Wow, nice looking cake… NOT


Ah, a beautifully decorated cherry-chocolate cake.

Frosting lovingly applied.

Icing artfully drizzled.

Cherries placed just… so.

Marshmallows on toothpicks stuck haphazardly on top.

What’s up with that?!

Thanks to my fellow test kitchen baker and Baking Sheet editor, Susan Reid, I now know how to keep plastic wrap from sticking to the top of a decorated cake – should I ever feel the urge to create such a cake.

I am NOT possessed of the Martha Stewart gene but, hey, you never know, right?

Speaking of Martha, here’s one of her marshmallow tips I’ve been using for several years: poke a mini-marshmallow into the bottom of a sugar cone (you know, the kind of cone with a pointy bottom) before adding your scoop of ice cream. The marshmallow effectively prevents melting ice cream from dripping out the bottom of the cone – AND serves to make that final bite extra-tasty.

So, what’s your favorite “hey, cool idea!” kitchen tip? Your fellow readers want to know – please share below.

P.S. – I know, “Where’s the recipe?” No recipe today; this was simply my fellow blogger, MaryJane, fooling around with some leftover cake layers from the freezer. No one’s quite sure of their provenance; but being frozen, they were prime candidates for decorating.

Hey – there’s another tip! Freezing your cake layers briefly makes them easier to handle, ice, and decorate.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...


  1. Esther

    Melting small amounts of chocolate to drizzle/pipe etc… Few squares in a freezer bag, knot the top, put the bag in a mug of hot water, wait for choc to melt, then snip corner of bag to size…. No mess, no washing up! Hurrah!

    Love how you melt it in a glass of hot water – I’d never thought of that. Lightbulb moment! Thanks, Esther – PJH

  2. "sandra Alicante"

    To line baking tins easily – cut a sheet of baking parchment large enough to cover base and sides. Screw it up, unfold, repeat. You’ll be able to line whatever shape you have. Fill as needed and trim off excess.

    When using baking beans or rice to bake a pastry case blind, make sure your parchment is larger than the tin, that way you can lift it out easily while still containing the beans.

    Freeze portions of beaten egg in ice cube trays – you can use them to baste loaves of bread instead of wasting a whole egg.

    Like to freeze your leftovers? Me too, but I don’t like to leave my favourite china baking dishes in the freezer for weeks at a time. When you want to freeze a pie or lasagne etc, line the dish with baking parchment. Fill with your leftovers. Freeze. When frozen you can lift it out and bag it, leaving you with your empty dish, but having your leftovers frozen in just the right shape to go in the oven. When you want to reheat it, peel away the parchment (you can dip in warm water if necessary) and put it in your dish again.

    Sounds like parchment is your best friend in the kitchen, Sandra – thanks! PJH

  3. Aaron Frank

    As usual, cool ideas!

    Ice cube trays are great for freezing lots of stuff – left over pizza sauce, stock, egg whites – any kind of liquid. I started putting a little sugar or salt in my egg washes before freezing and that seems to help them better.

    I turned my rolling pin into a ruler. I would roll out dough then measure it with a yardstick, then roll some more so I just took a marker and put inch marks on my rolling pin.

    I use plastic bags for proofing dough now. I started doing it because I had three different yeast doughs going in the refrigerator and there just wasn’t room for three bowls. I use the roasting bags that are for roasting turkeys and such but a people over at the KAF community use two gallon freezer bags.

    Speaking of which, have you ever thought of doing some data mining over at the community site? There are a bunch of people there with loads of helpful tips. Could you cross pollinate this site with that site?

    Sorry. I’m a geek.

    Bring on your geek Aaron, we love it! We definitely have folks who monitor both sides of the KAF coin, and we’re always encouraging folks to post in as many places as they are comfortable with. ~ MaryJane

  4. milkwithknives

    Ha! I came here to read the crepe entry but was instantly sidelined by your cake. As the proud and thrilled owner of two brand new USA cake pans, I’ll likely be putting your marshmallow trick into play soon.

