How to Make Layer Cakes

You can have your cake, eat it, and eat the crumbs, too.

Vanilla Cake with Italian Meringue Frosting

Photo: John Autry

Lighter Layer Cakes

There are several reasons to take the time to make a homemade cake. First, flavor, texture, and pride. Second, a majestic layer cake puts the exclamation point on a holiday table and doubles as a stunning centerpiece for your dessert buffet. Third, this impressive production actually has big make-ahead potential: You can bake layers up to a month ahead and freeze them, and most fillings and frostings can be made in advance, too. All you need to do is thaw and assemble the day before. Finally, our light cakes really do save on calories and fat—no small thing, especially during the holidays. There are, naturally, a few tricks to coaxing great taste and texture from a cake that leans less heavily on butter and sugar. Here, the secrets are revealed. (Looking for recipes? Find 11 Luscious Layer Cake Recipes)

Prepare Cake Pans

Photo: John Autry

1. Prepare Cake Pans

Prevent cake layers from sticking to the pan and crumbling when you try to remove them by spraying the pan with cooking spray, lining it with wax paper, spraying again, and dusting with flour.

Carefully Measure Ingredients

Photo: John Autry

2. Carefully Measure Ingredients

Precision is important when baking, especially light baking, where there's less margin for error. For absolute accuracy, weigh the flour instead of scooping and measuring with a cup.

Incorporate Air in the Cake Batter

Photo: John Autry

3. Incorporate Air

Fluffy batter will result in a moist cake with a fine crumb. The first step of the mixing process—creaming butter with sugar—whips air into the batter. More air is added as you incorporate eggs into the batter by beating it.

Gently Stir in Flour

Photo: John Autry

4. Gently Stir in Flour

Slow the mixer speed before adding flour and milk. Start with flour, then alternate with liquid (often milk). Finish with flour, as well. Beat only until combined. If overbeaten at this stage, the cake will become tough.

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