Baking cake is a very simple affair today. Most of us bake a cake at home. Cake recipes are flooded everywhere, online, magazines, TV… everywhere.
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But still even with the same recipe of cake different people bake it differently. Some even say that their cake does not come out soft or is too much peaked or sinks from the centre etc. At times, they discard the recipe and switch over to some other recipe.
Actually, there are some simple yet important points which need to be followed while baking a cake. These are very simple but either due to ignorance or in a hurry we overlook these points.
We skip certain vital steps as we don’t know its relevance and consider it as a wasteful step. For example, Sifting the flour. You might say that my flour is clean and of good quality, so it doesn’t need sifting. But sifting has other purposes also beside cleaning the impurities. Once you understand the importance of sifting, I bet you will never ignore it. In fact, will do it one time additional only. Similarly many other points, each having a reason behind it.
Let us understand those steps or in simple words tips for baking a good cake. You might be aware of some or most of them, but checking again might help.
So, before you discard any recipe or stop baking cake out of disappointment just go through the following tips for baking a good cake.
Never ever take the following tips lightly. The more particular you will be regarding these more perfect your cake will be.
What did you say? Why waste energy running an empty oven? Think again.
A Preheated oven is vital for baking a good cake.
Always preheat the oven for at least 15 minutes at the temperature given in the recipe. Never put your batter in a cold or less hot oven. One of the reasons is that the leavening agents in the cake (Baking Powder or Baking Soda) requires a push-a good hit of heat at the beginning for the optimal rise, texture and browning. If they don’t get that push then the result is heavy, undercooked, hard and rubbery cakes.
Secondly, a preheated oven will cook the food all the way to its centre before outside of the food is burnt and inedible.
If the food is put in the oven without preheating it, then the outside will be done leaving the centre cold and uncooked. So hopefully now it’s clear to you why at times your cake remains uncooked from the centre whereas the sides are perfectly done.
Thirdly, Preheating heats up not just the air in the oven — but it also heats up the walls. When you open the oven, whether to keep the batter in it or to check the doneness of the baked goods or any other reason then all the hot air leaves the oven. At that time, the heated walls only make the oven quickly return to temperature.
Lastly, when the baked goods are given a cold start, that is, kept in a cold oven, then cookies will turn out hard and dry, pastries will be pale and crunchy (not flaky), pizza crust won’t be crispy and chewy, and cakes will have a weird, tough layer at the bottom.
Prepare The Baking Pan
Always prepare the baking pan before beginning to mix the cake batter.
Grease the baking pan lightly and then dust it with flour, tapping out the surplus. Greasing helps the cake to come out easily once it is baked. Then why flour is dusted? It is dusted with flour so that the oil/butter does not mix into the batter as the cake bakes, remains there till the end, finally helping the cake to slip out of the baking dish easily.
Line the baking dish with Parchment paper. If sides of the cake stick to the sides of the baking dish, you run a knife and loosen it. But if the bottom sticks then? Parchment paper ensures that your cake comes out easily. In place of parchment paper, you can even use butter paper or greased brown paper.
If the cake requires long baking, then grease the baking dish and then line it with butter paper.
Do both the methods or either depends on the recipe. Do as the recipe says but do not neglect this aspect.
Sifting The Dry Ingredients
SIFT THE FLOUR…
LIFT THE AIR…
Sift the dry ingredients at least 3 times. Sifting is done not just to remove impurities but to incorporate air into the flour. Better aeration makes the cake light and fluffy. If you making wheat cakes then it is all the more necessary. Sift wheat flour more than the all purpose flour to get light wheat cakes.
For more information as to why sifting is done, read here.
Always Weigh/measure The Ingredients Accurately
No approximation, please. Never use cups and spoons lying in your kitchen for day to day purposes. Use standard measuring cups available for baking purposes.
Ingredients At Room Temperature
Have all the ingredients at room temperature for best results, especially butter and liquids, unless mentioned otherwise in the recipe.
So, next time you plan baking a cake and the recipe uses butter/milk so please take these out of the refrigerator accordingly.
Baking Powder and Baking Soda: These two, similar looking ingredients, confuses lot many people. They are different ingredients and cannot be replaced for each other. I have already shared a post explaining the difference between these two, titled Difference Between Baking Powder and Baking Soda. If need be, please refer to that post
Use Baking Pan/cake Tin Of The Correct Size
Using a baking pan, too big or too small may lead the batter to overflow, burn around the edges and bottom, or sink in the middle.
For example, if the batter meant for a 10″ pan is poured into a 6″ pan, then the cake will be much thicker and the middle won’t get done before the top burns. If the pan size is not given then remember the basic rule of thumb which says that fill the pans halfway or just two-third only as cake batters rise to about half their original volume.
Never Beat The Batter
Do not beat the batter after the flour has been added otherwise the cake will turn out to be heavy. It is believed that the more you beat the better cake comes out to be. But beat what?
You should beat only the liquids like eggs or yoghurt or butter etc.
Beat these as much as you want but once the flour is added to it, just mix it lightly through cut and fold method, scraping the sides simultaneously. This is because if the batter is beaten then flour develops gluten which makes the cake chewy. And we want soft cakes not the chewy ones.
Mix Nuts/fruits In The Flour
Most of the times, there is a complaint that dried fruits etc sink to the bottom of the cake and are not evenly distributed in the cake.
Nuts being heavier sink at the bottom. To avoid this, always dredge the nuts, dried cut fruits with a little flour before adding to the cake mixture.
Always add essence/flavourings etc to the fat because fat absorbs flavour readily. So next time add vanilla/pineapple essence to the oil-sugar mixture.
For Flat Top
Sometimes the cakes rise too much from the middle thus having a peaked top.
To get a cake with a flat top, scoop out a little batter from the centre of the baking pan towards the sides to form a small depression before putting it in the oven.
Release Air Bubbles
Always tap the baking pan before putting it in the oven to release air bubbles, if any. In case you are using a glass pan then do not forget to spread a towel or some other napkin before tapping the pan.
Placing The Baking Pan
Place baking pan in the center of the oven so that hot air can circulate around
Do Not Open The Oven
Never open the door of the oven for the first 20 minutes of placing the cake in the oven. This disturbs the temperature inside the oven resulting in sunken or heavy cakes.
A Cake Is Baked When
- It is well risen and has a good colour, feels firm and springy when pressed with the finger tips.
- A toothpick/cake tester remains clean after being inserted into the cake.
- In case of fruit cake, when no sizzling sound is heard when held fairly close to the ear.
When To Remove From The Baking Pan
When cakes are removed from the oven, wait for 7-8 minutes before removing them from the pan. However if baked the cake in disposable baking pans then let it be as it is. No need to remove it from there
Use A Wire Rack
After taking out the cake from the baking pan, always keep it on a wire rack otherwise it will get soggy from the bottom. You get this rack with every OTG or Microwave oven. In the absence of this take a wire mesh, keep it on some container and keep your cake on it. Use any of the two, purpose is that the bottom should be able to release hot air.
If you want to do icing/frosting on the cake then wait till it has cooled completely. Hope you found this post useful and will now come up with beautiful cakes.
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