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Cake baking: practice makes perfect

Practicing to avoid cake disasters like this one.

Practicing to avoid cake disasters like this one.

I’m elbow deep in a cake project right now, practicing for my son’s birthday party.

I’m one of those moms. I love planning birthday parties for my children. Let’s just say I go the extra mile. Nothing worthy of a TLC show, but I try to consider the details. Handmade invitations are a must. And then there’s the cake.

I insist on making the cake. I avoid party packages including them and have negotiated special permission to bring my own cake to parties in places (like the Atlanta Botanical Garden) that require the use of a caterer.

It’s a daunting task. Admittedly, I tend to design cakes beyond my ability, which is why I practice. I make every cake twice. This allows me to assess structure and modify the design before it’s too late.

Earlier this summer when I interviewed pastry chef Heather Hurlbert about her new shop HH Desserts, we strategized about the cake I’m working on now. She was surprised to learn that I practice each cake in advance. Surely I’m not the only one?

A few years back I attempted my first topsy-turvy cake. I was pleased with the outcome until I woke up the next morning to heaps of broken cake lining the counter. Imagine if that had been the day of the party!

So, tell me I’m not alone. Does anyone else practice their cakes before a party?

And now I’m off the complete Super Mario’s head and hat on the practice cake before I start the real one tomorrow.

–by Jenny Turknett, Food and More blog

6 comments Add your comment


September 18th, 2012
7:29 am

If I’m making a cake I’ve never made before, and planning to serve it to guests, I would definitely make a “practice cake” beforehand. I’ve made enough cakes over the years to be a pretty good judge of how a particular recipe will turn out, so for most cakes a practice run isn’t necessary. But, if it involves some new twist or an unusual method or ingredient, practice is just practical.

Marietta Mary

September 18th, 2012
8:24 am

Made a vegan chocolate cake which turned out to be the best cake I’d ever made. Took a while before I discovered it was a larger version of the “dump” cake I’d made years before. Oil, vinegar, sugar, cocoa, flour, some leavening. Made a smaller cake first that was divine; practice does make perfect. I’m with Edward and Jenny!


September 18th, 2012
8:47 am

Generally speaking i practice run every recipe that I might be unsure of before I have a test audience. cake would be no exception, especially with the crazy structural stuff you’re doing.


September 18th, 2012
9:24 am

I agree with everyone here. I practice all recipes at least twice before serving them to guests. It helps me decide if it’s something worth serving for a real event or if I have to go back to the drawing board for something else.
Julia Child even did this. I remember watching her show as a small child with my Mother. Julia would sometimes say at the end of a show how many times she had to practice a recipe before she got it right.


September 18th, 2012
12:09 pm

My office loves me because they get my “practices” if they are presentable.


September 18th, 2012
12:39 pm

Most cooking and baking is practice, isn’t it? I’m entering some baked goods in the state fair and I tested my chiffon cake in a Bundt pan to make sure it would turn out. So far, so good. Can’t wait to see pictures of the super-dee-duper Mario cake!