We’ve experimented lately with small cakes. It’s been a fun journey. We have found these little cakes easy and convenient. They can be casual or elegant. We’ve served them as desserts for dinner guests but they can work equally well as a breakfast or brunch bread. They can be sized for individual servings or packed in a lunch box. Extras can be frozen or packaged and sent home with guests.
Small cakes are much more popular internationally than they are in the US. Often they are used for brunch or for tea in Europe or elsewhere. Sweeter, richer cakes are best used for desserts.
Of course, small cakes are nothing new. Muffins, cupcakes, and even some cookies could be classified as small cakes. We’ve found small cakes to be an opportunity for creativity. For guests and special occasions, we have used sweet sauces instead of frostings for moist, decadent desserts.
Experiment with different sizes and shapes—various sized muffin tins, baking dishes, and even something as mundane as used tuna cans will work. (Whatever you use, be sure to grease them well and flour the bottoms for easy removal.)
Here are three recipes to start you on your small cake journey.
Caramel Chocolate Cake
This is too rich for anything but a decadent dessert. It is easy and straightforward to prepare but fancy enough that you will want to serve it to guests.
1 cup butter
4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut
Prepare some baking cups by greasing well and flouring the bottoms or by lining with parchment paper. Large muffin tins work well. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
1. In a large mixing bowl, melt the butter and chocolate together in a microwave stirring once or twice.
2. Stir in the sugar until it is dissolved. Then stir in the eggs one at a time. Add the milk.
3. Stir in the baking powder and flour. Finally, fold in the coconut.
4. Spoon the batter in the prepared cups.
5. Bake for 23 to 28 minutes depending on the size of the baking cups. A toothpick inserted in the center of the cake should come out clean when done. Cool on wire racks.
Serve with Caramel Sauce.
1 12-ounce can of evaporated milk
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix all the ingredients except the extract in a heavy saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture boils. Gently boil for eight to ten minutes or until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the extract. Cool until the sauce thickens to serving consistency.
Cinnamon Banana Breakfast Cakes
This is a great glorified muffin. It is made like banana bread, topped with sliced bananas, brushed with butter, and then covered with a cinnamon and sugar mixture.
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about three large)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup buttermilk
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
bananas for slicing
2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing on the cake tops
a mixture of three tablespoons sugar and two teaspoons cinnamon for sprinkling
Prepare some baking molds by greasing well and flouring the bottoms or by lining with parchment paper. Large muffin tins work well. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
1. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and continue beating. Add the bananas, vanilla, and buttermilk.
2. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon  together.
3. Add the flour mixture to the butter-banana mixture and fold in.
4. Spoon the batter into the prepared molds.
5. Slice the bananas and arrange them on top of the dough. Use as many slices as desired. (Remember, the dough will expand in the oven while the banana slices will tend to become smaller.)
6. Brush the tops with the melted butter and then sprinkle them with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes depending on the size of the baking molds. A toothpick inserted in the center of the cake should come out clean. Cool on wire racks.
Lemon Blueberry Cake
If you like lemon meringue pie and blueberry muffins, you’ll love this combination.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking power
1/4 teaspoon salt
the zest from two medium lemons
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup lemon juice (approximately two lemons)
2 cups individually frozen blueberries
Prepare some baking cups by greasing well and flouring the bottoms or by lining with parchment paper. Large muffin tins work well. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
1. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and zest together.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until the mixture is fluffy and lemon-colored.
3. Add half the dry ingredients, then half the liquids, then the remainder of the dry ingredients and the remainder of the liquids, mixing briefly after each addition.
4. Fold in the berries.
5. Spoon the batter in the prepared cups.
6. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes depending on the size of the baking cups. The cakes should be golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes should come out clean when done. Cool on wire racks.
Serve with Lemon Sauce.
1/3 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
the zest from two lemons
4 tablespoons butter
Mix all the ingredients except the butter in a heavy saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture boils. Gently boil for a few minutes or until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Cool until the sauce thickens to serving consistency.