A freshly baked cake is an irresistible treat, but making the perfect cake can sometimes be difficult. Here are some tips and techniques to help ensure success.
A good recipe goes a long way by producing a cake with enough body and firmness to hold its shape under the added weight of icing and decorations. If using a recipe, be sure to weigh your ingredients carefully. Baking a cake is as much a science as an art. If using a cake mix, experiment with many brands until you find one that works well for you. An average yield of a cake mix is four and a half to five cups. The charts below will help determine how many mixes are needed to make a particular size cake.
When mixing the ingredients, make sure they are all at room temperature. Cold ingredients won’t properly incorporate and hold air bubbles, which are essential to making the cake rise.
Once all the ingredients are wet, turn the mixer off and scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Turn the mixer back on and finish mixing. Otherwise, a layer of unincorporated ingredients could coat the sides and bottom of the bowl and may get added into the batter when poured into the pan.
Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper, spray with oil, or brush with pan grease to ensure a crumble-free release. Cake pans, including non-stick, don’t always release a cake smoothly. Make sure the oven is at the right temperature to ensure the cake rises properly. An oven thermometer is a good investment to ensure your oven temperature is registering properly.
Icing the Cake
Different recipes of buttercream icing yield different amounts of icing, however, the general accepted rule is about seven cups of icing for each recipe using two pounds of powdered sugar. Petal cakes require slightly more icing than round cakes of the same size, while heart cakes require slightly less. If using pre-made buttercream icing, a three and a half pound tub equals seven cups, and eight pound tub equals 16 cups and a 25 pound tub equals 50 cups. The charts below will help determine how much icing is needed for a particular size cake.
For best results, simply mix icing on low-speed for about five minutes to make smooth and fluffy. Whipping on higher speeds can create air pockets. In the picture below, notice how the icing almost comes to the top of the bowl after mixing.
Using a sharp knife and/or cake leveler, remove the domed top of the cake (We used a knife to get things started).
For a single layer cake, turn the cake over so the cooked “bottom” of the cake is now on top. If making a double layer match the cut sides together.
Make sure the cake is completely cooled before icing. Pour the whipped icing on top of the cake.
Using a downward motion, begin spreading the icing across the sides of the cake.
Once the side(s) of the cake are smooth, a lip of icing will likely form where the top and the side of the cake meet. Using an inward motion, spread the remaining icing over the top of the cake until a smooth finish is achieved.
Cutting Round Tiers
For the neatest slices, use a sharp knife and rinse with water and dry or wipe off with a clean cloth after each slice if possible. This will help prevent pastry filling and icing from smearing onto the cake slices. Using a round container make a slight impression on the icing, so there is a circle two inches from the tier’s outer edge. Cut a circle and slice the outer section of the cake and plate. Then cut pieces within the circle. In larger cakes, follow the same procedure and continue moving in two inches, cutting another circle, slice pieces and so on until tier is completely cut. The center core of each tier can be cut into halves, 4ths, 6ths, and 8ths, depending on size.
Please remember all figures are approximate.