Cake

Inside Our Test Kitchen: Fake your own Bundt pan

So you want to bake some monkey bread or a Bundt cake, but don’t have the right kind of pan? You can create a makeshift one using what you already have in your kitchen. Piece of cake!

If you have a springform pan: Place a greased pint-size ovenproof jar (like a Mason or Bell jar) right side up in the center of the pan. Add the batter or dough and bake. Let cool about 10 minutes; remove the jar.

No springform? No problem! Two 9- or 10-inch cake pans will also work, but you’ll end up with two thinner Bundt cakes. Grease two small ramekins and put them upside down in the centers of the pans. Keep in mind that these cakes will cook more quickly, so start checking them sooner.

Ready to give it a go? Try these recipes!

Cinnamon-Bun Fun Monkey Bread Read more

The Pastry School Diaries: A Bittersweet Goodbye

Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Pastry & Baking Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences! 

 

When I started school back in July, I honestly couldn’t even picture what my last few classes would look like. I couldn’t imagine walking into a kitchen, following a recipe, asking questions and exploring my culinary strengths and weaknesses with the confidence that I’ve developed. I felt so unsure of the relationships I’d develop with my classmates and instructors, and I definitely didn’t think I would be capable to design, bake and decorate a two-tiered celebration cake all on my own. Now that the day is finally approaching, I’ve taken great pleasure in looking back at my growth along the way.

 

Gum paste bases for roses, cala lilies and mimosas

 

We’ve started making preliminary plans and accessories for our cakes. I submitted my first draft of what I hope my cake to look like, and I’ve spent most of my time in class working on gum paste roses. My cake is going to be draped in roses, so you can imagine I have a lot of work ahead of me.

 

My very rough sketch of what I hope my cake to look like

 

Out of all the unknowns that existed when I started school, I think the biggest was where I’d be completing my externship. Well, that day has finally arrived too, and I’ve happily accepted a placement in a test kitchen. I’ll be testing both savory and sweet recipes and continuing to learn more about life as a chef. I’m excited for a new phase in my culinary journey, but I know how much I’m going to miss this chapter of my life.

 

My classmates and me posing with our chocolate sculptures. So happy!

So as I close the book on the Pastry School Diaries, I want to thank you all for reading and letting me share this experience with you. I hope you’ve learned something along the way, and that if you’ve ever considered going back to school (whether it’s culinary school, business school or something completely different), my journey has pushed you just a little further to do so. On to the next sweet adventure!

The Pastry School Diaries: It’s what’s on the inside that matters

Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Pastry & Baking Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences! 

 

The first step of learning how to make a wedding or “celebration” cake is learning how to pipe beautiful buttercream roses, buds and other flowers. If you’ve been following along, you should know by now that I was neither looking forward to this technique nor expecting to be very good at it, and I was right.

 

I was so ashamed of how my roses and piping work turned out that I actively chose to not photograph my work, although in retrospect I wish I had something to look back and laugh at.

 

“After about the 27th time, you’ll get the hang of it,” my chef-instructor said with a smile. She wasn’t kidding.

 

But what I’ve realized (yet again) is that this is just another test at my patience. Piping perfect flowers isn’t something someone should be naturally good at—it takes practice, diligence and concentration. I may never master the art of the perfect cala lily or rose, but I’ll certainly improve over the next few weeks. And you know what? The cake underneath is going to taste the same no matter how beautiful my buttercream work is (or isn’t).

I don’t need to walk out of my schooling with the ability to brag about my piping skills. If I can tell my friends, family and peers that I can bake you the best lemon-scented cake you’ve ever had in your life, that is more than enough for me.

 

Got any piping tips? I’d love to hear them! Check back next week for more tales from the kitchen.

The Pastry School Diaries: Style Like You Mean it

Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Pastry & Baking Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences! 

 

I have about a month left of classes before I have to start focusing on my final cake design. I’ve said this over and over, but one of the biggest takeaways I’ve discovered from enrolling in pastry school is that my level of patience for intricate designs and desserts is not very high. I definitely have more of a rustic, homemade-looking style. While I originally thought this wouldn’t help me succeed as a cake decorator, I now know that this will set me apart as an artist. I can incorporate my true style, talents and taste to make a cake I am genuinely proud of—perfect or not. Here are some cakes that have inspired me and my personal style.

 

photo credit: Baked

This simply frosted cake with a signature swirl and gorgeous ombre roses from Baked NYC

photo credit: @bk_floral_delight

These incredibly realistic-looking roses in muted correlating colors by Brooklyn Floral Delight

photo credit: Grace Rasmus

The “naked cake” look perfected by Momofuku Milk Bar

Check back in the upcoming weeks for progress on my cake design skills, plus truffle and candy making galore!

