Since You Asked: Monitor cake cooking time when switching your pan sizes

I have a favorite apple cake recipe I'd like to make as cupcakes for my son's birthday party. I usually make it in two round cake pans. How do I adjust my cake recipe to accommodate a different pan size, such as cupcakes or even 9 by 13 inches?

— Kathleen P., Medford

You don't need to change the recipe, but you do need to adjust the baking time. First, you need to make sure the volume of batter will fit in the alternate pan.

There are charts of pan volumes in some baking books or on websites, such as For a shortcut, remember that a 9-inch, round cake pan holds about 6 cups (if the batter is 11/2 inches deep). A 9-by-13-inch pan holds 12 cups. And a standard cupcake pan, with 1/2 cup batter in each of six cups, holds 3 cups. So a two-layer cake batter should convert easily to 12 cupcakes or a sheet cake.

The trick after that is figuring out how to adjust the baking time. There is no hard-and-fast rule, so you'll have to rely on your senses and checking the cake for the usual signs of doneness, such as pulling away from the sides of the pan or springing back when you touch the center lightly.

Cupcakes usually take about half as long as a 9-inch, round cake. If the cake called for 30 to 35 minutes of baking time, start checking the cupcakes after 15 minutes.

In general, a 9-by-13-inch sheet cake will take about five to 10 minutes less than the 9-inch layers. To be safe, start checking about 15 minutes before the time in the original recipe.

Making any change in baking is tricky, but most cake batters should adapt easily.

Send questions to "Since You Asked, A la carte" Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; e-mail to

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