People often mistake the fact that I enjoy baking with the idea that I have an insane sweet tooth. This is actually far from true: yes, I’ll eat a dessert if it’s in front of me, but I rarely find myself craving something sweet; I’m much more a fan of savory and crunchy. I get sugar headaches, so I generally try to avoid eating only sugar. That said, whenever I bake a cake (which happens pretty often), I tend to eat an entire meal’s worth of cake.
“How can you eat cake for an entire meal and still serve a full cake?” you should be asking. Very good question! I’m glad you asked.
I have a very specific methodology of baking and assembling all kinds of cakes that allows for ideal snacking, and I highly encourage you to try it sometime. It’ll make both you and your housemates very happy.
Step one: bake the whole cake
In order to achieve the ideal consistency, a cake should be baked in its full form. That is, baking two or three layers independently will not yield the same, deliciously moist cake that serves as the vehicle for the perfectly crafted frosting. Cooking an entire three-tier cake at one time requires some sacrifices: it’s going to take longer. While three separate layers may bake for only 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees, a full cake may have to bake for a whole 90 minutes at 275. It’s best to do this in a tall springform pan, so that you can unmold the whole thing.
Step two: level the cake
This is the important part for snacking. Pay attention. As with every cake, it will inevitably puff up in the middle. It’s important for the sake of the final presentation of the cake that it is level on top, and it’s silly to build the frosting up around the sides just to make the top look even. Take the largest serrated knife you can find and slowly and carefully slice off the top 1/4 inch of the cake. Save most of this for later, but feel free to eat up to half of it (see step four).
Step three: cut additional layers
It’s important to know how many layers you’re planning to have going into it. Once you’ve leveled the top, slice the rest of the cake into equal layers.
Step four: snack break
At this point, you should have half of the top layer of cake and some extra whipped cream. Indulge to your heart’s content. Make a mini cake and feed your housemates, roommates, and friends (if you like them enough to share). While you do that, place the other half of the top layer—broken into large chunks—into the oven at 300 degrees on a parchment paper-lined tray for about 10 minutes until the pieces are dry and toasty.
Step five: back to assembly
Now that you’ve sated your sweet tooth, you can get back to your original mission of assembling the cake. Brush the top of the bottom layer with simple syrup to increase moisture (equal parts water and sugar boiled together to dissolve the sugar, flavored to complement the cake and frosting), then cover with frosting. Add additional layers with the same pattern.
Step six: decorate the sides
This part is always frustrating to me because I’m not very good at making the sides of the cake look pretty. In order to not deal with this, grind up the toasted cake pieces (either in a food processor or with two forks) and press them along the frosted outside of the cake. It looks pretty impressive, and it’s super easy.
Step seven: the top
My general mentality is that the top of the cake should either be clean and pristine or covered in fruit. Cut up fruit and lay pieces in concentric rings, or drizzle the top with powdered sugar or cocoa powder.