Professional cake makers have a little secret up their sleeves that they don't want you to know about. Next time you're enjoying a piece of wedding cake and wondering how the baker achieves such perfectly uniform layers of cake, here is one possible answer: the cake layers are actually punched out from single sheets of cake. Some layers may even be pieced together from the scraps left over from punching out other circles or squares.
I love this method because it calls for pans that you already have and which can be used for a million different things. It only takes a tiny application of butter to hold down a single piece of parchment, and as long as you spread the batter evenly, the three layers will all be of uniform thickness and flatness, no leveling required. The baking and turning process becomes a cinch with a single pan to watch, and, when it comes time to decorate, you can skip the leveling process that is usually required for round cakes because sheets of cake barely dome on top at all.
If you're a baker who hates fussing with cake layers, or who hates having tons of different pans around to accommodate different sizes (like me!), then this is a great method to know. Consider the time and money saved on buying tons of pans of different sizes, on cutting out rounds of parchment, greasing each pan, divvying up the batter with a scale to get uniform amounts in each, and fretting over rotating the pans in the oven so that each layer cooks evenly and at the same rate. It really adds up. Have I sold you yet? Great!
Here are two very important tips to remember when using this method:
- Be sure to start with a template that you will use to cut the layers, and be sure that you'll have enough cake to make the completed cake or cakes that you desire. I like to trace the layers onto the parchment liner before I apply it, just to be sure.
- For greater stability, it's a good idea to make the middle layer of the cake the one that gets pieced together—never the bottom layer, and only the top if you're not going to build tiers on top of it.
Click through the slideshow to see how it's done. Then check out this recipe for a Chocolate Cake with Whipped Ganache Frosting that will appeal to chocolate lovers and cake fanatics alike.
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About the author: Lauren Weisenthal has logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @evillagekitchen.