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Pretty up that cake!  
by Stacie Tucker |
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You love your boyfriend (girlfriend, best friend, mom/ pop/ sis/ bro, favorite mailperson, bartender, hostess, sweet old landlady...) Doesnít he/she deserve a cake? (Definitely, yes.) But, you've been making your loved one cakes for AGES (well, okay, maybe once -- a couple years ago) and, tasty as those concoctions may have been, they never turned out to be quite as pretty as you'd imagined. If youíre ready to give up because your cakes never seem to express your love and gratitude eloquently enough, read on before you throw your hands up in defeat and run out to the nearest bakery. Iíll share my secrets to creating that gorgeous cake youíve always dreamed of making.

PART I: Cake. The best way to eat icing.

Step 1) Careful baking.
Make life simple: just use a mix. It's easier, more reliable, and cheaper than scratch. Scratch Ė done properly -- is good, but using your everyday, run-of-the mill (ooh! no pun intended) all-purpose flour results in a tough cake. (I tried it once. The result resembled sweet bread, crust included, with icing on it.) Cake flour is available, but not widely, and it's expensive. Besides, unless you bake often, the rest of it will sit on your shelf forever.

Make sure you grease the pan carefully (don't miss any corners) or your cake will stick. You can patch minor holes and gouges when it comes time to add icing, but it's better to avoid that sinking feeling youíll feel when you discover your lovely cake just won't come out of the pan.

Follow the directions. I know this seems obvious, but it's true. You really SHOULD beat it for two minutes, and bake it at the correct temperature, and measure the ingredients carefully. Baking is all about chemistry, and if the proportions are off, bad things will happen.

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