I don’t know why it took me so long to start making birthday cakes in sheet pans, but I’m into it. It’s the simplest way to deliver cake to a whole bunch of people, without the fuss of individual cupcakes or a layer cake served on a stand. Just dish up the cake straight from the pan and be done with it. This is a version of the classic Texas sheet cake with some fresh grated ginger and spices for an extra layer of flavor. Kids won’t notice that the frosting is made with fresh goat cheese—but adults will get a kick out of it. The (unfrosted) cake freezes and thaws easily and well—you could consider making it a week in advance, wrapping it tightly and freezing; and definitely refrigerate any leftovers.
SERVES 32 (!!!)
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
3 sticks unsalted butter
1⁄3 cup cocoa powder
¾ cup buttermilk
1½ teaspoons vanilla
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, grated; fibrous pieces discarded
Butter and flour a 18- by 13- by 1-inch aluminum sheet pan. Set a rack in the center of the oven and set the oven to 375°F. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and spices together in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat and whisk in the cocoa with 1 cup of water. Increase heat to medium and continue whisking until the mixture is smooth and combined. Bring to a boil, and then add to the bowl with the flour. Stir the ingredients together until fully combined.
Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl, then stir in the buttermilk, vanilla and grated ginger. Add the mixture to the batter and stir until combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top so it’s even. Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until the cake is firm and pulling away from the edges of the pan and the center springs back when pressed. Place sheet pan on a cooling rack and cool completely.
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces fresh goat cheese, room temperature 5 cups (1 pound) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange (optional)
Sprinkles, candy, flowers, or other decorations for the cake
Add the butter and goat cheese to a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until well-blended and fluffy (you can also use hand-held beaters). Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating thoroughly each time. Add the vanilla extract and orange zest, if using. When the cake is completely cool, use an offset spatula to spread the frosting over the top: Use half for a thin layer (crumb coat) and the other half to finish off the cake. Decorate and serve.
LEIGH BELANGER is the food editor at Culture magazine. Her second book, My Kitchen Chalkboard, about streamlining dinnertime for busy families, will be released this coming fall. She lives in Jamaica Plain.