Sunday, December 2, 2007

A few tips for cakes

OK, sorry for the extended absence. No excuses, just stopped posting for a bit.
So today's post isn't a specific recipe, but a few pointers for people who want to improve their cake-building skills.
1. Don't feel bad about using a cake mix. I almost always use a mix for the cake. As Alton Brown put it: "they have access to all sorts of super-chemicals that you and I can't get." Betty and Duncan just know how to make cakes turn out consistently well.
2. Do feel bad about using pre-made frosting. I'm sorry, but there are two things which I absolutely cannot support: fake cheese and store-bought frosting. Home made frosting is infinitely better and is really not that much work. I'll post two easy recipes later this week that you can use.
3. After baking your cakes, level with the tops so they are flat. In the picture below, you can see that the cake is totally flat. Rounded tops are normal upon removal from the oven, but removing the dome makes a more professional looking finished product. I just use a long knife and freehand it.
4. Also notice in the picture the strips of wax paper hanging out from beneath the cake. This is so you can decorate without fear of mucking up your cake plate. Cut strips of wax paper and lay them under the bottom layer of the cake. When you're totally done frosting, pull them out to reaveal your sparkling cake plate.
5. Cakes from nice bakeries taste nice because they use more frosting than most home cooks. Just becasue you bake your cakes in two round pans, doesn't mean you should settle for two layers. Cut each round horizontally in two then you frost in between all the layers. If you made delicious frosting, this will be a good thing.
6. Basic instructions for frosting the top and sides:
- Use a lazy susan or something that spins. This makes things a lot easier
-Put as much frosting as you think you'll need for the top AND sides on the top, then spread it toward the outside as you spin the cake. Push it over the edge and start spreading it down the sides of the cake. Push more frosting off the top and if you need it until you reach the plate. Use something with a straight edge (I recommend an off-set spatula and not what yousee in this picture--I left mine at my grandma's house) to straighten the sides as you spin the cake.




-Never pull you spreader directly away from the cake. It will pull crumbs off and they will be very hard to get out of the frosting. You have to kind of spread your spatula off-if that makes sense. It's hard to put into words, but you get the idea, right?
7. One more little thing--Tall, slender cakes seem to look fancier than short, wide cakes. Consider buying some smaller pans to increase you repertoire. Anne bought me these 7-inchers from Sur la Table. They're quite inexpensive.
8. Oh yeah, ONE more thing, cheaper cake pans usually have slightly sloped edges making it difficult to achieve straight sides. There are two solutions: buy the nicer, heavier ones with straight side, or trim your edges once the layers are stacked and frosted. An electric knife is the perfect tool for this job. I know you all got one as a wedding present, so dig 'em out and fire 'em up!

Have Fun!

15 comments:

The Ramptons said...

I am mad at you...I could never make a cake look that good. THAT CAKE LOOKS AMAZING!!! I can't believe you made that.

Eric, Halcyon, Viana and Brooke said...

How do you make the beautiful swirlies on the side? I can only imagine my frosting running down or my hand smooshing into it as I worked horizontally...and I totally have an electric knife from my wedding.

The Innkeeper said...

The cake looks amazing. I love the colors.
Thanks for sharing!

liz said...

Ooooo, I feel so lucky because I got to help eat that gorgeous cake! I hope a tutorial on the chocolate swirlies is forthcoming. And tell people how you made the raspberry frosting, too. It was yummy.

Sarah said...

Should I go get myself an electric knife? I never got one when I got married, and yours is the second thing I've read this week talk about how great they are!

danielle said...

Tay, thanks again for the most beautiful, best tasting cake I have ever had! What a happy birthday for me.

Taylor said...

Coming later this week--
Two good, simple frosting recipes. What in the world is an offset spatula? The low-down on electric knives. How to make squiggles.

Vicky said...

I totally understand what you mean about "spreading" the spatula off (because my frosting always has crumbs in it). But that's just the thing: are there any other tricks that you can share for not letting those pesky crumbs into your beautiful frosting? It always seems worse when I'm using a cake mix.

Traci said...

Tay, what a sigh of relif I had when you said that boxed cakes are ok! Everytime I use one I feel a bit guilty. No more dangit! If T.C. says it's ok to use a box cake mix its as good to me as if it were in the Bible!!!! ( I did not mean that sac-relig ) :)

Carrie Snedeker said...

Tay, holly cow!! You are amazing!! I found your blog from Becca's blog. I knew you were an amazing cook from when I was at Grandma Tilly's in April...2006. wow! It's good to catch up with your family.

Lundin Family said...

Okay, I'm a blog stalker (I'm Wes Truman's aunt) but I have to tell you how great this blog is. I too love the pink and brown cake. I even bought me some new cake pans this week.:) Looking forward to getting the frosting recipies and learning the trick to the swirls. I guess I'm going to have to invest in an electric knife.....I'm way too old to have gotten one for my wedding :)
Thanks again...

Carrie Snedeker said...

Tay, can you post the recipe??

Rachel said...

Once again you are my best friend of the world. I LOVE to make cakes, and mine are now officially on the "that sucks" list. YES! I am going to whip up the most marvelous cake now....I couldn't agree with you more about the frosting. I almost DIE when Stephen requests the store bought. (Maybe he is trying to be nice and not make me do work? But it's so easy!) Oh man, have you made frosting from semi sweet chocolate chips and sour cream? I'm sure you have, but it is down right one of my favorite truffle tasting treats! That would go GREAT with more layers and a chocolate cake! STOP! Who's birthday is it? I'm making a cake today!!! And getting 7 inch pans, YESSSSSS! *fist pump*

Sunshine Girl said...

Taylor... so glad I came across your page... I ran across it looking for Aunt Tillies updates, but now I can hopefully improve my cooking skills as well...

Heather said...

Did I miss something because my cake is not pretty with swirls AND when I tried my electric knife to cut horizontal-the cake was too moist and fell apart
HELP