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12 layer cake

June 16, 2011

12 Layer Cake

One of the best parts about having a birthday in our family is deciding what kind of cake you want.  Sam starting mulling that over a couple months ago and came up with a 12 layer cake.  One layer for each year.  How could I possibly say no to that?  My baby boy turned 12 and this was his birthday cake!

I love the story behind this kind of cake.  I found this recipe and the history of the cake over at Ezra Pound Cake, but I’ll share it with you here too.  This is a stack cake, which was often substituted for a wedding cake in Appalachia.  Because the region was so poor, wedding guests would each bring a pancake-thin cake layer to the wedding.  The bride’s family would spread apple preserves, dried apples, or apple butter between each cake layer, then stack them all together.  This treat became the couple’s wedding cake.  The size of the cake varied depending on the couple’s popularity!

My kiddos love chocolate, so by adding some cocoa powder to the dry ingredients, I made a totally chocolate stack cake.  It was a beauty, and it tasted mighty good too.  The next time you have something big to celebrate, I would definitely recommend giving this a try.  I may not ever make another one, but I’m glad I can say I made a 12 layer cake at least once!

{one year ago:  birthday cake ice cream}

Recipe:  12 Layer Cake

(adapted slightly from Ezra Pound Cake, originally from Art Smith)


4 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, sifted  (Don’t skip the sifting – it really does make a difference in how much flour you use!)

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder  (Omit the cocoa powder if you prefer a plain butter cake.)

1 1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 1/2 c. sugar

6 extra large eggs, at room temperature

3 c. milk

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Pourable Chocolate Frosting:

3 c. sugar

1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

1 c. unsalted butter

1 12-oz. can evaporated milk

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

12 round foil cake pans ~ to save you from having to keep washing baking pans between batches

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter three 8 1/2- to 9-inch cake pans (you will bake the cakes in four batches), and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Flour the pans and tap out the excess.  You can also use a floured baking spray instead.
To make the layers, sift together the sifted flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle blade on high speed until light in color and texture, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl and be sure the mixture is well-blended. On low speed, add the flour in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of the milk, beginning and ending with the flour; and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl often with a rubber spatula. Beat in the vanilla. Using a cupful for each layer, spread the batter evenly in the pans.
Placing 3 baking pans in the oven at one time, bake the layers until they feel firm when pressed in the centers and are beginning to pull away from the sides of the pans, about 12 minutes. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Invert the layers onto cake racks, remove the parchment paper, and cool completely.  Repeat the procedure until all 12 layers have been baked and cooled.

To make the icing, bring the sugar, cocoa powder, butter, and evaporated milk to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the icing has thickened slightly (it will resemble chocolate syrup but will thicken as it cools), about 3 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Let the icing cool until thick enough to spread, but still pourable.

Place a layer of cake on a wire rack set over a jelly-roll pan. Spread with a few tablespoons of the icing, letting the excess run down the sides. Stack the remaining cakes, icing each layer. Pour the remaining icing over the top of the cake. If you wish, smooth the icing on the edges to cover the sides.  Let stand until the glaze sets. (The cake is best served the day it is made. To store, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 day.)



14 Comments leave one →
  1. June 16, 2011 6:53 pm

    Holy Cow! I was wondering how you got all those layers to be all even, then saw you baked each layer on its own. For a minute there I thought you had the steadiest hand ever slicing each layer so perfectly! Beautiful cake and that icing dripping down makes me want some right now!

  2. June 16, 2011 8:48 pm

    Holy moley! That suckers huge! :) I’m wondering how to work bananas into it. :) Happy birthday to Sam! Btw, Babygirl just turned 12 this month, too. I didn’t realize her & Sam were the same age. Is he going to 7th grade, too?

  3. June 16, 2011 9:12 pm


    I attempted a seven layer rainbow cake once and the whole thing split in half and fell over before my daughter’s birthday party! Daddy had to make a quick run to the grocery store for a bakery cake! Haha!

  4. June 17, 2011 9:48 am

    That looks beautiful — and I’m sure it tasted even better! Love the story behind the Ezra Pound Cake, too. Hope your son had a great birthday!

  5. June 17, 2011 12:15 pm

    This is beyond impressive. So pretty with that shiny chocolate frosting! Happy bday to Sam.

  6. Holly permalink
    June 18, 2011 5:24 am

    What an amazing effort!! It looks amazing, though I’m not too sure I would ever have the patience!

  7. June 18, 2011 8:20 pm

    This looks wonderful…perfect for Father’s Day!

  8. June 19, 2011 1:36 pm

    WOW!!! That looks so delicious. What an awesome cake.

  9. Evie permalink
    June 20, 2011 10:49 am

    You have another kid, ya know! =) Happy birthday, Sam! (Sorry its late, I HAVE been busy) Luv you!

  10. June 20, 2011 4:19 pm

    Oh my god, this is the most gorgeous cake I’ve ever seen!

  11. June 20, 2011 9:16 pm

    That is one totally awesome cake! It’s a layer for every year of his life. Happy Birthday Sam! Great cake choice.

  12. June 22, 2011 3:32 am

    decisions, decisions! what a superb selection, i must say, and it was made beautifully!

  13. Nicky permalink
    March 29, 2013 12:45 pm

    It’s like chocolate heaven! Is the sugar in the icing powdered or granulated?

  14. oneordinaryday permalink
    April 1, 2013 4:37 pm

    Nicky – Because the frosting is cooked on the stovetop, it just uses granulated sugar. It cooks to a really nice pourable consistency. Enjoy!
    ~ Michelle

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