When Good Cakes Go Bad: A Cheat Sheet for the Uninspired
I’m no cake professional. I can barely manage a Betty Crocker boxed mix with the fluffy frosting from a can. I appreciate all the hard work that goes into a professional piece (be it for weddings, birthdays, or that retirement party.) Check out my tips for faking cake proficiency, and see what happens when it all goes terribly wrong.
Cakes are usually delicious, regardless of how dysfunctional they may appear. While close family may be forgiving of a lop-sided creation badly adorned with those premade candy letters and the 50-cent candles from the Dollar store, there are better, classier ways. Here’s how I manage:
Your Basic Cake – White cake is actually pretty boring, and reminds me of my Easy Bake Oven days. A nice lemon, pineapple, or red velvet cake somehow oozes a little more sophistication. It’s OK to use a box mix for these more challenging cakes, and if done correctly, you may get a few “oohs” and “awes” with little effort.
Your Mix-Ins – Nuts, fruits, sprinkles, chips, and other yummy, tiny little things can give your basic cake extra spark and delightful flavor. Play around with flavor combinations that compliment each other, and give an instant gourmet taste to your cheap knock-off.
Your Presentation – The most creatively-prepared cake mix will fail to bring fascination if baked in your standby rectangle cake pan. While I’m not advocating we all go out and purchase $50 Elmo cake shapes, a bit of style and the wonders of silicon can keep your desserts pretty and in one piece. I love Wilton’s entire line of Bundt pans and those cute little tulip and daisy individual cake molds.
Your Frosting – Huge gobs of premade frosting can be a turn off. Consider making your own frosting or lightly dusting a cake with powdered sugar. If you insist on decorating with no skill whatsoever, go easy, take your time, and remember that less is more.
Assuming that you can bake, decorate, and transport your cake safely to your destination, you have a shot at impressing with little money and effort. (Or consider a dump cake for true simplicity and honest flavor.)
There are always those who don’t heed the warnings of the cake professionals and undertake something way beyond their skill level. Sadly, many of these errors occur in the bakeries of large grocery stores or big box retailers, where consumers are left overcharged and unimpressed. My favorite cake goofs of all time are displayed in all their glory at the Cake Wrecks blog. (Thanks to Autumn Oak Hollow for the tip!) A doggie cake that looks like a pile of crap (literally)? You seriously have to see it to believe it.