The Pastry School Diaries: Whisky Business

Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Pastry & Baking Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences! 

 

When I began pastry school, I knew I was going to collect an extensive amount of information about the art of baking. From the importance of precisely weighing out each ingredient, to the exact technique of rolling a French baguette, to tips and tricks to perfectly frosting a three-layer cake, my curiosity has peaked every step of the way. What I hadn’t thought about, however, was taking all these skills and applying them practically, in a business.

 

My class’s petit fours. We concentrated very hard on making every cake the same exact size with the same exact design.

 
I wouldn’t go as far to say that I’ll walk out of the pastry program with an advanced understanding of how to run a bakery, but I’m definitely picking up some tidbits on what makes a bakery successful. For example, I never really paid attention to the way I cut a cake or tray of brownies, but when selling such a product, it is important to make sure every piece is exactly the same dimensions. Any piping work should look identical, all sides and surfaces should be completely flat, no crumbs in the frosting(!!!) and always use rubber gloves when handling a cooked product are just a few of the reminders that have become second nature to me.

 

Grenoblois, walnut cake with walnut buttercream and walnut ganache, and Symphonie, hazelnut cake with praline buttercream and chocolate ganache. We measured out 2” x 3” rectangles before slicing into the full cakes. 

 

Sour cherry chocolate crumb cake, attempted to cut into even shapes

 

I’ll be the first to admit it, I have yet to master the art of identical perfection, but I know it will come over time. Practice makes perfect, right?

 

Check back next week for more pastry tips!

The Pastry School Diaries: Patience is a Virtue

Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Pastry & Baking Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences! 

To this day, I am continually asked the question, “why pastry—why not culinary?” My go-to response is something along the lines of, “I’ve always wanted to delve deeper into the world of pastry arts. Since there is such a science behind it, I know I would benefit and learn more at pastry school than at culinary school. Besides, I don’t have the patience to learn how to chiffonade basil, dice an onion or poach an egg—I do that all the time at home already!”

 

Want to know what else I don’t have the patience for? Building, frosting and decorating a perfect cake.

 

We’ve transitioned from baking rustic desserts like crumb cake and muffins to more detail-oriented techniques: using a serrated knife to create a perfectly flat and round cake; Frosting in even layers that conceal any cake or crumbs; Piping perfect shells and rosettes around the edges to make a bakery-quality confection. As I’m getting my first taste (figuratively and literally!) of what our final project will be (creating a three-tiered celebration cake), I’m truly beginning to understand that patience is a virtue. Every step must be taken in a slow, methodical manner—you absolutely cannot rush the process. If you slice off too much of your cake, there’s not much you can do to remedy it, and while frosting can be spread and piped over again, there’s no hope in getting those little stray crumbs out (a cake baker’s worst nightmare).

 

So as I’m learning from my mistakes and trying new things, I’m thankful for this opportunity of trial and error. Am I set out to be the next Duff Goldman? Probably not. But I’m looking forward to seeing my skills in the cake department improve.

 

Check back next week for more pastry school fun!

The Pastry School Diaries: A New Year of Baking Adventures

Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Pastry & Baking Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences! 

 

Want a surefire way to get on dessert duty for all of the winter holidays? Just tell your family you’re enrolled in pastry school!

 

The pressure was on this holiday season, as I was juggling learning new techniques in class with showing off my best baking skills while at home. I got to show off my pie crust capabilities, puff pastry proficiency and cheesecake finesse over Thanksgiving and Christmas, and in between learned about chiffon and angel food cakes, tortes, layered ganache cakes, petit fours and more buttercream frosting than a childhood birthday party on steroids. I’ve discovered the differences between baking cakes with full eggs versus only whites, solid fats like butter versus liquid fats like oil, baking powder versus omitting it and even how the addition of cocoa powder yields a very different product than a cake without it. We’ve whipped, folded, poured, sliced, frosted and piped more cakes than I even thought was possible, and we’re only halfway done!

 

Needless to say, the world of cakes is bigger than I ever imagined, but I’m very much enjoying learning about it. Here’s just a taste of the confections I’ve created thus far.

 

Cinnamon Chiffon Cake

Lemon sponge cake with vanilla buttercream and raspberry preserves

Chocolate ganache cake with coffee buttercream

Vanilla cake with blueberry mousse and blueberry glaze

Check back next week for more cake intel!

A Cake That Calls Your Name

Why bake from a box when you can make this? Our creamy-dreamy chocolate cake with almond-coconut filing is a cinch and will serve up sweet savings as it costs only $1.60 per slice versus $7 restaurant slices.

Almond Joy Cake

Get the recipe: Almond Joy Layer Cake 

 

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