“A Party without a cake is just a meeting” – Julia Child
Truer words about cake have never been spoken; Cake is the centerpiece to even the most basic parties. Baking cakes or cupcakes from scratch can be intimidating, so here are few key steps in the baking process to ensure a party perfect cake.
Read Your Recipe & Measure All Ingredients Before Starting.
This simple step seems so obvious, but most people forget to do it. Be sure to read your recipe all the way through before getting started. It is also important to make sure you understand all the baking terminology used in the recipe (examples would be “double boiler” or “stiff peaks”) Baking is 100% science, so if you don’t follow the recipe exactly as stated, you are going to yield a different product then what the recipe intended…..so make sure you know what you are doing before you get your Kitchen Aid whirling.
Also, measure out all your ingredients before getting started. In the culinary world this is referred to as “mise en place” (which translates to “putting in place”). Sometimes butter needs to be softened, cut up or melted, flour needs to be sifted. You don’t want to find this out half way through the recipe. As we mentioned before, baking is a science, and having the ingredients prepared the way the recipes calls for is crucial producing a successful product. Measuring ahead of time will also insures that you are ready to add ingredients when it is time to execute certain steps of your recipe.
Proper Pan Preparation.
Proper cake pan preparation will guarantee that you’re not crying over a cake crumbs or a stuck cake after you’ve invested ingredients and time in baking! Whether you bake this Simple White Cake up in 9-inch pans or as cupcakes, be sure to spray the pans with non-stick cooking spray and line the pan with parchment paper or cupcake papers.
For round cakes, use the bottom of the pan as a template to trace around the outside of the pan and then cut out the circle. Don’t worry if the parchment round is slightly bigger or smaller than the bottom of the pan! We used a thick black maker to illustrate tracing the circle – but a pencil or fine tip pen is best.
Dividing Your Batter.
Professional bakers weigh their cake batter into their prepared pans to ensure that each layer bakes up evenly. If you’ve got a kitchen scale, weighing the batter is fast and easy. Without a scale you can either measure the batter by the cup full into the prepared pans or measure the depth of your batter once you’ve eye balled it. We’re going to cover trimming the cake in the next post of this series – so don’t worry if you’re cakes aren’t perfectly even! Also an ice cream scoop in the 4-ounce volume range is ideal for measuring the batter into cupcakes.
You’ll notice in the recipe below that we’ve said this batter can be divided into two or three 9-inch cake pans. You may have only two pans or want to create a 4-layer cake (cutting the 2 thicker cakes in half). If you have three pans and want to create a three layer cake (my personal preference) then you cake skip cutting any cake layers before frosting.
Completely Cool Your Cake.
One of the biggest mistakes home bakers make in cake making is rushing! Your cake needs to cool COMPLETELY before you try to frost it. If you’ve got time and space: bake your cake up to a month ahead, cool it completely, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze before frosting; It will be easier to frost and you’ll have one less project to tackle the week of your party.
Cool the cakes or cupcakes in their pans on a wire cooling rack for a few minutes before removing from then pan. Large cakes will continue to bake after being removed from the oven – they need time to set up before you try flipping them out of the pans. Run a small knife or spatula between the edge of the cake an the pan before flipping the pan over and allowing the cakes to dry completely on the cooling rack.
We sure hope you enjoyed these tips & tricks and be sure to pop back by next week when we share our recipe for the perfect white cake! Until then……..
Meghan Splawn is a professional recipe developer, food stylist, and candy eater. Her personal blog, Stir & Scribble, is full of clever cooking, classic cocktails, and useful kitchen tips.
Recipe, styling, and photography: Meghan Splawn of Stir & Scribble