A woman never gets too old, or too experienced, to be thrilled when she sees her own handiwork emerge as a breathtakingly beautiful cake.
But delicious cakes don’t “just happen.” They come from tested recipes, accurate measuring, careful blending and fine quality ingredients.
SECRETS OF THE PERFECT CAKE
1. The use of a well-tested recipe, followed exactly. Recipes have been checked to the last detail and written in such a way that they may be easily followed.
2. The use of good quality ingredients as specified in the recipe. When making plain 2-egg, 3-egg, sponge or angel cakes, use fresh eggs. All butter or all vegetable shortening may be used in cakes unless butter is specially indicated. The use of some butter is recommended as it adds flavor and richness.
3. Proceed as directed in the recipes. This prevents confusion and hastens the preparation of the cake batter. For example, if the oven is preheated and the tins are prepared in advance, no time will be lost in getting the batter into the oven.
Before starting to make the cake, get out all utensils and ingredients required and line them up ready to use. Have flour and ingredients at warm room temperature (75F or over).
If pans are warped, unevenly darkened, or too deep for the amount of food placed in them, you will have uneven baking and browning.
4. Measure ingredients accurately. Sift the flour twice before measuring, then spoon the sifted flour back into the cup until it comes up to the 1 cup mark or other specified measurement. Smooth off the top of the flour with the edge of a knife but do not pack down.
When shortening is measured by tablespoons, be sure it is soft. Pack it into the spoon or use water displacement method, then level off with the edge of a knife. Water displacement method: For 3/4 cup of shortening, fill a measuring cup with 1/4 cup cold water. Add shortening in pieces, pressing them under the water until the water level reaches the 1-cup mark. Pour off the water and use the 3/4 cup of shortening. This method may be used to measure any fraction of a cup.
Use standard measuring spoons for baking powder, salt, soda and spices and level off for accurate measurements. To measure baking powder, fill spoon, then level with knife. Use same method for baking soda, sugar, salt and spices.
5. When mixing cake, cream shortening and sugar thoroughly and beat well after the egg yolks or whole eggs are added. After dry ingredients are added use light folding motion (see directions on next page). Beating will make the cake tough and uneven in texture.
PREPARATION OF CAKE TINS
Unless otherwise specified, grease and lightly flour the cake tins.
Use unsalted shortening or salad oil for greasing. Sift one to two teaspoons flour over bottom of cake tin. Shake around in the tin until bottom and sides are thoroughly coated. Shake out excess flour.
For rich fruit cakes which require long slow baking, always line the cake tins with two to four thicknesses of waxed paper or two layers of brown paper, greased. Grease tins with unsalted shortening first, then line the tins, using four thicknesses of paper for fruit cakes requiring over 2 hours for baking. Then grease again.
For cakes, sift flour onto piece of waxed paper, through double sifter, or sift through single sifter twice before measuring. This makes the flour light and a finer texture, which qualities produce better-textured cakes.
To fold in, lightly lift batter with spoon from bottom of bowl up over dry ingredients or beaten eggs, then cut down through center with spoon. Continue this motion steadily just until ingredients have been blended, turning bowl one-quarter of a turn after each folding operation.
Be sure to have the oven preheated before putting in cakes. Always bake cakes in the middle of the oven on center rack. When two pans are in the oven at once, as for layer cakes, be sure they are separated. It is a good idea to put them in diagonally — that is, in opposite corners of the oven.
HOW TO TELL WHEN CAKE IS BAKED
When baked, the cake is slightly shrunken from the sides of the pan. If the correct oven temperature is maintained, leave cake in oven for the minimum time given in recipe. Do not open oven door during the baking, as this may lower the oven temperature.
Test at the end of the minimum time by touching top of cake lightly with finger. If the impression of finger is left, keep cake in oven until maximum time is up, then test again. If cake is baked in deeper pan than that suggested in recipe, give it a little longer baking.
Check during the last few minutes of baking by thrusting a thin straw or cake tester into center. When it comes out clean the cake is done.
TO FROST CAKES
Be sure cake is cool before frosting it.
For one-layer cakes, set cake on waxed paper or plate. Brush off loose crumbs. Spread sides with frosting using broad spatula. Then pile the remaining frosting on top and spread it over the surface lightly, making swirls or peaks. Never spread a fluffy frosting smoothly.
For two-layer cakes, place one layer rounded side down on cake plate. Spread with filling or frosting. If filling is not firm, let it stand for a few minutes or until it will stay in place. Then put on second layer with flat side down. Brush off loose crumbs. Cover sides of cake with frosting then pile frosting on top spreading in swirls.
If chopped nuts, coconut or other garnishes are to go on frosting, put them on while frosting is still soft.