Tricks to bake a professional looking layer cake.
This is my way, I know there are other ways and everyone has their own tricks. These are mine. This is how I have learned to do it after many years of research! Make sure you have plenty of room in your refrigerator AND freezer before you start! Oh and give yourself a couple days to prepare this. I like 3 days.
Prepare two-2" round pans of your choice with shortening, flour, and parchment paper as shown below. Use your favorite recipe and bake at 325 degrees instead of 350. You may have to increase the cooking time.
I fill my cakes pretty high, trim them, and save the scraps for Cake Pops. I also TAP or PAT the pans on the counter a few times before baking to release any air bubbles, as shown in Step 4 above.
Shown below, I use a large serrated knife (bread knife) to level, resting the knife on the side of the pan, as a guide. Don't worry if it's a little uneven, you're going to fill it anyway. You also need to release the cake from the sides of the pan. Make sure the knife stays along the pan or else you will cut into the side of the cake.
While the cake is still in the pan, cover it with a paper towel, then your rack. Then invert the cake to finish cooling so you can prepare your pans for the next step. While we don't necessarily need the paper towels for this particular cake it has become a habit. The purpose is so you don't get rack marks on your cake. Peel back the parchment as shown below. Wash and dry your cake pans.
After they have cooled, and are still on the racks, cover them with long pieces of saran wrap, then the pan. Now you can invert the cake back into the pan and wrap it with the saran wrap. See below. If you are just freezing over night, the saran wrap is enough, but if you are freezing for any lengthier amount of time you should also cover the WHOLE pan in foil as well. I always freeze my cakes if I have time. It somehow makes them more dense and moist.
Prepare your cake board by applying some icing so that the cake will not slide around. Position the cake board on top of the cake. Once you invert it the flat, crust side will be on the bottom and the cut, cake side will be facing up. Using a #24 tip, pipe a damn around the circumference, as shown in step 4, below.
As shown below fill the area with your choice of filling. I like to use pudding. Then....very carefully, lift the other cake and set on top of your filled layer. Make sure the flat, crust part is facing upwards. Imagine your making a sandwich with two end pieces of bread! Now fix any damage, with icing as your glue. Then using a pastry brush, use syrup to moisten the top and sides of the cake. You can use simple syrup, or those flavored coffee syrups.
Be creative ;-)
Apply a crumb coat, using very thin icing over the entire cake. Then refrigerate until the icing has hardened. I usually leave in overnight to seal in the moisture.
Load your icing into a LARGE piping bag (18") with the large tip contraption shown below. Use this to frost your cake. Teeth will face the cake. The other side of the tip is straight edged. The neater you complete this step, the easier it will be later. It helps if you have a rotating cake stand. I was using new icing that I had never used before, and it was so stiff, I didn't have the strength in one hand to complete the task, hence the sloppiness.
While your cake is still on the stand use the metal pastry spatula tool shown below to smooth the icing. You can spend some time perfecting this! *I use those little rubber cabinet liners to keep my cake from sliding off the stand. I also use them in the cake box, and the car! Then refrigerate again for at least a couple of hours.
Using a VIVA paper towel (Yes it needs to be VIVA), and that little fondant smoothing tool, smooth that cake some more. Again, I have spent a good amount of time on this before. Of course, here I only spent about 10 minutes. I was donating it, so I wasn't too concerned about perfection!
Now is the fun part. Close your eyes. Channel your Play-Doh loving inner child self, and have at it. Fondant is just like Play-Doh. I have been using Duff's fondant from Michael's. I add a little fingertip of glycerin to it to prevent it from cracking or getting elephant skin syndrome. You just color it, knead it, and roll it as thin as you can. Make sure your work surface is clean and dusted with cornstarch. Then use your cutters or template to create your work of art.
I didn't do it here, but lastly I would apply a simple border on the bottom.
This cake was made in two 12x2 inch rounds. It will feed approximately 30 people. Due to it's height, it is not a good idea to serve it in wedges. Cut as directed below, there are guides for each size.
I hope you find this useful. There are so many useful tutorials for cake decorating techniques on You Tube.
Do you have any cake decorating tips or tricks you can share with us?