I have heard from several friends that they are scared of baking cakes. The main fear is that the cake will not turn out spongy and moist. So, here are some basic tips. Whenever you make a cake, remember these and the end product will always be good.
- Use ingredients that are at room temperature. Do not use cold ingredients to make cake batter.
- To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, you can wash them in luke warm water.
- Follow the measures that a recipe has specified, do not try to estimate and approximate.
- To measure flour, scoop the flour from the flour bag/box and then using a knife or a spatula, level it off by lightly cutting the flour away. Do not press down the flour into the measuring cup
- Always use fresh baking powder and baking soda. If you store these in airtight containers, they will last for a long time. If you feel that these may not be entirely fresh, try adding a spoonfull to a cup of water and see if there is a reaction (some bubbling). If so, you can still use it for baking.
- Always sieve your dry ingredients together. If you have a stand mixer or a food processor, you can also mix/process all the dry ingredients in it a few times (use pulse button in processor). This is important to aerate the dough.
- If you want a spongy cake, whip your egg whites separately. And then fold these into the batter.
- If the recipe asks that you use the entire egg without separating the white and yolk, then whisk the eggs and then mix. Again the intent is to add air to the batter.
- Mix the dry ingredients and then add them slowly to the wet ingredients (generally a mixture of butter, milk, eggs and sugar). While adding them, fold them in gently rather than over beating the batter. This will help keep the batter aerated and you won't deflate it too much.
- Never overmix the dough. This will just make it dense.
- Always preheat the oven to the temperature stated in the recipe, before you start the baking process. You want the batter to go into a hot oven and not in a cold one.
- Grease the pan that you are pouring the batter in well. For this you can use butter or vegetable shortening or margarine or oil spray. Also, dust some all purpose flour over the greased surface. It will stick and create a layer of flour and this will help the cake to come out of the pan easily.
- If you want, you can also layer the cake pan with some parchment/wax paper instead of the flour.
- Do not keep the batter sitting for a long time before you put it in the oven. Generally, you want to start heating the oven before you start mixing the dry and wet ingredients together. This will make the cake dense.
- Do not keep opening the oven door to check on the cake's progress. You can check on it once it is closer to the time called in the recipe (about 10 minutes prior). Opening the oven door often will impact the temperature inside and this may cause the cake to deflate.
- You can determine that the cake is closer to being completely cooked, when you start getting the faint aroma of the cake. This sense is one that gets developed over time and as you bake more, you will be able to judge the cooking stage based on your sense of smell
- To test if the cake is completely cooked, insert a toothpick or a sharp knife in the center of the cake and if it comes out clean, the cake is done. If some crumbs are stuck, that is okay and it suggests that the cake is moist. If some batter gets stuck on the knife/toothpick then the cake needs to bake for a longer time
- Cool the cake in the pan on a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes and then turn it out onto the cooling rack. If it is placed on a cooling rack, the excess moisture from the cake will evaporate as it cools and the cake base won't sweat and become soggy.
- Try and remove the cake from the pan, while the pan is warm and not completely cold. This will help the cake to come out easily.
- The cake needs to cool for at least 8-10 hours before you can ice/frost it. However, the cake may still be soft and crumbly. So keep it in the freezer for about an hour before you start the icing/frosting process. This will reduce the amount of crumb that falls off the cake during icing/frosting.
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