I recently made an Elmo cake for a birthday party and for that cake I decided to buy an Elmo cake pan.
The cake turned out great, but now that it’s all cut and consumed, I’m left wondering what else I can do with such a unique and oddly-shaped pan. Other Sesame Street characters?
The bigger question is — do we really need novelty cake pans?
Like most important decisions in life (I’m joking), you should probably think things through before forking out money for a new pan. I have two points for you to ponder:
Sure, a novelty pan is convenient for odd shapes. But try and figure out beforehand how difficult it is to achieve the cake shape you desire with just regular round, square and sheet pans.
Number cakes are actually quite simple to do without a specially-shaped pan. Here’s a great tutorial on how to create number cakes from 0 to 9 out of regular-shaped pans.
However, if your cake goals are more ambitious, you might have to be a little more creative.
I’ve made a Cookie Monster cake before with just a printout. Specifically, I printed out an image of Cookie Monster’s head and cut it out. I then placed the cut-out on top of a round crumb-coated cake and, with a thin sharp knife, made vertical cuts around the cut-out.
Admittedly this kind of cake is going to look best only from the top-down. But if you’re feeling confident and have a good eye, you can even go freehand and saw away at the cake to get a 3D head. Just make sure your cake recipe makes a spongy cake with a fine crumb that’s easier to carve instead of a dense, crumbly one, and that you chill your cake well beforehand before you let the Michelangelo in you emerge.
One more thing to remember about novelty pans is that the more complex the design is, the more difficult it will be to bake the cake. Cake tins with a lot of nooks and crannies are notoriously difficult to bake evenly, let alone remove it from the pan.
This is an obvious question to ask yourself — how often will you use that novelty pan? If money and storage are not going to give you any problem, then go ahead and build up your collection. For everyone else, you should probably think about whether that pan is ever going to be used again after that one bake.
Several years ago, back when I was still very new to cake decorating, I bought this soccer ball cake pan for a kid’s birthday party.
The indentations on the cake pan made it really easy to pipe out the black and white hexagons on the cake. However, that pan wound up sitting in the back of my cupboard for about a year until I finally found another use for it.
This cactus cake was for a Mexican-themed party. But it was more of a case of “I have this pan, so I’ll make this cake” rather than “I want to make this cake, so I’ll get this pan”. Basically, I was trying to find a use for it. It was a happy coincidence that I could use that pan again, but after the party, it’s been back in storage for a couple years now and I’m not sure when I’ll get to use it again.
Back to number cakes again since they’re really popular for children’s parties.
Obviously if you’ve bought a number pan (like for this #1 cake above), it’s not going to be of much use after the birthday passes, unless of course you’re planning to use them for kids #2 and #3 onwards. So do think about making a number cake from bits of regular-shaped cakes since it’s not that difficult.
So what to do when inspiration strikes for a fancy shape cake? By all means, buy a novelty cake pan if it’s worth saving you the time and effort. But I do have 4 quick suggestions to make baking that gorgeous 3D cake a little bit more economical:
- Search on Google or YouTube for tutorials on making the cake without a novelty pan and see if it’s easy enough for you.
- You can buy the pan, use it for that one bake, and then re-sell it on say eBay for example.
- There is such a thing as a cake pan rental service although you may have to Google for one that’s nearby to you. I can’t recommend any since I’ve personally never tried one before, but I’m just letting you know that renting novelty cake pans is possible.
- If you have a group of friends who are also into baking, you could collectively invest in building up a novelty cake pan collection. Sort of like a timeshare for cake pans.