5 Questions

Martha Stewart's Cake Advice

November 22, 2013

We're sitting down with our favorite writers and cooks to talk about their upcoming cookbooks, their best food memories, and just about anything else.


Are you tired of pie yet? Let's talk about cake.

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There is a cake for every occasion and a cake for every season. You've got humble poundcakes and towering layer cakes and a whole lot of eggs and sugar and flour in between. But cake can intimidate! It's got to rise, it's got to be sliced, and sometimes it's got to be frosted. And if anyone is going to convincingly prove to you that yes you can bake cakes and also you should, it's Martha Stewart.

We've come to trust Martha on all things cooking and baking and entertaining -- and now, for the first time, she has come out with a book exclusively dedicated to cake. (And we're selling it in Provisions!) Want to know how she really feels about the most classic of confections? Well, read on. And then bake her Cranberry Upside-Down Cake, and see for yourself.

Do you have any secrets for layer cake success?
Always trim the top of domed cakes before layering, and when splitting the cakes into multiple layers be sure to measure their height and insert toothpicks in the at the half way point. 

What cake do you turn to when you need something good, fast?
Any kinds of loaves are great when I need something good, and fast. Like the basic pound cake, loaves are very light on effort but satisfying. A loaf is a great thing to whip up and leave on your kitchen counter for your family and guests to have for breakfast, slice for snacks, or have in the afternoon with tea or coffee.

What's your favorite cake-icing flavor combination?
Swiss meringue buttercream on a rum rose cake. It’s both beautiful and delicious.  

Icing on Food52

More: See our community's favorite frosting recipes here.

What's the best cake advice you've ever gotten?
It’s very important to choose your ingredients wisely. It makes all the difference to use the freshest, best-quality butter, eggs, chocolate, vanilla, and spices. It’s also crucial to read the recipe all the way through before you even begin, and have all of your ingredients pre-measured and ready. Always plan ahead.

What are the most essential tools for making great cakes?
Mixing bowls are important. You need to have to have a place to combine all of your ingredients, so they're the starting point to a successful cake. Glass or stainless steel is best. An oven thermometer may not seem critical, but it is. Always adjust the temperature of your oven accordingly. Another essential is pastry bags and tips to make your cake an eye-catcher. The cake book has a section devoted to piping techniques and terms for those who have never tried it before. Always pipe your design first onto a piece of parchment, then scrape off the frosting and try again. Practice makes perfect!

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake 

Serves 8

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
2 3/4 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons coarse yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup almond paste
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs, separated, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup milk 

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photo of Martha by Scott Duncan. Cake photos reprinted from Martha Stewart's Cakes. Copyright  © 2013 by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House LLC. 

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Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull