Elements of Interest, Simple Tips

Notes from Ashley’s Test Kitchen: Insulated Cake Strips

Have you seen these little guys before? I hadn’t until I came across them in a little bakery supply store. Creating perfectly flat cake layers has always been something I have tried to master. I thought I had it all figured out by measuring out equal amounts of cake batter into each cake pan using a kitchen scale, then slicing off the top bump of the cake with a bread knife once they were cooled. Even after all of that busy work, I still had curved, browned edges along the sides of the cake. Sure, once covered in frosting, it doesn’t really matter, does it? For all of us OCD bakers out there…maybe it does.Wilton Bake Even Cake Strips

I decided to give these insulated cake strips a try one afternoon. I mixed up a quick yellow cake batter from Bakerella and prepared my pans. I saturated one strip with cold water per the instructions. I used the strip on one cake pan (Cake A) and left the other one without (Cake B). I put them in a 350 degree oven right next to each other and awaited the results.


A couple questions I had while waiting for the cakes to bake:

1) Will the texture be different since it appears to compress the cake into a flat layer? The texture of both cakes was exactly the same; nice and fluffy!

2) Does the baking time increase or decrease with the use of the strip? Both cakes finished at the same time. The only difference that I noticed, is that on the non-insulated cake, the edges browned a bit. The insulated cake was blemish free.

To my surprise, the insulated cake strip worked! Out of the oven came Cake A. A perfectly baked, perfectly flat cake layer without a domed center and no crispy edges! Where have these been all my life? And for $8 for two, it’s well worth the small investment. You can find the Wilton Bake Even Cake Strips here.

Cake A and B Result

Elements of Food, Real Life Pins

Meyer Lemon Cheesecake Layer Cake

It’s springtime (well, kind of…) here in Minneapolis. The sun is bright, the sky is blue, and it’s a balmy 45 degrees 🙂 The funny thing about Minnesotans is that when it’s 45 degrees in the fall, we turn up the heat, get out the sweaters and start hibernating for the winter. When it’s 45 degrees in the spring, we open the windows, put down the convertible top, and start thinking about planting our gardens. I love spring. I’m ready to put away my recipes for heavy soups and comfort foods, and bring out the fresh veggies, citrus fruits and bright, fresh flavors. This year for Easter, I made an incredibly decadent, fresh, lemony layer cake, constructed of two layers of Meyer lemon cake and one layer of creamy cheesecake, covered in Meyer Lemon cream cheese frosting. Where did I find this recipe? Pinterest of course!

This dessert is made with Meyer Lemons. What exactly are Meyer Lemons? They are a soft skinned cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange. The hint of orange gives these delicate lemons a mild flavor, perfect for flavoring this dessert. They look pretty too. I almost missed them at my grocery store because they had taken on a beautiful light orange hue instead of bright yellow.

The recipe is long, and pretty involved, but worth every minute spent! Out of courtesy to the original recipe developer, I’m going to link to the original recipe on Recipe Girl’s blog here: Meyer Lemon Cheesecake Layer Cake. Thank you Recipe Girl for the AMAZING recipe! Tiffany took photos as I baked this amazing cake. It was definitely a favorite and I will be making it again in the future!

Using the cheesecake and cake layer theme, there are so many variations to this particular cake.


  • Raspberry puree as the filling in between the layers as opposed to frosting
  • Lemon cheesecake and chocolate cake layers
  • Plain cheesecake and red velvet cake layers
  • Plain cheesecake, yellow cake layers with lemon curd filling
  • Chocolate chip cheesecake with chocolate cake layers and dark chocolate ganache, raspberry garnish
Meyer Lemon Cake 1
Mixing up the dry ingredients
Zesting the Meyer Lemons
Zesting the Meyer Lemons
Fresh Meyer Lemon Juice
Fresh Meyer Lemon Juice
The recipe uses Sprite...pretty sure this is a secret key ingredient!
The recipe uses Sprite…pretty sure this is a secret key ingredient!
I use a kitchen scale to make sure my cake layers are perfectly even.
I use a kitchen scale to make sure my cake layers are perfectly even.
Cutting the cheesecake layer so that it will sit even with the other two layers.
Cutting the cheesecake layer so that it will sit even with the other two layers.
Assembling the cake!
Assembling the cake!

Meyer Lemon Cake

The Finished Product!
The Finished Product!
I found this cute little mini bunting cake decoration on Zulily...cute huh :)
I found this cute little mini bunting cake decoration on Zulily…cute huh?
I decorated the cake using blueberries around the bottom, and raspberry almond silver flowers and slivered Meyer Lemon peels.
I decorated the cake using blueberries around the bottom, and raspberry almond silver flowers and slivered Meyer Lemon peels.
Elements of Food

Maple Pumpkin Stack Cake

Every year at Thanksgiving (Christmas and Easter) We have set menus. Everyone has their favorites and the world would fall apart if we didn’t continue these traditions. Thanksgiving at our house ALWAYS includes both pumpkin pie and apple pies. Always. There would definitely be disappointment if one of these didn’t show up on Thanksgiving Day. However…two years ago, I broke the rules and made an addition to the dessert assortment. I brought over a delectable Pumpkin Creme Brulee and it was a huge hit. Everyone loved it and no one was out of sorts. However, we still had the traditional apple and pumpkin pies. This year, my mom wanted to try a new way to cook the turkey and we thought it would be a great opportunity to try out a new dessert. My mom and I are big Cooks Illustrated and Cooks Country magazine fans and we found both recipes in the October/November issues. We put on a “trial” Thanksgiving last Sunday and made a small version of almost everything to test out the new recipes. My mom’s new turkey recipe was delicious and the cake I’m about to show you was wonderful. When my mom suggested we replace the apple pie with it…my dad gave us an disapproving stare…but was okay with the idea when my mom promised him an apple pie another time.
This cake is incredibly moist and tender, not too sweet and the perfect combination of flavors. It’s festive and pretty enough to be the Thanksgiving centerpiece. Not to mention, super easy to make. A lot of people are intimidated by the layer cake simply because cutting a 9 inch round cake into two equal pieces can prove to be very difficult. However, this recipe has you divide the batter into 4 cake pans (or two at a time) for 4 equal layers. Anyone can do that!


  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or an equal mix of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. Some blends also include cloves and cardamom)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 8 tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped


  1. Adjust your oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 8″ or 9″ round cake pans, line with parchment paper, and grease the parchment paper. Flour the pans and take out any extra flour.
  2. Whisk flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, soda, and salt together in a bowl.
  3. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar, butter, and eggs on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, add pumpkin and mix until combined. Carefully add the flour mixture until incorporated
  4. Spread 1/4 of the batter (about 1 cup) in an even layer in both prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 12 – 14 minutes. (I found it took 14 minutes for my 9″ pans) Let cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn out cake onto a cooling rack and peel of parchment. Cool completely
  5. Reprep pans and repeat with remaining batter, or bake the remaining two prepared pans (if using 4 pans)
  6. Whip the cream and maple sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer on medium speed until stiff peeks form, about 3 minutes


Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or cake plate and spread a 1/2 inch layer of whip cream. Top with another layer of cake and repeat until all layers are assembled. Top remaining layer with whip cream and garnish with toasted pecans.

maple pumpkin stack cake