Good Cake Decorating....bad Cakes :(

Baking By SweetHeartTart Updated 29 Nov 2011 , 7:39pm by SweetHeartTart

SweetHeartTart Posted 28 Nov 2011 , 8:18pm
post #1 of 26

Hi all,

I'm pretty new to this cake decorating gig (Feb/2011) and really enjoy the creative freedom cake decorating gives me, but enough with the horrible tasting cakes already!!! I know my family and friends are being nice by telling me my cakes taste "fine" but when I try them, they taste horrible...they're either to dry, flavorless, or taste like they're raw (even though I exceed cooking times and they're practically burnt on the tops).

The only cakes that come out beautifully are the boxed cakes, but I know I'm better than that. I can't tell you how many cakes I've baked since Feb trying to find my "go-to" cakes and no luck. If they come out good one day, the next day they bake up horrible. No consistency in any of my recipes and I'm afraid I'll lose wonderful customers.

Any help/advice would be much appreciated!!!

25 replies
QTCakes1 Posted 28 Nov 2011 , 8:51pm
post #2 of 26

It sounds like you are baking from scratch. If you are what matters is finding reliable recipes AND using the same consistent techniques. It's all about technique when it comes to scratch baking. The only reason I can think of not having consistent results is if you are doing things differently everytime.

jgifford Posted 28 Nov 2011 , 9:03pm
post #3 of 26

"The only cakes that come out beautifully are the boxed cakes, but I know I'm better than that. "

There's nothing wrong with box mixes. The main appeal for me is the preservatives, but they are also consistent, as you have found.

I don't think I've made a straight box cake without "adjusting" it since I was 12, as most box bakers will tell you.

You might rethink the box cakes until you do find a "go-to" recipe that works for you.

SweetHeartTart Posted 28 Nov 2011 , 9:20pm
post #4 of 26

Thanks jgifford....I don't mean to offend. If anything, I LOVE boxed cakes..always have and always will, but there's something so satisfying about baking from scratch.
QTCakes1, I realize consistency is KEY so I always make sure to be consistent with every recipe, but like I said, it's a hit or miss with me. Just bought The Cake Bible...maybe that'll help??? icon_smile.gif

Thanks for your replies...any other feedback is greatly welcomed and appreciated!

jgifford Posted 28 Nov 2011 , 9:23pm
post #5 of 26

Hey, Sweet Heart - - didn't mean to make you think I was offended. I don't have a problem with it, just wanted to point out another option for you. icon_smile.gif

We get enough frustration in this business without putting more pressure on ourselves. We're all kind of OCD or we wouldn't be doing this.

ConfectionsCC Posted 28 Nov 2011 , 9:41pm
post #6 of 26

Scratch baking IS hard! I personally love boxed mixes with extenders so I can add my own touch, yet yield moist and consistent results with little effort.,...and I only use it for my vanilla cake because I have not had the time recently to continue my search for the perfect scratch white/vanilla cake! The key, like said before, with scratch is making sure everything is point on every time you make it. For this, I would suggest making a small investment into a good food scale! You can find them fairly cheap at walmart, bed bath and beyond..or anywhere online. Using measuring cups will not produce consistent cakes. Pay close attention to the directions in your recipe as well. If it says use "cake flour" USE IT. I use it in ALL my cake recipes because its a much finer flour than AP and makes a nicer crumb. HTH don't give up!

QTCakes1 Posted 28 Nov 2011 , 10:04pm
post #7 of 26

I have the Cake Bible. I like it for the science read of it, but for cake recipes, I don't like them. I think the Cake Bible has excellent buttercream/filling recipes that I do use. I think she'll teach you some good techniques, but I don't care for her cake recipes.

fedra Posted 28 Nov 2011 , 10:09pm
post #8 of 26

There's a recipe here on cakecentral from the mermaid bakery that SAVED my baking life. It's all I use. Comes out nice and moist each time. Also wonderful to stack and carve with. You have to follow the directions precisely and what I think makes the difference between a moist cake and a cornbread type cake is making sure that ALL of your ingredients are at room temp and that you beat your butter/sugar until fluffy. It's a beautiful recipe!

sewsugarqueen Posted 28 Nov 2011 , 10:13pm
post #9 of 26

have you every thought it could be the flour you are using..... Had to taste an Irish bread contest once and one was so bad.... family claimed everyone loved it.... we believed it was the flour. When I am in states I am always picking up the biggest bags of King Arthur flour or Martha white because they are beautiful for baking.... also does your recipe call for cake flour instead of all purpose flour. Try switching flour brands or try cake flour... costs alot more but won't develope that glueten like bread taste.

imagenthatnj Posted 28 Nov 2011 , 10:19pm
post #10 of 26

As Confections CC advised, get a scale. It will be the best thing you'll do for your baking and it will save you tons of time.

