Perfect Layers

perfect layers

Perfect, even layers.  They look good huh? But just how do you get them? Sorcery? Well possibly, but let's stick to the easy way!

There are numerous ways you can layer (Torte) your cake, but we'll look at the three most popular, and weigh their pros and cons.

To make it easier on you (and to waste less cake!), you can bake your cake at lower temperatures, and this will stop your cake from domeing.

Now, depending on what type of cake you are baking (a light sponge for example), you may HAVE to bake at higher temperatures to get the correct result. No problem! You can always trim it down.

Do you need to have flat layers? NO. No you don't. It won't change the way your cake tastes (which should be the first priority), but it's another skill that you can tuck into your belt, should you want to use it.

Before you cut

Cakes dry out VERY quickly, so once you commit to cutting your cake, be ready with either your filling, or plastic wrap to keep it moist until you are ready to use it. If you plan to cut, then refrigerate or freeze your cake, be sure to wrap it well with plastic wrap, to avoid it drying.  You may want to also wrap it in foil if you plan to freeze it, to avoid freezer burn.

Depending on your recipe, cakes last for up to a week in the fridge (less for sponge), or up to 3 months in the freezer.  You may get mixed results if you have iced your cake, and perishable fillings, like custards, will change their "shelf life" dramatically.

Cutting tools - from most expensive, to least expensive

The Agbay

Agbay.jpg

You won't have to be around cake decorators for long before you hear about the Agbay.  An Agbay is a fixed frame cutter blade (or double blade), that effortlessly cuts through any cake, even fruitcake, and depending on what version you buy, up to a 20" cake!

Pros:

  • It can cut through pretty much ANYTHING, even frozen cakes
  • You can set the adjustable blade height, for even layers every time.
  • I haven't heard of one breaking, so you can count on it lasting.

Cons:

  • The 'cut through anything' includes fingers, so not for the clumsy, and may not be suitable for young cakers.
  • It's a fixed frame, so you need somewhere big enough to store it (the second drawer won't hold this one!)
  • It would want to last! Agbay's retail for around A$235- for the Agbay Jr, which is fine for professional bakers that can claim them on tax, but if you are only making a few cakes a year, you might want to see options 2 and 3!

Cake Knife

Ateco-Cake-Knife.jpg

Depending on where you are, a "cake knife" could vary in size, and style, but a general style Cake Knife is a long, serrated blade, kind of like an

oversized steak knife.  In a pinch, you could get away with a bread knife, but it might not be as gentle on your cake.

Pros:

  • At around $20, it's an affordable option
  • As it's just a single blade, it's easy to store
  • It can be used to cut a cake of ANY size, even well over 20"

Cons:

  • It can take some practice to cut evenly, especially larger cakes. It doesn't have the automatic precision of the Agbay, or other fixed blade cutters.

Wire Cutter

Wire-Cutter.jpg

The cheapskate option! And the one I use, because yes, I'm a cheapskate!  

When I first started decorating, I tried to spend as little money as possible on tools, just in case it just turned into another hobby that fell by the wayside.

Obviously it didn't, but I STILL use the same cutter that I bought right at the beginning.

Pros:

  • I wasn't kidding when I said cheap, mine cost me all of $5. Seriously.
  • Cuts perfectly evenly, with adjustable heights like an agbay
  • Very easy to use, no skill required, easy to store, and no razor sharp blade!

Cons:

  • It's NOWHERE near as sharp as an Agbay. Soft cakes only, no chance of getting through a fruitcake, and frozen cakes? Ah, no. But if you do try, put it on Youtube, it will be hilarious!
  • Can be damaged if mistreated (which includes trying to force it through cake stronger than it is!)

My Recommendation

I highly recommend starting with a Wire Cutter.  If you don't have much experience with knives, a cake knife could just be more trouble than you need. Agbays are the platinum choice, but as mentioned, they are expensive, so they do need to be considered an investment, and may not suit everyone.  I fall into the 'clumsy' category, so i'll stick with a Wire Cutter, and keep my fingers!

If you are using a Wire Cutter, I recommend cutting your cake into layers not long after removing from the oven, and wrapping them in plastic wrap until cooled.  I wrap mine, and put them in the fridge to chill until I'm ready to stack.  Wrapping while they are still warm also helps to keep the cake moist.

Whatever you choose to use, and whether you choose to cut perfect layers, or just make enough room to get more Buttercream in, choosing to create is an awesome choice in anyone's language. Plus you know, there's cake!

Viva La Buttercream xx