I have so many posts waiting to be written that I don’t know where to start! I even have a few finished sewing projects to show you!! I will start with something that is already photographed, though, and since I will have a few cakes recipes for you in the upcoming weeks, I will share some of my cake baking tips with you in preparation. Some of these tips have been picked up from various internet sources, some from cake decorating instructors, and some from learning the hard way :)
I hope you will find these tips useful and if you have any good tips of your own, feel free to leave them in the comments section.
P.S. The cake photographed above was made a while back for my aunt’s mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. I had the cake layers and frosting made up and then got food poisoning. My wonderful mother came over at the last minute to finish assembling and decorating the cake and delivered it to the party. Thanks again, Mom!
1. Pan Preparation
Most butter or oil based cake recipes will instruct you to grease and flour your pans. I don’t know about you, but I always get flour everywhere when I do this. When I took a cake decorating class at a local community college a few summers ago, the instructor presented this brilliant technique.
Easy Peasy Nonstick Cake Pan Coating1 cup shortening 1 cup all-purpose flour
Combine both ingredients in a small bowl and beat with a hand mixer until thoroughly combined. Scrape into an airtight, resealable container and store in the pantry. Using a paper towel or pastry brush, spread a generous amount in cake pans to prepare for baking.
No need to shake flour in and then tap it out. This also prevents that cake-y, flour-y mess on the outside of chocolate cakes. This paste will keep stored in the pantry indefinitely (at least for as long as your shortening and flour would have been good for).
In recipes that call for buttering, lining with parchment, then buttering and flouring the pans, I have found that just a good coating of this stuff is sufficient. But note that this paste should not be used for cakes that do not call for greased pans.
2. Insure level tops
I do several things to make sure my cake layers are level. First, I use insulating strips around my cake pans. Wilton makes these and you can buy them at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. You can also use wet strips of dish towels wrapped in aluminum foil. The theory is that by insulating the edges of the cake pan, the edges of the cake do not cook as fast, therefore, they will rise higher and be level with the center of the cake.
Rotate your pans partway through baking to make sure your layers bake and brown evenly.
Another tip I learned from my cake decorating instructor — press down gently on the top of your cake layers with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel immediately after removing them from the oven to level any high spots.
After cooling my cake layers in the pans for 10-20 minutes, I turn them out (top-side down) onto parchment-lined cardboard cake boards and leave them there for about 10 minutes. I then slide the cake and parchment off of the cake board onto the cooling rack to finish cooling completely. This is a trick I discovered myself that makes the top super smooth and flat and the edges very square.
Using these tricks, I haven’t had to level a cake layer with a knife in a very long time.
3. Crumb coat
If you have gone to all the trouble of making your cake beautiful and level, you don’t want stray crumbs in your frosting. Once you have filled and stacked your layers, apply a thin coat of frosting on the sides and top of your cake then place it in the fridge or freezer for 15 minutes or so to allow the frosting to set up. This will seal in crumbs and make it less likely for them to escape into your outer coat of frosting. This is especially important if you are frosting a darker cake (like chocolate or red velvet) with lighter frosting (like cream cheese).
4. Don’t point out your mistakes
If you have gone through the motions to make a filled, frosted, and decorated layer cake, chances are you are much more talented in the kitchen than most of the folks who will be eating your cake. So don’t point out the minor imperfections that you may notice about it! Smile quietly and politely thank everyone for their praises about your divine creation :)