Mini Birthday Layer Cake on a Panini Press

I’ve been telling friends all weekend that I baked a yellow layer cake on the panini grill. They’ve been universally perplexed by what this could possibly entail. Well, here it is!

Whenever I read an article casting the panini maker as a “bulky, one-use gadget”, I have to sigh. Really? The only possible use in the entire culinary spectrum for a tool comprised of two direct heating sources – which, by the way, heat up in under five minutes – is grilling sandwiches? As someone who has spent the past nearly four years delving into ice cream cones, foil packet grilling, pop tarts and now Mini Birthday Layer Cake (in addition to, of course, plenty of panini) on the panini press…well, I think I’ve proven this is no single-use tool.

I’m excited to show you the new panini-baking technique I’ve figured out. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for this versatile machine!

Ramekins make baking on the panini grill rather easy

Ramekins – that’s my secret to baking on a panini press. They’re small enough to fit on the grill. All you have to do is determine how much to fill them, how long to bake them and at what temperature. Actually, those last three things do involve a bit of trial and error. But once you’ve got a good recipe down, this becomes a viable, relatively quick baking method.

Cakes fresh off the grill

To come up with a small batch yellow cake recipe for my little layers, I adapted the One Bowl Vanilla Cupcakes for Two on How Sweet It Is, hoping that it would take roughly the same amount of batter to make two 3 1/2-inch layers as it did to make two cupcakes. That worked perfectly – the layers rose to the rim of the ramekin without spilling over. The cakes themselves felt nice and springy, as they should.

Cutting down a chocolate buttercream recipe to make just enough for this tiny birthday cake (way too small to fit all the candles I’ve earned this year!) really put my knowledge of measurement conversions to the test. But I focused and got it done, as I could not wait to frost this thing. And, of course, add the sprinkles.

Mini Birthday Layer Cake on a Panini Press

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Mini Yellow Layer Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

Adapted from the One Bowl Vanilla Cupcakes for Two recipe on How Sweet It is

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 19 minutes | Total time: 29 minutes (plus cooling and frosting)

Yield: 1 mini cake

INGREDIENTS:

Yellow Cake:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 heaping teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk

Chocolate Buttercream:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

To make the yellow cake:

  1. Preheat the panini grill to 350°F.* Make sure the grill sits flat on your work surface, not tilted.
  2. Spray two 6-ounce ramekins (3 1/2-inch diameter) with baking spray.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the egg and sugar together until they are combined. Stir in the vanilla and melted butter. Mix in the flour, baking powder and salt until the batter is combined and smooth. Stir in the milk. Divide the batter equally between the two ramekins, ideally filling each about halfway.
  4. Set the ramekins on the panini grill and close the lid so that the upper grates make contact with the upper edges of the ramekins. Bake the cakes until they are set and spring back when touched in the center, about 17 to 19 minutes. Allow them to cool for 5 minutes in the ramekins, then invert them onto a rack to cool completely.
  5. Assemble the layers and frost with chocolate buttercream. Sprinkles are optional, but sure are fun.

To make the chocolate buttercream:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the butter and cocoa. Add in the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla and whisk until the frosting is smooth.

* Since this recipe involves baking, it’s best if you prepare it on a panini maker that allows you to set a specific temperature (i.e., not just Low, Medium, or High).

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KathyPanini Happy, online since 2008, is more than just a sandwich blog. Here, you'll find hundreds of my original panini recipes, my guide to choosing a panini press and a whole lot of other creative uses for the panini press.
~ Kathy Strahs
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74 Comments

  1. sara wrote:

    What a cool idea! Looks like a really fun birthday cake…so cute! 🙂

    Posted 9.11.11 Reply
  2. What a FUN idea! Looks like a delicious birthday cake 🙂

    Posted 9.11.11 Reply
  3. Genius! I love that it’s a mini portion too so you can have your own little frosted cake.

