The smell of freshly baked cakes baking in the oven is a treat for your senses. Baking can be both an enjoyable and relaxing hobby, but it doesn't have to be difficult or complicated. Follow these top ten baking tips to help you bake that perfect cake every time!
1. Read the Recipe
I can't say this enough. Read the recipe. This is my number one baking tip for the perfect cake. You should read the recipe and make sure nothing seems wrong with it. Also you want to make sure you have a general idea of what you should be doing before you start baking. Sometimes things are time sensitive and if you don't know what you need to do next, you could easily make a mistake. For best results, I take the approach that I always follow the recipe on the first time. The following times, I feel a little bit freer to make adjustments.
2. Allow Your Oven to Fully Preheat
Your cake needs to bake at the correct temperature for the correct amount of time to ensure success. Also, don't open the oven door while baking. This lets cool air in and could drastically change the oven temperature. I recommend owning an oven thermometer. Just because your oven says it's 350° doesn't mean it always is. It's best to be proactive and just keep an oven thermometer on the rack and you will always know your oven temperature. Also set a timer for your bake time so you know a general idea of the time it should be done. Remember this is just a guide, always check your cake 5-10 minutes before it should be done, just incase your oven temperature is not cooperating.
3. Measure Properly
Baking is not very forgiving. If there was ever a time in your life when accurate measurements were super important it's when you are baking a cake. I am suggesting you have and use a kitchen scale. Dry ingredients, flour specifically, tops the list for one of the most common incorrectly measured ingredients for many people due to the way we scoop out flour. When you use a scale and know exactly how many grams or ounces you need, it doesn't matter if your cup of flour is big or small. If your cake comes out dry, it's likely because there was too much flour in the recipe.
4. Room Temperature Ingredients
The perfect mixture of ingredients can be difficult to achieve. The temperature of the ingredients is one thing that we often forget about when making a dish, but it is an important step in ensuring the end product turns out great. If a recipe calls for room temperature ingredients be sure to use those. This will usually apply to ingredients like eggs, sour cream, butter, or dairy. Room temperature ingredients bond together easier, helping to prevent you from overmixing. Butter should sit on the counter for 2 hours before using it to get it to room temperature.
5. Use the Correct Flour
Not all flours are created equally. Go with what the recipe calls for. Once you become a bit more acquainted with what each flour does and their purposes then you could start making changes. We use a lot of AP flour and also cake flour. But you have to take into account the other ingredients when determining which to use. Swans Down is one of my favorite cake flours. It's a low protein flour and that soft tender texture rolls right into your cake. My favorite all purpose flour will always be King Arthur AP flour. Their product is great, and I love all the things the company does.
6. Don't Overmix Your Batter
This is a really important tip for baking the perfect cake. When you make a cake, it’s important to mix the batter just until all of the ingredients are combined. If you over-mix the batter, your cake will be tough and chewy because you deflate all the air and overdevelop the gluten. It doesn't matter how many other things you did correctly, if your batter is overmixed, you will know.
7. Line Your Pans With Parchment Paper
Trace the bottom of your cake pan onto parchment paper and cut it out. Lightly grease your pan and place the parchment paper in the pan. Then grease the parchment round as well. This should ensure that you are able to get your cake out of the pan once it's done. If you don't want to go through the effort of tracing and cutting, it's a good idea to pickup precut parchment rounds. Be sure to use the size of cake pans that the recipe is calling for. Sometimes you can get away with using smaller pans, just be sure to not overfill them.
8. Testing Your Cake For Doneness
One of the easiest ways to test if your cake is done, is by using a toothpick. Stick a toothpick in the center of the cake, and if it comes out clean - then you know that your cake's done. Another option would be to press down lightly on it with your hand - if it bounces back when you let go; then you know that it's done. If you have left a tiny finger mark, there's still some time left before its ready!
9. How to Cool Your Cake
After smelling your cake baking for the entire time and you are now hungry, I'm sure you are wondering how long does it take for a cake to cool? Once your cake is done baking you need to allow for proper cool down time. I usually remove it from the pan about 30 minutes after baking and put it on a cooling rack. Then I let it sit until it is cool, which makes it more workable when you are ready to decorate. It does no good to rush it and attempt to decorate the cake. You will just melt your frosting or you will have messy crumbs all over the place.
10. How Long Does Cake Last?
Most cakes will stay fresh for three to four days before the moisture starts to get drawn out and it starts to dry out. A cake can last a little longer in the refrigerator if it is covered with frosting. That helps keep the moisture in. So the last thing on the list, but certainly not the least important is regarding storing your cake. Most cakes taste best at room temperature. If you make your cake ahead of time, bake it, cool it, then cover and store tightly at room temperature on your counter. I like to put the frosting on the day I am eating it. Now if your find that doesn't work with your schedule, go ahead and frost it.
More Baking Tips
If you would like to read about other baking tips we have quite a few writeups on the website to help you get that perfect cake.
- Top 10 Baking Tips
- Essential Baking Tools Every Baker Needs
- A Baker's Guide to Chocolate
- Best Essential Baking Pans to Stock In Your Kitchen
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