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How to Frost a Layer Cake Like NYC's Baked

At Baked in New York City, the cakes look modern and pretty. Here’s how they do it.

June/July 2016 Issue
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Among the many assorted goodies for sale at Baked bakery in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood, New York, cakes—especially layer cakes—stand tall. At last count, 26 different flavors of cake were on the menu, including chocolate and vanilla, of course, but also carrot, caramel apple, coconut cream, green tea, lemon drop, malted milk ball, and strawberry supreme. Despite how unalike they may taste, all share a similar look: modern and unfussy, yet beautiful in a quiet way. “Clean and minimal was conscious,” says Matt Lewis, who along with Renato Poliafito opened the first of two Baked outposts in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook back in 2005. “So many cakes out there have so much going on. We wanted something that was a little less abundant in aesthetic.”

The bakery’s signature look is the swirl. A customer once remarked to Lewis that the way the cakes are frosted is reminiscent of Manhattan’s Guggenheim Museum. “If there was any connection to Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, it was deeply subconscious,” quips Lewis. “But the description makes total sense.”

The simplicity of the design is good news for baking enthusiasts. With the right tools—a cake turntable and an offset spatula are nonnegotiable—a little practice, and some know-how, mere mortals can frost similarly gorgeous cakes in their own homes.

Recently, Baked’s head decorator, Annemarie Bouman (pictured), and events manager, Jordan Slocum, came to the Fine Cooking test kitchen to demonstrate how it’s done. Follow the step-by-step photos, and then go find a reason to celebrate.
Gather your tools (see slideshow below) and follow the photos to frost a cake like a pro. Use Baked’s vanilla layer cake and frosting recipes or your own favorite cake and frosting. For best results, you’ll need three 8- or 9-inch vanilla layer cakes and about 8 cups of creamy, spreadable frosting.

For smooth frosting, keep whisking

The Very Vanilla Frosting recipe is about the best we’ve ever had: not too sweet, with a thick but light and airy texture that makes frosting fun and a slice of cake simply delicious. It is, however, a bit unusual. It starts with a roux of sorts, which thickens the frosting and gives it its full body, but after copious amounts of butter are beaten into it, the frosting does not look good. It needs a rest so the ingredients can come to the same temperature and then lots more whipping. Because it’s hard to believe the lumpy-looking mess will eventually lighten into a smooth and fluffy frosting, we decided to show you what it looks like at a couple of stages, just so you’ll know not to give up.

The frosting after the initial whipping in of the butter: not exactly smooth.
The frosting when finished: creamy, light, and luscious.

STEP 1: Trim the layers

For a tall, elegant-looking cake, start with three 8-inch layers as shown here. If your hand isn’t super steady, you can use a cake leveler to remove the domed tops.

Remove the domed top with a serrated knife. Begin by positioning the knife just below the top edge. Plastic wrap on the turntable makes cleanup easy.
Gently saw through the layer to remove the top. Discard the top or save for another purpose. Repeat with the other two layers.

STEP 2: Stack and fill the layers

Be sure to put a cake board on your turntable (see tool slideshow above) for easy transport of the finished cake. To keep it from sliding, put a flat piece of rubber, such as from a nonskid mat, between it and the turntable.

1. Place a layer, cut side up, on a cake board on the turntable. Using a large silicone spatula, dollop about 1-1/2 cups of frosting on top and smush it down a bit.
2. Spread the frosting to the edge. For efficient spreading, choke up on the offset spatula blade, hold it at a slight angle, and spin the turntable as you go.
3. Top with the second layer, cut side down. Press down firmly in the middle of the cake to squeeze out air bubbles. Top the second layer with frosting and spread as before. For nice, thick bakery-style layers, be generous with the frosting.
4. Top with third layer, cut side down. Press on the top layer with your hand as before. Don’t worry about the frosting that squeezes out.


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  • flourylife | 05/11/2021

    If the cake is domed, it is baked at too high a temperature and over baked.

    A cake baked from the outside in to the center. When the temperature is too high, the batter on the sides and the bottom sets too soon. The raw center continues bake and rise. When the sides set too early from excessive heat, a volcano effect will happen, so not only will the cake dome, but it will crack.

    Avoid anodized aluminum cake pans like Fat Daddio, dark metal, and coated non stick cake pans as they all conduct heat more intensely. Non-coated plain metal such as Parrish Magic Pan, NordicWare Naturals, or the plain metal no brand n pans from the restaurant supply stores are the best for cake.

    Bake most cakes at 325°F in a home oven. The exception are cakes with a lot of add-ons such as carrot cake, hummingbird cake etc.

    Use cloth baking strips to insulate the side of the cake pan from heat.

    A cake should not have a dry brown crust on it. Once that crust forms the cake is dried out an inedible. Trust me, that cake in the photos doesn’t meet the standards of what a professional pastry chef would provide to a client.

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