Cake Baking Tips

Bakeware

  • Be sure to use the pan size called for in the recipe. To check the width of a pan, measure across the top from inside edge to inside edge.
  • Use shiny metal pans for baking cakes. They reflect heat away, producing a tender, lighter-colored crust.
  • Use caution when using dark nonstick baking pans or glass baking dishes. Read and follow the manufacturer’s directions.   Since these pans absorb more heat, results may be better if the baking temperature is reduced by 25 degrees F.

Baking

  • Bake cakes with the oven rack placed in the center of the oven, unless the recipe states differently. Bake only on one rack.

Cooling

  • Cakes should be cooled completely on wire racks. Cool round cakes in their pans 10 minutes, then loosen by running a thin knife between the cake and the edge of the pan and remove the cakes from pans to wire racks. Rectangular cakes (often in 13×9-inch baking pans) can be cooled completely in the pan or cooled 10 minutes in the pan and then removed to a wire rack to cool completely.

Frosting

  • Frost cakes when they are completely cooled, or the frosting will melt or slide off the cake.

Making a Cake Recipe into Cupcakes

  • Follow cupcake preparation directions in the recipe, but if the recipe does not have specific instructions, be aware that most cake recipes can be made into cupcakes. Use the following guidelines.
  • Line cupcake pans with paper baking cups; fill cups 1/2 to 3/4 full with cake batter.
  • Bake cupcakes at the same temperature the cake called required and begin checking for doneness at 16 minutes.
  • Cool cupcakes completely before frosting.
  • Expect a yield of about 1-1/2 to 2 dozen cupcakes from a recipe calling for about 2-1/4 cups of flour.

Storage & Cutting

  • Follow cupcake preparation directions in the recipe, but if the recipe does not have specific instructions, be aware that most cake recipes can be made into cupcakes. Use the following guidelines.
  • Line cupcake pans with paper baking cups; fill cups 1/2 to 3/4 full with cake batter.
  • Bake cupcakes at the same temperature the cake called required and begin checking for doneness at 16 minutes.
  • Cool cupcakes completely before frosting.
  • Expect a yield of about 1-1/2 to 2 dozen cupcakes from a recipe calling for about 2-1/4 cups of flour.

Troubleshooting

  • Refer to this checklist to figure out why a cake did not turn out as expected.

If a homemade cake has a coarse texture, the following problems may have occurred:

  • Too much baking soda or baking powder may have been used.
  • Not enough liquid may have been used.
  • The butter and sugar may not have been beaten together long enough. If the recipe calls for creaming butter and sugar, or beating until light and fluffy, this should take at least three to four minutes of beating.
  • The oven temperature was too low.

If a homemade cake is too dry, the following problems may have occurred:

  • Too much flour or leavening (baking soda/baking powder) was used.
  • Flour was not measured properly (see measuring tips).
  • Not enough shortening or sugar was used.
  • The cake was over-baked – the oven temperature was too high and/or the baking time was too long.

If a homemade cake fell (the center of the cake sinks), the following problems may have occurred:

  • The cake was under-baked – the oven temperature was too low and/or the baking time was too short.
  • The liquid was over or under measured.
  • The pan was too small – the batter was too deep.
  • The cake was moved or jarred before it
  • was sufficiently baked.
  • Old or expired baking powder was used.
  • A wooden pick or cake tester was inserted into the cake before it was sufficiently set.

If a homemade cake has low volume or is too flat, the following problems may have occurred:

  • The liquid was over- or under-measured.
  • The batter was under-mixed or extremely over-mixed.
  • Too large a pan was used.
  • The oven temperature was too low or too high.

If a homemade cake has a peaked center, the following problems may have occurred:

  • The batter was over-mixed.
  • The oven temperature was too hot.

If a homemade cake shrinks excessively around the edges, the following problems may have occurred:

  • The baking pans were greased too heavily.
  • The baking pans were placed too close together in the oven.
  • There was too little batter in the baking pan.
  • The batter was extremely over-mixed.
  • There was too little liquid in the batter.
  • The cake was over-baked – either too long a time or at too high a temperature.

If a homemade cake is soggy, the following problems may have occurred:

  • The cake was moved or jarred before it was sufficiently baked.
  • The cake was under-baked – the oven temperature was too low and/or the baking time was too short.
  • Old or expired baking powder was used.

If a homemade cake has a spotted crust, the batter was probably under-mixed.

If a homemade cake has a sticky top crust, the following problems may have occurred:

  • The cake was stored while still warm.
  • The liquid was over measured.
  • The cake was under-baked – the oven temperature was too low and/or the baking time was too short.
  • The air humidity was too high.

If a homemade cake has tunnels throughout the layer, the following problems may have occurred:

  • The oven temperature was too high.
  • The batter was under-mixed or extremely over-mixed.

If a homemade cake has uneven browning, the following problems may have occurred:

  • There was uneven heat circulation in the oven.
  • The baking pans were placed too close together in the oven.
  • If a homemade cake has uneven layers, the following problems may have occurred:
  • The oven rack was not level.
  • The cake pans were warped or bent.

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