Layer Cakes and Sheet Cakes

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The only cookbook that focuses exclusively on layer and sheet cakes, the fourth book in the American Baking Classics Series offers 40 delicious and detailed recipes for these old-time favorites.

Distinctively American, tall layer cakes and serve-from-the-pan sheet cakes are festive treats often baked for family gatherings, birthdays, community suppers, and school or charity bake sales. Layer Cakes and Sheet Cakes features these one-,two-, and three-layer wonders that serve up ...

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The only cookbook that focuses exclusively on layer and sheet cakes, the fourth book in the American Baking Classics Series offers 40 delicious and detailed recipes for these old-time favorites.

Distinctively American, tall layer cakes and serve-from-the-pan sheet cakes are festive treats often baked for family gatherings, birthdays, community suppers, and school or charity bake sales. Layer Cakes and Sheet Cakes features these one-,two-, and three-layer wonders that serve up light and downy-textured cakes capped with tasty frostings, icings, and glazes.

Sure to please every time, the cake recipes include Banana Cake, Mint Chocolate Chip Cake, Wellesley Fudge Cake, Spiced Pumpkin Cake, Apple Cake with Walnuts and Raisins, and Blueberry and Spice Cake; and the frostings and icings include: Fluffy White Frosting, full of Chocolate Frosting, Creamy Coffee Frosting, Coconut-Pecan Frosting, and Cream Cheese Frosting. Along with these recipes, Lisa Yockelson, author of the three previous books in the series, also provides introductory material and notes on ingredients and equipment.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060171957
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/3/1996
  • Series: American Baking Classics Series
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 7.68 (w) x 7.67 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

LISA YOCKELSON is the author of many books and articles on baking and is a regularcontributor to the Washington Post. She lives in Washington DC.

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Read an Excerpt

The Appeal of
Homemade Cakes

The words homemade cake recall the image of freshly baked layers, one stacked on top of the other and wrapped in a creamy frosting. Those layers would be soft and moist, and the frosting a rich wrapping for the delicate cake. No other sweet is exactly like an American layer cake, for the texture and grain of the cake, usually created by the definitive "creaming method," is a feathery work of art and, as desserts go, dreamy and soothing.

For a layer cake, the batter is baked in 8-, 9-, or 10-inch round baking pans; the resulting cake layers are cooled and topped with frosting. Most unbaked batters are remarkably smooth, light, and soft (with a texture that practically resembles a buttercream) and some are thinner but still silky and lustrous. A marvelous scent fills the kitchen as the layers bake and, in a short time, they are ready to receive a coating of frosting or icing. Whether the allure is one of sentiment or taste, the time-honored layer cake still pleases--the contrast of soft cake and suave frosting is simply irresistible. This is the kind of cake that entices you with its looks alone--standing tall on a cake plate or pedestal, it's the sweet promise of a home-baked dessert that's really so tempting.

Slices of layer cake look beautiful on large dessert plates, and can be presented at the conclusion of a meal or as a mid-afternoon or evening treat served with a hot or iced beverage.

The sheet cake--a must at birthdays, dinners where many cooks participate, picnics, school and charity bake sales--combines cake and frosting in a simple, single13 by 9-inch (or 9 by 9-inch) layer. This is a transportable cake. It cuts into manageable squares, either large or small, and can be covered over with a thick frosting, a pourable glaze, or a few shakes of confectioners' sugar.

To be sure, the sheet cake is one of the workhorses of the baking kitchen, for its uncomplicated assembly and serve-directly-from-the-pan convenience is a blessing to anyone who bakes. Of the two types of cake, a sheet cake appears a dash more homespun, but tastes no less delicious.

The sweets that you'll encounter in this book, all old and new favorites of mine, are festive, not fancy cakes. Each has a genuine flavor, having been created with basic ingredients, and represents good baking, pure and simple.

The Cake Pantry

Cake baking, in its most elementary form, functions very well with a standard mix of ingredients, all of which are available at the market. This includes good bar chocolate, plump vanilla beans, and decent heavy cream, once considered deluxe commodities. Stock up on flours, sweeteners, extracts, leavening, and spices and keep them stored together in a cabinet for easy accessibility (consider this your baking shelf). Ground spices and baking powder should be checked from time to time to confirm freshness, for, with age, spices lose their pungency and old baking powder is ineffective in elevating batters.

In my pantry, several shelves accommodate baking supplies exclusively, stored in their own packaging or transferred into storage containers. Bar chocolate, cocoa, extracts, syrups, honey, and such remain in their foil, can, glass, or paper wrappings, but I usually transfer light or dark brown sugar, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder (if not already purchased in a self-sealing can), and dried fruit into sturdy storage containers with tight-fitting lids to keep it all fresh and appealing. And since I bake so much, all-purpose and cake flours, granulated sugar and confectioners' sugar, and some special ingredients (such as maple sugar) are stored in glass apothecary jars on my kitchen countertop so that I can reach them easily and see when supplies are low.

Stocking the pantry with the basics and storing baking supplies within easy reach streamlines the baking process.

