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Cake Baking 101-Tips For Making Great Cakes

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Cake baking is something we all do and love. Whether it’s homemade or even store bought these techniques and tips go both ways and will make your cake baking journey stellar!

When I had my home cake business I baked many cakes! My first cake that I sold was a Brooklyn Blackout Cake. Happily, I was so proud of it. Incredible chocolate cake loaded with chocolate pastry cream, chocolate buttercream, and topped with chocolate cake crumbs. Exciting memory.

Little did I know the many cakes that would follow after that. Sheet cakes were probably my favorite types of cake to make. Initially, I was not comfortable with them but soon came to love them.

Here I share some foundational tips and trades of cake baking that are foolproof which have helped me over the years. Hopefully, they help allow all your cakes to turn into wonderful masterpieces.

Baking Temperature

inside baking oven

Oven temperature is super important when baking anything. Regardless of the baking temperature, make sure the oven is preheated as you begin mixing up the cake.

Preheating

  • Prevent loss of rise or leavening as the cake gets to the right temperature
  • Allows steam to form to expand the batter for it to properly rise

Preheating is the beginning step of the perfectly baked cake.

Baking Pans

One of the first things I do before I start a cake is prepare my pans. I call it part of baking mis en place (putting in place), a French term for getting everything ready before your cooking or baking task. I learned this fancy name while in culinary school and it has stuck with me all these years.

Having the pans ready makes for a quick transfer of the batter to pan to oven, getting the most out of your leavening power and preventing any possibility of the cakes falling as it bakes.

Once the wet cake batter comes in contact with your leavening agent (baking powder or baking soda) it will immediately start working.

Basic pan preparation

  • Coat pans with light coating of cooking spray or shortening
  • Line bottoms with parchment paper

* NOTE: Greasing the pans with butter may allow cakes to stick. Butter contains some water and also has a low smoke point which could also cause the cakes to burn easily on the sides. You want lightly golden sides, not brown!

round and lined baking pan

Filling Baking Pans

Typically, pans are filled anywhere from 1/2 to 2/3 way full to allow for the fullest rise of the cakes. One thing I think about is the amount of baking powder in the batter of each recipe. The more baking powder in the recipe the more the cake will rise. With that, I will fill the pans 1/2 way instead of 2/3’rds full when this is the case.

Even-steven is the way to go in pouring batters into each pan making sure each pan holds the same amount of batter. If you really want to be exact, you can use a scale for each pan to weight the same amounts for each pan.

Apple Cake batter in a bundt pan

Also important, is spreading the cake batter evenly. An offset spatula works great in smoothing out the batter. This way, the cakes will rise and bake evenly and you wont have one side higher than the next.

Both techniques ensure that each cake layer will bake up evenly.

Cake Doneness

Some things to think about when determining doneness

  • Baking according to the proper recipe time
  • Opening and closing oven door when checking
  • Proper temperature for the recipe

BEWARE: Constant opening and closing of the oven door causes the oven to lose the optimal temperature and could eventually cause cakes to fall. Boy, I have been there and done that!

Another Note On Temperature

Baking temperature can be huge here. If the temperature of the oven is too low it will cause the cake to fall or make a well in the center. If temperature is too high, the cake will make a peak in the center( I call it a mtn top) and the top will bake faster than the rest of the cake.

Cake Disaster

Can I tell you a story, I was baking my favorite Hummingbird Cake in one of my culinary classes. The ovens were something I was not used to since they were commercial over my home oven. Anyway, long story short, the cake looked done but when I went to remove it from the pan after cooling, it was raw in the center! I felt so bad!

However, I was able to save face for the flavor and cut in into pieces around the raw center and served it with a bowl of cream cheese icing. Almost like an appetizer! I still laugh at that this day!

Signs To Look For

Upon completion of baking time, some things to look for that will give you clues your cakes are done.

  • Light and golden color
  • Edges are pulled away from the sides
  • Firm to the touch ( not loose batter)
  • Springs back when you touch the center
  • Toothpick inserted comes out clean with no crumbs

Cake Cooling

Finally, cooling the cake is pivotal so the cake doesn’t break or cool when removing the pan. Gosh, I hate that when that happens! Especially, when removing Bundt cakes.

Typically, I set the baked cakes on racks to cool for 10 minutes for round and square pans. Bundt cakes I allow about 15-20 minutes. Placing on the racks allows the air to circulate around the cake pans to allow the cake to cool faster.

cooling rack with glove

They should pop right out if you have followed all the tips above.

spring flower cake

If you enjoyed this post, check out a similar post on baking on “Mixing Methods-3 Basics for Baking.”

You are on your way to be an expert cake baker!

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