We are totally excited to have the very talented Courtney Rich, from Cake by Courtney, as a guest blogger today! We think you’ll be just as pumped to get baking as we are… thanks Courtney!
Hi! I’m Courtney from Cake by Courtney. I’m a self-taught baker, obsessed with cake. Several years ago I ditched box mixes in pursuit of melt-in-your-mouth, to-die-for flavor combinations, fillings and textures. I believe cake must be decadent, life-changing and worthy of celebration! And I believe anyone should be able to make that kind of cake. That’s why, when the girls of Salt Sky Utah asked me to do a guest post about the basics of cake making, I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve had my fair share of cake fails, including my own birthday cake a couple of years ago (what a debacle that was!). But, with each cake, whether a success or fail, I learn something new and go on to make better tasting, better looking cakes. So today, I hope to take out a bit of the trial and error for you and make the art of baking cakes a little easier.
I have a lot of great things to share with you, but the first piece and most important words of advice I can offer is to start simple and get to know the basics. The last thing you want to do is pick an overly complicated cake for your first try and get discouraged if it doesn’t turn out exactly how you saw it on Pinterest. So, start simple and get yourself familiar with ingredients, baking tools, and techniques. Once you have the basics down, you’ll feel far more confident in tackling more challenging cakes down the road.
Ok, now on to cake prep and assembly! Here’s my list of tips, along with a couple videos and pictures, that I think will be most helpful to you as you start baking cakes.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW COURTNEY’S CAKE PREP VIDEO!
-If you suspect that your oven gets too hot (cooks quickly) or not hot enough (takes a lot longer than the recommended bake time), test the temperature with a thermometer once your oven reaches the recommended baking temperature. If it’s not accurate, simply adjust your oven temperature up a little or down a little to get it to the right point.
-You can use any pans of your liking, as long as they’re at least two inches high. One-inch pans are too low and you’re likely to get cake batter pouring over the sides as it cooks.
-Always butter or spray your pans with nonstick spray, then place a parchment round on the bottom of the pan, and spray again. If you want to go the extra mile, give the pan a light dusting of flour.
-When trying a recipe for the first time, follow it exactly. Have your ingredients on-hand so you don’t have to make substitutions (it won’t be the same cake the recipe intended it to be with substitutions). Once you’ve made a recipe once and know what it’s supposed to taste like, then you can test out new substitutions and compare to the original recipe.
-When measuring your dry ingredients, use a spoon to scoop the dry ingredient into the measuring cup and then scrape off the excess with a knife. This method gives you the most accurate amount of the ingredient. You can always use a kitchen scale for measuring too.
-Use a kitchen scale to weigh the pans as you fill them with batter so your cake layers come out as even as possible.
-Don’t open your oven to check on your cakes before 20 minutes.
-To check if your cake is done, you can either gently tap the top of it or insert a toothpick into the center. If the cake still jiggles when you tap it, it’s not done. If the toothpick comes out with thin batter or gooey batter on it, it’s not done.
-Let your cakes cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes. They’ll still do a little cooking during this time so make sure you don’t leave them in the oven too long. It’s ok for the toothpick to come out with some crumbs on it. If it comes out completely dry, you’ve likely over-baked the cake.
-Invert your cake layers onto a wire rack to cool completely and then wrap in plastic wrap and chill until ready to use.
When you’re ready to assemble your cake, level your cake layers. This can be done with a cake leveler (as seen in my pictures above) or you can use a ruler to mark four points around each cake layer and then connect those points with your serrated knife as you move to the center. If you use this second method, make sure you measure the same height for each cake layer.
Use masking tape or duct tape to secure your cake board on to your turntable (the cake board will slide around otherwise)
Place your first cake layer in the center of the cake board, right side up.
Using a plastic bag or pastry bag, pipe an even layer of frosting on the first cake layer. You can then use an offset spatula to level out the frosting even more, if needed. To get the best view, get eye level with your cake.
When you’re ready for the final cake layer, place it bottom-side up to get the flattest surface for frosting.
Spread a thin layer of frosting around the entire cake to lock in the crumbs.
Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes to firm up and then finish frosting and decorating.
CLICK HERE TO SEE COURTNEY’S CAKE ASSEMBLY VIDEO!
I hope this helps give you a little more confidence to throw out those boxed cake mixes and start baking truly scrumptious cakes from scratch. And if you need some recipe inspiration or have any questions, head over to CakeByCourtney.blogspot.com!