I provide the cake syrup recipe to you on the understanding you’ll use it responsibly. For there is far too much cake syrup abuse that goes on in the world for my liking. Sure, for génoise cakes it’s necessary, but for the vast majority of the cakes it’s applied to — I’m thinking of butter cakes now — it isn’t. That doesn’t stop a lot of professional cake makers from pouring it by the ounce, the cup, the quart into their creations. Why? The main reason has to do with keeping ability. Large wedding and occasion cakes are typically worked on over a period of many days. Pre-made layers spend a lot of time in freezers (where moisture slowly migrates out of them), and the cakes themselves spend a lot of time in walk-ins during the various stages of assembly and decoration. All that time leads to at least a little drying and/or staling, so cake makers add syrup to compensate.
Is all syrup added to a butter cake a sin? Hey, I don’t want to be judgmental (or, you know, not any more than usual). A little syrup painted on a butter cake layer isn’t the end of the world. It’s not very noticeable, though compared to the texture of a fresh-from-the-oven layer, it does weigh it down some. My main problem with it is when it’s over-used. I think we’ve all had the experience of being at some wedding…we’re handed a delightful looking — if curiously heavy — slice of cake. We admire the fluffy luster of its crumb and anticipate the silky sweetness of its icing. We lick our lips as we raise the first glistening forkful up to our mouths and…gish. Oh, how many lovely cakes are actually sodden sponges in hiding. Such a pity. Such a dreadful, dreadful waste of good butter.