Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature. Cold ingredients won’t trap and hold air bubbles efficiently, and air bubbles are what make your cake rise. Tip: Warm cold eggs in a bowl of hot tap water for 10 minutes.
Mix the batter: On medium speed, cream butter and sugar thoroughly, then add eggs one by one, beating well after each. The batter will become noticeably lighter in color and fluffier; this means it’s trapping and holding air bubbles.
Use cake flour – for extra tenderness: Too much gluten can make cake tough and rubbery. For extra tenderness, use cake flour. King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour Blend has less protein (less gluten), and more starch than all-purpose flour, yielding a more tender cake.
Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl: Use a spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl frequently. Otherwise, you’ll find a sticky layer of unincorporated ingredients coating the inside of the bowl after you’ve poured the batter into the pans… not a good thing!
Line the bottoms of straight-sided metal pans with parchment: Line the bottoms of straight-sided metal pans with parchment, and wrap with insulated cake strips. Even non-stick pans don’t always release a baked cake smoothly; parchment ensures crumble-free release. And cake strips prevent layers from doming in the middle.
Brush cooled layers with simple syrup: For extra moistness and prolonged freshness, brush cooled layers with simple syrup, either plain or flavored to taste. To make simple syrup, dissolve 1 cup sugar in 1 cup water, and simmer for 3 minutes; cool before using.
Pipe a ring of icing: To prevent filling from oozing, pipe a ring of icing around the bottom layer with a pastry bag, or plastic bag with the corner cut off. Refrigerate to set the icing, then spread with filling. The icing will create a “filling dam.”
Set the second layer atop the first: To prevent mishaps while assembling your cake, use a giant spatula for secure support as you set the second layer atop the first. The more delicate/tender your cake, the more critical it is to move it carefully.
Center your cake atop strips of parchment: For neat and tidy icing, center your cake atop strips of parchment. Once you’re done icing, simply pull out the strips; any drips and smears will come with the parchment, leaving you with a clean cake plate.
Slice your cake! For the prettiest slices, use a sharp knife. Rinse it in hot water, dry it off, then cut. Continue to rinse, dry, and cut for each slice. This will help prevent thick or gooey filling and icing from smearing onto the cake.
Courtesy of King Arthur Flour.