10 Tips to Successfully Baking a Cake from Scratch
Baking in a science in which each ingredient plays an important role and has the ability to alter the end product. It requires a certain process and procedure that we must follow. Here are 10 tips to successfully baking a cake that I use and follow which I hope you will find useful.
The baking Encyclopedia
There is a whole encyclopedia written on baking. What you must do and what you must not do. Rightfully so.. There is nothing worst than spending an hour baking only to remove a flat or under baked, sometimes over baked cake from the oven. There are zillions of things that can go wrong with baking and over the years I’d had my own share of those misfortunes.
However, I will still say that I am very grateful to have had a mother who taught me the basics of baking. From my grand mother to my mother both of whom were excellent bakers and cooks I am truly fortunate to say it is in my blood. I truly love baking and cooking so much that I have over the years created many of my own creations and shared them with family, friends and now here on my blog.
Over my years of baking I have accumulated some baking practices that I call tips. I hope you will find useful.
10 tips to Successfully Baking a cake from Scratch
I – The ingredients –
Always measure the ingredients properly.
If it says one cup then use one cup not a few tablespoons more or less. It does make a difference.
For example – a few tablespoons of extra flour can make your cake denser as well as crack on the top and a few tablespoons less can cause the cake to sink.
I have a post that explains the advantages of – measuring ingredients by weight and volume in more details
II – Temperature of your ingredients
Make sure your butter is room temperature but not melted unless the recipe specifies.
- Butter – If the butter is not room temperature it will not cream well with the sugar and stay lumpy.
- Eggs – Start with room temperature. This will help them combine well with the rest of the ingredients and not give you a curdled batter.
- Sugar – use fine grain sugar that will cream well. Coarse granulated sugar takes longer to cream and ends up staying grainy
Tip – If you cannot find – fine grain sugar just place the coarse gain sugar in a food process for a few seconds.
III – Over-mixing and Under-mixing
I know this is very confusing. What does it mean? How do I know when it’s enough?
Most recipes will tell you how long to mix and if you’re still not comfortable use a kitchen timer. (I do it all the time, mostly because I’m multitasking)
Most cakes have a simple formula – cream the butter and sugar and you will know when this is done because it will appear light, fluffy and creamy. (Usually about 3 minutes.) You see this is well creamed.
Add eggs in 20 sec intervals and beat them until they are well combined and this you can see if they are well combined by just looking to see not traces of egg. It is important to mix the eggs well as this can give your cake that lovely light texture.
Next, add dry and wet ingredients. Always alternate the dry and wet, starting with the dry and ending with the dry. It is important to just stir until they are incorporated.
In most traditional cakes this is how the cake batters would look. Some batters such as Chocolate cake batters have more liquid but the batter should look smooth without any lumps and traces of flour.
You can do this by hand or use the mixer on low. Here is where you do not want to over-mix and activate the gluten in the flour.
Fill your pan 2/3 full leaving enough room for the cake to rise. If your pan is not lined at least grease and flour it so the cake will be released. If you grease but don’t flour the pan it does effect the rise of your cake.
IV – Temperature of the oven
I know most professionals say buy an oven thermometer. It is a great investment.
If you do not own one then keep track of your oven. If you notice that your recipe says cook for 20 minutes and your chicken is done in 15 or 30 minutes, you can guess how far off your oven is. The next time make adjustments and keep track again. When baking the oven temperature is very important and can affect the end result of your baked goods.
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V – Always preheat your oven
A good practice is to have you ingredients ready, switch on the oven and start mixing. This gives you approximately 15 minutes of preheating time.
VI – Prepare your cake pan
Some people buy special spray for their baking. I personally like to use the pan spray and then use baking paper on the bottom as well as sides.
Also note – that if you do not prepare the sides of your pan – it affects the rise of your cake.
VII – The use of cake strips and heating core
You can buy these ready made now days so it saves you a lot of hassle.
Trust me it does bake your cake level and saves you the extra work of leveling later on. Plus a heating core for larger cakes will bake your cake evenly and you won’t have a wet center with dry exterior. I use large flower nails as heating core.
VIII — Do not over crowd your oven
Overcrowding the oven can cause too many problems with uneven baking as well as sinking. Its best to place the cake on the middle rack and away from the side of the oven. Pans should not touch each other when baking.
IX — Do not open the oven door while baking
Opening the door when baking can cause your cake to sink. Most recipes will tell you how long to bake it. A great indicator is smell. You will know when you cake is baked by the lovely sweet smell permeating through your home. Once there, open the door, do a toothpick test to make sure. If the toothpick comes out clean take it out of the oven.
X — Do not leave the cake in the pan to cool for more than 10 minutes
Remove the cake from its pan and let it cool on a wire rack. If you have greased your pans properly this will be an easy job. Leaving your warm cake in the pan for long can cause the cake to sink.
On a personal note – here’s what I try to keep in mind
- Organize you self. Try not to multitask. (I know, easier said than done).
- Get all the ingredients ready before you start so you don’t forget anything.
- Remember baking is food science, unlike regular cooking where you can add more salt or have the luxury of forgetting something. In baking each ingredient plays a key role and can affect the end result of your hard work.
- Baking can be fun and exciting it all depends on the way you approach it.
- So take care of the basics and the rest is fun.