    Posted 9.11.11 Reply
  4. Whoa. This is revolutionary. I am SUPER impressed! And I would like a slice please. 🙂

    Posted 9.11.11 Reply
  5. Kathy
    I had no idea you could use a panini press to bake, how ingenious, and perfect portions as well. what a great way for folks without an oven to make so many more treats for themselves!
    Dennis

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      Thanks, Dennis – you can be sure I wish I had one of these things back in my college dorm rooms!

      Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  6. Now THAT came out adorable!!

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  7. Carolyn wrote:

    Kathy, this is brilliant. Seriously!

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  8. adorable! Love this one!

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  9. Shaina wrote:

    This is such a cute idea! Plus, it’s less work than baking it. Perfect for 1-2 servings.

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  10. Definitely impressive!

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  11. Oh yes, I’ve got to try this with my new press. So clever.

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  12. Maria wrote:

    How fun!!!

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  13. I only have a Forman Grill, not a Panini press … and I’d have to go buy ramikins! But this looks like a great idea. Thanks for the recipe and instructions.

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      Well, there is always still the tried and true oven baking approach. 🙂

      Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  14. Robin Sue wrote:

    You always amaze me with that famous machine of yours! Another fun recipe!

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  15. Colleen wrote:

    So cute! I wonder if you could dip it, or pour the icing over it, like a petit-four? Might be easier than trying to frost it. Looks yummy, in any case. Happy birthday!

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      Lol, I think you might get a palmful of frosting if you tried to dip it (but, hey, that’s not entirely a bad thing!).

      Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  16. Dana B wrote:

    WOW!!! ok I want a panini grill now. I mean NOW! 🙂

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      You should check out last week’s post, Dana, if you haven’t already – I’m giving one away! 🙂

      Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  17. oh kathy you’re fun.
    i love this.

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      Thanks, Dawn. I think you’re fun too. 🙂

      Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  18. Victoria wrote:

    An ingenious idea! Could you take on cookies next? I’d love to be able to bake just a few without heating up my oven.

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      I’ve definitely had cookies on my radar, Victoria! The opportunity to have just a few without heating up the whole oven is very enticing.

      Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  19. Little Sis wrote:

    I was wondering how you did this!

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  20. leanne wrote:

    This is brilliant, Kathy! It’s also making me wish I had cake RIGHT NOW!

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  21. Way totally coolio. Could you freak’n get any more fabulous? Don’t think so. 🙂

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      Lol, thanks Jenny. Great to see you yesterday!

      Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  22. You never fail to impress me! This is brilliant, and I’m now absolutely dyyyying for a panini maker (as if I wasn’t already before, panini’s definitely have a fighting chance as my favorite food).
    This is absolute culinary genius right there.

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  23. Stef wrote:

    Love it! Totally creative and fun!

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  24. Kathy, that is super impressive. I had no idea this was possible!

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      Neither did I, Sommer! 🙂 Definitely glad I found out.

      Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  25. Pure genius! One of my favorite “skinny secrets” is to cook and/or bake small portions. This qualifies perfectly.

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  26. Mary wrote:

    This is such a great idea! It would be perfect for baking in the summer, since my oven always heats up the apartment and I don’t have air conditioning. Sadly I only have a George Foreman grill and I don’t think it would work 🙁 I will have to give the tiny cake a try though – adorable!

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  27. Shumaila wrote:

    This is such a brilliant idea!!!!! Bookmarking it! Thanks for sharing!

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  28. naomi wrote:

    I’m throughly IMPRESSED!! Who knew cake and a panini machine could co-mingle.

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  29. Camilla wrote:

    Kathy, this is PURE GENIUS!!!!!!!!!!!! I cannot wait to try it!!!!

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  30. Amy wrote:

    Ha. I love it!

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  31. Cindy B. wrote:

    Wow !!! amazing. It looks great!

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  32. Genius, Kathy! I am always so excited to see what you’re going to make next on your panini maker. This is spectacular!!!

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  33. kellypea wrote:

    I’m impressed! Couldn’t wait to see how you did this. Ingenious! And I’m definitely impressed with how well you whittled down that recipe. Nice work for a very cute cake. Excellent graphics on that photo, too. 🙂

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  34. Kathy wrote:

    You should send an article to whoever said that panini presses are a 1-job-only machine! Or even write your own and include recipes~! This is really creative, and even though I don’t own a panini press, I really do want to get one but always thought that they were ‘bulky’ like everyone said.

