Helpful Tips

Below you will find tips to help you with questions you might have about decorating or baking.

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Enhancing the flavor of your cake
Icing consistency for icing your cake
How to tell when the cake is done
Thinning icing that has been tinted
How to prevent cakes from bulging in the middle
How to prevent icing from cracking
Freezing cakes
Coloring ideas for cookie dough
Making a cake more moist
Getting icing color stain off of your hands
Stacking sheet cakes
Retaining cut-out cookie shapes

Batter Amounts
Preventing icing from absorbing to ribbon
How to make ice cream cakes
How to make icing pearls
Preventing cakes from shrinking
How to make cupcake cones
Making a cake with 2 or more flavors
Getting the yellow out of plates & pillars
Placing tiers on cake without touching the icing
How to make self-rising flour
How to make sour milk

Enhancing the flavor of your cake

For a change in flavor to your favorite cake, replace the water with soda pop. For example: In your chocolate cake mix use a Coke or Pepsi flavor or in your yellow cake use 7-Up, Sprite or Mountain Dew instead of the water.

Icing consistency for icing your cake

Use thin consistency icing to ice your cake. It will make it easier for spreading and less likely to introduce crumbs into your icing.

How to tell when the cake is done

Once the cake has pulled away from the interior side of the pan, the cake is done. Use a cake tester or toothpick to prick a hole in the middle of the cake, making sure that there isn't any cake crumbs on the tester or toothpick when removed from the cake. For large cakes, always check for doneness after they have baked for 1 hour.

Thinning icing that has been tinted

Icing that has been tinted can be thinned with corn syrup rather than water or milk to prevent icing from separating.

How to prevent cakes from bulging in the middle

Cakes develop bulges when they have been iced before they have a chance to settle. The weight of the cake on the filling will cause some of the icing in the center to spread out from between the layers. Following are suggestions to minimize this from happening:

  • After placing your batter in the pan, tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles.
  • Remove the domes by either using a cake leveler, or immediately after taking the cake out of the oven place a clean kitchen towel on top of the cake and gently press on the top using your hands to make it as flat as you can (steam will be released from the cake so be careful not to burn yourself).
  • Assemble the cake by filling the cake then leaving it over night in the refrigerator before icing it (remember to make sure the bottom of the cake is facing up so that you have a level top).
  • Or stack the cooled cakes (not iced) in the refrigerator overnight, then fill and ice the next day.
  • Use stiff icing to make a well around the bottom layer, then add your filling. The stiff icing will help prevent the cake from bulging.

How to prevent icing from cracking

Cracks in the icing normally result from unevenly lifting the cake. This can occur if your icing has formed a slight crust from exposure to air, using the hot knife method when the knife wasn't completely dry, or if the cake is cold.

To prevent this from occuring have your cake on a solid surface and never pick up a cake by holding on to the sides of the cake board. For large sheet cakes double your cake board or purchase double thick boards. For all cakes, place the cake on a decorative board (a cake board that has been covered in foil, contact paper, doilies, etc.) then place on a masonite board then ice and decorate. Masonite boards are available in cake decorating supply stores and range in different sizes and shapes to accommodate your round, square, heart, sheet, and hexagon pans. You can also cover the masonite board with cake foil or contact paper and place the cake directly on this board, then ice and decorate. The masonite boards are re-usable and never thrown out like cardboard cake boards.

Always move your cake with at least one hand under the cake to keep the board from slightly bending and to keep it level.

When placing the cake in a box for delivery, slide the cake off of the masonite board into the box, then lift with one or both hands under the cake box.

Freezing cakes

Bake, cool and fill your cakes before freezing. Cover the cake with several layers of plastic wrap to prevent the cake from drying out. If you have a frost-free freezer, your cake will dry out faster than one that needs to be self defrosted. The cake must be completed thawed (at room temperature) before removing the plastic wrap to prevent condensation from forming on top of the cake--this is moisture leaving your cake. You can freeze an iced or decorated cake, by placing the cake in a container (cake box), then cover the container with plastic wrap. If you remove the plastic wrap before the cake has had sufficient time to thaw, moisture droplets will develop on the icing. If the icing drys out in the freezer, the icing may fall from the cake once thawed, even if the cake was first crumb-coated. An 8" cakes takes overnight to thaw. A 16" 2-layer cake can take up to 2 days to thaw.

Coloring ideas for cookie dough

To make green trees add a small amount of leaf green paste color to dough before shaping into logs. To make red/white cookies, add no taste red to one half of the dough. Shape red and plain dough separately into narrow logs; place together into cookie press.

Making a cake more moist

If your cake has a good texture and flavor, but is dry, try using a simple syrup to brush on the cake to add moisture. Apple juice works to moisten cakes, and it doesn't change the flavor of the cake. Before adding the filling, brush apple juice on both inside layers. Use about 3 ounces apple juice per layer for a 12 to 14-inch cake.

Getting icing color stain off of your hands

Sometimes hands become stained when coloring icing, decorating with dark colored icing, or cleaning decorating bags, if this happens spray your hands with window cleaner, or apply hand lotion, then wash your hands with hand soap.

