In the midst of this crazy pandemic, I have seen so many of you turn to baking to pass the time and escape a little. It’s a really beautiful thing and I’m so inspired by it. I’ve got tons of cake recipes for you to try while you’re homebound, and while I tend to write them for layer cakes, I wanted to show you how to easily convert them into sheet cakes! This way, if you don’t have round cake pans or want to keep things simple with a single layer cake, you can use any of my cake recipes to do it!
Sheet cakes are very nostalgic for me because they’re what I was raised on. Every year for my childhood birthdays, my mom would bake a single layer cake in a casserole dish, add canned frosting with a butter knife, and top it all with simple birthday candles. It was glorious!
The sheet cake in this photo looks really similar, but it’s all homemade. I baked my Yellow Cake Recipe in a 9 x 13 casserole dish and frosted it with my Favorite Chocolate Buttercream. You don’t need a ton of cake tools or fancy techniques to make a sheet cake (I frosted this one with a spoon to get those swoops) but if you want to get creative with a non-traditional design, go crazy!
Making the Right Amount of Batter
To bake my layer cake recipes in a 9 x 13 dish or pan, you’ll want to fill it only halfway full. My cake recipes have a bit of rise to them, and filling the pan more full will result in either 1) a really tall single layer of cake or 2) an overflow disaster. Since I know ingredients are semi-scarce right now, I don’t want you to make a big batch of cake batter when you aren’t going to use it all. So here’s a list of my layer cake recipes that you can convert following the instructions below:
For cake recipes that yield four 6-inch cakes or three 8-inch cakes, like the ones listed below, you’ll need to half the recipe to make the right amount of batter:
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
- Milk & Cookies Cake
- Funfetti Cake
- S’mores Cake with Toasted Marshmallow Buttercream
- Milk & Cereal Cake
- Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Coffee Cake with Vanilla-Espresso Buttercream
- Favorite Matcha Cake
- Salted Caramel Apple Cake
- Almond Joy Cake (Coconut Almond Cake)
The cakes listed below can be made as-is, but fill the 9 x 13 pan no more than half full. OR, if you really want to do the math, you can make 2/3 of the cake portion of the recipe to make just the right amount:
- Perfect Vanilla Cake
- One-Bowl Chocolate Cake
- Yellow Cake
- Chocolate Oreo Cake
- Thin Mint Chocolate Cake
- Pretzel Nutella Cake
- Ruby Chocolate Cake
- Spiced Vanilla Chai Cake
- Pumpkin Cake
- Churro Cake
- Strawberry Lemonade Cake
Preparing the Sheet Cake Pan
Once you’ve found the perfect recipe, you’ll need to prepare the pan you’re using for best results. You can use a 9 x 13 inch glass or ceramic casserole dish, or a metal pan of the same dimensions. I tend to use glass or ceramic dishes (especially love this one that came as part of a set from Crate & Barrel) just because I love the way they look right out of the oven, but you can use whatever you have on hand.
Either way, prepare the pan or dish by spraying the sides and bottom generously with cooking spray (I love Baker’s Joy for this). You can alternatively grease the pan generously with vegetable oil, or just grease the sides and place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom.
Baking the Sheet Cake
Once you’ve filled your prepared pan or dish with cake batter (remember, no more than ½ full!) bake it at the oven temperature the recipe instructs. For my cake recipes, I always bake at 350ºF. Add 5 minutes to the baking time in the original recipe and check for doneness then by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. It’s done when the toothpick comes out clean.
If it seems to need more time, add an additional 3-5 minutes to the baking time and check again.
Frosting and Decorating the Sheet Cake
You can use any of my frosting recipes to decorate your sheet cake, and if the cake recipe you chose calls for a specific buttercream recipe, be sure to half that portion of the recipe to make just enough for your sheet cake. To create the look pictured, use a spoon or butter knife to swirl the frosting around on top of the cake, then add some sprinkles to tie it all together. Totally quick and failproof!
If you’d rather get more elaborate with your sheet cake decorating, feel free to use piping tips and creative cake decorating techniques to create what you’re imagining! This floral sheet cake tutorial shows how to create one of my favorite sheet cake looks:
Make Ahead and Storage Tips
You can bake the sheet cake ahead of time and store it in its dish at room temperature, covered tightly with plastic wrap, a day or two ahead of frosting. Once it’s frosted, the buttercream will preserve the cake underneath and keep it moist. I still recommend covering it with plastic wrap while you’re storing it (especially after cutting into it) because the extra protection helps keep it fresh for 3-4 days.
You can keep your cake in the refrigerator as an alternative to room temperature, but I only recommend that if your kitchen environment is warmer than 70ºF. If you do refrigerate your cake, be sure to bring it back to room temperature before serving it because cake tastes best at room temp!
