Cake & Pastry

How To Make Mini Cakes Without a Pan | 3 Easy Methods With Steps 

Mini cakes are just like big cakes, but mini. Traditionally, you might make one as a personalized gift for a friend, family member, or partner to have all to themselves. Perhaps you just have a cake craving and want to make a single serving cake to treat yourself. 

So, you have assembled the flour, sugar, butter, and eggs. But wait! The stores are closed, and you’ve just realized you don’t own a single cake pan! Don’t panic! You can still make a mini cake for that special someone without a cake pan (and sometimes without any pans). 

Use a Sheet Pan

You may not own a mini cake pan or only own a large-sized cake pan, but you can make a mini cake (or cakes) using only a sheet pan. If you cook at home, you probably have a regular sheet pan that you use in your oven. 

You know– the flat thing you use to roast veggies, fish, meat, or any other goodie you cook in an oven. You may think a sheet pan is too flat, but you can create a nice-sized mini cake using a sheet pan for baking. And there are multiple methods, too!

You will bake your cake as usual, but bake it in multiple batches to build a cake out of the thin cake layers you’ll get from a sheet pan. 

This method may be slightly more time-consuming than using a regular cake pan, but the results are hard to argue with. And if you don’t own a cake pan, then this is your best bet for making a mini cake.

What You Will Need

  • Ingredients and recipe for your desired mini cake
  • Mixing bowl 
  • Electric or hand mixer
  • Any sized sheet pan to replace a normal cake pan

Tips For Sheet Pan Mini Cakes

The main problem with sheet pans for cakes is overflow and burning. 

Because it will be a thinner layer than what you would get in a cake pan, cut your baking time by about 5 minutes or more, depending on your oven. Check in periodically to make sure you aren’t burning your cake. 

Steps for Sheet Pan Mini Cakes

  1. Line the pan with parchment paper. The paper should come up about half an inch past the edges of the pan. This is to avoid the batter rising past the low sheet pan edges and making a mess in your oven.
  2. Alternatively, if you don’t have parchment paper, use butter or oil to grease the pan. While baking, keep watch for overflow. 
  3. Assemble your cake ingredients and mix the batter as you would normally, following the recipe as written. Pour the batter into the prepped sheet pan, and bake as normal. 
  4. When your batter is baked, you have a few options. For a very small cake cut your flat cake into halves or thirds, and use those pieces as cake layers. You’ll have a mini 2-3 layer cake that you can decorate with the frosting of your choice. 
  5. For larger or multiple mini cakes, refill your sheet pan and bake as many thin cakes as needed to craft the amount of mini cake you want. 
  6. If you have multiple sheet pans and a big enough oven, you can bake several layers of your mini cake at the same time. Cut and combine your thin sheet pan cakes as desired. 

Aluminum Foil Method

If you have aluminum foil lying around, you can use it to shape your very own baking dish. The fun thing about this method is that you can shape the foil however you like. 

Preferably, you’ll have heavy-duty aluminum foil, but if not, you can use many layers to make a sturdy cake pan. It’s not an exact science. The amount of foil needed will vary based on how big you would like your cake to be and how much batter the foil needs to hold. 

If you’re using heavy-duty foil, two layers of sheets to form the pan, with a third for your creation to sit on, should be enough for a mini cake between 2-4 inches in diameter. 

If you’re using regular foil, you should double the sheets used to be safe. Your cake may also stick more easily to regular foil, so be sure to grease it as well as possible. 

What You’ll Need

  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • Any oven-safe surface

Tips For Baking In Aluminum Foil

You can get creative and form the foil into shapes. Instead of a perfectly circular pan, make it uneven, geometric, or fold the edges into a heart or other recognizable shape. 

For a mini cake that’s about 4 cups of batter, you’ll want the foil sides to be about two inches high. To keep the cake mini, make it about 4 inches across. 

Steps For Baking Mini Cake in Aluminum Foil

  1. Form the cake bowl using aluminum foil. You can do this by hand, molding your foil sheets into the size and shape you would like your final cake to be. Alternatively, use something round, like the bottom of a bowl, to wrap the foil around. Doing so will help you get as even a circle as possible. 
  2. Grease the foil bowl as you would any other cake pan. It can be tricky as the foil bowl won’t be as sturdy as a real pan. It would be best to use a spray greaser, but if you don’t have one, make sure your butter is well melted. Well-melted butter should be easy to brush over the foil. 
  3. Pour your batter into the aluminum foil cake pan. Put the foil pan on any oven-safe surface that’s been covered with more foil (to prevent mess). 
  4. Bake as usual. 

Microwave Method: The Completely Pan-Free Method

For bakers who don’t own a single pan, cake pan, sheet pan, pyrex, or any other traditional pan, do not fear! The microwave method is here to save your cake-making dreams. You don’t need an oven-safe surface if you aren’t using an oven. 

The result here will be a true mini cake since you will be baking your cake in a coffee mug. It will come out the size and shape of your mug, so keep that in mind when choosing which mug will become your new baking tool. 

You can make one mug cake for yourself, or microwave several mug cakes and serve them as individual desserts for guests. The possibilities here are endless, and are especially helpful if you have guests with different dietary needs and wants. Each mug can contain a different cake! 

What You’ll Need

  • Cake ingredients and recipe
  • Microwave
  • Microwaveable Mug
  • Since everything will be mixed in the mug, you don’t even need a bowl for this one. That’s right- go ahead and put it away. Less dishes for you!

Tips for Making Mug Cakes

The main problem bakers come across with mug cakes is ingredient proportions. Mugs come in all different shapes and sizes, and not all microwaves put out the same power or reach the same temperatures. 

You may have to experiment a little before getting it right. Luckily, they’re so small and cook so quickly, it shouldn’t take too much of your time or ingredients. The mug-cake method is perfect for those who enjoy baking experimentation.

Here are the general ingredient amounts for mug cakes, based on a basic vanilla cake recipe. Tweak these as needed for whatever kind of mug cake you want to bake. 

  • About 1.5 teaspoons of flour. 
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder (this is very easy to go too much or too little on based on mug size).
  • Small pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon sprinkles

Steps for a Microwave Mini Cake

  1. Put the dry ingredients into your microwaveable mug
  2. Next, put in and stir the wet ingredients. Here you can add in sprinkles, chocolate chips, or whatever extras if desired. 
  3. Microwave for 1 minute and take a look at it. Add 30-second increments as needed. Burning this tiny cake is a little too easy, which is why checking it in increments is recommended. When it looks fluffy and risen, remove, let cool, add any topping you like, and eat!

Final Thoughts

Baking mini cakes without a pan can be a fun, new experience. Use these workarounds to get creative. Make a tall tiny cake using multiple sheet pan layers, or use the foil method to make interesting shapes for your mini cakes. No birthday party cake request is impossible with these. 

In some cases, these methods can even save you time. Mug cakes can be ready for your consumption in as little as three minutes. If you end up in a pinch when family comes to visit, or you find yourself needing a late-night pick-me-up, a tasty solution will never be too far away.

With a little patience and creativity, you can bake an unusual mini cake with the “wrong” pan, or none at all.