I totally agree, this got very interesting and informative and I think the best thing to do is try all of the methods and see what works for you. I do also use a flat cookie sheet sometimes, but when I am not feeling sure of my hands (I broke my shoulder last year), that was when I got into freezing the larger cakes before torting them.
Oh heavens girls and sleepovers, I can relate. When my youngest was in grade 9, I think, she invited all 35 of the girls for a sleepover. Oh the noise level! Can't wait to see that cake, it should be a lot of fun!
Apricot glaze, well there are mixed reviews on it. Every time I suggest it on the Wilton site, Jeanne G comments that she tried it once and her grandchildren thought it made the cake taste yucky. However she is talking about using it pure, not watered down. Anyway, it has become almost an ongoing friendly disagreement or joke between us, haha!
It is and was something more popular in commercial bakeries and used by pastry chefs in hotels and such. Originally, well it was used as a quick method of crumbcoating but also as a means of flavouring a white or similar cake. My daughter used it in a commercial baking course and they used it full strength.
Full strength is heating up a jar of pure apricot jam, straining it through a sieve to get rid of any pulp and then using a pastry brush to very sparingly coat your cakes. Now this can be done immediately after the cakes come out of the oven and have been levelled, always used warm. Or it can be used warm on cooled cakes that have been levelled.
It is used for the following reasons:
1. To seal in the moisture so that if you are doing a lot of cakes, like, for instance, a wedding cake, well you don't have to wait for all of them to be cooled and then scramble to crumbcoat with a buttercream crumbcoat. So basically you can get them all done before the air has a chance to dry out any of the cakes.
2. To act as a crumbcoat - when applied correctly and sparingly, this will insure, no crumbs getting into your final coat of icing. You then let these glazed cakes sit until the glaze has set. You can then ice the totally cooled and set glazed cakes, or you can wrap them with plastic wrap for future icing or freeze the well wrapped cakes.
3. To act as a basis for a fondant or marzipan covering - giving it something to adhere to, although today, there is usually also a layer of buttercream applied or used in place of it before fondant is applied.
4. To prolong the shelf life of your cakes. This glaze seals the cake to the air and provides moisture to the cake so that it will prolong the shelf life and in some minor instances, will also add moisture to a slightly dry or slightly overcooked cake.
5. To add a bit of flavouring to perhaps a sponge or white or yellow cake.
Now I took a one day seminar at a local bakery and for first time decorators, they recommend using this apricot glaze strictly for crumbcoating purposes. But here is what they do. They heat up the pure jam and strain it and sell it strained. To this strained jam, they recommend you use a ratio of 2 parts heated strained or sieved jam to 1 part water. Then you reheat this on low heat bringing it to a boil, whisking it all the while and refridgerate until you need it. I like to heat up small amounts in the microwave when I need it. It keeps indefinitely, just make sure to keep the crumbs out or re-strain it.
So once it has been watered down, I can tell you that you can put any kind of filling or icing over these glazed cakes and you will not taste the apricot glaze, which is why they recommend watering it down.
The cake crumbs for me are not an issue as I have been baking cakes for 41 years, so after that length of time, you know how to avoid the crumbs. I use it more for the time-saving. It takes a lot less time to coat a cake with this or any sugar syrup glaze, then it does to apply a thinned buttercream. But the biggest bonus is that I don't have to wait for the cakes to cool and get up during the night to wrap a cake. At 50, I am tired of setting alarm clocks to check if my cake is cooled, haha!
But you do have to use it sparingly, you are going for a very slight sheen to the cake, you won't even use 1/4 cup for say, a 10 inch round cake. And you will use a paper towel to catch the drips that accumulate on the board, should you crumbcoat them on a board and not on a rack, which is preferrable.
And as long as you are careful when you ice your cake, not to ever allow your spatula to touch the cake, always only touch icing and really load that icing on, well you will be crumb free.
Now aren't you sorry you mentioned it, haha!