I am annoyed by the articles that I keep seeing in food pages on the Internet, urging us to double and triple down on the frosting and candy that they love to pile on an innocent, relatively-harmless frosted cake or cupcake.
If nothing else, you can make a Holiday sensation in your circle of friends and family by using the Neely recipe for Pumpkin Cupcakes, which is featured in their Internet site. Many people don't think to use pumpkin in cakes or cupcakes, which leads them to miss out on something that is truly in the spirit of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The little device that I found in Walmart here in Tucson, that cores cupcakes so that you can put in a Twinkie-like filling, is great for the little guys, and I have another couple of things at home for cakes. If you want a simple apparatus that works with square, oblong, round and loaf cakes, look for the wire frame with legs that you scoot through the cake after you calculate the height of your layers. Unfortunately I removed the label from mine, but they are known online as the Prima Way Corporation's Layer Cake Cutter. They are cheap, but they'll work fine (see one above in the photo).
Another tool for multiplying the layers in a layer cake is a circular, cylinder-like object that holds your cake and enables you to cut through it, separating one layer into at least two. They will work fine if you observe the following guidelines for all operations like this:
When using the round tool that contains the layer, be sure that you use a baking pan that is the same size as the cutting tool. A nine-inch layer won't fit into an eight-inch cutter, and there you are, frustrated.
Allow the cake to become completely cool, all through the layers, before you attempt to cut.
Use a serrated knife to cut with the least possible resistance, to avoid crushing the cake as you cut through it.
I'd suggest a crumb coat when working with cut cake layers as well, just to accomplish exactly what a crumb coat is supposed to accomplish: avoid crumbs that interfere with the perfect application of frosting.
If you want to add some real flair to an old favorite, use a Yellow Cake recipe and some particularly good chocolate butter-cream frosting, and give this a try. Organic pastry flour works very well in this recipe.
PERFECT YELLOW CAKE
2-1/4 cups organic all-purpose or pastry flour
1-1/2 cups granulated organic sugar
3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups organic milk at room temperature
1 stick organic butter at room temperature
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large organic eggs at room temperature
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of (3) 9 x 1-1/2-inch round baking pans. Spray the pans with cooking spray, place the cut paper in the pans and spray the paper once more.
In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
Measure the milk in a 2-cup measuring cup. Add enough vegetable oil to bring the liquid up to 1-1/3 cups. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and vanilla into this mixture until it is thoroughly combined. Finally, beat in the eggs until they are completely mixed and the batter is fluffier than before.
Lower the mixer speed to Fold or Low and add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix only until you can no longer see any streaks in the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cakes spring back when touched lightly in the center.
Cool the layers in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely.
Any frosting will work well with this divine cake, but chocolate frosting on yellow cake is a classic. It is in making the simple things well that we prove how good our cooking skills are; people who make it a point to watch overdone pastry being made by over-the-top chefs might take a minute to remember what a real cake tastes like. Is a restaurant creation any better? Frequently I find that bakery cakes taste quite a bit of salt and sugar, but not always of chocolate, eggs, butter and spices. Just sayin'.