Newbie (As In Never Baked A Cake) Needs Help!

Decorating By CupcakeClaudia Updated 16 May 2009 , 10:39pm by sayhellojana

CupcakeClaudia Posted 16 May 2009 , 8:31am
post #1 of 24

I am absolutely crazy about cakes and cupcakes, eating and looking at them!!
This is the main reason i got to this webbie, looking at the amazing cakes you all make, and im addicted to the disasters forum!

I have never baked a cake, unless you count fruit cakes and boxed stuff.

I would like to try my hand and making one from scratch and decorating it for my husbands birthday, im being ambitious as im planning to do an R2D2 or a Darth Vader's helmet.

I am in desperate need of a really nice and yummy cake firm enough to take on the weight of the decoration and that will retain its shape when i cut it.

I would love it if any of you could share your recipe with me.

I have looked through the recipes forum and although they look delicious as a newbie i do not know which one is the best for my project. And unfortunately i know a boxed sponge would not take the weight and hacking!

Many many thanks for your help!!!

23 replies
Evoir Posted 16 May 2009 , 8:55am
post #2 of 24

You need a nice firm cake if you intend to carve it and apply smooth fondant. I use a chocolate mudcake recipe for that (either dark, white or caramel). I don't have a recipe on CC yet, but that might steer you in the right direction! One trick to remember is to refrigerate a cake (or freeze it) to get it nice and firm as well.

I know a lot of folks here swear by the WASC cake.

Good luck with it - this website should provide you with loads of know-how AND inspiration!

Cocoby Posted 16 May 2009 , 8:59am
post #3 of 24

Well, I've never used the recipe I'm going to copy here for you. But I've read a lot of interesting and great comments about it. And people here at CC's seem to prefer to use it for great texture ans stability in cakes they are going to carve, etc. The recipe is this and I hope this helps. Tell me about it ...because I'm planning to use it soon as I have to make a great cake for my cousin's birthday. icon_smile.gif

grama_j Posted 16 May 2009 , 10:12am
post #4 of 24

cocoby, why don't you just try it out and see what you think ? You already know that most people around here like it,, and you are going to have to practice anyway.....

CupcakeClaudia Posted 16 May 2009 , 6:12pm
post #5 of 24

WASC... what is that?

The mud cake? do i use any recipe? im sure my friend martha stewart should have one!

Freeezing/refridgerating it, before or after the decorating?

That recipe looks quite easy, it looks like tried and tested so i may go for that one.

I have tried baking a few times but my cakes just wont rise, even when following the recipe to the letter, is there something that im messing up?

Thanks so much guys!


madgeowens Posted 16 May 2009 , 6:26pm
post #6 of 24

If you use a Duncan Hines cake mix and use the extender recipe in here, it makes a nice dense cake in which to carve. Good luck. Don't start with carving a cake if you are new, you will be cutting off more than you can chew so to speak. Start with something simple and move your way up. If your going to be a doctor you would not start out with brain surgery right?

missyd4e Posted 16 May 2009 , 6:26pm
post #7 of 24

Have you tried baking strips. You can buy them or make them. They really help with your cake baking evenly through out. You can also try adding 1-2tbs of merengue powder to your cake mix, I have herd that works wonders with rising.

AuntieE Posted 16 May 2009 , 6:27pm
post #8 of 24

Have you done a search in the "How Do I?". I'm also a newbie and find a lot of information there.

madgeowens Posted 16 May 2009 , 6:44pm
post #9 of 24

The only problem with the baking strips is they do not fit around many of the pans, so you are better off making your own, and be sure to wet them. I still say you have to crawl before you walk, and you should start with a simple cake and eventually get a bit more difficult. Good luck, and have fun.

Lita829 Posted 16 May 2009 , 6:47pm
post #10 of 24

I have a pound cake recipe that I use for all my 3-D cakes that I think might work for you. I haven't posted it on CC yet so here it goes:

4 sticks butter
2 C sugar
6 Eggs
1 T vanilla
3C flour
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 C whole milk

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Add vanilla . Add combined flour, salt, and baking powder; alternating with the milk...beginning and ending with the dry. Bake at 325 for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 min (depending on the pan).

If this doesn't work for you, I'm sure there is a good recipe here on CC under the recipe tab. It would probably be best if you go for some type of pound cake recipe.

Hope this helps icon_smile.gif

hollie77 Posted 16 May 2009 , 6:56pm
post #11 of 24

There is also a great cake on from seriously cakes. There's a video showing you how to make the cake... it's a very heavy cake that's great for carving. Good luck, show us the pictures when it's done!

CupcakeClaudia Posted 16 May 2009 , 7:19pm
post #12 of 24

Many thanks!!
What are the baking strips?
So, cooling before or after decorating?

