I love cake. and pie. Cakes and Pies.
Ok but really I think cakes are awesome. I also think they’re super labor intensive so I get why people buy them instead of make them, but I really think more people should take up cake making.
This past weekend, I made three layer cakes.
So from my experience of making three cakes in a row, I wanted to share with you a few tips and tricks to making the perfect layers cakes, along with some of my favorite cake recipes.
1. Use the right cake pans.
I used to have these fancy cake pans from Sur La Table, and I’ll be honest… they sucked. My cakes were always uneven. First I thought my oven temperature was just weird, but then I moved and my cakes were still crooked. So I bought new cake pans. I bought the cheap Wilton ones at Michael’s (I say cheap because I never walk into that store without a 40% off coupon), and my cakes are perfectly even now. So my tip: go for aluminum cake pans!
2. Parchment paper IS your friend and always grease and flour your pans.
Wouldn’t it suck to do all that work and have them stick to the pan? Yes. It’s happened to me, and it sucks.
Ever since, I will never make a cake without parchment paper. Honestly, my least favorite part of making cakes is this step. I feel like I’m in kindergarten cutting out parchment paper circles. But it’s a must. Just do it.
3. Bake in advance and freeze.
My cakes were all for Saturday and Sunday. I started baking on Tuesday. A cake sitting out from Tuesday til Saturday would be dry and gross, but a cake wrapped in parchment paper, double wrapped in plastic wrap then frozen, is still great for the weekend. The trick is to make sure the cake is completely cooled before you freeze it. You can flash cool it on a cooling rack in the freezer, but before you wrap it up. Just make sure it has cooled completely before you wrap it up, if not you’ll get condensation that freezes into ice. Not cute.
4. A cake without a filling is no fun.
One of the cakes I made was lemon cake with a raspberries and cream filling. The others were chocolate and banana cakes with peanut butter filling. Feel free to make your fillings a day or two in advance, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
5. Leveling the cake is important
I finally broke down and bought a cake leveler. It’s a good idea to level the cakes before you freeze them. The leveler is basically a metal wire, it’s not super strong and probably won’t cut through a frozen cake. You can also just use a knife…
6. ALWAYS do a crumb coat
A fine layer of frosting before you actually frost is essential. It holds it all together and prevents you from getting a crumby cake. If your crumb coat is going on a frozen cake it’s even easier because the crumb coat gets firm faster. Once you’ve got a crumb coat, stick the cake in the freezer for a few minutes to let the coat harden before you frost. EXTRA: Put pieces of parchment paper under the cake so you don’t have to worry about a dirty plate/dish. You just pull out the pieces when you’re done frosting and you have a clean plate/cake circle!
7. Use a long knife to frost
I’m not fancy. My cakes aren’t perfect, but I think they do the job. I don’t have all those fancy spatulas you can buy to frost cakes. I use the 8″ slicer knife that came in my knife block. It’s not serrated and it’s long. Gets the job done. A small butter knife makes it hard to get smooth edges all around, so I recommend a long knife.
8. Use cake circles and boxes
To make your cakes go from homemade to slightly fancier, go to Michael’s or any cake supply store and buy cardboard cake circles and a box. I took one of the cakes to a restaurant and the waitress was surprised to find it was homemade. On that note, if you go to a birthday dinner at a restaurant, call ahead and make sure they don’t charge you to cut the cake. I had heard of corkage fees but never of cake cutting fees. Apparently it’s a thing in Hollywood. Just saying.
Remember, no matter what your cake looks like, it should taste great. So on that note, here are some of my favorite cake recipes:
- Hershey’s Chocolate Cake: This is my go to chocolate cake recipe. I follow it exactly and it never fails.
- Epicurious Banana Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting: This recipe is great! I make a few changes everytime, usually adding more liquid. Today, I made a super variation of it, blog post on that coming soon!
- Epicurious Moist Yellow Cake (I easily turn this into a lemon cake by replacing half buttermilk with lemon juice, adding some lemon zest and a pack of lemon jello instant pudding)
- Rum Layer Cake: This cake is probably one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever made. Everyone loves it. It’s just plain tasty.
As for fillings, which per #2 is essential, get creative. Here are some ideas I love:
- Mix lemon curd with cream cheese and whipped cream for a quick and delicious lemon mousse filling. Throw some fresh raspberries in the mix and it’s a perfect filling for a lemon cake.
- Chocolate Ganache is always a winner. Try adding orange zest or passionfruit puree to it to spice up your normal chocolate cake
- Whipped Cream: Sometimes you just need simplicity. Whipped cream in the middle of a fluffy cake is divine. Try it.
- Mix peanut butter, cream cheese, condensed milk and whipped cream for a delicious peanut butter mousse filling. Oh. My. Goodness. Amazing. Just try it.
Remember these tips next time a birthday, party, holiday rolls around. Making cakes doesn’t have to be crazy hard. It can be super fun!
What’s your favorite cake combination?
I’m currently a huge fan of banana cake with peanut butter filling and cream cheese frosting!