Hi guys! I'm new to this website and baking. :) I've made a few simple cake recipes and now want to take it further and start decorating, making homemade icing etc etc. I've bought everything I (think) need, read loads of books and watched several videos. Now the problem is I think I've overloaded my brain with info but cake making seems hard! I don't know where to start and I feel literally scared to go and bake something now. Can you help me take it back to basics? Where should I start?
There are tons of tutorials on youtube on how to ice a cake with straight sides. Watch all of them and practice practice practice that first. You need to be able to ice a cake properly before you can cover with fondant. I would start there.
Have fun!! :)
Go bake a cake. That's about as basic as you can get and the best way for you to learn. All the books and videos and tutorials in the world won't help you until you actually do.
I think jgifford is right:) Besides you can't decorate a cake without 1st baking it :) Find one or two recipes that seem simple - though I always use boxed mixes - there are one or two egg recipes that are simple enough. Try them. See how you like the outcome. Is it dry? Is it tasteless? or whatever other problem you can find. From that you can try another recipe that looks better.
I split it into two things as I've been learning.
A new recipe and a new technique.
I'll think of something I want to try, say a simple chocolate cake, find a recipe that looks interesting and bake that. If I like the cake afterwards, I'll add it to a list of recipes for future reference, if not I'll look for something different next time.
If I'm decorating I look for a different technique to try, say a different type of buttercream, or my first ganache attempt, or trying a new way of dirty icing my cake.
I can honestly say I've learnt something from every single cake I've made over the past year. Even if it's just "don't use this recipe ever again!" :D
It's also a good way of buying new equipment gradually. When I decided to do IMBC for the first time, it gave me a reason (or excuse, depending on your POV ;) ) to buy a sugar thermometer. For you it could be a different size cake tin, or or a different make of swiss roll tray. The list goes on :D
Just bake something! Have fun with it and don't be upset if it doesn't work how you want it to. You'll learn more from the disasters than the successes anyway :)
All of the above.
Getting the basics right is key. Have a good tested recipe. Know (physically! ) how to frost a cake and how to use fondant.
But since it's sometimes hard to set yourself a challenge, you could (after being confident with the basics!!!) use your family/ friends as guinea pigs. Make them a free birthday cake for example. That will also teach you to deal with the pressure cake decorators deal with ;)
While there are TONS of videos and tutorials online - as you said yourself, there's SO much out there you don't know where to begin.
For the baking part, as others have said, just try some recipes. Your family and work friends will thank you for bringing your experiments in to taste. :-)
I'd also recommend that if there are craft stores in your area, like Michael's or AC Moore, look into the Wilton courses. You may want to charge ahead to all the beautiful and wonderful techniques you see here and online, But classes can give you some structure and a step-by-step plan to give you a starting point - along with some guidance - if you are very new. They are usually discounted if you buy the lesson kit (find coupons online) and not too expensive.
I had done a lot of baking but took the first one so I could make my baking look nicer...and I wanted to make a rose! That got me hooked on decorating. I took the remaining available classes and then attacked everything I could online. That was many years ago, and I think they've re-vamped "modernized" the courses since then for today's decorating.
Again - not advanced or adventurous techniques, but they do cover the basics.
OK-all the advice above is good. Personally I do not enjoy decorating cakes, however I can and will do it when necessary. I started decorating about 45 years ago- took a decorating course at the YWCA taught by a wedding cake decorator. Now days you would go to a Wilton's class. Before I took that class I was an experienced baker- won multiple blue ribbons in the open classes at the county fair.
Step one- prefect your baking skills. Get a white, yellow and chocolate recipe you can depend on and that you do very well. Line your pans with parchment paper- oh yes, pans Magic Line -expensive but the only ones you will ever need. (PS. hand wash they get funky in the dishwasher.)
Step two -learn to level cakes so that you can create two layer cakes that are absolutely straight. (This is harder than It sounds, but a very necessary skill.)
Step three- frostings Start with a butter cream- there are a billion recipes out there. Don't try to decorate until you have mastered the basics. Just frost the cake and make it look nice. Feed it to your family or take it to work and leave it in the break room.
Step four-Take a decorating class.
Yes, I'm sorry to say it never occurred to me to mention 2 things others have in this thread - Wilton classes and Magic Line pans. **VERY! good advice** :) I'm a b'cream person so I recommend the recipe "2 of everything icing". You can find it in the frosting section on this site. To start, the Wilton recipe isn't all that bad (not great) but it will teach you consistencies needed and how it handles etc. If you go to the classes, please use their recipe as that is what the instructor is used to working with and can help when there are problems. If you use any other, she might not be able to help analyze what's wrong. When you work at home (or ice a cake) you can use any recipe you find works best (taste wise and handling) for you.