Im being too ambitious, so i guess you are right, might just do a square cake and do the shape on top with the fondant or BC

Thanks for that last recipe!

I will make sure i post the pic, wether it will be suitable for first time cakes or cake wrecks that is another matter!!

The birthday is not until the 26 and i will probably bake it at work (im a nanny) then will transport it home...

CakesDownTheFamilyLine Posted 16 May 2009 , 7:29pm
post #13 of 24

Baking strips are too make an even cake you put them out side you pan and bake with them on, you will get a nice even cake without a big rise spot on top. Also your cake will be nice if you let it stand in the fridge for a couple hours so bake the cake a day or two before sculpting and decorating, also if your making a Marshmellow fondant to cover the cake sift the sugar powder so you dont any clumps . I am a begginer two I baked for a couple month and these are the places that I got burned on and then did days of research on hope it helps!!!


MyDiwa Posted 16 May 2009 , 7:47pm
post #14 of 24
Originally Posted by madgeowens

The only problem with the baking strips is they do not fit around many of the pans, so you are better off making your own, and be sure to wet them.

Hi Madge - how do you make your own?

sayhellojana Posted 16 May 2009 , 8:00pm
post #15 of 24
Originally Posted by hollie77

There is also a great cake on from seriously cakes. There's a video showing you how to make the cake... it's a very heavy cake that's great for carving. Good luck, show us the pictures when it's done!

Actually, it's Serious_Cake's. lol! Type in "yellow cake recipe" and it will pop right up on youtube. I use this recipe for about every flavor, subbing in things to flavor it differently. It is a very easy to make, consistant recipe. I have never had it sink.
I honestly DO NOT suggest trying any kind of carved cake for your first cake. Take it slow, bake a cake from scratch, make a nice filling, try your hand at smooth buttercream and maybe if you're ambitious fondant. That is a lot right there.

If you ARE going to carve the cake, level and fill your cake, then refrigerate till it's cold. This will firm it up. Once your cake is iced you dont need to refrigerate it unless you are using a perishable filling. do not refrigerate fondant.
good luck, and let us know how it goes. We're here if you need help

mommyle Posted 16 May 2009 , 8:05pm
post #16 of 24

Ok. so the White Almond Sour Cream (WASC) cake .

For liqueur flavors: substitute alcohol (such as champagne or Kahlua) for about 1 cup of the water in the recipe.

For berry flavors: use frozen berries, thaw reserving the juice. Substitute the berry juice for part of the water in the recipe, and stir the berries in at the end.

For lemon cake: substitute lemon juice for about 1 cup of the water in the recipe, use 6 whole eggs instead of the whites, stir in 1 Tblsp lemon zest, and use 1 tsp of a good lemon extract in place of the almond.

Start getting Michael's coupons or JoAnne's for 40% off. Get the ready-made baking strips. Easy peasy.

So... a couple of days ahead, bake your cakes and MAKE your fondant (if you buy Michael's fondant we will all flog you *kidding mostly !)

Bake, Cool, then Freeze your cakes in a couple of layers of saran and then place in a Ziplock bag (or whatever works for you)

Marshmellow Fondant is easy to make..
or Search Marshmallow Fondant here.

I would advise that you do a flat R2D2 or DarthVader. You can carve it into the outline that you want fairly easily, and then you can also give it a bit of dimension by carving out details or building up details.

Read these... for decorating with Fondant.

Good luck and I hope that this helps.

3GCakes Posted 16 May 2009 , 8:09pm
post #17 of 24

Hello! I took pictures along the way when I made my Darth Vader Helmet. I took instructions from Bakinggirl.

My pics are on my facebook page. I can email them to anyone if you send me your email address as a Private Message here on Cake Central. It's not perfect...but it will give you some perspective.

hollie77 Posted 16 May 2009 , 8:20pm
post #18 of 24

Thank you SayHelloJana for the correction! As I was typing it didn't look quite right, but I couldn't figure out the mispell. We've had some long nights trying to get our baby to sleep through the night, and my brain is about fried! Maybe I'll skip the posting until I've had some more sleep!

bmarlow001 Posted 16 May 2009 , 8:38pm
post #19 of 24

I am also pretty new at this but I have been practicing for any occasion that pops up! I have done about 10 cakes in the past few months and have learned so much! I have learned to give myself two to three days on a cake depending on how detailed it is going to be. I normally begin by making the fondant on the first day and sometimes the cake parts as well then I refrigerate the cake pieces over night, the next morning I take the cakes out and level them and if I am doing a topsy turvy then I cut the cake to give that look. I then apply my filling and crumb layer and place it back into the fridge while I make my decorations out of my fondant (If there are any that can be pre-made) otherwise I just wait about an hour to roll out my fondant and apply it and then cut out my fondant decorations and apply them. So far this has worked for me and I hope I helped at least a little bit, I know starting out I would have loved to know the order in which some people made their cakes. If anyone else has any other ideas on cake prep than please let me know I will be tracking all of these posts for advice as well icon_smile.gif

CupcakeClaudia Posted 16 May 2009 , 10:02pm
post #20 of 24

Hi Cakemom, pm'ing u now!
Ok, the levelling and cutting sounds far too scary! So i guess you are right, no vandalising cakes is better than ending with a tiny uneven square after cutting loads...

