20 Tips and Tricks for Cakes

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Cake decorating is fun, but it has many challenges.  As a self-taught cake decorator, I have many stories to tell.  Many times it seems like the buttercream just won’t come together or there is condensation on my fondant or the cake baked with a domed top.  Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to share a collection of tips and tricks for cakes (20 to be exact) that I have learned over the years from my experience baking and decorating cakes, from books I have read (I have read many) as well as from the pros.  With these tips and tricks for cakes no one will ever know you encountered any issues at all.

 I believe that knowing how to fix cake issues that arises is just as important as creating beautiful cakes.

Being able to know how to fix any cake issues that arises makes you become a better baker, cake decorator and builds patience.  It is different when you are baking for fun versus when someone is depending on you to create beautiful cake art.  All our clients or family and friends see is the result.  However, behind the scenes, the baker and decorator needs to know how to handle cake issues and be adaptable.  If something does not work the first time never give up just keep trying.

What do you do when you don’t have an ingredient on hand? What do you do if your Italian Meringue buttercream is cold and curdled and you need it like yesterday? How do you fix a broken buttercream? Or your favorite recipe uses cake flour and you don’t have any and it is 5 am?  These are just a few questions I hope to answer.   I hope that these tips and tricks for cakes will help you along the way.

Tips and Tricks for Cakes:

Here’s a list of substitutions using common ingredients from your kitchen

Cake Tip #1

Cake Flour: If your recipe calls for cake flour, you can use a combination of ¾-cup all-purpose flour, and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Another substitute is to use 1 of cup all-purpose flour and remove 2 tablespoons of the all-purpose flour, then add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.tips and tricks for cake flour

Cake Tip #2

All-Purpose Flour: When the recipe calls for all-purpose flour but you only have cake flour. Substitute cake flour for all-purpose flour by using 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of cake flour.tips and tricks for cake all purpose flour

Cake Tip #3

Dutch Processed Cocoa: Substitute with 3 Tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1/8 teaspoon baking soda.tips and tricks for cake dutch processed cocoa

Cake Tip #4

Buttermilk: Use milk with lemon or vinegar.  Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to a 1-cup measuring cup, then add whole milk and let it sit for 2 minutes. Or use 1 cup sour cream.tips and tricks for cake buttermilk

Cake Tip #5

Sour Cream: Use 1 cup plain yogurt or 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt.

Cake Tip #6

Dairy Free Milk: Use almond milk, soy milk or coconut milk

Cake Tip #7

Dairy Free Heavy Cream: Use coconut cream, place in the refrigerator before whipping up. I like Trader Joe’s coconut cream.  It whips just as beautiful as heavy cream.  Works perfect for dairy free ganache.tips and tricks for cake trader joes coconut cream

Cake Tip #8

Dairy Free Yogurt: Use soy, coconut or almond yogurt.

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Cake Tip #9

Eggs: Eggs play an important role in cakes and cookies etc.  Eggs provide structure and stability within a batter; they also add moisture to cakes, richness, flavor, and color to baked goods.

1 egg is roughly 1/4 cup, therefore; your egg substitute needs to equal the amount of egg you are leaving out. tips and tricks for cakecake tips egg substitute

For Cakes, Brownies and Cupcakes use ½ a medium Banana (or ¼ cup), mashed or ¼ cup (4 tablespoons), Apple sauce or 1 tablespoon ground Flax Seed plus 3 tablespoon water.  Please note: Flax seed has an acquired taste; it is best if used in dense cakes such as a carrot cake.
Craftsy Cake Decorating Class

Cake Tips #10 & 11

Room temperature Eggs/Butter:

Your recipe calls for room temperature eggs and butter? Here’s how to achieve that perfect balance.

  1. To bring cold eggs to room temperature, place the whole eggs into a bowl of lukewarm water for 20 to 25 minutes.tips and tricks for cake eggs in water
  2. To bring butter to room temperature, place the butter in the microwave and heat in 10-second intervals and rotate the butter each time, I find that going over 20 seconds can cause the butter to melt. Another option is to cut the butter into small cubes and leave it on a plate for about 15 minutes.tips and tricks for cake slice butter

Cake Tip #12 : My Cake did not bake all the way to the top

Cakes does not always bake to the top for many reasons including problems with the rising agent.  However, if everything else is great try adding a cake collar to your baking pan.  See my step by step guide about adding a cake collar to your baking pan.

Cake Tip #13 : Cakes have a hump and are not leveled

Problem: Why are does my cakes have a hump in the middle and does not bake leveled?

Solution: Use the Wilton bake even strips or use a damp paper towel or table cloth and place on the top of the cake, then use a cake board the same size of the cake pan and press down. Remove the cake board and voila, a flat top cake. cake-with-dome

Cake Tip #14 : My cakes are brown on the side and the bottom

Problem: The sides and bottom of my cake started burning before the center is cooked.

Solution: Use a heating core. Why do I need a heating core? You need a heating core when you are baking large or deep cakes; I always use one for cakes that are 10 inches or greater and cakes that are deeper than 2 inches.  If you do not have one, use a flower nail or two.  You will need to adjust the time and temperature.  I love to bake my cakes low and slow. 

Cake Tip #15 : Cake layers are not even

Problem: When I split my layers I end up with a cake that’s not leveled. I don’t remember what order or where I need to place it.

tips and tricks for cake teapot cake toothpick
If you look closely you can see the toothpicks

Solution: Use toothpicks.  This was a common mistake I made when I started cake decorating.  I would always forget the order in which the cake was removed or where the cuts lined up.  I use toothpicks all the time. They are especially helpful with carved cakes especially when you carve before you add buttercream or ganache.

Cake Tip #16 : Do I frost the cake with the crust?

Question: My cakes baked great but had a crust on the top, bottom and side should I trim the crust off the cake? Answer: YES…YES,…YES….and YES. Always remove the crust from the cake.

Cake Tip #17 : How to fix a curdled buttercream

Problem: My meringue buttercream is cold and looks curdled.  cake tips meringue buttercream curdled

Solution: Add a tablespoon of the meringue buttercream in a microwave-safe cup and microwave for 10 seconds. Then add the meringue back to the mixing bowl on high and watch the buttercream come back to life.tips and tricks for cake meringue buttercream comes together

Cake Tip #18 : How to color meringue buttercream?

Problem: When I color my meringue buttercream it looks speckled, how do I fix it?

Solution: Remove a small amount of the meringue (before adding butter) and place in a small bowl.  Then add the desired color to the meringue.  Once your buttercream is ready add the colored meringue.

Cake Tip #19 : I cut off too much of my carved cake?

Problem: Sometimes with carved cakes, you can get carried away with carving and cut too much.

Solution: If this happens create some Cake Spackle.  Cake Spackle is made by mixing a small amount of buttercream or ganache with some cake scrap.  The right consistency is making it firm enough, but not too sticky or too stiff.

Cake Tip #20 : How to fix ripped fondant

If you made it this far, God bless you.  Fondant rips all the time, especially if it is too thin, or the excess fondant is hanging.

Solution: mix a small piece of fondant with water and create a paste.  Then add paste to the ripped section.  It will look like new.

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