What is a tray bake, what kind of dessert is it, what are the different ways that I can make it, and why is it so popular? I have all of the answers here in this helpful guide. Keep reading on to learn everything you need to know about delicious tray bake desserts!
What Is A Tray Bake?
A tray bake is (typically) a dessert that is baked in a square or rectangular pan and then cut into smaller pieces or slices! The name "tray bake" is a British term for a soft and chewy cake that is baked in a tray, cut into small squares, and served as a biscuit.
This type of dessert or savory snack includes anything that's prepared and baked into one pan like sheet cakes, brownies, cookie bars, pie bars, cornbread, bread pudding, etc. They are well-liked since they're easy to make and serve large crowds!
Let's jump into many examples of different sweet and savory tray bakes, I've even included a bunch of recipes to try!
Sweet Tray Bakes
If you've ever needed an easy dessert to bring to work parties, holiday get-togethers, or potlucks, then you have to try making one of these sweet tray bakes! These sweet treats are perfect for slicing up into equal individual pieces and sharing with large crowds.
I will be sharing my favorite types of sweet tray bakes so that you have some unique recipe ideas to try! Keep reading to learn all about sheet cakes, dump cakes, poke cakes, pie bars, and cookie bars!
Sheet cakes make an excellent and simple dessert to whip up for any occasion or celebration! They are one-layered cakes topped with frosting and other decorations like sprinkles or even fresh fruit.
You can't go wrong with baking this tray bake to bring to your next work party, anniversary, family reunion, or birthday celebration! Here are a few of my favorite sheet cake recipes.
If you are like me, then you are definitely a fan of some gooey, chewy, and fudgy brownies! But did you know that they are in fact a tray bake dessert? Brownies are one of the easiest and most delicious desserts to prepare.
Bake a batch for any occasion and serve a warm slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum! Check out a few of my irresistible brownie recipes below, I guarantee you'll never want to make a boxed mix again!
- Cosmic Brownies
- Chocolate Maraschino Cherry Brownies
- Strawberry Swirl Brownies
- Peanut Butter Banana Brownies
- Brownie Blondies
Cookie bars are a simpler, thicker, and chewier version of cookies and make a wonderful addition to holiday baking, potlucks, or get-togethers. When I make a batch of these bars for any of my family gatherings, they are the first dessert to disappear!
The best thing about cookie bars is that there is no scooping required! They are much easier to make than individual cookies. You can also enjoy cookie bars for up to one week if you refrigerate them in an airtight container!
Pie bars are an easy sweet tray bake to put together when you want a simple dessert that tastes like cobbler or pies. These bars are perfect to make when you are needing a sharable treat to make in advance!
Once baked, you can keep these pie bars in the fridge for up to 2 days or freeze them for 3 months!
Poke cakes are wonderfully moist and easy to make tray bake desserts! These cakes are super simple, yet incredibly delicious and perfect for serving to crowds!
All you have to do is pick out your favorite cake mix, then bake it and allow it to cool. Next, you take the end of a wooden spoon to create holes evenly throughout the cake, then fill it with a pudding or sauce (like hot fudge). Top it off with your favorite icing and now you have a tasty cake that everyone will love!
Here are two poke cake flavors that you can try, my famous pumpkin fudge and banana pudding!
This delicious type of tray bake is the perfect cross between a standard cake and a fruit cobbler. The best thing about dump cakes is that you can make so many varieties, all you need is a cake mix, canned fruit, and some slices of butter!
There is no mixing, peeling, or measuring required when making a dump bake! You start by dumping your can of fruit in a 9X13 baking dish, sprinkle the cake mix evenly over the top of the fruit, then place slices of butter in even spaces on top to add moisture.
Try one of these simple dump cake recipes when you are wanting a quick and tasty dessert to share!
Savory Tray Bakes
Now that I have covered my go-to sweet tray bakes, let's jump into some delicious savory ones! If you need an easy appetizer or main course for a busy weeknight, these all-in-one tray bakes are the perfect solution.
Even some filling dinners are considered tray bakes, like my sheet pan dinners or savory bread pudding casseroles! Let's jump into some cornbread, sheet pan dinners, bread puddings, and puff pastry tart recipes!
This classic Southern staple can be made in many different ways, but no matter how you prepare it, it will always be an excellent side dish choice! Cornbread can be enjoyed on its own as a breakfast or snack, or even made into a casserole to serve as a filling dinner!
Try out one of these mouth-watering cornbread recipes that are homemade and downright delicious! All of them are done and ready to serve in under an hour!
