Tip 1: Measure your ingredients with a kitchen scale
For good reason, nearly every expert maker and pastry cook recommends using a scale when baking.
Measuring containers (which measure by volume) can range significantly in size, resulting in varying flour quantities based on how they are measured.
- When you plunge a measuring cup into the flour and then brush across the surface (the dip and sweep technique), you get a thicker measured cup with 140 to 150 grams of flour.
- If you ladle flour into a measuring cup (the spooning technique), you’ll get between 120 and 130 grams.
- If you sift the flour by hand before spooning (the technique we suggest), you’ll get an even lighter cup of flour!
However, if you weigh the flour and other components, you’ll know exactly how much you’re putting. Yes, you can create an exceptional cake with just measuring containers, but if uniformity is important, using a scale is just one more way to eliminate guessing.
When dividing the cake mixture equally between plates, a cooking scale comes in useful. Divide the batter’s weight by the number of pans/layers you’re using to get even-height cake tiers that roast at the same pace.
Using your eyes to measure the quantity of dough in each pan can result in uneven cake heights when assembling, as well as some cake tiers over-baking or under-baking in the same oven – so use that scale!
Tip 2: Use parchment paper
To guarantee the cake slides out of the pan easily, line the bottom of your cakes with parchment paper. If you don’t want to purchase pre-cut parchment circles, you can simply create one from a rectangle sheet of paper by following these steps: Place the cake plate on the parchment paper, make a circle with a pencil around it, divide the paper into quarters, and cut the circle out.
PRO TIP Don’t toss away the parchment paper’s top layer! Use the extra paper to cover the bottom of the cake tray or stand so that the icing gets on the cake rather than the plate when you decorate it. Cut the parchment paper into two or three sections, place it under the bottom layer, and carefully remove the parchment paper once the cake has been iced.
Tip 3: Monitor the temperature at every stage
Before preparing, make sure your oven is at the proper temperature. (This should go without saying!) If your oven is regularly roasting too quickly or too sluggish, get an oven monitor and verify the temperature of the oven after it has finished preheating. If required, have an expert change the oven setting.
It’s equally essential to keep an eye on the temperature while preparing the cake mixture. Many cake recipes ask for room temperature butter and eggs. If your components are too chilly, your dough may not mix and come together evenly. Cold butter, in particular, is troublesome because it does not emulsify correctly, resulting in a thick cake.
If you neglected to take the eggs out of the fridge, immerse them in tepid water for a few minutes and chop the butter into tiny pieces to rapidly bring them up to room temperature.
And, sure, temperature is still essential after the cake has been baked. Before you begin icing, make sure the cake is fully cold. With a heated cake, the icing will begin to dissolve, resulting in a steaming mass in front of you.
Finally, if your kitchen is sweltering (or it’s summer), cool the cake tiers in the refrigerator before icing. In truth, even if your kitchen isn’t especially toasty, chilling the layers is a good idea! Because a cold cake is less delicate than a room temperature cake, it will be more lenient when icing.
Another tip about icing: if the frosting becomes too lax and liquid, simply place the entire cake in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes (or longer, if required) to stiffen up.
Tip 4: Even out those domed layers
Regardless of how good the recipe, cake tiers can warm erratically and create a cone. It is not the end of the universe if this occurs. Simply cut the cap!
I sliced off the convex portion with a long, sharpened knife (the kind used to cut slices of toasted bread) to make a smooth, even cake top. This makes icing the cake layer simpler and results in a more attractive piece when sliced and served. There will be no unevenly mounded cake pieces!
Tip 5: Don’t skip the crumb coating
It’s enticing to cover the cake with a thick coating of frosting right away, but this can result in drawing some of the fine crust off the cake as you layer on the frosting. The end result? Frosting with fragments adhered on it, not an attractive sight.
Instead, first cover the entire cake with a thin coating of icing to remove any errant pieces and “seal” the cake. Chill the cake for 15 minutes to overnight to allow the icing to harden up before layering on the final frosting. There will be no crumbs, and icing the cake will be a breeze!