Milk – Regular cow’s milk. In baking I always use whole milk (sometime referred to as full-fat. It’s fat content is 4-4.5%.) Other types of milk available include 3%, 2%, 1% and Skim (non-fat or 0%).
Milk Powder – Powdered milk is made by spraying it into the air in a vacuum and removing the water. There are different types available here too. Instant non-fat dry milk powder, low-fat dry milk powder (2%), dry milk powder (4% or whole milk), buttermilk powder. Powdered milk is used in some recipes when you want some of the milk properties without the added moisture.

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Cake Serving Sizes

serving utensils

Back in my bakery days, I would answer this question each and every day while taking orders for clients who were not sure how big of a cake they should purchase for their event.

As cake artists and salesmen, it is our responsibility to ensure that the client does not have too much or too little cake.
One thing I have learned in this process is that each persons perception of what a cake is……. is very different.

I find that in this day and age, when there are so many different stores selling cake, there is lots of room for misinterpretations.
I would always stress this pit fall to my staff upon training them in How To Take Cake Orders.

Many people think of a Sheet Cake as one of those supermarket or superstore discount cakes that is basically just one layer of cake with some icing smeared on top, a few flowers thrown on and some writing.

So when I told my customers that my Half Sheet Cake serves almost 50 people, they were so happy I warned them before they went home with this monsterous cake for their party of 15 people!

All of my specialty Sheet Cake orders were 2 layers of cake, a layer of filling and then the icing.

Once a cake of mine is built and iced, it measures over 5 inches tall!

My round cakes are even taller because I use 3 or 4 layers of cake in the 6″, 7″, 8″ and 10″ rounds.

As you can see already, due to the height of my cakes, the WIDTH of the slice is naturally going to be smaller which will ultimately yield more servings.

I use the “Two -Finger” rule in cake slicing. If you put your Index Finger and your Pointer Finger together, this is the guide in how wide to cut the slices.

Here is a guide based on my style of building cakes. (That would be the 5″ tall approximation cake height style!)

Feel free to modify your own chart as you wish.

This is simply the guideline I used at my bakery to ensure the client is not left with tons of extra cake. (although whoever said tons of leftover cake was a bad thing?)

But in business you do not want to come across as over selling.

You also want to be sure that everyone gets their slice and they do not run out, so it’s wise to have examples of what your particular cake style may be, so the customer can get a visual of what to expect, and then they can make their own decision for the size that best suits them and their guests.

Gretchen’s Bakery Guide to Cake Servings

6″ round 6-8 servings

7″ round 8-10 servings

8″ round 14-16 servings

10″ round 25-28 servings

Quarter sheet 12” X 9” 20-25 servings

Half Sheet 18” X 12” 45-50 servings

Full Sheet 18” X 24” 90-100 servings

**Remember also, that the cake board and box that you will deliver your cakes in, will add another couple inches to the dimensions of the cake.
It is wise to ask what type of refrigerator accommodations your client has (if their cake requires refrigeration).
I feel it is our duty as cake designers to make sure our customers cake experience is as hassle free as possible.
This can only mean repeat business for us!

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Almond Paste

almond paste2Almond paste– Is a confection that resembles a very dense but pliable dough, almost like play-doh. It is used mainly in baking recipes and is made from blanched roasted almonds, sugar and water or corn syrup. Some brands will vary with specific ingredients, but for the most part it contains at least those three. You may find some with added sugars and even oils, and potassium sorbate for a preservative.
Almond paste is similar to marzipan except it has less sugar and does not contain any egg whites(as the recipe for marzipan does.)
There are many home version recipes to make your own almond paste if you cannot find it in your country!
Almond Paste Recipe

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Food Safety Guidelines

danger zone


You probably have heard me say this from time to time especially in preparations with very egg and dairy rich dishes that are being cooked to a fragile temperature such as Pastry Cream and Lemon Curd

Let me explain this for those of you who do not know what Food Danger Zone is.
Basically the bottom line is to Keep Hot Food HOT and Cold Food COLD.

I am sure most of you have encountered a spoiled food product at least once in your life, and if the funny color of it did not warn you to keep your lips off of it, then the strange smell it was emitting probably did!

