I don't have a decorated cake to show you, but I thought that instead I would share my favorite baking tips. This is not at all an exhaustive list, but just some things I thought of while baking my chocolate chip cookies and my last cake that I thought might be of use to you all!
You may know that for baking, the temperature of the ingredients is really important. All of the ingredients should be at room temperature before mixing. This is so that all the ingredients mix together really well. If the butter is too cold, it won't incorporate into the batter as well and the butter will stay in little lumps. If the liquid is too cold, it will harden the butter. While little lumps of butter are good for pie crust, it is not good for cake or cookies! Well, I don't always think ahead enough to get out my refrigerated ingredients (eggs, butter and cream) and let them come to room temperature. So, here are the tricks I use for that!
First, the eggs. To warm them quickly, put some hot tap water into a bowl and place your cold eggs into it. They should be completely submerged. Let them sit for a few minutes and they will be warmed to the perfect temperature! I usually get the eggs in their water bath then get out my other ingredients. By the time I'm done, the eggs are warmed! Remember, though, that eggs are much harder to separate after they are warm. If you need to separate the eggs, do it first, then use the microwave in short bursts (10 seconds) on medium to warm them. Here are my eggs sitting in their little bath.
For cream or butter, I use the microwave. Make sure you use the reheat or medium level on your microwave (or lower if you have a really powerful microwave) because you don't want to heat them too much. If your butter melts, you cannot use it in a cake. Once butter has melted, it has chemically changed and won't work the way it needs to in your cake. I usually microwave my cream for 10 seconds on medium and that is usually enough. It doesn't need to be really warm, but just room temperature. Room temperature is typically a little cooler (20 degrees) than body temperature, so everything should still feel a little bit cool to the touch. You should be able to slightly dent the butter with your finger. All of these little tricks are really quick and easy, so you're ready to bake without preparing ahead of time!
Another thing I nearly always use in my cakes is cake flour. Cake flour has a lower protein content than all-purpose and so it will make a much more tender cake. And it really does make a more tender cake! I have also learned that lightly chlorinated, or bleached, cake flour will make a more tender cake than unbleached cake flour. I have never really liked the idea of using bleached flour, so I usually buy King Arthur Company's unbleached cake flour. But I've got to tell you that for the last couple of cakes I've used a bleached cake flour and I'll admit it does make a difference. If you don't like the idea of using bleached flour, though, the King Arthur unbleached also makes a might fine cake.
One of my can't-live-without baking products is parchment paper. I grease all of my pans with shortening, then cut a parchment round for the bottom, then grease that too. I then sprinkle flour in the pans. I have never had a problem with sticking. I also use parchment paper for cookies and haven't had to wash a cookie sheet since! Here is a picture of my cookie sheet with parchment on it.
A great trick I learned from the book Bakewise by Shirley O'Corriher is to line your cookie sheet with parchment, then when the cookies come out of the oven, simply slide the parchment with the cookies still on it off of the cookie sheet onto the counter. Rinse the cookie sheet with cold water to cool, then dry it off and load it up with another parchment. I usually have three sheets of parchment going for two cookie sheets. I load up one parchment with cookie dough so that it's ready to slide right onto the rinsed sheet. Some people are nervous that rinsing a hot cookie sheet with cold water will ruin the cookie sheet. I haven't had any problems with mine but I suppose it depends on what type of sheet you use. I use the gold cookie sheets from Williams-Sonoma (best cookie sheets I have ever had and totally worth the money for them!) and I haven't had any problems.
I hope you all like and use my tips! I've got several cake sketches in my book that I'd like to do, so look for more cake entries to come soon!