Baking & Icing Basics

Tips and Tricks for Better Baking

Consider baking a day or two before decorating.

  • Cake decorating takes time, so consider baking at least a day before decorating. See our additional tips below for more detail on refrigerating and keeping it fresh.

Grease and flour baking pans.

  • If you are using our disposable paper baking pans you might want to grease and flour them just to be safe, but you don’t have to.
  • If you are using metal cake pans always grease your pans with cooking spray or vegetable shortening and lightly dust with flour. Make sure you grease the edges and up the sides of the pan, as the batter will rise while baking.
    • When using metal cake pans, it’s best to also line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper – an effective way to keep the cake from sticking and safely remove the cakes intact from the pans.
    • To cut the parchment paper to size, place the bottom of the pan on top of the parchment paper. Trace the bottom of the pan onto the parchment paper and cut the circle out about 1/8 of an inch smaller than the traced circle. The parchment circle should be smaller than the bottom of the pan. If the parchment paper rides up the sides of the pan, batter may seep underneath and stick to the pan.
    • If using parchment paper, first grease the metal pan, making sure to get the edges and sides. Insert the parchment paper circle in the bottom of the pan and grease the top of the parchment paper then lightly dust with flour.

Our disposable paper cake pans work really well if you don’t have metal pans!

  • Place the paper pans onto a cookie sheet before baking, making it easier to handle getting them in and out of the oven.
  • Paper pans may leak a little batter through tiny holes in the bottom- not to worry, its normal but another great reason to use a cookie sheet underneath.
  • Paper pans should not be used in oven temperatures exceeding 390 degrees Farenheit

Don’t overfill the cake pans!

  • Cake pans should not be filled higher than 1/3 to 1/2 way with batter. It’s very important not to overfill the cake pans with too much batter. Over-filled pans will take additional baking time, possibly causing the cake to overbake on the bottom and sides while staying raw on the inside- this is how a big cake dome is created by raw batter pushing up in the middle.
  • Cake batter rises while baking and the cake can overflow from the pan causing a big ole mess.
  • If you have extra batter, fill cupcake foils or an additional pan and bake to enjoy them another time.

How long should I bake the cake?

  • Refer to the recipe you are using for an approximate baking time. Keep in mind that in some instances, the cakes may take longer or shorter to bake than the instructions state depending on the pan size and how much batter is used.

How do I know when my cake is finished baking?

  • The best way to tell if your cake is finished baking is to remove the pans from the oven and insert a toothpick or sharp knife into the center of the cake. Remove the tester and if it is free and clear of any wet batter, the cake is done. If there is wet batter clinging to it, then put the cakes back in and test again after a minute or so.
  • Other indications that your cake is baked are:
    • you start to smell the yummy aroma of cake
    • if you gently wiggle the pan and no batter moves
    • the cake begins to pull away from the pan
    • yellow or white cake appears golden

Always cool your cakes to room temperature on a cooling rack!

  • Once out of the oven, allow your cake layers to cool COMPLETELY while still in the pans on cooling racks.
  • To ensure cake layers are fully cooled, gently place a hand on top of the cake and again on the bottom of the pan. It should feel cool to the touch and not emit any warmth.
  • NEVER ice a warm cake! It will melt your icing into a liquid mess! You’ve been warned!

Chill your cakes before icing or handling.

  • We always chill our cakes before icing or handling. The cake is easier to handle cold and less likely to break or crumb when icing.
  • Wrap the cake layers in 2 layers of in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze

Remove the cake from the pan.

  • Paper pans: carefully rip the side tab backwards and pull all the way off around the sides first then remove the paper from the bottom.
  • Metal pans: run a table knife or offset spatula between the cake and the pan all the way around the cake to help loosen the cake before turning over.

Level the cake layers before stacking and icing your cake.

  • We know it’s hard to sacrifice a large chunk of perfectly good cake in order to make the cake layers level, but it’s important for the cake to be level and straight for a professional-looking end result. Remember, the cake scraps aren’t wasted if you store them in a container or snack on them!
  • Use a long serrated knife to level off the dome of your cake.

Tips for icing the cake. 

  • We prefer a butter-based icing. Butter-based icing like Swiss Meringue Icing is yummy and easier to smooth. See our recipe page for that recipe and a few different recipes that ice well.
  • Color icing with a professional-grade food color gel, paste or powder. The supermarket brand has too much water in it and lacks the same pigment quality.
    • Always add a small amount of coloring at a time. You can always add more, you can’t take it away!
  • Use a small spoonful of icing to attach the bottom cake layer to the cake board.
  • Use an offset spatula to ice the cake, or if you don’t have one, use the straight edge of a table knife.
  • Stack and ice between each cake layer.
  • Always Crumb Coat your cake with a thin layer of your icing, chill for about 20 minutes until the icing is firm, then add another layer of icing.
    • Crum Coats of icing keep the crumb out of the outer layer of icing
    • Also, the crumb coat helps keep your cake from breaking apart as you ice and decorate it.
    • Think of the crumb coat as primer to a wall you are able to paint. The crumb coat fills in any air pockets and creates a smoother surface for the final outer layer of icing.

Ice the final outer layer of the cake and smooth as best you can with the edge of the blade or the straight side of the table knife.

  • Icing a cake smoothly can be tricky. Its one of those things that takes practice, practice, practice- like learning a sport or new language. Don’t worry if your cake isn’t perfectly smooth. You can always put decorations to cover any problem areas.
  • If you are using a butter-based icing, a great way to smooth out the icing is by heating the knife or offset
    spatula. Do this by submerging the utensil in hot (not boiling) water for several seconds. Dry utensil with a clean cloth and gently smooth icing. Reheat utensil often. PLEASE NOTE: This will NOT work on store-bought or shortening-based icings!
  • Shortening-based and grocery-store icings typically have no butter in them and will start to “crust” and dry as it sits. One way to smooth this kind of icing is to allow the icing to crust, take a premium paper towel and gently smooth the paper towel over the surface of the cake. BE CAREFUL as the icing should not stick to the paper towel- if it does, the icing hasnt crusted enough.