I acquired my first 6-inch cake pan when I made the wedding cake for two friends in graduate school. It was a casual affair, a quick jaunt to City Hall followed by a reception at someone’s apartment. My job was to make a chocolate, tiered cake with white buttercream, covered in flowers.
At this point in my baking career I’d never quadrupled a cake recipe, never cut dowels to stack cake layers on top of each other, and had never tried to frost anything more ambitious than a birthday cake.
But I bumbled my way through it, obsessively reading and rereading the assembly instructions in Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible, and making sure to have a lot of extra icing and big bright flowers on hand for disasters.
Well, let’s just say that first cake was a good lesson in why professionally made cakes cost what they do. Even my ugly duck cake was scarily time consuming, especially because I’d forgotten to mix the baking powder into the first batch of batter I put in the oven. Then, for all my best efforts, the poor cake was lopsided and hunchbacked, its pristine white icing strewn here and there with nubby black crumbs that I couldn’t mask, and covered, willy-nilly, with slightly wilted Gerbara daisies. The maid of honor said it was rustic and homemade-looking, and I know she meant it as a compliment. Luckily, it hardly mattered. The bride and groom stopped at a bar on the way to the reception, and drank so many congratulatory shots that when they finally showed up, they barely noticed the cake, which all the tipsy guests devoured with their hands when we ran out of forks.
Since then, my friends have divorced and remarried, and I have drastically improved my cake-making skills (and plastic fork buying skills). I’ve made four more wedding cakes (never my own, by the way) and all were lovely and not at all lopsided, if still pleasingly homemade-looking and rustic.
All this to say that those 6-inch cake pans that I bought for a wedding cake back in my student days have gotten good use, and not just for wedding cakes. I also love using them to bake tiny little layer cakes to feed four to six. Or in this Valentine’s Day recipe, two, with ample leftovers for breakfast the next morning.