I think that I have mastered the bundt cake and the fruit/vegetable cakes (carrot, banana, applesauce).
I am ready to move on to cakes that are a bit more challenging. The cakes that I mentioned are very difficult to ruin. I'm now interested in baking a layer cake.
Are there any foolproof recipes that you can suggest or recommend? I have a friend whose birthday is coming up and I would like to bake a cake for him.
My favorite baking book is The Cake Bible - very technical, but to my mind, not so complicated as long as you follow her instructions exactly.
Some very reliable recipes I like: the Chocolate Stout Cake on Epicurious, Nick Malgieri's Nut Cake from How to Bake, most of the "easy" cakes from Marcel DeSaulnier's books, but particularly the pecan-bourbon one (name escapes me). In general, look for a straightforward recipe, one that doesn't involve separating eggs. Not that separating eggs is that big a deal, it's just a bit more work and perhaps a bit intimidating if you're just starting. And as a rule of thumb, cakes that include sour cream or buttermilk tend to be good. (Maybe that's just my personal preference in flavor coming through, but I do think that the acidity tenderizes). If you've made a bundt cake, a layer cake isn't all that different, except for the frosting part.
I have a strong disliking for the very popular Cake Bible, because 1) I don't think the recipes are all that good and 2) I think it tends to foster the erroneous belief that baking is extremely difficult and exacting and any tiny mismeasurement or other variance will bring on disaster. That's really not true, not if your recipes are good to begin with.
A few things to keep in mind - parchment rounds for the bottom of the pans will make getting the cakes out much easier. Give the pans a sharp rap on the edge of the counter before putting them in the oven to knock any big air bubbles out. It's really hard to overbeat butter/sugar (unless it gets so warm it melts) or egg yolk/sugar mixtures (impossible), but it's pretty easy to overbeat egg whites or mixtures to which flour has been added. Once the flour is in the batter, be gentle. Make sure your oven is at the temperature it's supposed to be - cakes are more sensitive to small changes in temperature than most other items. And that's about it. Your cakes will be great.
and I thought I was the only one who didn't like Cake Bible. I've made a few things from there and haven't been impressed.
My go-to chocolate birthday cake is a recipe I've had for nearly 40 years. Always delicious. Its distinguishing features are sour cream and boiling water. I googled online and this looks like the same one (though my frosting is different and easier; if you want that one just ask-- it's just butter, unsweetened chocolate, and conf. sugar)
I have never found the Cake Bible to be a great source of recipes. Becoming a great baker is more about understanding the science involved, and mastering the basic techniques.
I have had great success with Nick Malgeri's recipes, as well as those in the King Arthur baking books. I would suggest that you utilize the books in your local library before spending your money on them. I love the CIA baking text, but it may be a bit pricey for many home bakers.