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Gourmet Food WorldGourmet BlogValentine's Day10 Tips for Achieving the Perfect Valentine's Day Cake

10 Tips for Achieving the Perfect Valentine's Day Cake

by Gourmet Food World
10 Tips for Achieving the Perfect Valentine's Day Cake

No other holiday puts quite as much emphasis on dessert as Valentine’s Day. That’s why whipping up something sweet to serve after your romantic dinner can seem a little daunting especially to those who don’t bake often. While chocolates, bon bons, and mousse are classics, there’s nothing quite as special to look at or eat as a beautifully decorated cake. So this year, break out the measuring cups and read through our ten tips to creating the best Valentine’s Day Cake your sweetheart has ever had.

From a simple pound cake to a multi-layered extravaganza, there are a few tips to keep in mind that apply to all cakes. While baking a cake is not difficult, per say, there are a few steps that can help ensure you get your homemade cake right every time.

1. Read Your Recipe

This may sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many home cooks read as they go, only to find half way through a recipe that the butter was supposed to be softened or the eggs room temperature before going into the batter. By reading your recipe, in its entirety, prior to starting, you’ll be sure to get your oven temperature, baking times, ingredients, and the rest right from the start.

2. Mise en Place

Every good chef knows that the only way to stay ahead and stay organized during the dinner rush is to have all your ingredients measured out and close at hand, but for those who don’t spend as much time in the kitchen your approach may be more haphazard. Mise en Place is the French term that means: “put-in-place.” All ingredients should be out and measured to their specifications prior to any mixing, beating, creaming, or incorporating. While we recommend applying this practice to everything you make (for the sake of your sanity), when it comes to baking, it’s a must.

Get all your dry and wet ingredients and equipment out on the counter, taking special note of temperatures. This is most important when it comes to butter and eggs. Well-softened butter promises a smooth batter and subsequently a high rising fluffy cake, and room temperature eggs help keep the batter’s temperature constant.

3. Preheat Your Oven

While this may seem less important, let us emphasize the need for your oven to reach its proper temperature before you’ve finished mixing your batter. Cake batters will not react well to the heat of the oven if they've been sitting at room temperature for 15 minutes. A cake will also refuse to rise properly, if it’s placed in an oven that continues to warm while it's baking.

So before mixing anything together, set your temperature and place your oven racks in the center or lower third of the oven. While you’re at it, we recommend placing an oven thermometer inside to ensure your oven is calibrated, and heating to the correct temperature. Many are off by a significant margin.

4. Prep the Pan(s)

To ensure you have a good looking cake after all your hard work, it’s crucial that it comes out of the pan in one piece. While you may assume a little grease and flour is all it takes, prepping your pans properly depends on what kind of cake you’re baking.

For typical cake layers: very soft butter (not melted) should be brushed onto the pan, followed by a circle of parchment. For a butter-based cake baked in a bundt pan; start with the same soft butter but follow it instead with finely ground bread crumbs or nut flour. Tap out any excess and follow with a quick spray of vegetable oil to ensure an easily dislodged bundt every time. Crumb cakes that cannot be inverted should be lined with foil and coated in softened butter. The foil overhang allows you to pull the cake out in one piece without risking the loss of a single delicous crumb.

5. Know Your Batter

While there are even more than this, the most common methods for making your cake’s batter will fall into one of four camps: Creaming, All-in-one, Rubbing-in, Whisking, and Melting. The more you bake, the easier it will be for you to tell what method your cake calls for and the more comfortable you’ll be in executing the process. You’ll also be able to tell what the texture of the batter should look like when finished. This is one more safeguard to ensure that you’ve mixed your batter correctly before placing it in the oven.

6. Incorporating Mix-Ins

Many of our favorite cakes are punctuated by delightful bits of chocolate or fruits. Unfortunately, the incorporation of these extras can often spell disaster. The most common mistake is that your mix-ins all sink to the bottom of the cake, leaving you with a heavy layer and an unsightly cut. There are a few ways to prevent this:

Try coating your mix ins with flour prior to mixing them into your batter; this helps prevent them from sinking. For chocolate: you can pulse it in the food processor to get smaller pieces or replace the called for ingredient with mini chips.

Fruity additions can also be added to your cake batter after you’ve already transferred it into a pan. Simply add the fruit to the top of the batter and barely swirl it in; that way, the fruit starts at the top and is less likely to sink.

7. Undermixing vs. Overmixing

It’s a fine line between over and undermixing. You must be sure to fully incorporate your ingredients, but you don’t want to over mix. Too much stirring will deflate the batter, and the more air you lose prior to baking, the denser and tougher your cake will come out.

8. Recognizing Doneness

Many cake recipes will say that when a toothpick comes out 'clean', you know your cake is done. While this tidbit of information is technically true, a clean knife blade or toothpick is the sign of an overdone cake. What you’re looking for is a few moist crumbs to stick to your tool when you remove it. If there’s visibly wet batter, you’re cake needs a few more minutes.

9. Cooling & Unmolding

The cooling of a cake is as vital a step as any, and depending on the type of cake you just baked may need a little finesse. Some cakes need to be cooled in the pan, others on wire racks, while still others, like the angelfood or chiffon varieties must be cooled upside down. Your recipe should indicate what’s needed. Trickier bakes like the ethereal angelfood will require a series of ramekins to make upside down cooling a possibility, so be sure to figure out your system before putting batter in the pan.

A rule of thumb for your general cake layers is to allow 10 minutes in the pan before inverting onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Larger cakes and bundt cakes can be left safely in their pans for up to 30 minutes before you attempt to remove them. This extra time gives them a chance to set up and cool helping those intricate designs to come out better.

10. Finishing like a Pro

One of the best ways to ensure a professional finish is to allow your cakes to cool completely prior to any assembly or decoration. There’s nothing worse for your fresh buttercream than a hot cake, which will quickly melt your decorative embellishments and ruin your even layers of frosting. Starting with well cooled cakes (or even frozen ones), this will help keep everything straight and even. Frosting adheres better and sets up faster this way, and colder temperatures allow you to take a firmer hand with your cake, getting results that are nearly impossible with soft and pliable cakes.

Armed with these top ten tips, even someone who’s never baked a cake from scratch, will be able to manage a Valentines worthy dessert. For one of our favorite cakes: try this delightful Chocolate Champagne Cake and prepare to make your sweetheart swoon.

Chocolate Champagne Cake

This entry was posted in Cooking and Recipes, Gourmet Blog, Gourmet Food Blog, Holidays and Seasonal, Valentine's Day and View All Posts on February 2, 2023 by Gourmet Food World

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