Sometimes, it seems as if all the elements conspire against you to make your cake look like a sloppy, off-kilter mess. And that's more than frustrating, considering what a time-consuming process it is.
But mother/daughter baking team (and owners of the Riviera Bakehouse) Kaye and Liv Hansen (www.whimsicalbakehouse.com) stopped by The Early Show on Monday, March 30, 2009 to tell viewers that's nonsense: It's easy to bake a beautiful, professional-looking cake with just a box mix, a little ingenuity, and the right tools.
They've written a book called "Little Cakes from the Whimsical Bakehouse: Cupcakes, Small Cakes, Muffins, and Other Mini Treats," that gives you all the tricks of the trade to make your cake look as if you picked it up from a professional baker, even when it comes from a mix you got in a box!
Kaye (mother) and Liv (daughter) demonstrated some basic techniques on the show, and had with them some beautiful cakes anyone can create by following their simple tips:
First of all, the boxed mix: A lot of boxed mix cakes taste a little dry, because they call for oil. You can try to replace the oil called for in the recipe with margarine or a butter substitute such as I Can't Believe It's Not or Country Crock. That will make the boxed mix more moist in consistency. When you pour the finished batter into your cake pans or bowls for a spherical cake, make sure you tap and shake the bowl to dislodge any air bubbles. That helps to even out the moistness and texture of the cake, and of course allows for even baking.
If you want to make a cake with an unusual shape, you don't have to buy a specially-made cake pan. You can use a Pyrex, glass or stainless steel bowl to bake in. Just MAKE SURE the bowl isn't too deep. When you try to un-mold the cake, you DON'T want it to have a long way to drop, or it will shatter. Make sure you grease and flour the bowl as you would a cake pan.
When the cake comes out of the oven, the first and foremost tip before icing is to let the cake COOL COMPLETELY. If you ice it too soon, it will melt the consistency of the icing and cause extremely uneven texturing. When the cake has completely cooled, cover the bottom layer with a thin layer of icing first. Then place the top layer on the bottom layer, and continue with the thin layer all over the cake. Then place the cake in the refrigerator. This is called CRUMB DECORATING. Allowing the thin preliminary icing layer to cool on the cake will stop cake from tearing and upending crumbs when you do more serious icing later. Leave the cake in the refrigerator for about an hour.
When you remove the crumb decorated cake from the refrigerator, you're ready for the more substantial decorating, and the second and thicker layer of icing without any danger of tearing up the cake. Being liberal with the icing at this phase will give you a smooth decorating surface. You're now ready to decorate the top of the cake with whatever you'd like. You don't have to use a pastry bag for icing; you can simply fill a sandwich or Ziploc bag with icing and cut off the corner. If you feel the icing is too soft, simply place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to cool.
On the set, Kaye and Liv had a cake made to look like an Easter basket, which is slightly complex for the novice decorator, but is easy once you understand basic techniques. The second was a three-tiered cake, decorated with candy dots, and candy butterflies. The third cake was a birthday cakes with faux peppermint stick candles. And the last was a cake shaped like a ladybug!
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For a gold cake recipe, click here.