How to Make Picture Perfect Brownies
and Cakes

When you walk in the local bake shop, they have these neat rows of perfectly cut brownies and cakes.   When you do it in your own kitchen, they’re not quite so neat.    Don’t feel bad.  The baker has automatized equipment and cutters and bakes them in big sheet pans.  You don’t.  But we can help.  We’ll show you what we do in our test kitchen to make homemade brownies a little neater.

We equip our test kitchen like a home kitchen, not like a bakery, so we can tell you how to bake in your kitchen.

Tip 1:  Parchment Paper

We always line the pan with parchment paper.  Generously coat the pan with shortening first; the shortening will hold the paper in place.  Fold the corners into pleats so the paper does not stick out into the batter.  Make sure the paper sticks up above the edges the pan so you can grasp the paper to remove the cake.

When the brownies or cake is done, let it cool on the rack for several minutes then grasp the edges of the paper and lift the cake from the pan to a rack.

To remove the paper from the cake, use two racks or a rack and a cutting board.

  1. Place one rack upside down on top of the brownies.
  2. Grab the two racks with cake sandwiched in between with both hands and flip it over so that the cake is upside down on the second rack.
  3. Peel the paper from the cake.
  4. Place the second rack or cutting board on the inverted cake, grab the cake sandwiched between two racks with both hands, and turn the cake over.  You’ll have the cake setting right-side-up on a cutting board or rack.

Tip 2:  Trimming the Edges

We usually trim the edges from our baronies and sheet cakes.  Sometimes we cut off less that 1/4-inch but if the edge is ragged or the cake was slightly over-done, we’ll cut off more than that.

Tip 3:  Frosting the Brownies

You can frost the brownies before or after the trimming.  We have a steady stream of employees through the test kitchen looking for trimmings to eat.  So we usually frost the cake before trimming just they get the real effect.

Get the frosting to the right consistency before frosting.  If the frosting is too thick, zap it in the microwave for ten to fifteen seconds.

The most common frosting pattern we use is the scalloped line effect you see in the images here.  That’s because it’s easy.  Fill a small pastry bag or zipper-type plastic bag with frosting, clip the corner, and drag strips of frosting across the first coat of frosting.  The strips should be 1/2 to 3/4-inch apart.

Take a spatula and lightly drag it through the strips to make the scallops.  The drag marks should be about the same distance apart as the stripes and perpendicular to them.  Don’t worry about being two neat.  No one will ever notice that the lines are perfectly equidistant.

Tip 4:  Measuring and Cutting the Brownies

We use a ruler to mark the cutting lines in
the frosting.

There are two ways to cut your brownies.  We’ve found that the best way to do it is with a pizza roller.  The round blade walks through the brownies with less disruption and cleaner cuts.  That is especially true if the cake has sat for a few hours before cutting.

After a couple cuts, wash the blade to get it clean again and leave it just a little damp but without drops of water on the blade.  A slightly damp blade will slip through the cake more easily.

You can also cut your brownies with slightly damp, serrated blade.  It’s not as handy as a pizza wheel but it works.


To get more like this . . .

We’re baking in our test kitchen every day. If you would like the best recipes and methods from our test kitchen, just tell us where to send them.

Enter your email address here. You’ll get tested recipes and proven methods to make the very best desserts and treats.