I shall tell you a little secret, 3 years ago i was working for a family with a 4 yr old little girl, her mom asked me to bake the cake, just a simple sponge with buttercream filling and topping for around 10 kids for the party.
I cheated big time and bought boxed victoria sponges. I baked them and when they came out they were incredibly uneven, so i started trying to level them...
oh boy that was a mistake! I leveled and leveled and levelled a bit more until i ended up with an inch of each cake! No kidding!
So i made what must have been 3 3ltr bowls of pink buttercream and proceeded to smother the cake with it. So, there was 2 inches of cake and around 3 of icing on top.
Then i just couldnt get the icing right, smooth and pretty looking so i just stuck a whole bag of mini marshmallows on top so then it looked even worse, so to top it off i added a whole bag of pastel coloured sprinkles...
When the girl came back from school she was thrilled cos i had made her a pink hedgehog for her birthday!!!

So, girls, this is what you are dealing with!!!

I guess i will be using royal icing, it will be easier to make and do the shapes for the helmet? But what is fondant?

Is it still a good idea to bake the cake a day or two before decorating? will it keep?

I live in the UK, in London, so for the sour cream recipe i dont know what cake to use, is it a victoria sponge mix they call for?

We dont have big bakeware shops around where i live (South London) but i am the proud owner of latex round and square pans! Will they work too?

What do i put in the filling? Is it jam?

Im not sure you will want to see any pics of my cake on second thought, you should see the one i just baked! I got a whole of stuff to read before Baking Day comes!

Peridot Posted 16 May 2009 , 10:27pm
post #21 of 24


I think you just need to go to the Forum tab and read, read, read. That's what I did and you will find SOOOO much info on all of the things that you need to know. This site is priceless. You will learn more if you read and then print or copy and save sections to a Word document for things that you want to "remember" or want for reference.

You could go on asking questions forever and 99% of the answers are already here in great detail. Also doing a search in the forums will bring up tons of stuff.

I agree with everyone else - start small and slow. If you start with a carved cake that you can't handle you will be depressed and disappointed. Make something that you can handle and you will be much happier and before you know it you will be doing carved cakes.

Also check out the DVD's that Sugarshack sells - GREAT - you will learn so much and worth every penny. Also youtube - Edna's tutorials - WONDERFUL! I wish you the best and good luck with your cake. By the way the story about the cake you did for the little girl was priceless - what a great story!!

sayhellojana Posted 16 May 2009 , 10:30pm
post #22 of 24

You will be just fine baking 2 days ahead. A cake will keep for many days. You can use jam as a filling. You can also make your own, but since you are so new to this maybe just use jam.
Don't try to level cakes without a leveler. I'm not sure where to buy one in the UK, but here you can buy them at craft stores. I do not know how latex bakes. I don't suggest using royal icing on your cake, my understanding is that that is a very european thing to do - royal on top of a marzipan covered cake - but unless you are covering in marzipan you should try a buttercream instead. Fondant is a sugarpaste used to cover cakes.

I mean this in the nicest way possible, but starting out with a challenging cake like a Star Wars figure isn't a great idea. It really does take time to learn to bake, level, ice, and make fillings properly. All that is going to be more than you realise. Maybe you can draw Darth Vader or R2D2 on the cake in icing. That would be a nice idea.

CupcakeClaudia Posted 16 May 2009 , 10:37pm
post #23 of 24

No offence taken!
Im one of those people that think they can do anything! Which is sometimes a burden, specially when i bite more than i can chew...

I have scrapped the idea of making the shape, that is not going to work, but i thought i can cut out and layer the shapes of the decoration with royal icing/fondant.

It is indeed a very european thing to do, that is the only way i know how to decorate the top of my fruitcakes!!

i will try the sour cream recipe this week, husbands birthday is on the 26th so i get one experiment this week ready for baking day the week after.

Thanks for all your help!

I will go and read the boards, but it was important for me to "talk" to someone as it reassures me im doing the right thing and im having the right answers. So double thanks to all of you who have taken their time to reply!

sayhellojana Posted 16 May 2009 , 10:39pm
post #24 of 24

That is a good idea, I think you will have better luck doing the design on top.
Good luck with the WASC recipe. Serious_Cake's is a great scratch cake, too. I just pulled one out of the oven and it smells fabulous.
Good Luck!

Quote by @%username% on %date%