The Icing on the Cake
Everyone loves to make great impressions on their guests while entertaining. We strive to make the best meals with perfect presentation, set a beautiful table that states class, and we welcome them into a perfectly polished home. That perfection can’t stop at desert. A perfectly frosted homemade cake will surely impress your guests and make the perfect finishing touch on a great dinner party. Making a perfect looking cake can be difficult unless you know the proper steps, tools and timing. With a few simple steps, you too can make a great tasting and beautiful cake.
A great cake always starts with great planning. Plan your cake ahead of time so you have all the proper ingredients, tools, and colors. Plan out your designs layers and shape. Thinking about your design ahead of time will eliminate extra stress at the end and will give you time to practice. Know how long it will take and give yourself ample time to finish. Not only do you have baking time and frosting time but also cooling and refrigeration time. Make the cake as early as the day before so it can be refrigerated overnight suggests Sam Lynch, a cake artist in Bakersfield, CA. Gather all the tools you will need; including a cake plate, a cake decorating spatula, frosting bags and decorating tips. These tools will help make perfect decoration for a great presentation. Also get extra ingredients just in case there is a problem during the baking process.
Bake the cake early as it need to be completely cooled before any frosting or filling can be applied. After the cake is baked it has to be cut level so it can stack evenly. This requires removing cutting away part of the top of the cake after it has been removed from the baking pan. The levelness of your cake will improve the look of the cake dramatically taking it from an amateur cake to professional. Allow the cake to cool completely in the refrigerator before adding any filling, this will keep the filling from melting. Stack each layer with about a half inch of your chosen filling in the center allowing it to reach the edges of the cake or beyond states Lynch. The extra filling coming out the sides will add to the crumb coat.
A crumb coat is essential to professional quality cake decorating. This coat of frosting will act like a glue to the cake, keeping all the crumbs from mixing in with the decorative frosting layer. Apply the crumb coat to a cool cake taking care to not introduce crumbs in to the clean frosting. The crumb coat should be thin yet covering the entire cake. After the crumb coat is applied it will look messy but will cover up easily. The crumb coated cake will then need to be returned to the refrigerator to set.
Frosting's can be difficult to choose and can vary depending on flavor of cake. A cream cheese frosting goes great with carrot cake for instance but does not mix as well with chocolate. Buttercream is a great universal frosting and is easy to use. Frosting's will spread easier if they are room temperature and soft. Thick frosting's can pull at the cake damaging the crumb coat or the level of the cake. Pre-made frosting's can be great time savers and generally have a nice taste.
Once the crumb coat is set and cold another layer of frosting can be added. This layer will be thicker, about a half inch to coordinate with the filling layer. This layer should be free of crumbs and clean. Keep your spatula level and spread evenly to make a smooth finish. If there are still some rough points in your frosting a little water on your spatula can help smooth it out.
Using decorative tips can make the cake look great. Using another color of icing pipe on simple decorations to finish off the cake.
Keep the finished cake in the refrigerator until about 1 hour before the party starts, suggests Lynch, then it can sit in room temperature until it can then be served.
Making a great cake is impressive, sure to be a hit at your next dinner party. Be prepared and plan ahead giving yourself plenty of time to follow all the steps.
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