Holiday cakes for the decorating-challenged baker: it's all in the pan


That was the cry coming from my colleagues on King Arthur’s merchandising team yesterday.

“We love these little bakers, but they’re only online, not in the catalogue; and no one is SEEING them! Could you…?”

“Do a blog?” I finished the sentence for them. “Well, you KNOW I’m not one of those fussy bakers. Ummm…”

They sensed my reluctance.

“Please please please PLEASE…”

Well, who can resist abject groveling and pleading? I feel their pain. King Arthur Flour is all about baking, but we need to sell stuff: to support this blog, our recipe site, the free classes we give around the country, our free LifeSkills program…

Which is why I sighed and said, “Sure, I can sell these bakers.”

So, into the test kitchen.

2 p.m. – quick batch of eggnog muffins. Perfect, I thought.

NOT. Too much rise; the thick batter simply didn’t fill the bakers quite right.

3 p.m. – brainstorm. Need a thinner batter.

Lightbulb!  My favorite chocolate cake recipe makes a VERY thin batter.

4:30 p.m. Batter made, amounts figured, cakes baked and sampled (YUM).

This morning – glazes and toppings tried.


Witness the winners: chocolate ganache (front left), and a simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

Or just leave the cakes plain; the tree and snowman in the back have a gorgeous satiny sheen just on their own, don’t they?

So, what do you say –  Are you ready to go fancy (not fussy) with some holiday chocolate cakes? Consider these cute little bakers.

I did. And (surprise, surprise, from this lazy baker), I LIKE them.

And they’re ON SALE NOW: $14.99 for the set of 4, or $3.99 each.

Now for the fun part –


Let’s make this fast fudge cake. First, preheat your oven to 350°F.

Melt 1 cup (2 sticks) butter in a saucepan. Add 1 cup hot water, and bring to a boil.


Add 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder.


Stir to combine.


Place the following in a mixing bowl:

2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pour the hot chocolate mixture over the dry ingredients, and beat until smooth.


Add 1/2 cup buttermilk or yogurt, 2 large eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.


Beat till smooth.


Now comes the “fancy” (but oh-so-easy) part: grease your baking shapes, and fill with batter to within about 1/4” of the rim. I found that this amount of batter will make about 14 shaped cakes.

I ended up making 10 shaped cakes, then poured the remainder of the batter into cupcake cups. If you use cupcake cups, fill them about 3/4 full.


Bake for 20 to 23 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Notice that the cake will mound up rather than spread itself to the edges of the pan. I thought, well, THAT’S not good. But work with me here…


When you remove the cakes from the oven, and turn them out onto a rack, they’re soft enough that the big mound on the back just flattens itself out, leaving you beautifully shaped cakes, ones that lie nice and flat…


…like this.

I sprinkled the tiniest dusting of confectioners’ sugar on the bells. And the star is enrobed in a thin ganache – 3 parts heavy cream to 2 parts chocolate chips, by weight; heat in the microwave till hot, then stir till smooth.

See? Fancy doesn’t have to be fussy. And talk about delicious – this is the fast, easy, moist-dark-rich chocolate fudge cake you want to go through life with.

(So, how did I do? Do I have a future in sales? Tell me below!)

And if you want to see a recipe for the cake, simply made in a 9” x 13” pan with the best fudge frosting ever, here it is: King Arthur’s Favorite Fudge Cake.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. Deb from CT

    You definitely sold me – I’m a fudgo-cake-aholic from way back! But what can I do for the rest of my family/most of my friends who aren’t as into chocolate as I am? I try to be an equal opportunity baker. Got any vanilla ideas?
    Hi Deb,
    Here is a vanilla recipe written for our now retired egg pan, but it should work well for these molds as well. ~ MaryJane

  2. MaryJane

    I wondered what you were doing with the fancy pans! They look great. Too bad I left while they were still in the oven. Care to convince me personally with my own batch to test? ~ MaryJane

    You go, girl – they’re on the shelf by Karen’s office. I highly recommend the Favorite Fudge Cake recipe – SO easy and chocolate-y… 🙂

  3. Sue

    Those are very cute. I’m also decorating challenged, but I can see that a candy star in the middle of the star would be cute and some piped frosting for the snowman’s scarf and buttons, and some piping on the tree would all be so cute! They might be cute dipped in white chocolate and then decorated too. You did good!

  4. Angela

    I aggree on the piping decorations. I also feel like you could probably cut the back flat and put 2 pieces together for a 3D tree and snowman. Ooooh of fill them with whipped icing for a holiday psuedo hostess cupcake snack!

