As a food blogger I feel it’s my duty to break down seemingly difficult recipes and encourage fellow cooks to try new things and not be intimidated! So perhaps I should abandon this post. Because the truth is after an entire afternoon’s worth of effort my first attempt was such an epic disaster that I made the cake over again the next morning in order to get it right. And that was only possible thanks to the dozens of how-to videos I found on youtube. So how pumped are you about trying this cake?!! Yeah, exactly …
But the reason I’m still sitting here typing away is that the payoff from this cake was huge. At least for me. Not only is the cake both gorgeous and sinfully delicious, the sense of accomplishment that comes from learning new kitchen skills trumps all. And for me that was learning how to assemble and frost a 4-layer cake. There are a couple key things you need to know that the recipes don’t tell you – it’s as if there’s a keep-the-most-important-tips-a-secret-from-the-cooking-masses conspiracy theory at play. Well readers, read on because I’m exposing those secret tips!
1. You must trim the rounded tops from each of your cake layers. We’ll back up here. When you bake a cake in a cake pan, the cake rises and forms a dome-like shape. You let it cool a bit in the pan, run a knife around the edge and invert it out. Then invert again so it’s right side up on your rack. You can’t simply cut that in half as is because the top half isn’t flat. You’ll end up with a leaning tower of cake, as per my first attempt.
2. You must use removable tart pan bottoms to aid with all the inverting. So hopefully you have at least two tart pans lying around with removable bottoms or this is tricky. So – you bake the cakes. Let cool 15 minutes. Run knife around edges. Now, you place one removable tart pan bottom over the top of one cake, and invert. The flat side is up. Then invert again so it’s dome side up and place on the rack. Repeat with second cake and refer to step number 3. These also come in very handy to help with stacking the layers after the cakes are cut in half.
3. You must allow those cake layers to cool completely before even thinking about cutting them in half. And by completely I mean at least 3 hours. I waited closer to four my second time around, as I wasn’t taking any chances. I think I only waited 2 hours with the first attempt and the layers basically crumbled into chunks as I cut them. This will happen if they’re still at all warm.
4. You must use a serrated bread knife for the cutting. I hate to say it, but if you don’t have one, either borrow one from someone else or make it a 2-layer cake.
5. There is a specific art to cutting the cakes in half – you can’t just cut through the cake – you must start by creating a slit slowly with the knife. You hold the knife in one hand and bring it to the edge of the cake. Using your other hand to turn the cake, carefully make a slit maybe 1/2″ into the cake and continue turning the cake so the slit goes all the way around. When you get back to where you started your knife will slip into the slit and from there you can proceed to gently slicing the cake in half.
6. There is also an art to frosting a cake. Who knew? You need to spoon the frosting over the cake in dollops and frost only from frosting mound to frosting mound, spreading it out as you go. If you frost from frosting to cake (vs frosting to frosting), you’ll end up with a whole bunch of cake crumbs in your frosting and that doesn’t look very nice.
Hopefully with these tips, perhaps one day you’ll feel up for giving this a try! Or if not, you’ll certainly appreciate how mich there is to know about baking a cake!
Four-Layer PUMPKIN cake with orange-cream cheese frosting
- Butter for greasing cake pans
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
- 1/2 tsp fine salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups (packed) light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 15-oz can pure pumpkin
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 8-oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 Tbs finely grated orange peel
- 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1. Make the cake: Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch cake pans with 1 1/2 inch sides. Line bottoms with parchment paper and butter the parchment and up the sides of the pans.
Whisk flour and next 4 ingredients in large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in another bowl until smooth. Beat in brown sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions. Beat in pumpkin. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk in 2 additions, beating to blend between additions. Divide batter between cake pans.
Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool in pans 15 minutes. Run knife around cakes to loosen. Invert cakes onto racks. Remove parchment. Using two removable tart pan bottoms as aids, turn cakes over onto racks, top sides up, and cool completely, 3-4 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in plastic and store at room temperature).
2. Frosting: Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add cream cheese and orange peel; beat until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until smooth.
3. Assemble Cake: Trim rounded tops from cakes using a serrated knife. Place toothpicks around each cake layer to mark a halfway point and carefully, using the serrated knife and the toothpicks as markers, cut each cake layer in half horizontally. Place one cake layer cut side up on a cake plate or large platter. Spoon 2/3 cup frosting atop in dollops; spread to edges. Repeat two more times with cake and frosting; top with remaining cake layer, cut side down. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.
Sourced from Bon Appetit magazine