Successful cake decorating is all about preparation. Baking and preparing your cake for decorating is a critical part of the total process. In this article, I'll share some expert tips for basic cake preparation to get your cake creation off to a fabulous start! These easy tips will ensure your cake decorating success.
Preparing a Cake Board -
Many specially themed cakes are too large to fit on a plate, so a cake board may be used. Cut a piece of stiff cardboard to the desired size. Cover with foil, or heavy coated wrapping paper.
I often use colored tissue paper, covered with colored cellophane of the type used to wrap gift baskets. This gives the desired background color, with a surface which is easy to wipe clean. It also makes a great background to enhance the presentation and photographing of your final cake masterpiece.
Preparing Cake Pans -
Use metal pans with a nonstick finish. Grease and flour pans before adding cake batter. Spread a thin layer of vegetable shortening on the bottom and sides of the pan. This works better than butter or margarine as the cake releases more easily from the pan. Sprinkle a little flour in each pan, and tilt to coat evenly. Shake out excess.
Testing for Doneness -
Follow baking instructions for time and temperature specified in the recipe. Cakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The cake should have pulled away from the sides of the pan and the top will spring back when touched lightly in the center.
Removing Cake from Pan -
Let cake cool for about 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Invert wire cooling rack over cake and flip over. Shake gently until cake releases from pan. Place a second wire rack over the bottom of the cake and flip over again so cake can cool right side up.
Preparing Cake for Frosting -
Slip each cake layer into a gallon-size freezer bag and place in the freezer for 30-45 minutes. An even easier method is to place each layer on its own plate and cover with plastic wrap before freezing. I poke a toothpick or two into the top of each layer to keep the plastic wrap from sticking to the cake's surface.
Light freezing firms up the cake just right and allows you to easily brush any crumbs from the surface prior to frosting.
Best Base Frosting Recipe -
The thin texture of the base frosting allows easier coverage without pulling bits of cake and crumbs away from the cake. This is essential particularly if you are frosting white over chocolate cake. When base coat is done, frost over with your desired finish frosting.
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Combine powdered sugar, butter, milk and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat with electric mixer until smooth. Add milk 1 tsp. at a time to desired consistency. Frosting should be fairly thin. This is a great base frosting. Use if as a first coating layer to seal in any crumbs and give a nice smooth surface to the cake.
Cutting and Trimming -
You can create many different cake designs by cutting your cake layers into various shapes. Measure and mark your cutting line with toothpicks or wooden or metal skewers. Use a sharp knife and brush cake lightly with a soft pastry brush to remove crumbs prior to frosting.
Trim the rounded tops off cake layers to form a flat surface. Use a long serrated knife to trim with a gentle sawing motion. You may also wish to trim the edges of rectangular cakes to give a more professional look.
Frosting Tools -
Use various sizes of flexible metal spatulas for frosting. Large ones are used to smooth wide flat areas while a narrow tipped spatula is great for getting into small areas.
Toothpicks or wooden or metal skewers can be used to mark cutting lines on your cake.
A pastry bag with several tips is necessary to pipe on decorations. I have a reusable pastry bag that is easy to rinse clean. In a pinch, you can even use a plastic sandwich bag with a tiny hole snipped from one corner.
Now that you have all these important basics in place, you and your cake are primed and ready for frosting
Next step: Check out our Kid Birthday Cake Idea Collection - Cake Decorating Without Fear!
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Patricia B. Jensen is a mother of three and kids party enthusiast. She is the webmaster and owner of Kids-Party-Paradise.com - a complete resource for kids party ideas including invitations, cakes, decorations, games, costumes, favors, and food.
For all the latest party news, read her Kids Party Blog .