First things first: be sure your oven is heated to the correct temperature. If the oven is too cold, the cake won’t rise. If it’s too hot, the cake may overbake. Preheat your oven 10-15 minutes before you use it so it can heat to the correct baking temperature. With cakes, accuracy is key. Measure ingredients precisely and add them in the order listed in the recipe. If ingredients are over or under-measured, or the order of ingredients and beating times are not followed, the cake may not rise or bake properly.
Picking Cake Tins
Use the tin size called for in the recipe. If the size is not printed on the bottom of the tin, measure the length and width from inside edge to inside edge. Too small of a tin may allow batter to overflow. Too large of a pan may result in a flat cake. For tender, light cakes, use shiny tins, which reflect heat. Dark tins or tins with nonstick coating absorb heat faster than shiny tins and can cause cakes to brown too quickly. Fill cake tins half full with batter. This is important for a novelty or shaped tin (such as a heart or star shape), which can be an odd size.
Mixing the Batter
Portable or standard electric mixers both work well for beating cake batter. Standard mixers are the more powerful of the two, so when using one, reduce the speed to low during the first step of beating to prevent splattering. You can also mix cake batter by hand. Stir the ingredients to moisten and blend, then beat 150 strokes for every minute of beating time. Use butter for best results. If you choose to substitute margarine, use those with at least 65% fat. Do not use reduced-fat butter or whipped products.
- Once your cake is baked, follow instructions for cooling and tin removal. If no instruction is provided, a standard rule of thumb is to cool your cake in its tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes. If a cake is left in its tin too long and sticks, you can try reheating it in the oven for 1 minute.
Cake Decorating Bags
There are several kinds of cake decorating bags available. Some are reusable and plastic coated; others are disposable and made of parchment paper. The plastic-coated bags can be used with or without a nozzle. The nozzle allows you to change decorating tips while still using the same bag of icing. Lightly outline the areas on the cake to be decorated with a toothpick, or write a message with the toothpick to make sure the spacing is adequate for the size of the cake. These toothpick tracings also provide a guide for piping the cake frosting. If your first try doesn’t work, smooth the frosting with a knife and try again.
Simple Ways to Decorate a Cake
Turn a plain iced cake into a masterpiece with one of these easy toppers. Remember to add these easy extras just before serving to keep them from getting soft.
- Fresh fruit such as berries or slices of kiwi to add a pop of colour.
- Biscuits and cookies add interest without much work.
- Sprinkles or decors, available in a wide variety at your supermarket specialty food store or cake-decorating supply stores.
- Edible flowers, sugared violets or rose petals grown without pesticides so they can be eaten.
- Nuts such as pecans, cashews, or walnut halves.
- Shredded, toasted, or flaked coconut.