1. i can’t bake cakes without a scale. flour gets packed, unpacked – i’ve heard some methods where first you whisk the flour, then scoop and level with knife, but it still feels inexact to me… guess this is where my chemistry background is an influence? anyway, now i use the scale whenever i bake. the conversions i use the most are on a post-it note on the fridge:
butter: 1/2 cup = 1 stick = 1/4 lb. (4 oz) = 113 g
ap flour: 1 cup = .28 lb. (4.48 oz) = 125 g
cake flour: 1 cup = .20 lb. (3.2 oz) = 90 g
hmm, apparently ATK has slightly different conversions for the flour:
ap flour: 1 cup = 5 oz
cake flour: 1 cup = 4 oz
i haven’t decided which are more accurate yet… i’ll update if i read anything new
2. almost any batch of buttercream can be saved, according to dede wilson (author of wedding cakes you can make). i wish i had read the part before i threw away 2 batches that i thought were ruined! it was a little too hot that day, and i think some of the butter melted, so the buttercream got all watery as i started adding in the butter so i stopped adding the butter and tossed it. anyway, the next week i tried again and used butter that was still cold – it still got a little watery, but listening to dede, i added in all the butter. it got kinda chunky (from the cold butter), then got smoothed out after i let it beat in and warm up a little. anyway, rule of thumb is chill if it is too hot/soupy, warm if it’s too cold/chunky. don’t throw it away!
3. when icing the cake, the buttercream has to be really smooth and creamy. if not, just let it warm up a bit more because it’s just a waste of time to try to ice with buttercream that isn’t totally smooth. i wasted lots of time on the first wedding cake because of this!
4. i find dede wilson’s cakes a little on the small side, so now i usually do 1.5x the recipe. the slightly thicker cakes are easier to work with and give me a little room for error (like leveling the cake, etc.).
5. i really like chocolate cake. those tasty crumbs from all the cakes were not wasted 🙂 buttercream is also great. the kind i make is italian buttercream, which is really light and delicious.
6. to me, real flowers (as long as they’re not poisonous) are the best decoration. it’s so much work to make edible flowers, and usually the results pale in comparison to the real thing. often comes out real artificial too. and not like they taste really good. that would be a different matter entirely if they were delicious edible flowers. my friend told me now days there are also nice artificial flowers, so that’s an option too.
7. don’t forget the moistening syrup! sometimes i have trouble remembering to put the syrup on every layer… cake syrup frosting, cake syrup frosting. just gotta keep repeating it to myself.
8. hey my co-worker told me costco butter is not good… has anyone heard that? so far it has been ok for me, but maybe i should research better butters.
9. speaking of quality, i’ve found that egg quality is very important. i had some trouble with some mainland eggs… now i always buy fresh local eggs (2.5 dozen large from ka lei is about $7).
10. don’t use a hammer when putting a wooden dowel through the whole cake. i did that, and then when i got to the wedding, i couldn’t get it out! good thing that hydrangea was there to conceal it.
i think that about sums up what i’ve learned so far. i’m sure i will pick up more things as i bake more. let me know if anyone in honolulu needs some cake… 🙂