The term came from bakeries. They use a commercial full sheet pan to bake the large cakes. A full sheet cake is about 16 inches by 24 inches. The actual pan measures a little larger because the lip of the pan is included in the measurement.
Sheet cakes are typically one two inch thick layer of cake with icing on top and a serving is usually the 2x2 square.
The terms half and quarter sheet cake come from when you needed a half sheet cake you simply took the full sheet cake and cut it in half, cut that cake in half and you have a quarter sheet cake. The actual measurement of a half sheet cake is 12 inches by 16 inches. A quarter is 8 inches by 12 inches. The bakery boxes that you buy go by this size of cake in the measurements.
All of this gets confused when you are at home and baking sheet cakes in pans instead of the cookie sheet style sheet pans that are used commercially. Wilton has muddied the waters by giving us weird, slightly off, sheet cake pan sizes. The 9x13 has become the traditional home cake pan, yet it's a little bigger than an actual quarter sheet cake. Wilton says that the 11x15 is a half sheet cake, yet it is roughly 15% smaller than an actual half sheet cake, and if you use the 12x18 pan you aren't going to fit in the bakery boxes very easily and end up trimming the long end so the icing fits. GGrrrrr.
So. Fat Daddio and Magic Line cake pans have come to the rescue with real sizes. I have switched over to 8x12 sheet cake pans for the quarter sheet cake and 12x16 for the half sheet. When I have an order for a full sheet cake I just bake two halves and press them side by side and ice and decorate the whole thing.
I also offer party cakes that are stacked sheets, scored with filling and each piece of cake decorated on top. They are super fast to cut and serve and the slice is more like a wedding cake. I do three 1-inch thick layers of cake with filling and icing on top, the whole thing is the usual 4 to 4 1/2 inches tall. People like them because they are easy to serve and they don't have to worry about handling the huge full sheet cake.
I know back in the day, when I was first getting started I wanted to do all tiered etc, but everyone insisted that they wanted sheet cakes. It was what they knew and were comfortable with, so I got very good at them and can make them quickly. I offer single layer, split layer with a filling, and then the party cakes that are three layers with filling. It's my most popular cake for parties, people like the tiers for weddings and the sheets for everything else.
BakerRose, what size do you do side by side 12x16
also if youdont mind, what do you do cut the entire cake, then frost each piece seperate??
They do make an impression mat that you can lay on an iced, crusted over cake that leaves the impressions as to where each servings are to be cut. I have one for a 9x13 and a 12x18 sheet cake. They work slick!
I will either just leave the impression as is and place a rosebud (or whatever inside) each individual serving
I will mini shell border around each serving.
Both work wonderfully.
When I score a cake it's just that, scored, not cut. I ice the cake smooth and then mark the edge with the help of a handy quilters ruler (they are clear with bold markings). Then I take a long yardstick (mine is metal and 24 inches long) and just lay it on the surface of the iced cake. This only leaves a light impression on the icing to cut the cake by. I don't press down through the icing, that will lead to cracking. I usually eye-ball this these days, but in the beginning I would recommend a ruler.
I also don't pipe around each marked piece. YEARS ago I worked in a grocery store bakery and this is what they did. However, I cut a cake like that once and all those little borders were a mess and the icing just stuck to the knife etc, so I don't do it anymore.
When the marks are on the cake I then pipe a flower on each serving with a leaf or I make little royal icing flowers (I'm an old-school flower girl) and place one on each piece with little leaves. These cakes are basic and usually used to slice and serve vs. a heavily decorated cake with writing to be put on display. I do a LOT of these cakes for funerals, picnic functions and church dinners. The score marks make for easy slicing by people who may not be able to figure out even cuts or serving amounts. It's an easy way to guarantee a certain number of servings to a customer.
If I don't have a box, or I'm doing the super jumbo full sheet (three layers, filling etc) then I use a wooden base. For a cake that big I use 3/4-inch thick sub-floor and my husband cuts it to the size I need. It's just too big for a box. AND, that baby takes two people to carry!!
If I'm even doing a basic sheet cake that is going to my mother's church I will use a piece of wood that is covered with freezer wrap. I know that the cake is going straight to their kitchen and then being sliced up within an hour and so they don't need a box. When the cake is cut they give the wood base back to my mother and I pick it up from there. I have done cakes like this for caterers as well. They want one jumbo to cut and it's too big for a box.
I also have all sizes of round, square and hex wood bases for wedding cakes. Hubbie's tools come in handy!
Don't undersell yourself. I tell everyone that I cannot compete with grocery store prices and they cannot compete with my quality.
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