Small-Batch Desserts for Daddy

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By Debby Maugans

Bake him a very personal gift; it’s OK for him eat it all, too! For husband or dad, you can bake a decadent treat for him to enjoy with complete abandon.  The good news is that with a small batch dessert comes automatic portion control – perfect when enough for one or two … is just enough.

These homemade classics have all the flavor you expect from a large layer cake or batch of cookies, but they are quicker and easier to make. Each recipe yields little more than a cup of batter, so pull out your small measuring cups and spoons, and find a deep 1- to 1 1/2-quart bowl for mixing.

Dad’s Favorite Chocolate Cake
Baby layer cakes are safely baked in cleaned out, label-free tomato or bean cans with the tops neatly removed.  Or you can make 4 cupcakes. To measure out the egg, lightly beat a whole egg in a small cup until it is almost foamy, then pour the egg into the measuring spoons.
1/4 cup whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons well-beaten egg    
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tablepoon sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease insides of two clean 14.5-ounce cans. Line bottoms of cans with rounds of parchment paper and set aside. Alternately, line 4 regular-sized muffin cups with paper liners.

Whisk milk, egg, and vanilla in small bowl.

Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a wire-mesh sieve placed over a small, deep mixing bowl. Sift dry ingredients into bowl. Add butter and half of milk mixture; beat with a hand-held electric mixer at low speed until dry ingredients are moistened.  Increase speed to medium, and beat until batter is lightened and has increased in volume, about 45 seconds.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Add remaining milk mixture, and beat until well blended, about 20 seconds.

Scrape batter into cans or muffin cups.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes for cupcakes and 27 to 29 minutes for cakes.  Cool 15 minutes on wire rack. Loosen edges of cakes from cans using small sharp knife; invert cans and remove cakes.  Cool completely. Cut in half crosswise; frost between layers and on tops and sides of cakes or on tops of cupcakes. Makes 2 cakes or 4 cupcakes.

Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache:
6 ounces premium quality milk chocolate, finely chopped
3 ounces premium-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave at medium power until glossy, 2 to 3 minutes; stir until smooth.  Let cool; whisk in sour cream, vanilla, and salt. Let stand until thick enough to spread. Makes 1 cup. 

Small-Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon well-beaten egg or egg substitute
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Place flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl; whisk to blend.

Place butter and sugars in a small, deep mixing bowl; beat with a hand-held electric mixer on low speed until blended, about 20 seconds.  Add egg and vanilla;  reduce speed to medium, and beat until blended, about 10 seconds.  Stir in flour mixture with a wooden spoon; stir in the chocolate chips and nuts, if using.

Spoon 8 equal mounds of dough onto prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 1/2 to 3 inches apart.  Bake until cookies are golden brown, 12 to 13 minutes.

Remove baking sheet from oven, let cool on wire rack 15 minutes.  Carefully slide parchment paper onto rack and let cool completely.  Makes 8 cookies.

Read More From Desserts for Daddy.

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Reader Comments:


My daughter and I just made your individual cake for daddy for her fathers day gift I have to let you know it was amazing!

By crystal ward on June 16, 2012


Paula Deen your such a amazing cook me and my grandma sit down almost every day to watch your show i cant wait to start using your recipes for the first time i love you ma

By taylor sheldon on June 12, 2012


Why not use a cake mix and divide it into 4 or 6 mini cakes!?!?

By Kim on June 11, 2012


I don't know what the world would do if they didn't have you Mrs. paula....You are the BOMB in the kitchen!

By Harretta Martin on June 11, 2012


What fun!

By Neeta on June 11, 2012


These are also fun to bake right in a coffee mug. Pass the mugs out during movie night with grandkids and let them eat them right out of the mug. Just drizzle a little frosting or topping over the top and serve them warm. What a hit! Jan

By Jan Fairclo on November 04, 2011


I would like to try these batch deserts but I was wondering....instead of wasting some of the ingredients could you make the items up and then freeze some for a later date? I mean short-term freezing, like maybe use within 3 months? Please let me know what your thoughts are on this? Thanks Paula!

By Kelley Joseph on January 10, 2011

What a unique idea, even tho Daddy’s gone I’ll be makeing this in his honor.
Happy Fathers Day Daddy

Jimmy Jr

By James Williams on June 19, 2010

What a unique idea! Altho Daddy’s gone I’m gonna make one in his memory.

Happy Fathers Day Daddy

By James Williams on June 19, 2010

I remember being a single parent (like you) and not having the money to buy cake pans, I would use Soup cans or larger tomatoe cans for things like Banana Breads, Corn Bread, cakes and even Jello’s.  Just spray them and cook like a regular pan but less time. And when the breads come out, lay it on it’s side and cut pieces to fit your taste, same for corn breads and it was great for Cranberry’s at Thanksgiving because it had the ridges to cut already there.  Enjoy..

By Sherry Fouts on June 16, 2010

Oh my!  This is the neatest idea ever!  I love this, and I love that it makes such a small batch. Perfect for my husband and I!  I will definitly be making the cakes in a can and posting them on my blog when I do. Maybe in a couple weeks when I get back from holiday.  Thanks for the great ideas!

By on June 11, 2010

This was totally de-lish!!!!  I also never made a cake from a can.  They all really loved it - I made several.
Thanks Paula!!

By DeAnn on June 08, 2010

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Paula, I love watching you and your family. I miss seeing your show, I watched you everyday. My son lives in Charleston S.C. He took me to the Lady & Sons to eat. Oh my goodness! People are always telling me that I look just like the cooking lady Paula Deen. I always tell them that you are my hero. May God Bless You Mary Ann
Mary Ann Tharp in A Summer of Burgers on August 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Add a few spoonfuls of parmesan cheese to the flour and cornmeal breading and it kicks the tomatoes up another notch. Bev
in Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes on August 15, 2014 at 10:33 am

I just bought Paula's Peach Salad Dressing and wondered if anyone has a good recipe that they use it in?
Melissa in Taste Testing 101 on August 13, 2014 at 8:36 am

Congrats Bobby. Loved the family picture miss you Paula on TV will be watching online. Jack is getting big. Looks like his mom but Matt aka moose has your face. Your eyes cheeks hair even falls to his face like yours except to the left. Good luck on your next venture. You give us other 60+ yr women strength to move on. Keep up the good work.
Carol Bryant in Love at Last on August 11, 2014 at 6:12 pm