I always had every cake in this book come out great.

She uses cake flour on most of the recipes.

kel58 Posted 28 Nov 2011 , 11:55pm
post #11 of 26

I have no tried this recipe yet, but I read another thread of here about finding a go to white cake recipe. She is member here on CC, maybe she'll pop in on this thread too. Her blog cracked me up and explains lots about scatch baking. Definitly worth a read

I also really love the Vanilla Butter Cake by The Mermaid Bakery that a pp posted the link too. I do find it a little dense for my go to cake though. But I love the taste. Who knows maybe I did something wrong? icon_surprised.gif

For chocolate cake my go to recipe is the Hersey's recipe on here BUT i have issues with it sticking in my pans on me icon_mad.gif so i might need to try another or start lining the bottom of my pans.

Good luck on your search. Scratch baking is HARD. I give you ladies some serious credit.

debbief Posted 28 Nov 2011 , 11:57pm
post #12 of 26

Not to hijack this thread, but does anyone use the method of making their own cake flour by adding cornstarch all purpose flour? I've done this a few times and it seems to work well. It's less expensive than purchasing cake flour. And this way you always have all purpose and cake flour on hand when needed.

Anyone have a bad experience with this or a reason why it is not advisable?

imagenthatnj Posted 29 Nov 2011 , 12:07am
post #13 of 26

You're not hijacking. Any talk about baking is good here.

I haven't done any testing yet with adding the cornstarch. I've heard that it's not the same at all. But sometimes, you have to live with the "approximate" thing. My sister lives in Ecuador. She can't buy cake flour there. She'll have to use the cornstarch addition if I ever translate one of the Sky High recipes and send it to her.

KarlaGJ Posted 29 Nov 2011 , 1:02am
post #14 of 26

I recently attended a Taste of Home Cooking School class. King Arthur Flour is one of the sponsors. While plugging that product the chef mentioned that the varying protien content of the flour can cause inconsistent results, even if all other elements are identical. He said the crop location/growing weather, etc. are variables that can impact the protein content.

That is interesting information and also a bit discouraging as it means one key component is always beyond our control.

BeccaW40 Posted 29 Nov 2011 , 1:52am
post #15 of 26

Theres nothing wrong with box cake mixes. I have taken the classic white box cake mix by pillsbury, and have turned it into my own with trying out new recipes and flavors. I personally luv me it is no different when you buy a cake mix or buy store bought fondant or order icing!!! icon_lol.gif

langranny Posted 29 Nov 2011 , 2:12am
post #16 of 26

Something that I've learned is to weigh my flour instead of measure it. A cup of flour should weigh 5ozs. I bought a digital scale at WalMart for about $20 and it has made all the difference. I also weigh shortening. It's easier than trying to measure it.

KathysCC Posted 29 Nov 2011 , 2:19am
post #17 of 26

I agree that there is nothing wrong with mixes. What matters is what tastes good to you. Have you tried the WASC (white almond sour cream) recipe? It is my absolute favorite. It is a doctored cake mix recipe and gives you a wonderful tasting yet firm cake that is great for decorating.

Maybe doctored cake mixes might be the way to go for get the best of both worlds! icon_biggrin.gif

SweetHeartTart Posted 29 Nov 2011 , 3:19am
post #18 of 26

OMG, you ladies are incredible. I can't believe how much valuable info I picked up from reading this thread. You all really helped me out so much. I have been careful to use only cake flour recently, but maybe using my scale would yield better results as well. I can't wait to try some of these recipes and by the way, I'm really disappointed that my recent purchase of the Cake Bible was all in vain...LOL! Oh well icon_smile.gif

and jgifford - you are SO right. There are enough frustrations and pressures put on cake decorators today. Reading through some of the other "cake disaster" threads makes me realize that a dry cake here and there probably isn't so bad...LOL!

You guys are GREAT. Thanks again!

JWinslow Posted 29 Nov 2011 , 3:32am
post #19 of 26

" Definitly worth a read "

I followed the directions from fromscratch,sf (now Beyond Butter Cream). It was truly the best scratch cake I ever made. The blog is a tutorial of how and when to add ingredients, some science behind it all and explains how to change up the recipe into many different flavors.

Jennifer, owner, also has a tutorial on SMBC that is excellent. It is now my go to icing.

scp1127 Posted 29 Nov 2011 , 3:45am
post #20 of 26

True artisinal scratch baking is a learned craft. It takes years to learn to be successful every time and to produce exquisite cakes that are your own. It's not for everyone. Just like sports or art, it requires dedication.

If this craft is not interesting to you or you can't deal with many failures before a success, then scratch baking may not be for you. If you don't have a mentor or love studying the science of baking, again, it may not be for you.

