Martha Stewart wrote the book on cakes.
From coffee cakes to single layers, cheesecakes to loaves, she’s done it all—with her unmistakable style!—and has finally put all those delicious recipes in one place: Martha Stewart’s Cakes.
As you’ll learn flipping through its pages, laden with luscious photographs of bundts and more, baking a cake isn’t just about what you put in it. The domestic doyenne has dedicated an entire section of the book to “how tos.” Like, for instance, how to prepare a pan, test for doneness, use a pastry bag and more.
So, before you tackle her classic New York-Style Crumb Cake recipe (below), prepare yourself—and your kitchen—by reading her 10 golden rules for cakes. Because, as you know, Martha always knows best!
1. Read the recipe all the way through before you begin, and have everything you need measured and at the ready. Plan ahead, so you can have ingredients at the proper temperatures and allow for cooling and chilling as needed.
2. Choose your ingredients wisely. It makes all the difference to use the freshest, best-quality butter, eggs, chocolate, vanilla (and other extracts), nuts, and spices.
3. Be mindful of recipe details. If the ingredients list calls for “1 cup sifted flour,” then sift it first before you measure. If it calls for “1 cup flour, sifted,” then measure before sifting.
4. Don’t rush the mixing process for batter or frosting. Scrape down the sides of the bowl often to avoid lumps and to ensure a smooth batter or creamy frosting. Take care not to overbeat once the mixture is combined.
5. Prepare your pans properly. Unless otherwise specified, brush with softened (never melted) butter, line with parchment paper, brush with more butter, and finally, dust with flour, shaking out any excess. (Use cocoa powder to dust pans for chocolate cakes.)
6. A good oven thermometer is key. Oven temperatures may vary by as much as 50 degrees; rely on a stand-alone thermometer for accuracy instead.
7. Rotate cake pans halfway through the baking time, to ensure even baking.
8. Watch out for clues when gauging whether a cake is done (instead of relying solely on the suggested baking time). When a cake begins to pull away from the side of the pan and a cake tester comes out clean, you know it is done.
9. Let cakes cool completely before you frost them; a good-quality wire cooling rack will allow air to circulate beneath pans as they cool. Make sure the frosting itself is at room temperature in order to get the desired swoop, swirl, or smooth finish.
10. Serve your cake at the right temperature as well. Some, like cheesecakes and icebox cakes, are best chilled; others, especially those covered in buttercream frostings and ganache glazes, should come to room temperature for the best consistency and texture contrast between cake and topping.
New York- Style Crumb Cake
Serves 10 to 12
For the crumb topping:
3½ cups cake flour (not self-rising)
⅔ cup granulated sugar
⅔ cup packed dark brown sugar
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1¼ cups (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
For the cake:
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
2½ cups cake flour (not self-rising)
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large whole eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅔ cup buttermilk
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
1. Make the crumb topping: Mix together flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Pour warm melted butter over mixture; using your hands, mix until medium to large clumps form.
2. Make the cake: Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, line with parchment with overhang on both long sides, and butter parchment. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
3. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition; mix in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of buttermilk; beat until well combined.
4. Transfer batter to prepared pan; spread evenly with an offset spatula. Sprinkle crumb-topping mixture evenly over batter. Bake until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean, about 1 hour. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Transfer cake, with parchment, to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Cake can be stored at room temperature, covered, up to 5 days.)
Reprinted from Martha Stewart’s Cakes. Copyright © 2013 by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House LLC.