Sheet Pan Dinners
If you are looking for a dinner that takes minimal effort and is easy to clean up, a sheet pan tray bake is the one for you! With just a baking sheet, you can make these dinners in no time to feed the whole family.
These chicken, shrimp, and steak fajitas are wonderful and easy to whip up when you are craving a Mexican-inspired dish. I've also included my favorite sheet pan pizza that I make for family pizza nights!
Savory Bread Puddings
Savory bread puddings (or strata) are popular bread-based casserole dishes made with dried cubed bread, eggs, cream, and a variety of other ingredients. These casseroles are the perfect make-ahead tray bake for weekend brunch or holiday lunch!
When you are looking for an impressive meal to make for the entire family, these recipes won't disappoint!
Puff Pastry Tarts
A puff pastry tart is a buttery pastry made with a single layer of laminated dough filled with either sweet or savory fillings. These rustic yet elegant tray bakes are great to make as an appetizer for parties or to serve as a light meal with other side dishes.
Puff pastry tarts are perfect for entertaining guests at a party, holiday gathering, or you could pair them with a side salad for lunch! No matter how you serve these puff pastries, they are sure to be a hit with anyone who tries them.
I hope I have answered any and all questions you may have had on what is a tray bake! If you have given any of these recipes a try, let me know what you think in the comments below!
😋 More Tasty Tray Bake Recipes
- Panettone Cherry French Toast Casserole - This french toast recipe is perfect for making ahead of time and baking first thing in the morning!
- Pumpkin Streusel Bars - Pumpkin streusel bars are great for bringing to all of your fall get-togethers!
- Mandarin Orange Cake - This Southern cake is filled with bright and tropical flavors everyone will love!
- Maraschino Cherry Coffee Cake - Start your day off with this tasty cinnamon coffee cake with a cherry crumb topping!
- Apple Pie French Toast Casserole - This delicious recipe features classic apple pie and french toast flavors!
- Old Fashion Raisin Cake - Delightful spiced cake full of sweet raisins and topped with a tasty brown sugar frosting!
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📖 Recipe Card
What Is A Tray Bake: Vanilla Cake (+ More Delicious Types of Easy Desserts!)
Vanilla Tray Bake
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- 1 cup butter (softened, room temperature)
- 4-5 cups confectioners sugar (start with 4 cups, add more as needed)
- ¼ cup heavy cream (half & half or whole milk - at room temperature)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (clear extract for white frosting)
- salt (to taste)
- gel food coloring (if desired)
- sprinkles (if desired)
Vanilla Tray Bake
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and grease and flour your 9 x 13 baking pan or spray with non-stick baking spray. *Parchment paper sheets can also be used for ease of lifting the tray bake out of the pan in one piece.
- In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, sift the dry ingredients including the cake flour (or substitute in the notes below), sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk the dry ingredients together.2 ¼ cups cake flour, 1 ¾ cups sugar, 3 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt
- Cut the cubed butter into the flour mixture at medium speed, or using a pastry cutter, or a pair of knives cut in a crisscrossed motion, until the butter is small pieces that are about pea-size.1 cup butter
- Add the eggs and vanilla extract, then continue mixing at medium speed until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Add the milk in two half-cup portions, slowly adding the first portion. Mix until the batter is smooth, then add the second half-cup portion of milk and mix until smooth.3 large eggs, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 1 cup milk
- Transfer your batter to the prepared 9 x 13 baking pan. Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 25-30 minutes, checking at the 25-minute point of baking. The top of the cake should spring back from the touch, and an inserted knife or toothpick should come out clean when done.
- Remove the baked cake from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pan, placed on a wire cooling rack. The cake needs to cool for at least 30 minutes before frosting.
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- In a large mixing bowl (with a hand mixer), or the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, start beating the slightly softened butter at a medium speed.1 cup butter
- Add 4 ½ cups confectioner sugar, ¼ cup heavy cream, and a tablespoon of vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for about a minute (or until the confectioner's sugar won't blow out of the bowl) before increasing the speed to medium-high. Beat until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.4-5 cups confectioners sugar, ¼ cup heavy cream, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Depending on your desired frosting consistency (smooth for spreading, or firmer for piping) adjust the frosting thickness as needed. Add the additional confectioner's sugar if the frosting is too thin, or add a drizzle more of heavy cream to thin the frosting out. Taste and add a pinch of salt to balance the sweetness as needed.salt, gel food coloring
- Once the vanilla cake is cooled, spread the frosting using an offset spatula to cover the cake. Or use a piping nozzle to decorate the cake and top with sprinkles if desired.sprinkles
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!