So, if you follow me on Facebook, chances are that you have seen pictures of my cakes. Yes, I LOVE baking...and cakes are my specialty.
I have made quite a few cakes since this hobby of mine started a few years back, but for some reason I didn't take pictures of the first few that I ever made.
The first time I ever worked with fondant was on my sister Brianna's 16th birthday cake.
Here's a picture of that one.
Then, my cousin Jennifer turned 16 about a month later.
Here is her cake.
About 3 weeks ago I was approached by an acquaintance on Facebook. She had seen my previous cakes and wanted me to make her cake too!
So, today I baked my first commissioned cake.
A simple but elegant wedding cake for my friend and soon to be Army wife, Chelsea.
So those are my cakes! Of course, I am still learning and perfecting my techniques...but I had quite a few people ask me questions on Facebook, and I thought I would share a few of the things I have learned. :) Seasoned bakers will probably know everything I am about to tell you already, but I hope some of you beginners will find my tips useful.
1. Cakes falling apart.
Sometimes white cake or vanilla cake recipes will differ slightly from chocolate or devils food cake. White or vanilla cake recipes tend to call for slightly more vegetable oil/margarine, which makes the cake more moist. ALSO, Vanilla or white cake sometimes calls for egg whites but no yolks. A moister cake with the yolks omitted will sometimes make the cake VERY moist and delicate. Many times the cake may even break apart, even after cooling for the recommended period of time. You can alter the recipe to make the cake more dense and sturdy without affecting the flavor too much. If your white or vanilla cake is falling apart on you, add the egg yolks back in to the mix and reduce your oil/margarine by about 1/3.
Never set the oven timer for the recommended amount of time on the cake recipe. Check the cake several minutes before the actual time is up. It may cook faster, or take longer depending on how your individual oven heats. To test your cake if it's done, use a toothpick and insert it to the center of the cake. If the toothpick is dry and clean when you pull it out, the cake is done. If you pull the toothpick out and it has batter on it...the cake needs to bake some more.
ALWAYS let your cake cool 10-15 minutes before attempting to pull it out of the pan.
2. Cakes sticking.
As beginners, we have all had that one instance where the cake stuck to the pan and had to be thrown out. Whether you are using a glass pan, a metallic pan, or a non-stick pan there are many different methods to avoid a sticking cake:
a. Butter, shortening, or non-stick spray. This is the most common way to keep your cake from sticking and generally works well. Believe it or not, this is not always enough to keep your baked goods from clinging!
b. Parchment Paper. This is a very widely used method and usually works perfectly. You do need to cut the parchment paper very closely to fit the inside of your pan. Once you flip your cake out of the pan the parchment paper should peel right off.
c. Aluminum foil: Many people swear by this method but I will warn anyone that when I tried this it seemed to cook the bottom of the cake faster. It is VERY convenient when the cake is done and you can just grab the edges of the foil and lift the cake straight out of the pan. No need for the flip-flop technique to remove your cake.
d. Flouring the pan: Another trick of the trade is flouring the bottom of the pan. You grease the pan first, then generously sprinkle the pan with flour. This will make the pan release easily when you are ready to take it out. The only down side to this method is that the cake usually has an unpleasant flour taste afterward. Which leads me to the last and final method...
e. Sugaring the pan: Some people don't know this but you can actually use powdered sugar to sprinkle the pan with instead of flour. The powdered sugar leaves a much more pleasant taste on the cake and does the same job as flour would!
3. Working with fondant:
Many baking beginners seem intimidated by fondant. While it can take a lot of effort, if you use patience and be careful you will be very happy with the results. Many people use just buttercream to ice their cakes but the truth is, it is VERY hard to make buttercream icing to look perfectly smooth. The advantage of fondant is the potential of a perfectly smooth surface. Don't like the taste of fondant? Not to worry, you are supposed to layer buttercream icing underneath the fondant to help the fondant adhere to the cake, and when it comes time to eat it, just peel the fondant off. I personally like the taste of fondant. Keep in mind that there are many different fondant recipes and not all taste the same or have the same consistency.
When it comes to fondant, the more you knead it, the better. It will most likely be very stiff at first and that is where a good bit of elbow grease comes in. Continue to knead the fondant until it is soft enough to roll out to about 1/8th of an inch thick. You don't want it too thin or else it will crack and fall apart when you put it on your cake.
When it comes to coloring your fondant, be careful not to go overboard. I usually put my fondant in a large plastic bag and add one to two drops of coloring in the bag. I then close it tightly expelling all the air, and kneading the fondant through the bag until the color has spread to most of the fondant. I then take it out and finish the kneading with my hands. It IS a bit messy but its so much fun.
Once you are ready and you have your fondant rolled out to the desired thickness, carefully place it over your cake. Slowly work the sides by rubbing the fondant up on the sides, do not pull the fondant down. Doing so can cause the fondant to stretch and crack and you definitely want to avoid that. Once you have gotten the sides smoothed out, cut the excess and store in a ziplock bag to avoid the extra from hardening.
Fondant will take MANY tries to perfect, but once you get the methods down it is very rewarding. Once you have laid your fondant, decorate the cake to your liking. Experiment with edible and non edible decorations. If you look at my cakes, I have used fondant details to completely decorate a cake, and stickers and foam letters and satin ribbon to decorate others.
The most important thing to do is to have fun with it!