Cake Decorating 101: The Cake

half-cake.jpgYears back my friend Kathy and I took a Wilton cake decorating class. It was really fun, but if you don’t have time or money to attend a class, I’ll pass on the helpful hints on how to do a simple decorated cake.

1. Success begins with the cake. A firm cake is easiest to work with (both for handling and for decorating). I combine a pound cake with a regular box cake mix. You can use a box pound cake mix, but your favorite pound cake recipe will taste better. The box cake ensures moistness…you simply can’t beat a box cake for this! Also, a white or yellow cake mix is best for beginners because of the crumb factor…I’ll talk about this later when we get to icing the cake. If you are combining a chocolate cake mix with your favorite pound cake recipe, you will need to add cocoa and vanilla so that the cake stays dark brown and chocolaty.

2. Over-fill your cake pans. The goal is to get the cake to rise above the rim of the pan (without over flowing into the bottom of your oven) so that you can cut the top off, and have a thick layer for your cake. (I fill a little above 3/4 of each pans). Also, the Wilton cake pans tend to be deeper and this makes a prettier cake.

3. Let your cake sit for 15 minutes in the pan, then turn it out onto foil or your surface of choice. Let them cool completely. They will be easily picked up to place on your serving dish, because of the sturdiness of the pound cake. If you want to torte your layers (cut them in two across the middle to create four layers of icing) you may want to freeze the cake. They are much easier to cut when frozen. Torting makes the cake taller, and obviously increases the icing to cake ratio. Because I prefer the cake to the icing, I don’t often torte the cakes. My exception is for the topsy turvy cake because I’m going for as much height as possible. (It also makes for a prettier slice).

*The picture above is my cake with it’s top cut off. The kids love cake top! It is the best part of the cake. 🙂

16 thoughts on “Cake Decorating 101: The Cake

  1. You gonna be doing this post in “slices’? I mean, are you getting to the icing hints? If not, I just thought I’d throw in the secret to white white icing and not slightly white. It’s Wilton Vanilla extract. It’s clear, not dark, so the buttercream icing color stays true, esp white. Pricey but worth the $$ if you want really pretty white icing.

  2. Are you mixing an entire box mix with an entire pound cake recipe? Does this make more than one full layer? Or are you just filling one pan? Do you have a good pound cake recipe? I’m getting geared up for my big baking season!

  3. I took the Wilton class with my cousin about 6 years ago. I missed the first class because I had the flu…missing the first class made the rest of the classes a bit difficult.

    I’d love to take the class again if I could find a class during the day. I look forward to hearing the rest of your recommendations.

  4. Karen, For this 8″ 2 layer round cake i used a loaf pound cake recipe (sour cream pound cake) and a whole white cake mix.

    I’d be happy to help you make any cakes coming up :).

  5. do you reccomend this for my daughters cake party. She is having them make the batter, bake it, then take it out and decorate it.

    THe concern i have is that it will take more than 1 hour and 30 min

  6. Mary, I would recommend making the cakes ahead of time and maybe freezing them. The cake has to be completely cool in order to decorate. If she is doing mini cakes, it might bake/cool faster.


  8. Yes. It works fine. I like a firmer cake for decorating because it stands taller. Cupcakes I can use any kind. If I’m filling a cupcake, I would want it fluffier and less dense.

  9. I have a 1/2 sheet cake to make coming up and I want to make sure that I understand that you dump the 2 boxes of the cake mix together in powder form, and then put the ingredients called for from both in and then mix it all at the same time???? So, if I am doing a 1/2 sheet cake, how many boxes of both do you think it will take? The problem I also have when I over fill the cake pans with batter is that the cake doesen’t want to cook in the middle. Any suggestions for this?

  10. Hmmm. It’s been a long time since I’ve done this. When you say 1/2 a sheet, what are the dimensions of the pan?

    I do combine both powder mixes together, blend them dry. Then add all of the ingredients for both cakes. If you have trouble getting the middle to bake, you may want to fill a little less and reduce the heat in the oven. My edges are dry, but once I frost the cake, they moisten up.


    Sent from my iPhone

  11. Thank you Laurie. Have you ever heard of putting sour cream in your cake to get it to be more dense? I was told at a supply store to put 1 cup sour cream per 1 box of cake mix also. I am not sure what to try at this point. I just need a cake that is dense and will not fall apart.

  12. I haven’t used that method but it sounds like it may work. I have a really good chocolate cake that uses sour cream and it’s dense. It also has pudding in it though so I’m not sure which is making it dense. Will you have a chance to make one ahead maybe?


    Sent from my iPhone

  13. Yes Laurie, I am going to try to make one ahead to see what it does. They have just changed the box mixes so much that all they do is fall apart. You cannot even turn them out on to a cake board without it breaking. I will see how the sour cream works. Thank you for you help.

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