To make a four-tiered cake, I used my four graduated cake pans to bake two cakes of each size. After leveling the tops, I split each of these cakes in half to end up with four thin layers of each size that would come together to form my tiers. Make sense? Here's the step-by-step:
1. I followed the cake mix instructions to make the batter. You know what this looks like. There are a few simple changes that can make the cake sturdier and tastier, but I just followed the instructions this time.
2. I poured the batter into pans. Since the leavening agents in cake mix work quickly, you really shouldn't make the batter more than an hour before you use it, so I made it in batches of one or two boxes. Since I knew that a cake mix makes two 8- or 9-inch cakes, I poured half the batter from the first box into my 8-inch pan. I then marked the depth of the batter on a toothpick and used that to judge how much batter to pour in the 6-inch pan. I've never read that you should do that, and I'm sure you could just estimate, but nobody obsesses over silly things like that more than me.
*Note: In the future, I think I'll use more batter to make my layers a little thicker and the cake a little taller.
3. I baked the cakes in pairs. The 8- and 6-inch cakes finished in a little over 30 minutes. While they baked, I made a double batch of batter for the 10- and 12-inch cakes. These took a little over 45 minutes. Since the sizes are different, it's important to check them frequently and usually take the smaller one out before the larger one finishes. I repeated the process for a total of four batches and eight cakes. This took under three hours, most of which was hands-off. If I had known at this point that I would eventually make frosting, this would have been a great time to do it. I wrapped the cooled cakes in plastic wrap and refrigerated them overnight, but you could move on to the next step as soon as they're completely cool.
4. I leveled the tops of my cakes for a flat surface. I use an inexpensive tool called a cake leveler to do this. Check it out here. You can just use a long serrated knife to do this, but I prefer very consistent results and a 0% chance of cutting myself (I'm a bit clumsy).
5. I split (torted) my cakes into two thin layers. I used my cake leveler for this step, also. I measured the height of the leveler after using it to trim the tops of my layers and moved the wire to half that height. I then used the leveler to cut each of my layers in half.
|I should have trimmed this top more.|
In actuality, I went on from this point to fill my cake layers with store-bought frosting and apply a thin layer of the same frosting to the outside of the cake. But, since I eventually made frosting, it makes more since to tell this part next. To view my recipe for Italian Buttercream, click here.
1. I separated my eggs and placed the whites in the bowl of my stand mixer. Then, I brought sugar and water to a boil on the stove. Using my candy thermometer, I cooked the sugar syrup to a soft ball stage, which is about 240 degrees.
3. While the syrup cooked, I beat my egg whites to a soft peak stage. Then I gradually added sugar and beat to medium peaks. For those of you who weren't required to take food lab in school, this handy link shows the difference between soft, medium/firm, and stiff peaks when beating egg whites or cream.
4. As soon as the syrup reached temperature, I poured it into a glass measuring cup and slowly poured it into the egg white mixture with the mixer on. Be very careful! This stuff is 240 degrees and if it drips on your hands it's hard to get off quickly.
5. I continued beating the meringue until it cooled to room temperature. Then, I added eight sticks of cubed butter piece by piece. The mixture looked separated and wet until about the sixth stick of butter. I was getting panicky that all my butter (the most expensive part of baking) was going to waste, but in the end it came together beautifully!
So there you have it! Our cake layers are ready to be filled, frosted, and stacked. Tune in for those steps soon!