This time of year brings out the baker in me. The illsbury doughboy and I have an annual affair that ends at the same time that the Christmas tree is taken down.
Over our rhitty year relatinoshi, here are a few things that he has taught about baking a cake.
- Get an oven thermometer...It is important to always make sure your oven is heating at the correct temperature. Even though your oven might say itself that it is at the right temperature, don’t trust it. If your oven isn’t at the right temperature, you might end up having a sunken, dry, or collapsed cake. Your best bet is to invest in an oven thermometer and make sure that your oven isn’t telling you a lie.
- Consider whether you are using a glass or metal pan…Cakes baked in glass pans cook differently than cakes baked in versus metal bake differently. If using glass, lower your oven temperature by 25 degrees.
- Preheat your oven before you start mixing and prepping...It’s best if the oven is preheated for twenty to thirty minutes.
- Allow your ingredients to reach room temperature…Eggs, butter, milk, and any refrigerated ingredients should generally be used at room temperature. Cold ingredients could cause the batter to curdle.
- Prepare the pan…Make sure to properly grease and flour the pan before you add the batter. You may also want to try lining the bottom of your pan with parchment paper, especially when baking layer cakes.
- Take your time...When combining butter and sugar, take your time and cream them together for at least five minutes. This adds tiny air pockets to the batter and helps to ensure a lighter cake.
- Measure your dry ingredients exactly…Use a knife or other flat surface to level off dry ingredients in a measuring cup or spoon.
- Don’t skip the sifting...Sifting actually is important because doing this helps to add air and ensures that all dry ingredients are properly combined. If you don’t have a sifter, you can use a wire mesh strainer.
- Filling the pan…Generally, the cake batter should fill the pan by at least 1/2 and not more than 2/3, unless otherwise instructed.
- Bake the cake...Bake the cake in the middle of the oven.
- Do not open the oven door…Opening the oven door too many times while your cake is baking could lower the oven temperature. Wait until the cake is nearly finished baking before you open the door.
- See if the cake is done...Insert a dinner knife into the center of the cake. If the knife comes out clean, the cake is done…(we ALL knew that, right?)
- Let the cake cool properly…Remove the cake from the pan after allowing the cake to cool in the pan on a wire rack for five to ten minutes. Then invert it onto a plate or rack to remove it from the pan and allow it to cool completely.
- Wait to frost the cake…Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting. Even the slightest warmth from a cake can quickly turn your frosting or icing into a mess.
- Apply a crumb coat…First brush your completely cooled cake with a pastry brush (or your fingers if you don’t have one) to remove excess crumbs. Next apply a “crumb coat”—a very thin layer of frosting—to the cake. This helps seal in the crumbs. You also could make frosting the cake easier by refrigerating the cake for an hour after applying the crumb coat so that the crumb coat will harden slightly and really hold in the crumbs.
- Frost the cake neatly as possible…Start frosting at the top before finishing with the sides. Wipe the spatula clean each time you swipe frosting onto the cake. You may want to spread it on smoothly for a clean finish, or you may opt to swirl it decoratively around the cake.