5 Cake Baking and Decorating Tips Every Newbie Should Know

When in doubt, pipe it out!

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March 29, 2020
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Dan Langan Baking Courses, buttercream flowers

Photo by: Caitlin Ochs

Caitlin Ochs

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If you’ve ever watched the Digital Original series, Dan Can Bake It, or have tuned in for his live cooking classes on the Food Network Kitchen app, you already know that Dan Langan is a master at cake making and decorating. From larger than life optical illusion cakes to realistic creations that look like one thing but are really something else, there isn’t much Dan can’t do.

That’s why we couldn’t think of a better person to share their go-to baking tips and tricks with our fans this week. Whether you're just starting out or you’re a seasoned pro, Dan’s got something for every type of baker. Read on to see how you can steal a skill or two from his incredible recipes.

Think Before You Bake

Even if you’ve never thought about it in these terms before, baking truly is a science. As with any other scientific experiment, preparing beforehand makes a huge difference when it comes to getting the picture-perfect end result. “Planning and precision go hand in hand for baking,” Dan says. “Give yourself the time to chill that cookie dough before baking it or chill your cake layers before stacking. Much of baking relies on a few components that come together as one dessert; focus on making each component correctly, and the assembly will be grand!”

Consistency Makes All the Difference

Though every baker has their own unique set of skills and baking styles, there are things they can do consistently to make the baking process easier. “Get a digital kitchen scale — it'll be the best $15 baking investment you'll make,” Dan says. “Baking by weight guarantees that your recipes will turn out the same today as they will next week. Finally, take notes in the margins of your recipes so that you'll remember that extra special touch you added to make a dessert your own!”

Dan Langan Baking Courses, piping

Photo by: Caitlin Ochs

Caitlin Ochs

Everything You Think You Know About Toothpicks Is Wrong

Despite all your best efforts and due diligence, overbaking a cake is a lot easier than you'd expect. From faulty kitchen timers to unexpected distractions, life sometimes gets in the way. Toothpicks can help keep your baking on track, but not in the way you might think. “Tradition tells us to bake a cake until 'a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean,'” says Dan. "The real goal is to have the toothpick come out with a few moist crumbs stuck to it; at that point your cake is done because some carryover heat will remain when you remove the cake from the oven.”

When in Doubt, Pipe It Out!

Decorating a cake can seem really daunting if you’ve never done it before, but anything is possible so long as you’ve got a piping bag on hand. Just take it from Dan: “Cakes finished with piped stars or rosettes are really a guaranteed win for the new cake decorator. As long as your cake layers are stacked and filled in a level fashion, all you need is a crumb coat (which will get covered anyway!) and a pastry bag and piping tip.”

Turntables Aren’t Just for Music

Dan uses cake turntables a lot in his live and on-demand classes on the Food Network Kitchen app and trust us — if you don’t have one already, you’re going to want to buy one right this second. “There are a lot of ways to improvise with cake decorating tools, but the one thing that can't be replaced is my cake turntable,” Dan says. “It is so crucial in creating balanced and symmetrical designs. Definitely worth the investment!”

To catch more of Dan’s expert tips, tricks and hacks, subscribe to the Food Network Kitchen app today!

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