Baking a cake from scratch is time consuming to say the least, between the mixing, the baking, the icing and the perfecting. Not to mention that there are hundreds of cake recipes out there and finding the best is a tedious process of trial and error.
That said, while you’re experimenting with recipes, whether it be from cookbooks or your family recipes, there are some tricks to baking a cake that will make your life a lot easier. After all, who wants to waste time on fixing mistakes and mishaps? Choosing the right pan is the first step to baking a cake.
A shiny metal pan is ideal since it reflect heat away from the cake, resulting in a light brown outer layer. Using a dark nonstick pan or a glass baking pan is okay; just make sure to reduce the baking temperature by 25 degrees F as these pans brown faster due to absorbing heat.
The best way to prevent your cake from peaking in the center or falling is to know what causes such anomalies. A cake can peak in the center if the oven is too hot, or if you used too much flour and not enough wet ingredients.
A cake falls if your oven is not hot enough (which can result from leaving the oven open too long), or using too much baking powder, baking soda, or sugar. Both mishaps can be prevented by measuring ingredients accurately according to your cake recipes and keeping oven temperatures constant. Your cake mixture should go into the oven as soon as possible.
The ingredients that cause the cake to rise begin working instantaneously so letting your cake sit around can result in a cake that rises too much—this is why it’s imperative to preheat your oven before you begin mixing ingredients. Place your cake into the oven without leaving the door open too long; this can let a lot of heat escape and decrease oven temperature.
The best location to place your cake is the center of the oven since this guarantees the cake is cooked evenly. Minimize opening your oven since the oven temperature fluctuates each time you open it and this can result in your cake collapsing. When you approach your baking time, open once to test the center of the cake with a toothpick or cake tester.
Insert and make sure the tester comes out clean. Removing a cake from a pan without causing damage is an art in itself. Allow the cake to cool outside the oven for at least ten minutes. Proceed by using a dinner knife around the side of the pan to ensure the cake separates from the pan.
Place a paper or towel on an even surface and turn the pan upside down so the cake layer is facing the paper/towel. Remove the pan and place a board or a rack on the bottom of the cake so you can flip the cake right side up.
If you are making a layered cake and need to split it in the middle, then use unflavored dental floss to cut the cake.