So make a decision as to where your dedication level actually is. If scratch baking is not for you, don't beat yourself up and find boxes that work. If you do have the "bug", CC is a great place to learn. Those of us who scratch bake periodically start a thread about a certain flavor or recipe. Join in, let us know you are a novice, and 50 people will walk you through the recipe. You can't pay for that kind of education. So just watch for those posts.

Good luck in your decision.

Edited for typo.

BeccaW40 Posted 29 Nov 2011 , 3:54am
post #21 of 26

I agree with both, however being a novice, I am working on 1 scratch baking recipe at a!!! I think I have mastered the apple cake recipe, I finally served it to close friends and got wonderful feedback. So, maybe I will try one a little harder...and then I won't feel so overwhelmed. I luv baking with both, and I love inventing/creating new flavors....I am so glad all of you are here for advice!!!

imagenthatnj Posted 29 Nov 2011 , 4:06am
post #22 of 26
Originally Posted by JWinslow

" Definitly worth a read "

I followed the directions from fromscratch,sf (now Beyond Butter Cream). It was truly the best scratch cake I ever made. The blog is a tutorial of how and when to add ingredients, some science behind it all and explains how to change up the recipe into many different flavors.

Jennifer, owner, also has a tutorial on SMBC that is excellent. It is now my go to icing.

Funny. I just PM'd the OP this same info.

Vanessa7 Posted 29 Nov 2011 , 4:57am
post #23 of 26

I agree with scp1127 about deciding whether you want to bake from scratch or a doctored mix. Most of my cakes are doctored mixes and taste wonderful. My go-to chocolate cake is the "Darn Good Chocolate Cake" from the CC recipes. I add chocolate milk instead of just milk and the mini chocolate chips are a wonderful surprise too. It is very chocolatey and dense enough to stack. The original WASC cake is very moist and can be used as the start of any cake flavor. There's an entire thread here on CC that includes several yummy variations of this recipe. Good luck and don't give up on your new found interest.

JanH Posted 29 Nov 2011 , 2:46pm
post #24 of 26

Cake mix cakes yield consistent results because the ingredients are premeasured, the recipes are formulated and tested extensively to be pretty forgiving of under or over mixing. So it would seem to me that one of your issues might be with not measuring your ingredients correctly.

Originally Posted by langranny

Something that I've learned is to weigh my flour instead of measure it. A cup of flour should weigh 5ozs.

Flour should be sifted, gently spooned into a one cup measure and leveled by scraping a straight blade over the top - then weighed (unless the recipe specifically advises to use the scoop and drag method which would yield 5 oz./cup for AP flour).

Additionally, cake flour and AP flour have different weights for the same volume...

I'd recommend that you use the above measuring info and then weigh a one cup measure of the different types of flour that you routinely use. You could also notate the weights using the scoop and drag method. Then keep that information somewhere handy for future reference.

Average weights of various common baking ingredients:

It's critical to use the correct measuring method, or else your recipes won't ever turn out perfectly. And the scoop and drag method of measuring is the exception, not the rule, for the recipes I use. So you really have to pay attention to the recipe's directions.

Handy cake baking troubleshooting charts:

A great site for learning scratch baking techniques:

And the doctored mix WASC cake and its flavor variations are pretty popular on CC because of consistent reliability:

If you'd like to pursue scratch baking, I would stick with one or two highly recommended recipes (different flavors), until I had them perfected. Otherwise, you won't be able to determine if the problem is with the recipes or your technique.

And if you need help with a specific recipe, we're here to help. (Just post a link to the recipe and give extensive detailed info on everything you did.)


cakelady2266 Posted 29 Nov 2011 , 4:15pm
post #25 of 26

Since I do both box and scratch baking I found these methods very helpful to achieve good textured cakes.

First: Sift all dry ingredients.

Second: Make sure not to over beat the batter either in time or speed.

Third: Superfine sugar makes a difference in cake texture. Cakes seem to have lighter texture.

Fourth: If at all possible let your eggs come to room temperature before adding to batter. It also helps if you do this with milk, buttermilk, sour cream, butter, etc... Cakes bake higher and fluffier.

Fifth: Get an oven thermometer.

Sixth: Sometimes you can get a bad batch of flour so don't panic.

Seventh: Some recipes may do great 8 or 9 inch cake layers but don't do great as 14, 16 or 18 inch cakes layers.

These are just things I've learned over the years and I hope this helps.

SweetHeartTart Posted 29 Nov 2011 , 7:39pm
post #26 of 26

As a mother of 2 young kids and a full time job while cake decorating on the side, perhaps the time to test scratch cakes is not realistic. You have all helped me to realize that maybe I should be honing my craft in perfecting the "boxed" cake and worry about scratch baking when the kids get a little older...LOL! Thank you, thank you everyone for all your wonderful tips and especially those recipes. I can not wait to try them icon_smile.gif
I'll post back when I've tried them ....thanks again everyone icon_smile.gif

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