A number cake pan is often a metal baking pan formed in the shape of a number. Cakes shaped like numbers are popular for birthdays, anniversaries and other celebration milestones, such as the number of years a company has been in business. The number cake pan is also perfect for making a tribute cake paying homage to a sports figure, such as a football player or race car driver. The cakes can also be used to celebrate the arrival of a new year.
Some number cake pan variations are one-piece molds designed to produce a flat cake, with the number protruding from the top. Other number pans are simply outlines of the numbers themselves, without an attached sheet cake. The number cakes can be used individually, or placed side by side to create two- and three-digit numbers, or even larger. It is typically best to use the same size and style of cake pans when making numbers that will be displayed together.
Number cake pans come in a variety of materials, including non-stick metal and heat-proof plastic. Another variation to the number cake pan is an aluminum set that includes a pan and several four-sided cubes. The pan has a grid on the bottom with squares the same size as the hollow cubes. The cubes can be arranged in the grid to block out negative spaces around the desired number or numbers. When the cake batter is poured into the pan, it will fill in around the cubes and form a relief of the designated number.
The number-shaped pans are often available individually and in sets. Many number cake pan sets use the numbers six and nine interchangeably by rotating the figure, so only one of the numbers is included with most zero-through-nine sets. The size of the number pans — including height and depth — varies among manufacturers and the pans are typically offered in small, medium and large sizes. Matching letter or alphabet sets are often available to accompany similarly-ized number sets.
Decorating techniques for the number cakes made with a cake pan are strictly a matter of preference. Some bakers simply apply a single frosting to the entire area, while others add intricate details, such as flowers, bordering the entire outside edge of the number. Frosting and cake decorations can be applied in the same manner as similar birthday sheet cakes, including writing out a person's name or a congratulatory message.