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The traditional Christmas cakes of the South layer together love and history

Holiday Food and Entertaining



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Practice what you preach (amen!)

The first time Heather McPherson tried a caramel cake – at a church social, mind you – she knew she had to make one. “The texture and icing were otherworldly. I wanted to make one from scratch.”

According to McPherson, a 25-year veteran of the test kitchen, working through a recipe is a magical dance. “It’s OK if you don’t get it right the fwirst time, but that experience teaches you a skill or technique you won’t forget for next time.”

If you think you might be ready to try your hand at making one of these super-colossal sweets for your holiday dessert table, here are some tips from the pros:

Andrea Zelen, director of bakery operations, the Sweet Shop at 4 Rivers:
— When the cake pans are filled with batter, spin them gently on a flat surface. The centrifugal force will pull the batter to the outside edge of the pan, creating a flatter layer once baked.
— Always allow cakes to cool before frosting.
— When stacking the layers, place each layer upside-down so the flattest surface is on top.
— Before you frost the final layer, apply a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake and freeze for 10 minutes, then apply the final layer of frosting. This locks in crumbs so they don’t show in the final product.

Heather McPherson, recipe developer, food writer and cookbook author:
Follow the recipe to the letter. Baking is edible chemistry, and it’s often unforgiving.
— Buy quality ingredients, including flour. Gold Medal and King Arthur are my go-to brands.

Chef Art Smith, chef-owner of Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming at Disney Springs:
— Calibrate your oven to make sure you have the right temperature before you start baking.
— Take your time, watch carefully, and measure every ingredient.
— Use parchment on the bottom of your cake pans and butter the parchment for easy removal. Your cakes won’t stick to the bottom of the pan that way.
— Don’t be afraid to make a cake in advance and freeze it. Once it has thawed, it’ll be just as delicious as if you made it the same day.


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