For years, however, the task of making a two-layer cake intimidated me. It never seemed like I could get the layers to bake evenly, and my cakes were always lopsided.
One summer when I was in high school, we were visiting my grandparents in Pennsylvania. Various family members were coming to dinner for my grandfather's birthday. I offered to make the birthday cake, and my grandmother supplied me with a cake mix.
We had been living in Spain, and the only cakes I had ever made were from scratch. By comparison, the cake mix seemed so easy. My cake layers (of course) were horribly uneven, but I decided it was nothing that a lot of icing couldn't fix! Using the only chocolate frosting recipe I knew, I made up a batch of frosting and smeared it between and on top of the two layers until the top appeared flat and smooth.
Later that day, to my horror, I realized that one layer had slid nearly off the other, and the whole cake was breaking into pieces. The heavy frosting had just been too much for the light and airy cake texture that the cake mix had produced.
I was mortified and begged my grandmother to let me make another cake before dinner. She saw no sense in wasting what would still be a delicious dessert, and scooped it into a 9 x13 inch pan. She told me we would serve it from the kitchen, and "no one would ever know."
My grandfather had a sense of humor. He had caught on that something was not quite right with his cake. When we started bringing plates of cake to the table he said, "But, where's my birthday cake? I want to see
my cake and blow out my candles." He kept insisting, until my grandmother stuffed a few candles in the pan of cake and (trying hard not to laugh) brought it over to him.
We all ended up laughing about it - and trading stories of our cooking mishaps. I learned that cooks don't always have to be perfect - and that maybe an over-abundance of icing is not always the best solution to improving the appearance of a cake!
|In this picture, it's a toss-up as to whether my dad or my grandpa looks more woebegone over the state of this cake!|
Lots of practice has helped. Now, I am usually able to bake a layer cake that is at least passably presentable, and sometimes even quite impressive. I know now that it is really important to divide the batter evenly between the pans when baking a cake of two or more layers.
Even cake layersIt is possible to roughly estimate equal quantities, but it is even better to measure exactly. I have made some big messes in the past, scooping the batter first into a big measuring bowl to measure the total volume, dividing that amount by the number of layers I am baking, and then measuring out equal quantities for each pan. This works - but takes time and produces more dishes to wash!
Last week I was baking a chocolate double-layer cake. I was getting out the measuring cup when I suddenly realized there was a much easier way to make even layers! I used my kitchen scale, and it worked like a charm!
By the way, if you don't have a kitchen scale, I highly recommend getting one. I bought my little cuisinart model about 4 or 5 years ago, and I have used it more than I ever thought I would! This is the one I have:
Here's the trick to effortlessly dividing cake batter evenly:
1. Roughly divide the batter between the (prepared) pans that you are using.
2. Weigh each pan and use a spoon to scoop batter from the heavier ones into the lighter ones, until all weigh the same.
So easy! Why had I never thought of this before?
What is your favorite tip for baking cakes?
Did you already know this trick for making even layers?
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