I spent so much time blabbing about cake history last week I really didn’t leave myself time or space for all the various tips I had in mind. Cakes are, in the end, very easy things to make, yet a couple simple tricks make a big difference in the final product.
One of these is pan lining. Yes, there are all kinds of cool nonstick layer cake pans out there, but even the best nonstick surfaces aren’t foolproof, and I’m the type that likes to err on the side of caution (couldja tell?). So I line my pans completely with lubricated parchment paper.
It’s simple process. Just unroll a length or parchment paper (available at any good grocery store) and place your cake pan on it. Trace it with a pencil, and cut ever-so-slightly inside the line for a perfect interior fit. Next, cut a 2-inch-wide strip down the length of the roll of parchment, about 30 inches long. This is your lip liner. To prepare the pan, apply a good coating of nonstick spray. Press the bottom liner in, then put the lip liner on (the cooking spray will make it adhere to the sides of the pan). Another good coating of cooking spray and you’re done.
Just as with bare pans, it’s important to let your layers cool somewhat before you turn them out, and you want them to cool completely before you gently peel off the parchment. Making sure the layers are completely cool will ensure that not even a little of the nice browned crust comes off on the paper. Since the bottom of a layer frequently becomes the top of the cake, this is a very important step, especially if the cake is going to be left plain.
One very groovy effect for a plain cake is to stick a few mint leaves down to the parchment after you’ve applied your final layer of cooking spray. Make sure they’re good and flat (five in a little star shape in the center is nice). Pour in your batter and bake as usual. When you turn out the cake and peel off the parchment you’ll have a lovely little leaf design baked right in. Très élégante!