    Posted 9.12.11 Reply
  35. Whoa very cool! Glad I didn’t know this in college, or I would’ve gained the freshman 40…not 15

    Posted 9.13.11 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      I know, right? 🙂

      Posted 9.13.11 Reply
  36. Joii C. wrote:

    This looks awesome!

    Posted 9.13.11 Reply
  37. This couldn’t be any cuter. What a great idea. I love making use of otherwise single-use appliances. I recently saw that you can bake cookies in a waffle iron, lov eit!

    Posted 9.14.11 Reply
  38. I told you on twitter I was suoer impressed. The idea is brilliant and the results are beautiful!! 🙂

    Posted 9.14.11 Reply
  39. Super late 3am sorry for spelling gibberish I am way too tired and shouldn’t leave comments when half asleep:).

    Posted 9.14.11 Reply
  40. This is SO cool!! 🙂

    Posted 9.16.11 Reply
  41. Jennifer Young wrote:

    This looks just delightful! How creative. Thanks for the idea!

    Posted 9.16.11 Reply
  42. Jan wrote:

    Genius! Haha! I love finding new things to make with a panini press (besides paninis) 🙂

    Posted 9.16.11 Reply
  43. Trish wrote:

    I was just craving cake yesterday but didn’t make any because I always end up being the only one to eat it. This is perfect! Making one today!

    Posted 9.18.11 Reply
  44. Kirk wrote:

    I wish I could dive into my computer screen to taste this piece of irresistibly delicious cake…

    Posted 9.18.11 Reply
  45. How cool! I am now craving yellow cake 🙂

    Posted 9.18.11 Reply
  46. Marly wrote:

    I love it – birthday cake for one!

    Posted 9.19.11 Reply
  47. Meghan wrote:

    What a great idea using the ramekins Kathy! It’s just the most darling little birthday cake 🙂

    Posted 9.30.11 Reply
  48. Sean wrote:

    I truly admire your ingenuity!

    Posted 10.2.11 Reply
  49. I am chuckling at the very thought but also impressed with your ingenuity. And the little cake is simply beyond adorable!

    Posted 10.8.11 Reply
  50. This is SO freaking genius. I have a small george forman but I can’t wait to look through all your recipes for inspiration.

    Posted 11.16.11 Reply
  51. Have you ever made multiple cakes on your press? Do you think four ramekins would work the same?

    Posted 4.11.12 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      There’s definitely room for four ramekins on my grills – I imagine it would work, but I haven’t tried it.

      Posted 4.11.12 Reply
  52. Nicci Williams wrote:

    This is too cute and totally genius! So glad I discovered your site. I got a Panini Grill a few years ago for Christmas and after a few sandwiches, it’s just been collecting dust. Can’t wait to whip and out and try some of these! So excited!!

    Posted 7.31.12 Reply
  53. Sofia wrote:

    Hi! I wish I had a panini maker, but I tried with my foreman grill, I use smaller ramekins and ended up with a cake the size of a cupcake, it was really fast, i had extra batter for 2 more and super practical. Good thing is that you can out frosting in the layers. Awesome recipe!! Foreman grillers out there, try it!

    Posted 9.7.12 Reply
  54. Stephanie wrote:

    This looks So amazing. I can’t wait to try it.

    Posted 2.7.13 Reply
  55. Laura wrote:

    Can I use this recipe to make a cake in the oven?

    Posted 3.2.13 Reply
    • Darlene wrote:

      Yes,i made this today,baked it on 350 for 30 mins. came out perfect.
      i do not own a panini maker . 🙂

      Posted 5.23.13 Reply
  56. Jeff wrote:

    What type of panini press do you use for these cakes. I dont want to over buy

    Posted 1.1.14 Reply
    • Kathy Strahs wrote:

      I’ve made them on both the Cuisinart Griddler and the Breville Panini Press, but they should work on any press that allows you to set the temperature.

      Posted 1.1.14 Reply