Maybe you were too busy licking the bowl when Mom was explaining the secrets to her fabulous desserts. Are you now wishing you paid more attention? Don't worry, we're here to help. We've compiled the Canadian Living Test Kitchen's fail-safe tips and tricks to making perfect, beautiful cakes, every time. (Mom will be so proud you hung on to her every word.)
Butter, eggs and milk should be at room temperature. Let stand on counter for about 1 hour. To speed up the process, warm milk in microwave until barely lukewarm. Place eggs in bowl and cover with warm water; let stand for 10 minutes.
Check cake about 5 minutes before time is up. The usual tests are: cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean, cake springs back when lightly touched or edges come away from sides of pan. Some cakes may have specific indications in the recipe.
Let cake stand in pan on cooling rack until firm enough to hold its shape, about 10 minutes. Run knife around edge of cake. Place cooling rack on top of pan. Wearing oven mitts, grasp pan and rack and turn over. Lift off pan. Peel off parchment paper, if present. If you are glazing cake and do not want to see indents from cooling rack through the glaze, invert cake again so top faces up.
Before icing cake, professional bakers trim off edges if they are dark and level off top if it is not flat.
• To keep flat cake plate clean, cut strips of waxed paper about 3 inches (8 cm) wide; slide strips partway under edge of cake so cake is framed.
• To prevent crumbs in icing, mask cake with thin layer of icing. Chill until firm. Spread remaining icing over top. Pull waxed paper strips out from under cake.
• Cover iced cake with cake dome. Or stick toothpicks in inconspicuous spots into cake; drape plastic wrap loosely over toothpicks, making sure wrap doesn't rest on icing.
For perfect slices, cut while frozen or cold from refrigerator with thin sharp knife.
Delicious cake recipes
Now that you're a pro, put those skills to good use. Here's a few recipes to get you started:
• Apple Cardamom Cake
Cardamom is that elusively fragrant spice associated with Scandinavian and Indian cooking. It's especially good with apples. This rich, moist apple cake doesn't need icing. Simply dust with icing sugar and serve it in wedges for afternoon tea, snacks, a coffee party or brunch.
• Chocolate Decadence Cake
Need we say more?
• Citrus Angel Food Cake
A tantalizing twist on the light-as-air classic.
• Maple Spice Cake with Butterscotch Maple Sauce and Sugared Pecans
Developed by up-and-coming Canadian chef Gordon Bailey for Sugar Moon Farm, this dessert will more than satisfy any sweet tooth. Cooking the pecans in maple syrup and brown sugar infuses them with flavour and makes it impossible to eat just one.
• White Chocolate Almond Pound Cake
With all the buttery denseness of a pound cake, this one has the added glamour of white chocolate.
Need help with your cookies, bars and squares? We have those secrets, too -- read them here.