Remove Cakes from Pans
Always allow the cake layers to cool completely before removing. To remove a cake, run a metal spatula or non-serrated knife around the edge of the cake, then place the bottom of the cake pan over a hot stove burner for about 20 to 30 seconds, turning slowly and constantly. Using a hot pad to hold the pan, invert the cake pan over a flat cake cardboard the same size as the pan. Tap firmly on a wooden cutting board turning by 90 degrees each time until the cake comes loose. Re-apply heat if the cake does not come free easily.
Split Cakes Horizontally
Place the cake on a flat surface, either a serving plate without a lip or a cake cardboard. If you have a cake turntable it is helpful to use it. Using a long serrated knife, slice the cake from the side toward the center about 2 inches in. Leaving the knife in place turn the cake and continue slicing and turning until you reach the point where you started. Move the knife further in toward the center of the cake and continue around the cake again, repeating until you cut through at the center.
To assemble cakes with icing or filling between the layers you will need an icing spatula and either a serving platter or a cake cardboard. Using a cake cardboard is good because you can get all the icing on the cake before placing it on the final serving platter. This will help you have a clean presentation for your final cake or torte. Check the size of the cake cardboard. If it is bigger than your cake layer cut it down to the right size. Place the cake layer upside down on the cake cardboard and then place it on a flat surface such as a cutting board or cake turntable if you have one. Check the instructions for the torte you are making and if it is necessary to moisten the layers with simple syrup or liqueur than follow the instructions for moistening the layers in the recipe. Next, place approximately ¾ cup to 1 cup of the filling or icing on the layer and spread it out to within ¼ inch of the edge of the cake. The layer of icing should be about ¼ inch thick. Place the next layer squarely on top of the filling and continue this pattern if there are additional layers. Do not place filling on the top layer but proceed with icing instructions.
If you have a cake turntable it is helpful to use it. Using the metal icing spatula, always begin by spreading icing on the top of the cake and bringing it out to the edge. Next spread icing on the sides and up just over the top edge of the cake. Carefully flatten or scrape the icing toward the center of the top at a 90 degree angle from the sides of the cake to make a crisp corner edge. Each time pull the spatula over the top of the cake from just beyond the edge toward the center, keeping your spatula edge evenly horizontal at the level of the top of the cake. If the cake is dark in color and the icing is light you may want to put on a “crumb layer” of icing. To do this cover the entire cake in a very thin layer of icing and then go back over the cake with the rest of the icing, making a thicker outer layer. The inner layer seals in the crumbs so that the outer layer is nice and clean. Run the icing spatula under the edge of the cake all around the bottom to cleanly release the icing from the surface you are working on before removing the cake.
Have your final serving platter ready and nearby. If you are applying nuts or shaved chocolate to the sides of your cake have them ready in a pile on a dinner size plate. Slide your icing spatula under the cake cardboard at the bottom of the cake. Gently lift the spatula enough to get your hand under the cake and support the cake with your palm while you apply small handfuls of nuts or chocolate shavings to the sides over the pile, allowing the excess to fall back onto the plate. Once the cake is covered transfer it to the final serving platter. If you are not applying any covering simply lift the cake as indicated directly onto the serving platter. In either case be sure you have the cake centered on the platter before you lower it down onto the platter. As you lower the cake reinsert the cake spatula between your palm and the cake cardboard and then remove your hand before lowering the cake all the way down to the platter with the icing spatula. Then carefully remove the icing spatula and smooth out the small area where the icing meets the platter if necessary.
Make Chocolate Shavings
The simplest way to make chocolate shavings is to purchase a large block of dark chocolate (see Ingredients), at least one or two pounds. Place the chocolate block smooth side up on a cutting board. Be sure you are wearing an apron or your “baking” clothes because this gets a little messy. Hold your French (chef’s) knife perpendicular to the surface of the chocolate, with the blade against the chocolate’s surface. Press down on the blade and, at the same time, draw the blade toward you. This usually causes the chocolate block to come forward and you will likely need to use your torso to keep it securely on the counter- if you have a 2 x 4 about 8″ long you can cover it with a towel and place it in between you and the chocolate to hold it a little bit away from you. The shavings will accumulate at the edge of the knife. After a few scrapes, use the knife to set the shavings off to the side and continue this until you have plenty of shavings. You will want to turn the chocolate block 90 degrees after every few sets of strokes.
Bake empty pie shells at 425°F with a tinfoil liner filled with pie weights or dried beans.
Bake fresh fruit pies on the lower rack of the oven at 425°F for the first 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 375°F for the remaining baking time.
Always cut small openings (slits) with a sharp knife or fork in the top crust of covered pies before baking so that steam can escape.
Seal covered pies with water between layers and egg wash the top crust.
Make sure fresh fruit pie fillings are thoroughly chilled before filling pie crusts for baking.