    Also, the sight of those cherries on top reminded me of a little foolery from this summer when I was up to my eyeballs in cherries every week from my CSA box. I was pitting and drying whatever I couldn’t eat fresh, and after wasting several minutes trying to dig the pits out with my knife I happened to see an old wine bottle sitting on the counter my husband had saved for some reason. Voila! Slit the bottom of the cherry, set it on the open neck of the bottle, and stab the pit through with a skewer! The pits are collected in the bottle and the cherries are reasonably intact.

    I even got the bottle cleaned out and set back in its place before my husband got home.
    Sweeeet! Another great idea from our crew of brilliant bakers. ~ MaryJane

  5. johnsonel

    Leftovers, those bites of beans, corn, extra onion, mother taught me to get a cool whip bowl or whatever available and put all those extra bites in until the bowl is full. Thaw then add your meat and cut up potatoes if desired and season. Everything else is cooked so just cook until the potatoes are tender and wala…you have stew. Add hot buttered cornbread muffins and you have a meal.
    What an excellent idea! Thanks for sharing. ~ MaryJane

  6. Raggedymom

    If you get interrupted while in the middle of measuring out an ingredient (phone, child, pet, spouse, etc.), place the measuring spoon/cup at the “hour clock position” you were interrupted at. For example, if you were on your third cup of flour, place the handle of the measuring cup pointing at where three o’clock would be on an imaginary clock. (I don’t use this tip quite as often as I used to. Thanks to KAF, I weigh most of my ingredients!)
    That’s definitely more ingenious that what I would do. I would spread out some flour and “write” the number in it. With your way, there is no mess to clean up. Thanks for sharing! ~ MaryJane

  7. hoydoris

    Sandra, when you were talking about cutting out parchment paper and then screw it up and unfold, I don’t understand what screw it up means. Can you explain?

  8. Susan Shilo

    The marshmallows were way cool…A great cake wrapping idea no matter where it came from. Another lesson learned today!!

  9. ebenezer94

    @hoydoris – I’m guessing she means crumple it up into a ball and then smooth it out flat again. That will make it creased all over, which should make it easier to push into the corners and such.


    To keep your cutting board from sliding around on the counter when you’re applying pressure while chopping, place a damp paper towel, laying flat, under the cutting board. It will make the board “stay put!”

  11. argentyne

    one of the few tips I found a while back in a “live cheaper” sort of publication… Most of the book seems to depend on you not having a job so being home all day. That part doesn’t fit my lifestyle, but this one was fantastic.

    When you prep veggies for a dish, like peeling carrots, or chopping onions. Put the peels, and ends that you aren’t going to use in a ziptop baggie and put them in the freezer. When you have enough, dump the veggies in a stock pot, cover with water, and make veggie stock. You get all the flavor of the veggies, and you aren’t wasting good veggies. You’re using all the bits that you don’t eat for your dinner.

    I also raid the baggie when I’m making chicken or turkey stock. I can get out bits of carrot, celery, onions, and pepper for the bird stock and not have to buy the full veggies.

    And when my veggies got missed in the fridge, and have gotten too soft to eat and still taste good, I break them up and throw them in the freezer. They’re still great for stock.

  12. paradux

    Similar to Connie’s hint about making your cutting board non-slip: I use a piece of leftover shelf liner – the rubbery mesh kind – for the same purpose. It’s easily cleaned and reused.

  13. sschiltz1

    When we finish off a box of cereal, I save the liners and use them to flatten boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I dry off the chicken breasts with paper towels and place chicken ( or pork etc) in the bag and pound until breasts are equal thickness. I dispose of bag after use.

  14. N Schurle

    Don’t let your cake get too frozen if you want to decorate. I did that with my wedding cake many years ago (41:)) and the flowers kept sliding off. Had to attach them with toothpicks!

  15. teachingcotton

    Use the rubber type, nonslip shelf liner when you are transporting your baked goods. Put it under the cakeplate before you set your cake cupcakes, etc in the carrier (or cardboard box!). It keeps your cake plate from sliding and messing up the icing.


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