I’m thinking we really haven’t done any cakes on the blog yet, hey? It feels like we went through the roster of pies already (and yet somehow there’s still THREE more on the list that need tackling, good god). No cakes yet though, which meeeeeeeeans….we’re overdue for a lecture on proper cake-making etiquette, y’all. Settle in - you know how I love a good list of rules.
1. Prep your pans properly.
The beginning of most cake recipes will be dedicated to a brief paragraph on the kind of preparation needed for your cake’s intended vessel. Don’t be lazy and reduce or entirely skip this step or you may as well not go to all the effort of making a cake. If it says to grease and flour, learn how to grease and flour (this is super easy and satisfying, by the way); if it says to line the bottom with parchment, take the 2 minutes to measure and cut out circles from parchment paper (and definitely NOT from wax paper, which is VERY DIFFERENT).
2. Mix some things a lot, and others definitely not a lot.
The initial stages of a cake are when you want to incorporate air and generate fluffiness. Sometimes this happens with butter, or perhaps eggs, and usually sugar. This is the stage to get your anger out through vigourous beating. By the time dry ingredients (especially flour) make their entrance, you should have a tired arm that allows you to mix at a lower, gentler speed.
3. Cool your cakes completely.
Don’t be moronic and try to ice your cakes when they have ANY residual warmth left in them. Don’t. Do. It. The icing will melt – you are not special enough that the laws of…um, science…do not apply to your and your baking. Once you frost a too-warm cake, it is such a dreadful task to scrape off the melted icing and have to start again (so I’ve heard; I am not moronic).
4. Description > cook time.
When recipes offer you a cook time AND a descriptive outcome (e.g. cook until golden-brown, about 30 minutes), always go with the descriptive outcome over the cook time. If the 2 line up perfectly, then how fortuitous for you, but if they don’t, eschew the time recommendation in favour of the description. Ovens vary so much from home to home that the times are more of an estimate than a hard and fast rule.
5. Invest in a couple small, yet infinitely helpful tools.
A few items that have made me a better baker simply for their presence are as follows:
· A small digital scale for using weight over volume in baking (volume can vary; weight is always a more precise measurement)
· A long metal spatula for icing cakes (seems interchangeable for a butter knife, but that little offset bit makes all the difference)
· ELECTRIC BEATERS (just BUY SOME ALREADY, pleeeeeeeeease)
· A fat roll of parchment paper
Now – did you read all my ramblings in the hope of sinking your teeth into a bit of a baking project? Perhaps something like a thick, layered carrot cake swirled with cream cheese frosting and candied carrot coins? Or do you feel like the reading itself was enough work and want a bit of a break now? Maybe an almost-one-bowl carrot bundt cake with icing that can be poured (not even the work of spreading!) and a dusting of chopped pecans? Don’t overtax yourself, now.