Learn how to bake a cake from scratch. Perfectly. Every time. I had a lot of fun writing this page. It's not just for beginners.
I cover the cake pans to use, preparing the cake pans, cake ingredients, cake mixing and cake baking mishaps.
When you learn how to bake a cake it's nice to know a couple of things before we get started. There are two kinds of cakes, shortened and unshortened. "What's shortened?" A shortened cake can be any these: butter cake, fruit cake, chiffon cake or pound cake. Unshortened cakes are sponge cakes and angel food cakes. Follow these basics steps and your on your way to making a perfect cake.
Follow the recipe closely. Never make changes in amounts of ingredients unless you know what you are doing.
Check to see if you have the correct cake pan that is called for in the recipe.
Fill cake pans 1/2 to 2/3 full.
Space oven racks so cake will be as near the center of the oven as possible. If you are baking three or four layers, be careful in placing the pans so they are not over each other. The sides of the pans should never touch.
Check for doneness only at the end of the baking time. Do not "peek" at the cake while it is baking.
Be sure cake is thoroughly cooled before frosting.
Glass, aluminum, heavy tin - they are all used as cake pans. Whatever kind you choose, please be sure that each time you bake a cake that the pan is clean. A clean pan has a huge bearing on how the cake will turn out. Cakes baked in discolored cake pans will brown unevenly.
Warped pans should NOT be used. Heat-proof (air bake) pans used for baking require a reduced temperature to keep the cake from browning too much. Reduce the oven temperature 25 degrees and bake for the same amount of time as stated in the recipe.
Important in baking is the proper sized cake pan. A pan that is too big will produce a cake that is shrunken, flat and colorless. A pan which is too small will cause the cake to bulge over and lose its shape. Measure across the top of the pan with a ruler if you aren't sure what size it is. It is important to know this when you learn how to bake a cake.
HOW TO PROPERLY PREPARE THE CAKE PANS
An important step in learning how to bake a cake, is how you prepare the cake pan before pouring in the batter. For cakes WITHOUT shortening, pans should NOT be greased. The batter will cling to the sides of a greased cake pan, and the cake will not reach full volume.
Except for chiffon-type cakes, cakes made WITH shortening must be baked in a greased cake pan. Waxed or parchment paper can also be used to line the bottom of the pan - and it too must be greased.
When you are in the process of learning how to bake a cake, I'm going to explain basic cake ingredients and why it's used.
The ingredients you use in baking a cake are very important in successful cake baking. High quality ingredients are a "must." Sometimes it is necessary to substitute ingredients and I have that already figured out for you. Just click on the ingredient link and I give you the recipe for that item. Save money.
Flour is a very important ingredient when you learn how to bake a cake. Flour used in baking cakes is of two kinds - cake flour and all-purpose flour. Cakes made with cake flour have a finer texture and stay fresh much longer than cakes made with all-purpose flour.
Cake flour is made especially for cakes. All purpose can be used and if you are substituting it, use 2 tablespoons less per cup of flour than you would of cake flour. If it calls for "sifting the flour" - here's the method I use:
Fluff the flour with a fork and lightly scoop the flour into the measuring cup. Level off with a straight edge of a knife or a spatula.
Sugar can be either granulated (white sugar in my recipes), brown sugar or powdered sugar. The amount of sugar used to make the cake will affect the amount of mixing you do. Large amounts of sugar call for more mixing after the addition of flour. Less mixing is needed with smaller amounts. It is easy to overmix cakes containing small amounts of sugar. Overmixing will produce a cake that is tough, heavy and compact.
There are three kinds of leavening agents. baking powder, egg whites and baking soda. The leavening agent you use is determined by the type of cake you are making. Remember there are three baking powders you can use now that you are learning how to bake a cake.
Shortening is chosen according to the kind of cake you are making and the method of mixing. Quick-mix shortenings are butter or margarine, lard and high-grade vegetable shortening (Crisco). Chiffon cakes are usually made with liquid shortening.
The liquid used in most cakes is whole milk, buttermilk or skim milk. A few recipes will call for fruit juices and water. The most tender cakes are make with whole milk. Why? Because whole milk contains butterfat which makes a more tender cake.
Eggs for making cakes must always be fresh. Be sure eggs are at room temperature before mixing. Eggs at room temperature beat up to a greater volume. When making substitutions with eggs, use the following:
1 egg yolk = 1 tablespoon water + 1-1/2 tablespoons dried yolk
1 egg white = 2 tablespoons water + 1 tablespoon dried white (if the dried white is granulated, use only half as much as with powdered white.)
