For another post about Buttermilk White Cake, please click here: Holli's Birthday: Lady John Deere Cake
Since my exclusive online agreement is up with The Dabbling Mum here is the reprint of the original "Seven Professional Secrets of Baking a Great Cake" with more photos added.
Seven Professional Secrets to Baking a Great Cake
I’m the daughter of a cake decorator so while my high school friends baby-sat for extra money, I baked. With great pride I remember that many people from our small town wouldn’t celebrate a birthday without one of my mother’s cakes on their tables. There was good reason for that. Her seven simple secrets turn a good cake into a great cake.
1. Add fruit or fruit sauce.
Long before it became popular to replace the oil in a cake mix with an equivalent amount of applesauce, we added fruit purees along with the oil to ours. The fruit adds moisture, creates depth to the flavors, and can turn the texture of eveb a boxed cake mix into the more homespun grainy texture of a scratch cake. The fruit puree should be in the same amount as the oil, usually 1/3 of a cup for a single batch mix, and reduce the liquid of the recipe by the same amount.
2. Line the bottom of the baking pan with waxed paper.
Using the bottom of the pan as a template, trace with a pencil and cut out. Lay the paper in the pan after spraying with cooking spray. The waxed paper keeps the cake layer from sticking when flipping it out of the pan and serves as a temporary base to set the cake on if making a torte or putting filling between the layers. When cool slowly peel the wax paper off.
3. Monitor for consistent oven temperature.
One of the easiest ways to bake a great cake is to make sure the oven heats to the correct temperature and stays there. To check oven temperature manually, bake a white cake at 350 degrees as most recipes direct. It should rise steadily up the sides of the pan while maintaining an almost perfectly level top. If the top crowns or domes, or if the cake browns before it’s done, the oven is probably baking at several degrees higher than what the setting says. Thermometers that hook onto the racks inside the oven can be purchased from most kitchen stores and general retailers. Check the oven temperature in an empty stove to know how to adjust the settings for future baking.
“White cake is supposed to be white, not brown,” my mother always said.
We dismissed all the normal rules for telling when a cake is done. If you wait until the sides of the cake pull away from the pan, it’s over baked. If you wait until a knife blade inserted in the center comes out completely clean, it’s over baked. If the cake looks dry and dull matte colored out of the oven, it's over baked.
We used the color test, followed by the pinch test. When the cake had lost it’s wet look, and on a white or yellow cake when it just barely had started to golden, not brown, then we would open the oven and pinch a small dab of the “skin” off the top of the center. If the pinch off the top was still gooey but you can see cake structure set up (it looks like a sponge) underneath it, it’s done. Take it out. Once it’s out of the oven, that very last 1/4th of an inch of gooey cake will go ahead and set from the heat coming up underneath it.
5. Let it set for five minutes before you do anything else.
The rule is the same as letting a roast or a turkey stand for five minutes before carving it. The juices will redistribute themselves to keep the meat juicier and easier to slice.
The same is true of cakes. Let it stand a few minutes to allow the internal structure to set before flipping it over onto any kind of serving plate. This will keep it from cracking and allow the final heat to distribute and finish baking through. At this point, the cake will pull away from the sides, making it easier to turn out of the pan.
This is a trick of professionals that is rarely used at home, but it only takes a few extra minutes and the end product is well worth the time. Using your choice of frosting, even if it’s commercially made, take about a ½ cup of it and thin it down with water until it is the consistency of a glaze, almost too thin to put on with a knife. When the cake has barely cooled, spread the crumb coat icing all over it. It only takes enough to “seal” in the moisture and crumbs but isn’t supposed to cover any of the color. Let this set for a half of an hour to dry before frosting the cake. It can also serve as a base coat and will protect the cake overnight if the frosting needs to be applied much later.
Although cakes taste best served at room temperature, they retain moistness best when kept cool and covered.
Recently, my husband and I went to a wedding and at the reception my husband took the first bite of our shared piece of cake and without swallowing it, looked at me in panic. He reached down and scraped off the icing on our piece to reveal the browned side of the cake. He swallowed his bite, folded his napkin over the cake to try to hide it, and whispered, “I don’t think this decorator knows that white cakes are supposed to be white.” Mom would be so proud to know that her simple rules have at added up to big results...at least with my family.
Buttermilk White Cake
Recipe by Glenna Anderson Muse
3 cups cake flour, sifted
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¾ cup butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
4 egg whites
1/2 cup buttermilk
½ cup applesauce
1/3 cup oil
1. In a bowl, mix together cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar until fluffy.
3. Add rest of ingredients and mix until creamed.
4. Gradually mix in flour mixture until all is combined. Continue to beat, incorporating air, for an additional 1½ minutes.
5. Pour in to 3 8” greased and wax paper lined rounds or 1 9”x13” pan.
Bake 20-25 minutes for the rounds, 30-35 minutes for 9”x13” pan.
16 oz Butter at room temperature
1 Tbsp vanilla
7 cups powdered sugar (almost 2 lbs)
6 Tbsp milk
1. Cream butter and 1 cup powdered sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Add vanilla.
3. Incorporate 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 Tbsp milk at a time beating thoroughly after each addition until all is combined.
4. Beat for an additional 3-5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten the creamier it will be.
To make crumb coat, mix ½ cup frosting with 1 Tbsp milk to thin.