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Lori Horton
Lori Horton is the owner of Celebrations by Lori in Pittsburg, Ks. With over 15 years experience in the bakery business, Lori opened Celebrations in 2000. She is always out front with the most unique ideas in cake and cookie decorating for all occasions. Celebrations is also on top of the industries' latest trends and products with the area's largest selection of baking and cake decorating supplies. Open Monday - Saturday, Celebrations can be reached at 620-231-5700 or at www.celebrationsbylori.com
Candy, Chocolate & Sweets
1969-12-31 18:00:00
Baking a great cake
Answer: Like most things, there are lots of factors to getting a beautifully decorated cake. If you don’t get a perfectly baked cake, there’s not a lot you can do to turn it into a perfectly decorated cake. So, where to start? The oven must be leveled. There are feet on the bottom that can be screwed in or out to raise or lower each corner. You’ll also need to check the temperature. Whether your oven is new or old, the temperature can be off by as much as 50 degrees. Investing in a simple oven thermometer will save you a lot of headaches. It should have a small hanger on the top that will hook onto your oven rack as close to the center of the oven as possible. Now you’ll know if you need to adjust the setting to reflect the actual temperature. These things may seem simple, but they can have a big impact on your baking and cooking. Next, having the right cake pan is key. It should be a heavy, bright aluminum pan with perfectly straight sides. How can you tell if the sides are straight? If two pans that are the same size stack into each other, they can’t be straight sided. Professional cake pans are not cheap, but they are worth every penny if you want to bake a beautiful cake. To extend the life of your pans, they should be hand washed. This is a good rule for most cake decorating supplies, even if they are labeled dishwasher safe. It is very hard on the finishes. Good brands like Magic Line are available at any cake decorating shop and if taken care of, will last you forever! Be sure to coat the pans with baking spray or a good old fashioned layer of shortening and flour. Now that the oven is set and the pans are prepared, you need to think about cake batter. There are two schools of thought on this one: scratch versus boxed cake mix. There is no right answer, whatever your family likes, that’s what you should use! However, regardless of what sized cake pan you are using, it should be filled 1/2 to 2/3 full of batter. This should give you a nice full cake, ready to level and layer. When making a double layer cake, it is much easier to have two pans of each size to save time and keep you from having to stop and wash a pan during baking. Be sure the oven is preheated and bake the cakes according to the mix or recipe directions. Check doneness with a toothpick in the center of each cake. It should come out clean in a couple of spots. Let the cake cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes so you can comfortable touch the pan. If the cake has risen above the pan a little bit with a slight “crown” top, this will need to be cut off to make a nice flat layer. Once you have two leveled layers, it’s time to stack them together. On a wrapped cake board, place the cut side of the first layer down and add an even coating of icing on top. Place the second layer, also cut side down, on top of the icing. It’s important to note here to not try to make too thick a layer of filling. If you over fill your cake, it will bulge out and make a messy side to your cake. Give the top cake a gentle push to settle the cake and you are ready to decorate. Getting a nicely iced cake is all about the frosting. Rule #1: always make your frosting from scratch. While canned icings may be tasty, they are generally too soft for decorating beyond topping a sheet cake in the pan. You want a recipe that will give you a suitable texture for decorating and will be pure white so you can add colors if you want. To get a pure white frosting, you will need a shortening based butter cream. I know what you’re thinking, but we’re not making health food here. I am attaching a super easy, very inexpensive butter cream recipe at the end of this article. If you’ve been too intimidated to try making frosting before, give this one a shot. I think you’ll be surprised. With a creamy, medium consistency frosting and a little practice, you will be able to ice up your cake and make it look very professional. The decorating doesn’t have to be extra fancy, you can use different shapes and colors of candy to create designs or to just add your favorite flavors to the cake. Some favorites of mine include crushed cookies, chopped candy bars, chocolate chips and fresh fruit. It’s really all about presentation, so don’t forget to dress up the cake board or place your cake on a pretty platter or stand. Basic Buttercream Icing 1 cup solid (unflavored) vegetable shortening 1 lb. sifted powdered sugar 4-6 tablespoons milk or water 1 tablespoon clear flavoring (clear vanilla, almond, clear butter, cream bouquet, butter vanilla, or any combination of these) In large bowl cream shortening and flavoring. Slowly add sugar a cup at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl often. Mixture will be very dry (almost crumbly). Add milk or water a tablespoon at a time until icing is smooth and creamy. Buttercream icing will come out different depending on the weather and humidity so don’t be afraid to leave out some milk or add a little extra if the texture doesn’t seem right. If the icing is soupy or shiny, it’s too soft. If you could lay bricks with it, add a little milk or water, it’s too stiff! This recipe will make approximately 3 cups of icing and can be mixed as a double batch with great results. Good luck and happy decorating!
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