1 whole egg = 2-1/2 tablespoons water + 2 tablespoons dried whole egg.
FLAVORING, SALT and OTHER INGREDIENTS
These ingredients are the finishing bits to a cake. These ingredients are usually small in amount but can greatly change the flavor of a cake. Salt used in cakes is less when you are using butter (I ALWAYS use unsalted butter) as the shortening. When you use an unsalted shortening, you will use more salt.
HOW TO ACCURATELY MEASURE INGREDIENTS
Just as important as the quality of ingredients you use - measuring the ingredients is just as important. Know that you are learning how to bake a cake, I'll explain how to measure them properly.
There are two methods used to measure shortening. The
water replacement method and the "packed" shortening method that is
commonly used today. To measure by the water replacement method, follow
If you are measuring 1/4 cup shortening, put 3/4 cup of water in the measuring cup and add shortening until the water reaches the one cup mark. Be sure the shortening is completely covered with water. Now drain the water and remove the shortening and use in the recipe.
The packed method is just that: wet the measuring cup with water and pack in the shortening with the back of a spoon. Level off with a straight edge of a knife or spatula and use it in the recipe.
CAKE MIXING METHODS
It's important you use the correct method for mixing and it's important to know that when you are learning how to bake a cake. Several methods are used, but the most common ones are: creaming, chiffon, quick-mix and muffin. Each method will produce a cake with a different texture.
Now that you know how to bake the cake, I'll tell you that this method is the most common used today. Begin by creaming the shortening (or butter), and gradually add the sugar. Continue creaming until the mixture is light. Beat eggs and add to the sugar and shortening mixture. Then add 1/3 of the flour mixture and the remaining milk. Finally, add the remaining flour. Beat the mixture after each addition for one minute. Add flavoring (vanilla, etc) and continue beating the batter until smooth.
This is the last method that I am going to explain because it is also a great to know when you learn how to bake a cake. Why? Because every now or then you will be making a chiffon cake. Right? After measuring dry ingredients, sift into a mixing bowl. Scoop out a hole in the center of the dry ingredients. Normally in recipes it will state to make a "well" and add eggs, oil, etc.
Now you add egg yolks, liquid, flavoring and liquid shortening
(vegetable oil). Beat the mixture until smooth. Beat the egg whites
and cream of tartar until very stiff in another COLD mixing bowl. Pour
the egg yolk mixture over the egg whites and fold until mixed well. You
do not want to beat this together. You want the egg whites to hold the
volume that you just beat into them.
MY CAKE DIDN'T TURN OUT!
I give some examples here on things that can go wrong when your learning how to bake a cake, with an explanation following. It could be one of the reasons or all of them under each problem. It gives you a good idea what happened.
HOLES IN CAKE
It wasn't mixed enough - Too little liquid or shortening - The oven was too cool
CAKE HUMPED OR CRACKED IN THE CENTER
Too hot of a oven - Too much flour or a combination of the two.
THE CAKE IS DRY
There wasn't enough shortening or sugar - There was too much baking powder - The cake was over-baked
THE CAKE IS STICKY
There was too much sugar or shortening - The cake wasn't baked long enough.
THE CAKE WAS TOO BROWN
It was baked too long - The oven was too hot - Too much sugar in cake
THE CAKE WASN'T BROWN ENOUGH
It was in too big of a pan - Not enough baking powder or inactive baking powder (check the expiration dates) - Not baked long enough - Not enough sugar
THE CAKE FELL WHILE BAKING
It was not baked long enough - Substituting self-rising flour and not reducing the leavening
It wasn't mixed enough - Too much shortening or sugar
THE CAKE WON'T COME OUT OF THE PAN
Maybe you forgot to grease your cake pan. Maybe you simply greased it improperly, with the wrong ingredients, such as salted butter (unsalted works best).
According to WikiHow (via Huffington Post), all you need to salvage your creation are water and a dishcloth.
First, dip the dish cloth in water. The temperature is irrelevant. Next, wring out the cloth. Then, wrap the cloth around the base of the cake pan. Proceed by shaking the pan gently until the cake loosens in the pan and releases itself.
There you have it. You have now learned how to bake a cake that will turn out beautifully. Now try of my easy cake recipes at the link below.