Stacking sheet cakes

Use a cake leveler to level the top of the first cake layer. Transfer that layer to your covered or coated cake board. Place filling on top of bottom layer. Level your second layer cake, place a large cookie sheet--the type with no edges on 3 sides--and flip the cake over on to the cookie sheet. Align cookie sheet with the first layer and gently slide top layer in place.

Retaining cut-out cookie shapes

Roll dough out on parchment paper and cut shapes, about an inch apart. Remove dough around cut-outs then slide parchment paper onto a cookie sheet and bake.

Batter Amounts

One cake mix yields 4 to 5 1/2 cups of batter. Pans should only be filled 1/2 to 2/3 full. 3" deep pans should only be filled 1/2 full. Always use the recommended batter amounts and the specific baking instructions provided with your baking pan.

Preventing icing from absorbing to ribbon

Some brides or cake requests include placing a ribbon around the cake. Grease from the cake can be absorbed through the ribbon. To prevent this from occuring, place your ribbon between 2 sheets of wax paper, place a piece of cloth on top of the wax paper and iron. This will adhere a thin coat of wax to both sides of your ribbon. You will want to practice this on a sample cake before applying to a finished cake to insure the icing does not absorb into the ribbon.

How to make ice cream cakes

Baked a one layer 2" cake. Torte the cake in half. Freeze both layers. Line the same cake pan with plastic wrap, then place a layer of softened ice cream in the pan. Put the pan with the ice cream in the freezer until solid. Once solid, remove the ice cream from the pan. Peeled off the plastic wrap. Assemble the cake as normal placing the layer of ice cream in the middle. If desired, you can add a layer of fudge or your favorite ice cream toping before and after the layer of ice cream. Ice the cake using a thin consistency icing working for 15 minutes at a time to prevent the ice cream from melting. Freeze after 15 minutes until hard. Continue working at 15 minutes intervals until cake is completely decorated.

How to make icing pearls

To pipe icing "pearls" on your cake, place a round-holed icing tip (#3-5) onto a decorating bag. Coat the inside of the pastry bag with clear piping gel. Fill one side of the decorating bag with white icing, the other side with pink icing. When the decorating bag is squeezed and release, glistening "pearls" of icing are formed.

Preventing cakes from shrinking

Make sure your oven isn't too hot or cold, most cakes should be baked in a 325°F oven. Make sure your pans are not heavily greased. A light coating of Pan Release is sufficient, just make sure that the entire inside of the pan is covered so that you cannot see any shinny areas. Do not overbake the cake. Remove the cake once the cake has separated from the pan, a toothpick comes out clean from the cake, or the cake springs back slightly after touching the center of the cake. Do not overmixing the cake, mix the cake for the exact amount of time indicated in the recipe or in the instructions on the cake mix box. Be sure to put enough batter in the pans, most pans come with batter amounts. Invert your cakes on the final cake board or plate after cooling for 5 minutes then place the plate on a cooling rack. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. The moisture from the cake will cause the cake to stick to the plate so that it cannot shrink or slide off of the board once decorated.

How to make cupcake cones

Fill a baking dish with flat-bottomed ice cream cones making sure they all touch each other so that they cannot fall over. Using an ice cream scoop, fill each cone 2/3 full with cake batter. Bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes or the amount of time indicated in the instructions for cupcakes. NOTE: one cake mix will fill 24 cones.

Making a cake with 2 or more flavors

Cut a piece of cardboard the length of the width of your baking pan making sure that it is as high or higher than the depth of your pan. Prepare both flavors of batter. Holding the cardboard in the center of the cake--for 1/2 one flavor 1/2 another--pour one flavored batter on one side of the pan. Continue holding the cardboard and pour the other flavor on the other side. Remove cardboard. If you wish to use 3 flavors, you will need a helper to hold or pour the batter. Cut 2 pieces of cardboard. Holding both pieces of cardboard, fill each section with batter. Remove cardboard.

Getting the yellow out of plates & pillars

Plastic tier plate can be reused. Many decorators require a deposit on the plates and pillars. Over time these will turn yellow in color. To get them back to the original shade use one of the following techniques:

  • Use "Yellow Out" or "No More Yellow". This can be found in your local hardware or grocery store in the laundry detergent section. Soak in a large bowl using amounts indicated on container.
  • Brush liquid dishwashing detergent on the plates and pillars then set out in the sun for the afternoon and wash.
  • Place tiers & pillars in a large bowl and add denture cleaner tablets. Soak as directed.

Placing tiers on cake without touching the icing

To preventing getting your fingers in the icing when stacking tiers on a cake, use a cake circle the same size as the cake to make an outline on top of the cake where the next tier will set. Cut dowels so that they will rest about 1/8" - 1/4" above the icing, but only insert them 3/4 of the way into the cake. Space them within the outline 1" apart covering the area of the circle. Use a spatula to raise one side of the iced cake, so you can place your hands under cake board to lift the cake. Place the cake on top of the raised dowels. The weight of the cake will lower the dowels to the proper position.

How to make self-rising flour

To make 1 cup of self-rising flour:
Combine 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder and a pinch of salt.

How to make sour milk

To make 1 cup of sour milk:

  1. Place 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or distilled white vinegar in a glass measuring cup.
  2. Add in milk (2% or richer) to equal 1 cup. Stir.
  3. Let stand for 15 minutes until it looks like it's beginning to curdle or slightly curdled.

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