All-Purpose Flour or Cake Flour?
All-purpose flour produces a dense, moist cake. It’s what most recipes use. But if a recipe specifies cake flour, use cake flour. This will give you a high-rising, fine-textured cake.
Preheat your oven. There’s no need to preheat it longer than specified. This only adds to your energy bill.
Make sure ovens and shelves are level.
Bake at the correct temperature. To double-check the temperature, use an oven thermometer.
Your oven air circulation must be unrestrained so don’t let pans touch each other. If your pans touch, your cake may rise unevenly.
For a flatter top with creamed batters — ones that start with beating the sugar and butter together – use steam in the oven if it’s available. This creates a flatter top because steam delays the formation of the top crust.
Don’t open the oven door or disturb the cake until it’s finished rising and is partially browned, or your cake may fall.
Is it Done?
Your cake is done if it’s "springy." When your cake is done, the top will spring back when pressed lightly in the center and slightly shrink away from the sides of the pan. Try inserting a cake tester or wooden toothpick in the center. If it comes out clean, it’s done.
Cooling and Retrieving from the Pan
Cool your layer cakes in pans and turn them out onto cooling racks while they’re still slightly warm – about 15 minutes after removing them from the oven. Finish cooling on racks. If you remove them while they’re still hot, your cakes may break.
Sheet cakes should be removed while slightly warm. They are a little more difficult to turn out. Set a cookie sheet on top of your cake, invert it, and then remove the top pan.
Cool your angel food and chiffon cakes upside down in their baking pans. Don’t let the top of the cake touch the rack. Once cool, you can loosen the cake and ease it gently from the pan from the sides using a knife or spatula.
Tips for Cutting a Layer Cake
Cut a four-layer cake with a long, serrated knife. Hold the knife horizontally, put one hand on top of the cake and slowly rotate the cake, cutting into the cake all the way around. Continue to rotate and cut deeper into the layer until you cut through and create two even halves.
You can also use a piece of thread rather than a knife. Hold a long piece of thread between your hands and start from the back. Slowly and evenly pull the thread through to the front.
Tips for Frosting a Two-Layer Cake
Enhance the flavor of your baked goods with icing and frostings. In addition, they are a barrier to moisture and extend freshness.
Cool your layers completely. Brush loose crumbs from the sides. Place one layer, top side down, on a cake plate. Spread frosting evenly over your first layer. Place the other cake layer topside up on the frosted layer, and frost both sides.
Creatively frost the top with the remaining frosting. Create swirls with a spoon or butter knife for an easy and interesting effect. If you want to be more creative, you can learn to make ribbons, flower and leaves, and other accents with a decorating bag using different removable tips. You can also purchase decorations from most supermarkets.
Add artistry by drizzling a complimentary sauce or puree onto a serving plate, then place a slice of cake on top. Serve it like they do in the world’s finest restaurants!
To freeze your cake, frosted or unfrosted, let it completely cool. Unfrosted cakes keep 4 to 6 months; frosted cakes keep 1 to 2 months. Thaw your cakes at room temperature.
Solving Cake Problems
Most often, baking problems result from oven problems. We suggest you first check your oven thermometer to be sure your oven is heating properly.
If your oven is too hot:
Your cake may have tunnels and cracks.
Your cake may set before it fully rises and may be uneven.
Your crust may be too dark.
Your crust may burst or crack.
If your oven is too cool:
Your cake may have coarse, dense or heavy texture.
Your cake won’t set fast enough and will fall.
Your crust may be too light.
If your oven temperature is uneven, your cake may be uneven.
Your cake top can also burst or crack from too much flour, too little liquid, or improper mixing.
If your cake is uneven, you may have mixed the ingredients improperly or spread it unevenly.
If your crust is too dark, you may have used too much sugar.
If your cake texture is coarse, you may not have combined the fat and sugar well enough.
If your cake is too dense or too heavy, you may need more leavening or liquid, or you may have used too much sugar or shortening.
Angel food cakes fall because the egg whites are dry from over beating.
If your cake crust is too light, you may need more sugar.
If your cake crust is soggy, you may have under-baked it, cooled it in pans without proper ventilation, or wrapped it before it completely cooled.
If your cake is crumbly, you may have used too much flour, not enough sugar or shortening, or over-mixed the batter.
If your cake doesn't have good flavor, your formula may be unbalanced, or you may need to check the quality of your ingredients.
Additional Uses for Cake Batter
Turn extra cake batter into cupcakes. Place your cupcake holders in a cupcake pan and fill them one-half to two-thirds full. Then, bake in a pre-heated oven at the same temperature called for in your cake recipe, reducing baking time by a third to a half.
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