I’m so excited to provide you with lots of fun cake recipes for you to try as sheet cakes! Let me know which ones you try in the comments section, and be sure to tag @sugarandsparrowco on Instagram to show me how you decorated. I love to see what you’re caking. Stay safe and healthy out there, everyone!
Thanks for this post! I had planned for months to make the milk and cereal cake for my husband’s birthday party but now that it will only be the two of us, it seemed a bit much to make a large three-layer cake. A sheet cake will be perfect!
Yay, Celeste! Excited for you to try the Milk & Cereal Cake recipe in sheet cake form!
Thanks so much for these tips! This will be perfect for my daughter’s quarantine birthday.
Yay, Dawn! Excited to help you celebrate 🙂
Hi I’m making my nephews birthday cake in July and was wondering how I would convert the chocolate cake recipe for a cake tin in the shape of a ‘3’ its 31.5 x 20.5 x 5cm ♀️
Hi Shannon! That’s a great question. Does the tin say how many cups of batter you need to fill it? To be on the safe side, you could always 1.5x or 2x the chocolate cake recipe to ensure you have enough.
Hi Whitney! I’ve only just seen your message sorry about that. The cake tin doesn’t specify the amount of batter. I was planning on making two layers of cake so would this mean that I would have to double the entire amount again or would this amount of cake batter be enough for two layers?
I believe doubling the recipe should be enough for two layers, but I’m not entirely sure since I’ve never baked a cake in a tin that is shaped like a number. The only way to truly tell is to double the recipe and see if it’s enough. If you need more, you can always whip up another batch while the first layer is baking.
If you were to make your s’mores cake into a sheet cake, how would you go about frosting it when there are 3-4 different toppings in the recipe? I wanted to do the layer cake to get all those flavors but won’t have time.
Hi Ann! You could either torte the sheet cake into two layers and fill it that way, or omit one of the buttercream recipes and frost the cake with the buttercream of your choice, drizzle with chocolate ganache, and add piped meringue on top.
Hi I’m looking to do your vanilla cake recipe with vanilla buttercream but for an 8″ Square Cake for 20 people. What recipe would work best for this shape of cake please?
Hi Shannon! Are you making one or two layers? If you’re making two layers, I would use the vanilla cake recipe as-is. If you’re only making one, I would half the recipe. Hope that helps!
Thanks for the tips! I’m baking a cake using an 11×15 in pan and using 6 inch circle cutters to cut out the layers. Any recommendations for how high to fill the pan and bake time?
Hi Leslie! I would fill the pan no more than half full. I’ve never baked a cake in that size pan before but from a quick Google search it looks like it would take 15-20 minutes at 350. That’s where I’d start. Hope that helps!
Hi! Love your website! About how many people does this serve? 8-10? I would like to use your “tastiest strawberry cake recipe” for this. I have a guest list of about 45 people. I’m thinking I would need at least 4 pan cakes for this (10 servings x 4 = 40), maybe even 5! I would have to make ahead a few days. Am I able to remove these cakes from the pans so that I can reuse them using your method for a round 6 inch pan? I only have two 9×3 sheet pans.
If I read the above information right, I would half the batter to make one sheet cake. Cook at 350 F, for original time + 5 minutes. Would I also half the buttercream recipe for each pan? Excited to try this.
Hi Saraí! So excited for you to make my strawberry cake recipe as a sheet cake! A 9 x 13 cake actually serves 12-20 people depending on how large the slices are, so you’d only need 3. And yes, you can remove the cakes from the pans. I’d line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and grease the sides so it doesn’t get stuck to the bottom when you go to turn it out. And yes, you’ll half the recipe (or make the full recipe and divide it between your two 9 x 13 pans) and bake at 350F for the original time + 5 minutes. I would half the buttercream recipe for each pan as well, but since you need three cakes you’ll actually want to make 1.5x the buttercream recipe total. Hope that helps!
Whitney, that’s great news. Less work for me! Thank you for the tips! 🙂
I have one more question if you get a chance I would appreciate your help. I’ve decided to do the “perfect vanilla” cake with the strawberry buttercream instead. I see above that that cake falls under the “follow recipe as is or 1/3 the cake portion.” So I will adjust for that.
My question is, can I reduce the amount of sugar in the vanilla cake and the buttercream recipes? If so, by how much without affecting the overall recipe? I like my sweets to be not so sweet and usually half the amount of sugar a recipe calls for. I did read in one of your posts that your buttercream recipe is less sweet than most American buttercream recipes. I will stick to the original recipes though if it is too much trouble. Thank you for taking the time to reply!
So happy these tips are helpful! You could try reducing the sugar in the cake recipe and/or buttercream recipe, but I wouldn’t recommend reducing by more than 1/2 Cup. The sugar in the cake recipe helps create the super soft crumb + the powdered sugar in the buttercream helps give the frosting structure. Reducing by too much can result in a dense cake or a thin/watery buttercream. I hope that helps!
Yes, thank you again!