), but the Galaxy Quest reference bumped things up a notch. :)


Ike slept for *16 hours?!*


One word: COSTCO. Awesome cakes, and they are huge, and there are always a ton of them, and someone will put Ezra under the Happy Birthday. Or you can pre-order a plain one and they will give you the frosting to decorate it with.


It sounds like everyone's got you covered for tips ahead of time, but should you get a cake stuck again, you can stick it on warm burners on the stove to warm up the bottom so it will come out. I don't know how well it would work for a sheet cake, but it did recently get stuck in round cakes out for me.


Favorite movie line of all time. Day made.


I can bake. I can bake the shit out of a cake.

Frosting is my kryptonite. Buy the frosting. Add food coloring = special.

Kaycee in Texas

Oh my goodness, this happened to me on my first born's third birthday. Starting over wasn't an option at the time, so our solution was to glue it back together with frosting and try to camouflage it by covering it with Nilla Wafers that had been iced with in colored frosting. (A cake decorator I am not.) The result was rather hideous, but thankfully, it was only a family party and he was three, so he was just excited to have cake.

This all took place 20 plus years ago and the upside is that it has turned into hilarious family lore. Important to the story is that my sister and I ended up doing all this in the middle of the night and were rather giddy with exhaustion through most of it. Since she is also a reader of yours, she was probably getting ready to tell this story herself. Hi Sis!

(Oh, as an added bonus, I was seven weeks post-partum when all of this took place.)


I had that exact same thing happen to a cake once. As in, I'm pretty sure you were looking at the picture of my cake while writing this description. I DID just frost the two big pieces, though, because it was for a random family function, and whatevs, it's cake, they'll eat it. They did. They didn't ask me to bring cake again, though.


I used to have the same cake-stuck-to-pan issue regardless if I pre-oiled and floured the damn thing to within an inch of it's life.

So now I just lay down greaseproof/baking/parchment/whateveryoucallit paper and even if the top of the cake isn't perfectly flat, at least it comes off the pan with no effort or problems at all.

also, you must try making the Pioneer Woman's Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever recipe. I swear by it!!!

Cheryl S.

Buy Cake. Get e-mailing Ezra's buddies. Or stand outside preschool this morning and TELL everyone.

Have fun!


I find the spray non-stick stuff to be very iffy in performance -- best bet is a ton of Crisco on the pan, then flour, shake it all around (hokey-pokey optional). And don't leave it in the pan overnight. (Although I find an hour to be just fine). Frosting=butter and/or cream cheese, vanilla, appalling amounts of powdered sugar. If it's runny, it just needs more powdered sugar. (Some people also mix some Crisco in with the butter, which is probably what they do at Giant and Costco. That makes it more heat tolerant.) Best if you frost it the day before and refrigerate overnight.


YOU, are hilarious. That is all.


Thank you so much for the laugh! The video, that was awesome.
As for the cake, If you didn't just chuck it (right action), I'm sure it would make fantastic cake balls.


UGH! I was already hungry and now I really REALLY want cake!


Make cupcakes. Use liners. Much easier than cake, and portion control is done for you!

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