Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Cake Secrets, Part 1

Leona's 1st Birthday cake
My masterpiece that took like 4-5 hours just to decorate! YIKES!
Ok...so I have been having some people ask about how I make my cakes....so I thought I would share some of my secrets. If you have any secrets, please leave a comment!!!

How do you get a moist cake?
I am surprised that when I google that this isn't a common helpful hint...so I will let you in on my secret.  You need 3 main things to have a moist and yummy cake. (I believe I learned this from my Kindergarten teaching partner, Linny, and my Grandma Robinson.)
1. Use a good recipe.
If you need a good chocolate cake recipe...gotcha covered (just look below).  Seriously...I just love my recipe from my former Dorm-Mom Michelle. Cakes from scratch are really simple. Unfortunately though the recipe below does not hold up well if you are planning to cut your cake. It is too moist when cut. All cake brands from a box are not created equal.  Dunkin Hines is my favorite...but this is only part of the puzzle because you can make a cheap cake still be moist. My favorite blog for goodies is Cookies and Cups. She has some FANTASTIC recipes!
2. Don't over bake it.
As far as not overbaking it...keep your eye on it.  Place a toothpick in the center...if it comes out clean with just a very slight amount of batter...it is done. Most of the time I watch it for the last 3-4 min. of the time given.
3. Put the cake in the freezer to lock in the moisture.
MY BIG SECRET is putting it in the freezer.  Allow it cool so you can touch the pan without screaming :) and cover it. I use plastic wrap and then foil.  (The plastic wrap will keep it from sticking to the foil.) If you have a lid to your pan, this could work too. Place it in the freezer.  Most of the time I bake it and freeze it the night before but there isn't much of a time limit.  I would say at least 5 hours but up to several days ahead of time. Really a cake can last all kinds of time in the freezer, but without the icing on it, I wouldn't try to keep one for weeks or anything.

NOTE: Some people also choose to substitute applesauce for the oil in the recipe. I don't see this as necessary, but whatever works for you :)

How do you make shapes?
This is probably more tricky to explain.  There are several techniques! First, here are some basics:
1. Cookie Cutters
You can make any shape you can find a cookie cutter in.  Simply use a round 8" pan.  Bake it. Freeze it. Push the cookie cutter down into the cake a little and then trim with a butter knife.
2. Cut-it Out
Bake it in a pan that will fit your shape. Freeze it. Find a shape you want---either draw it or print it out. Cut out around the shape and any spaces that you want cut-out on the cake.  Place the paper on your cake as a template and cut it out with a knife.
3. Use a shaped Cake Pan
You can just buy a cake pan that has the shape you want.  Often you can spend $12-20, but this may be your only choice.
4. Use different shaped pans to get the same result
Use heart shaped pans for hearts or wings.  Use bread pans for skinny rectangles. Use bowls for mounds, bee hives, or dresses. Use deep square pans for castles. Use muffin pans for small round parts.

Some fun examples
Here are som fun pictures I have collected from online or from friends:
From Leona's 1st Birthday
body: bread pan and cut out a smaller circle from a 8" pan
wings: heart pans
mini butterfly: 8" pan and cookie cutter

From my college roommate, Jenn
dress: bowl
doll: use a special cake doll or any clean doll will do
Love Strawberry Shortcake
Leona's 2nd Birthday cake
pan: used an Elmo shaped cake pan
(it was almost harder than using my own template)
From online
made from cupcakes

From my husband's cousin, Becky
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
What a great idea!! I just love it!!

Found online
directions here: http://thetravelingtable.com/blog/desserts/dinosaur-cake-grrr/

found online

Found online
pan: use a bowl

 As you can see, what you can imagine, you can create. As far as decorating the cakes...I'll have to make another basic post for that :)

Easy Oil Chocolate Cake
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup baking cocoa
3/4 cup oil
1 1/2 cups boiling water

1. Preheat oven to 300'.
2. Grease and lightly flour pan(s). This will make a 9X13 or (2) 8" pans.
3. Put everything in the bowl and beat. (batter will be thin)
4. Bake for 20 min or until toothpick comes out with just a tad bit of batter on it.
    (Sometimes this can be over the 20 min. depending on the shape of the pan.)


  1. Great post! I love doing fun cakes for my kids each year -although they sure do take a lot of time! Okay, question -when you put your cakes in the freezer I assume you do it before decorating? Do you let them sit a while after taking them out of the freezer before frosting and decorating or do you do that right away? I'll have to try the freezer thing for Noah's cake next month -it'll be an "easy" cake, a music note since he loves music! (oh, and I often substitue applesauce just for health reasons but not so much for the moisture)

    1. I let it cool slightly until I can touch it without burning myself, but still warm.

  2. Okay first, thank you SO much for taking the time to post this! Awesome!

    Second...two thoughts:

    1. I make my box cakes (which is about all I bake thanks to Natalie's dairy allergy) moist by not allowing them to bake for the suggested baking time on back. I usually set the timer for 10 minutes less than the minimum time and then start checking it with a toothpick every 1-2 minutes like you suggested. Mine have always turned out amazingly moist!

    2. Any suggestions on substituting something for the baking cocoa in your chocolate cake recipe? I'd love to try it out, but I'd like to make it in a way that Natalie can eat it too!

    1. I'm actually finding that my easy oil cake is great with recipes that are flat. It doesn't hold up much when you have to stack or cut a lot out of it. Honestly I am not sure what you could substitute for the cocoa...maybe somewhere online has a great vanilla alternative. If you look on my facebook notes I have a pumpkin alternative that is great for any dairy allergies! Box cakes are just fine, I just happen to love this chocolate recipe...MMMMMMmmmmmm!

    2. Jenn...check out the Wacky Cake Recipe I found. It has variations for vanilla, spice, orange and lemon. http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/featured_recipe5.php