These are the items that I rely on to make excellent cakes:


The recipes in this book use either bleached all-purpose flour and/or bleached cake flour. Bleached flour gives the baked cake a finer, more delicate "crumb." All-purpose flour is available in 5- and 10-pound bags and cake flour in 2-pound boxes. To answer the question of so many readers about the brands of flour I use in baking: I use Gold Medal all-purpose flour and Swan's Down cake flour.


The Oatmeal Cake on page 68 is made with "quick-cooking" (not instant) rolled oats. The "quick-cooking" oats are soaked in boiling water before they are added to the batter, a technique that creates a supple, downy texture in that particular sheet cake.


A variety of sugars, alone or in combination with one another, are used routinely in layer cakes and sheet cakes. They are: plain granulated sugar (packaged in 5- and 10-pound bags); superfine sugar (also know as "bar" or "dessert" sugar and available in 1-pound boxes); light brown sugar and dark brown sugar, available in 1-pound boxes (to measure, firmly press the sugar into cups used for measuring dry ingredients); and confectioners' sugar, also known as powdered sugar (available in 1-pound boxes). Granulated and superfine sugar should flow easily and brown sugar should be free of any hard lumps. If you have any doubts about the uniform texture of either light or dark brown sugar, strain it before measuring, for bits of hardened sugar will surely remain in the batter and ruin the texture of the baked cake.

For easy reference, know that a 1-pound box of confectioners' sugar
contains approximately 4 cups of sugar; a 1-pound box of superfine sugar yields about 21Ž3 cups; and a 1-pound box of either light or dark brown sugar holds about 21Ž4 packed cups.

Butter, shortening, and oil

Cakes with the most delicate grain and gossamer texture are made with fresh (not frozen and defrosted) unsalted butter, solid shortening (such as Crisco), or a mixture of the two. The character of butter is altered during the process of freezing and defrosting, and the change is reflected in the texture of the baked cake. On testing, cakes baked with frozen, defrosted, and softened butter yielded a denser, more compact cake, with a heavier "crumb." This quality is more obvious in layer and sheet cakes (made by the "creamed" method), and less conspicuous in bar cookies, such as brownies or blondies, when the butter is used in the melted state and the texture of the final product is dense, fudgy, or chewy. The Spiced Carrot Cake (page 64) uses plain vegetable oil (choose soybean or canola), as opposed to butter or shortening, which gives the baked cake a divinely moist texture.

Milk, cream, and cream cheese

Cakes and frostings use whole milk, evaporated milk (available in 5-ounce cans), half-and-half, buttermilk, light cream, sour cream, and cream cheese (available in 3-ounce and 8-ounce packages).


All of the recipes in this book use extra-large eggs.


Baking powder and baking soda, the choice, time-honored leavening agents, should always be measured in level amounts. Dip the measuring spoon into a container and sweep off the excess with the straight edge of a smooth-
surfaced, flat table knife or, preferably, a flexible palette knife. If your baking soda is lumpy, lightly press out the lumps before measuring; actually sieving the baking soda might alter the quantity and so leaven the cake improperly. It's wise to purchase baking powder in small quantities and replace it within 6 to 9 months in order to assure freshness. Store both baking powder and baking soda away from any direct heat source, in sturdy storage jars with tight-fitting lids.


Pure extracts contribute the best flavor and aroma to baked goods. The cake recipes in this book make appropriate use of vanilla extract and occasional use of almond extract and lemon extract.


Aromatic and full of intense flavor, a ground spice both colors and brightly seasons a cake batter. Spices are usually sifted along with the flour and leavening(s). With the exception of salt, it is essential to store spices in a reasonably cool, dark place.

The scent of spices past their prime is dull, and old spices are not worthy of adding to a batter; fresh spices, however, are pungent and zesty. Cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and cardamom are used alone or as a medley in layer cakes and sheet cakes. Since bottled ground nutmeg has a lackluster taste, I grate whole nutmegs as needed for each recipe on a nutmeg grater. It's easy enough to do and vastly improves the taste of the finished cake. (A nutmeg grater is a small, arched section of metal, with fine holes and a built-in back or top pocket for accommodating two or three whole nutmegs.)


Nuts, fresh or dried fruit, and vegetables add character to baked goods and, frequently, identify and distinguish a particular cake. The cakes and frostings in this book make occasional use of almonds, pecans, English walnuts, and macadamia nuts.

Layer Cakes and Sheet Cakes. Copyright © by Lisa Yockelson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Posted March 2, 2010

    best cake recipes ever

    best cake recipes ever-these cakes are really delicious
    easy to follow recipes as written
    great for first time bakers of homemade layer or sheet cakes
    people you serve these cakes to will not believe you made the cakes-these cakes are that good tasting
    if you are a home baker or a pastry chef or a wedding cake professional, you must have this book as part of your cookbook library
    this book /and the recipes I have made from this book are two of several reasons why I decided to leap into a second career(pastry arts and baking) after 25+ years in a very different job
    I hope Lisa Yokelson's book will inspire others also

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