Someone with an excellent memory wrote in overnight, reminding me that I once said that I don’t like using cake syrup. This person clearly has the memory of an elephant, but yes, that’s true. In general I don’t like using cake syrup for American-style layer cakes. It’s my view that cake syrup is abused by too many professional cake makers, who apply it so liberally to wedding cakes that they become wet, heavy, sloshy-sweet sponges. And I hate that. Thin European sponge cakes are, ehem, another matter entirely.
This same emailer also asked whether the proportions of cake syrup really have to be so exact. Can’t a lighter syrup be used? Well, yes, a lighter syrup can be used however if you’re worried about sweetness, it’s better to just use less of the standard syrup. Cake syrup has the proportions it does because a lighter syrup will eventually ferment if it sits too long, and the sugar will tend to want to crystallize and settle out of a heavier solution. Home bakers really don’t need to worry about either of these eventualities, since our cakes are usually made and consumed very promptly. But there’s often a reason to stick with the old tried-and-trues.