Baking a cake is a delicate process that requires attention to detail and patience. While it may seem like a simple task, there are numerous factors that could make or break your cake. In this blog, we will explore some essential tips that will help you create the perfect cake.
- Follow the Recipe
The first and most important tip is to follow the recipe. It may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how often people ignore this advice. We often substitute ingredients in recipes based on what we have, which can lead to disastrous results. Substituting eggs, reducing sugar, using liquid sweetener instead of dry, all-purpose instead of cake flour, baking soda for powder, or egg whites instead of whole eggs can alter the cake’s texture and flavor. Unless the recipe suggests alternatives, it’s best to stick to the ingredients listed.
Similarly, make sure you’re using the appropriate size pan. Using the wrong size pan can result in a cake that’s too dense, too thin, or overflows. Ensure that you use the correct size pan for the recipe to achieve the desired result.
- Room Temperature
When a recipe calls for room temperature ingredients, use room temperature ingredients like eggs, sour cream, butter, and milk. The reason behind this is science. Most cake recipes begin with creaming butter and sugar together. Butter is capable of holding air, and the creaming process is when butter traps that air. While baking, that trapped air expands from the heat and produces a fluffy cake. Room temperature ingredients bond together easier and quicker since they’re warmer– thus reducing over-mixing. Simply put, cold ingredients do not emulsify together.
Room temperature butter is about 65°F (18°C), which might be colder than your kitchen. It’s cool to touch, not warm. If your cakes are dense, you’re probably softening the butter too much. Allow the butter to sit out on the counter for about 1-2 hours before beginning your recipe. Sometimes our schedules don’t allow 1-2 hours for softening butter prior to beginning a cake recipe. Don’t take a shortcut and microwave the butter because it will not heat evenly.
- Measure Properly
Measuring ingredients properly is imperative. The difference between a recipe success and a recipe failure could lie within one mismeasured tablespoon of sugar. Flour is the most commonly mismeasured ingredient. When measuring flour, use the “spoon & level” method. Do not scoop the flour out of the container/bag with your measuring cup. In some cases, scooping the flour could give you 150% of the correct measurement. Disaster ensues. Rather, using a spoon, scoop the flour into the measuring cup. Do not pack the flour down, and do not tap the measuring cup – both cause the flour to settle in the cup. After you’ve spooned the flour into the measuring cup, use the back of a knife to level off the top of the measuring cup. Now you have a spoon & leveled flour.
Understanding the correct measuring technique for a particular ingredient will guarantee better baking results. Proper measuring practices are essential for creating a delicious cake.
- Cake Flour
Cake flour is a low protein flour that’s finely milled into a delicate consistency. This soft, tender texture directly translates into your baked cake. However, some recipes simply cannot withstand fine cake flour. Chocolate cake, for example, already has cocoa powder which is a VERY fine dry ingredient. In my experience, the combination of cake flour and cocoa powder results in a flimsy chocolate cake. Likewise, spice cake, carrot cake, hummingbird cake, and banana cake contain additional wet ingredients (the fruits or veggies), so cake flour usually isn’t ideal.
5. Preheat Your Oven
It’s important to preheat your oven before you start baking. This ensures that your cake bakes evenly and at the correct temperature. Most cake recipes call for a preheated oven, so make sure to give your oven enough time to reach the desired temperature. It’s also a good idea to place your cake pans in the center of the oven to ensure even baking.