4 Easy Ways to Be a Better Cake Baker Right Now
You need some planning, some patience — and this cheap, must-have tool.
Let's be clear: cake-baking is meant to be fun, and if at the end of it you've got a creation that looks more like the Aggro Crag than an elegant tower, it's still going to taste amazing. But there are a few small tweaks you can make to improve your cake game — star pastry chef Zac Young is here to reveal them. He's teaching LIVE classes on the Food Network Kitchen app all March long for Baking Month (and they'll be available on-demand even after the month is over). Join him on the app for even more great cake-baking tips.
Read the entire recipe before you begin.
And we're not just talking about the ingredients list. "Baking recipes can get more complicated and have multiple elements," says Zac. "You might need a cake board [sometimes used to support a layered cake] or parchment paper, for instance."
"And cakes love accessories — like festive sprinkles or gel food coloring," says Zac. "It's easy to pick up a quart of milk if you forgot it, but might take more effort to shop for these items. Make a shopping list not just for the ingredients, but any special tools or finishing elements you might need."
Give yourself more time than you think you need.
The difference between pro and amateur bakers isn't speed — it's patience and restraint. Cakes have to be completed in stages; the batters and frostings need to be mixed, the layers need to be cooled before they're iced, and the cake might even need to set up on in the fridge more than once as you're building. Rushing can spell disaster (read: melted frosting dripping off a still-warm cake.)
"Think of it as a DIY project," says Zack. "You wouldn't sheetrock, spackle, prime and paint a wall in a day — so why would you do that for a cake? Don't do it all in one day — it's how we operate in professional kitchens too. We don't make every element in one day. Your result is going to be so much better if you take your time."
Get a bench scraper.
We love this tool for cleaning your board and scooping ingredients into bowls — but it's not-so-secret alter ego is a cake perfector. "A lot of people try to frost cakes with an offset spatula or rubber spatula, but you really need a bench scraper," says Zac. "You can pull it around the side of the cake, and as you turn the cake, it'll make the frosting perfectly straight." Basically it's the easiest way to level-up in cake decorating.
If you're ready to upgrade even more, get a cake turntable too — it'll help you smoothly turn the cake as you scrape. "But don’t waste your money on the plastic turntables," Zac says."They aren’t heavy enough to support the cake. The metal ones makes decorating so much easier."
Bake with booze — with Zac!
Zac's making a Warm Chocolate Stout Cake with Whiskey LIVE on Food Network Kitchen this week, and we're so excited to hear him talk about how it's a bold ingredient in cakes — for more than one reason. "The cocoa works so well with the richness and bitterness of the stout," he says. "And the beer's carbonation, yeast and slight acidic makeup helps the baking powder and baking soda do their job — the leavening."
Take this class with us (if you miss it live, it'll be available on-demand shortly afterward too) and you'll be well on your way to being a better cake baker.