But there are times that we simply cannot see or smell food that has been spoiled, and this type of spoilage is the most dangerous form.
Salmonella and E.Coli can contaminate food without giving any signs that it is present. There are ways that WE as food preparers and food servers are REQUIRED to process and handle food.

Please check with your local Board Of Health for a deeper look at the laws and rules for food service handlers, and you can even get in on a free class if you check with them to see when they are having their next sessions.

For starters, it is good knowledge to understand that bacteria won’t multiply in temperatures colder than 45 degrees or at a temperatures hotter than 141°F. Where they thrive is between 45°F and 139°F, a region known as the “Food Temperature Danger Zone.”
The key in food preparation is to cool your hot foods to below the danger zone in less than 2 hours, but faster is even better.

(When I was in school the time frame was 2 hours, but it seems in my latest research they are stressing a 1 hour window to compensate for many lackadiasical attitudes there).

So bottom line: Get those hot prep items that are to be turned into cold prep bases for pastry applications cooled fast and stored cold, and if you are serving foods that require a hot serving temperature you must be sure that the food does not drop below 140 degrees F for more than 1 hour, any longer than that the food should be recooked or thrown away.
This is where bacteria growth will rapidly begin to occur. One strange coincidence is that our bodies temperatures are at the premium temperature for bacteria to grow and thrive and multiply. Which is why when food that has even minimal traces of bacteria on it enters our systems we can be inflicted with sever food poisoning almost immediately.

Quick Table for Reference:

165°F and higher:
Most bacteria die within several seconds

139°F to 164°F:
Holding hot foods and sauces. Bacteria aren’t killed, but they don’t multiply, either.

45°F to 139°F:
Food Temperature Danger Zone
Bacteria thrive and multiply. Limit exposure of perishable foods to one hour or less.

33°F to 39°F:
Refrigerated food storage. Bacteria aren’t killed. They multiply, but relatively slowly. Food is safe here for a limited time.

32°F and lower:
Frozen food storage: Bacteria aren’t killed, but they don’t multiply, either.

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Ice Water Bath



Many of my more advanced recipes such as custards and curds will call for an ice water bath to be set up before the start of your recipe preparations.
An ice water bath is necessary for when you must cool down liquids quickly.

In the case of custards, even after you take it off the heat, carryover cooking can cause the temperature to continue to rise.

The ice bath will immediately stop the cooking process , since that residual heat that can so quickly turn your perfect custard into a bowl of scrambled eggs.

To make your ice water bath, place a good amount of ice and a moderate amount of water in a very large bowl, then nestle a smaller metal bowl into the ice water.

You will then pour whatever recipe you are cooling, (usually through a strainer) and into the smaller bowl. Quick cooling will ensure there will be no curdling AND more importantly NO DANGER of bacteria forming as it could if you let that custard cool at its own leisurely pace!

Note: It is best to use a metal bowl. Since metal is a good conductor, it will actually conduct the heat of the custard into the surrounding ice.

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Double Boiler

double boiler 2


“Help! I do not have a double boiler!”


But wait,  I want to be clear about Why we use a double boiler in the first place.

When heating something in a pot, the portion that comes in contact with the very hot bottom of the pot will heat up more quickly than the rest of the food. This isn’t a problem for most foods, but it is a big problem for some things, such as chocolate and delicate sauces, and in the case of making Swiss Buttercream, the egg whites that coagulate very easily. The solution is to use a double boiler

A double boiler consists of a bowl placed on top of a pan of simmering water. The bowl does not touch the water, but creates a seal with the bottom pan to trap the steam produced by the simmering water. Inside the top bowl, you can melt chocolate without worrying that it will stick to the pot and burn.

You can buy a double boiler, but it’s easy to make one at home. All you need to make a double boiler is a mixing bowl (preferably glass/pyrex or metal) and a saucepan that the bowl will fit on top of.

I do it all the time when I make my swiss buttercream recipe, I simply place the work bowl of my Kitchen Aid mixer directly on the pot of steaming water.

The two should fit tightly together; you don’t want a gap between the bowl and the saucepan, nor do you want a bowl that is gigantic and cumbersome on top of tiny saucepan.
To use the double boiler, add water to the pan and bring it to a simmer, then place the bowl on top and fill it with whatever you intend to cook or melt.

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