    Depending on how flexible the pans are you I also use pans like this for molding chocolate or making jello. 🙂
    OH Yeah! A 3-D filled Twinkie snowman would be perfect! Guess I’ll have to steal those molds from PJ now. ~ MaryJane

  5. LB

    Or use them to make really cute filled chocolates… I can see swirling some white chocolate around the inside of the pan, then filling up with some mousse or peanut butter filling… Mmmm!

  6. Melinda

    It’s too bad there’s not a way to keep bits of fruit or candy on the bottom so when you flip them over, they’re already decorated. Or is there?

    Very, very cute!
    hmmm, how to get the cherries to stay sunk? I’m not sure how that would work out. If anyone tries it, let us know! ‘
    ~ MaryJane

  7. Jamie

    If you are doing a holiday punch, you could also use it to make an ice ring, or to freeze sherbet in a cut e shape, as an ice cream mold for an ice cream cake…so many fun applications…and the star could be used even outside of the Christmas season…you might even be able to use the bells for wedding or anniversary celebrations…the Star would be great for the 4th of July!

    I wonder if my DH would let me by them….hmmmm, they’d be a great accessory to go with my kitchen aid that I’m getting for Christmas!

    Hope your Christmas kitchen dreams come true! ~ MaryJane

  8. Lish

    So cute, and yet so easy. All about that. I have some older versions of these molds that I haven’t used in ages. I think I will have to pull them out and let the kiddos help me make little Christmas cakes. By the way, the mocha cookies, FANTASTIC!!! Now I know what baking project to do this weekend, when it is supposed to be cold and rainy. I bet the kids will love dousing everything with powdered sugar!

  9. Mike T.

    I’m thinking the vanilla cake piped carefully into the pans where the scarf, buttons and hat are for the snowman, the bells, etc. and then fill the rest with chocolate, again using a piping bag so you don’t disturb the vanilla. Bake and then you would have…. 🙂

    Okay, you sold me. At first I kinda went, hmm, Christmasy, but then on 2nd thought they really aren’t. You can use the tree for Arbor Day, the star can also be used for New Years (as well as Independence Day as Jamie said). And if you are really good, you can decorate the snowman to look like a clown for an add-on to a kid’s birthday cake!

    Adding it to my cart…

  10. ER

    Any molds for Chanukah??

    Sorry, no. What would you suggest as good patterns, for next year? We can look and see if we can find anything. Keep in mind the shapes should be fairly simple and roundish (e.g., a menorah might be tough…) Thanks – PJH

  11. ER

    Ah, bummer.

    Well, if it’s a circle you need, Gelt (gold coins) is perfect. Another simple shape would be for a dreidel (one for each of the 4 letters would be a nice set!).

    If you did a simple menorah, that might be easy (e.g., the Shamash on the left side instead of centered).

    Also, a Star of David could never hurt (and it could be used all year long). It could be a Star of David in a Circle . . .

  12. Mary

    I love the molds. Years ago, there was a cupcake recipe which called for the cupcake to be filled with cream. I took an open decorating tip and filled the bag with cream or buttercream frosting and piped it into the middle of the cupcake until the top bubbled a little. When the children took a bite, there was a surprise inside and it was very easy. You could color the buttercream and have green filling inside the tree, white for the snowman, etc.

    One more thing, do you know of a substitute for eggs that is wheat and dairy free?
    Depending on the recipe, you can try using gelatin. For each egg called for in the recipe, disolve 1 tablespoon of gelatin in 1 tablespoon cold water, then add 2 tablespoons of boiling water. Beat vigorously until frothy. Or you can use 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 3 tablespoons of water for each egg called for in the recipe. Molly @ KAF

  13. peg


    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    And the same back to you, Peg – Thanks for connecting here! PJH

  14. JasonZ

    Re ER’s question of Chanukah molds … the classic dreidle (spinner) should be a fairly easy one to unmold and is easily recognized … don’t even need to bother with the long spin top, just 3 sides with the hebrew characters would be fine …

  15. Erin

    I have used a similar product in the past (I like easy & pretty all in one) I found that a good pound cake recipe works great for this type of product.

    Thanks for the good suggestion, Erin – PJH

  16. Softa

    Regarding Chanukah pans…I’d love to see a Jewish Star with a background that looks like stained glass; The Lion of Judah; The Letter Chai; a 3-d Dreidel pan. I’d love to see a Torah pan, a pan with a Shofar, a pan that can be used for a Passover Sponge Cake in shape of a sheet of Matzah or a Horseradish Root. I could go on and on!!! BTW, Thank you for creating the white whole wheat flour!!!!

    Love and happy holidays to all!

    I’ll pass this along to Halley, Softa – thanks, and happy holidays to you, too. PJH


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