Making the Perfect Layer Cake
Making the Perfect Layer CakeMany people think that baking a cake is as easy as buying a box of mix and then adding water and a couple of eggs. True, this will produce a cake, but it will be far from perfect. It’s best to start from scratch. Choosing the proper fresh ingredients and maintaining good technique is key.
Always start by preheating your oven. A preheated oven is key to even baking. If you throw a pan in an oven that's still heating up, you will end up with a cake that is burned on the top and still batter on the bottom.
Then choose the ingredients. It's a good idea to set out all the ingredients in the beginning so that you don't end up with a half-mixed batter only to realize you are out of eggs. The kind of layer cake you’re making requires different recipes. Choose cake flour to increase the lightness of a cake or a whole wheat flour to increase the density of a cake. The kind of sugar you use can also make or break a cake. White sugar will make for a very light and airy cake, but for a cake with depth of flavor and texture, choose brown sugar. Chocolate cakes are especially good when made with brown sugar You'll also need flour eggs and baking powder. And you'll need butter and some good-sized pans to bake the cake in.
Once you have decided on a recipe and set out the ingredients, start with the butter. Cream the butter until it's a light yellow. The butter will need to be room temperature so that you can easily cream it. For best results, use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Once you’ve finished, slowly add the sugar. Mix the butter and sugar together until they are blended evenly. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and mix well.
When you mix the batter, pause the mixer to scrape down the sides with a spatula a couple of times during the process. This will help you get everything in without making a mess as well as ensure that the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
While the mixer is mixing the sugar and wet ingredients, you can start sifting the flour and other dry ingredients together into a separate bowl. Once you have combined the dry ingredients, set the mixer to low and slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time. Make sure each addition is completely mixed in before adding the next batch.
Now that the batter is mixed, grease two round cake pans. Pour the batter into the pans; be sure to evenly divide the batter between the two pans. Place them into the oven and position
them as close to the middle of the oven as possible; this will allow for even baking. Set the timer based on the recipe. While you wait, take the time to prepare the frosting.
When the timer goes off, you should test the cakes with a skewer or cake tester to make sure you have baked the cake long enough to take it out of the oven. If the skewer comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs attached, take the cakes out. If not, set the timer for two more minutes and check again. Bake in two-minute increments, watching closely until the cakes are ready. Take them out and cool them. While cooling, leave them in the pans.
When the cakes are cool, prepare them for frosting. Slide a knife around the edge between the cake and the pan. Invert each cake on a cooling rack. Then take a long serrated knife and carefully slice through the cake from one side to the other. This will create two layers out of one cake. Wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap. Place the layers in the freezer for at least half an hour. This will make them much easier to work with.
For the crumb coat, start by taking the layers out of the freezer. Unwrap the layers one at a time as you need them. Place the first layer on a cake board. Frost the cake all over with a light coat. It’s called the crumb coat because for this, it doesn't matter if you get crumbs on the frosting or if the cake shows through. Think of this as the primer. Continue until all the layers are frosted and in place. Put the whole cake in the refrigerator for another half hour. This will make the last coat look nicer as well as make it easier to work with.
Remove the cake from the refrigerator. Drop a large amount of frosting on the top of the cake. This will be the final coat. Using a metal spatula, spread the frosting over the top. Then take some frosting with your spatula and, holding the spatula against the side at a 45-degree angle, spread the icing around the cake. You can put the cake board on a lazy Susan to help you turn it.
You should end up with frosting sticking up above the top layer. Use the spatula to smooth the frosting over the top of the cake. Dip the spatula in warm water and smooth out the top of the cake.
Decorating Embellishments are very fun and enticing! Add flowers, sprinkles, chocolate shavings, fruit — whatever you think will be delicious and beautiful. Place the cake on a platter or cake plate and invite friends over to celebrate your first perfect layer cake. Finally, dig in and be sure to enjoy the savory taste that you could never get from out of a box!