Do you love to bake cakes? If so, the sky is the limit. There’s a recipe out there for just about any kind of cake you can dream of. However, while there are plenty of cake recipes to choose from, these recipes are usually very basic. They give you a list of ingredients, tell you how to mix them together, and that’s about it. But there are a few basic tips and tricks that will help your cakes turn out great every time. And here are 9 of them.
- Use the right sized eggs. Just about every cake recipe calls for eggs. Unfortunately, they don’t always tell you exactly which kinds of eggs. Eggs come in a variety of sizes, as well as quality levels. Use the wrong eggs and your cake won’t turn out as well as it should. Unless otherwise stated, assume the eggs called for in your cake recipe are large, grade A eggs.
- Ingredients should be the right temperature. The ingredients you use in your cakes should be room temperature. So if some of your ingredients are refrigerated, set them out at least an hour before baking your cake. If you don’t want to wait an hour before baking, there are a few shortcuts you can take. For example, putting your eggs in lukewarm water for about 30 minutes will help bring them to the right temperature faster. And to help a stick of butter reach room temperature faster, cut it into cubes. You can also place the butter in a colander and suspend the colander over a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes or so.
- Make sure your oven is the right temperature. Baking a cake at the right temperature is the best way to ensure you’ll have good results. Unfortunately, the temperature of many ovens can vary. You might have your oven set at 400 degrees, but that doesn’t mean that’s the actual temperature inside. In fact, the temperature could be off by 50 degrees, or more. To make sure your oven is set at the right temperature for your cake, use an oven thermometer. You might have to set your oven higher or lower than stated in the recipe in order to get the temperature right.
- Cool your cake before icing. Yes, it can be hard to be patient when you’re down to the final step. But you should let the cake cool completely before even thinking of frosting or icing it for the best results. Luckily, it only takes 20 or 30 minutes for a cake to completely cool. So if you’re baking a cake right before an event, like a birthday party, make allowances for cooling time.
- Frost your cake in two steps. If you want the frosting on your cake to be smooth and free of crumbs, you should frost your cake in two steps. First apply a thin layer of frosting to the cake, and place it in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes. Now all that’s left is to remove the cake from the fridge and apply a second, thicker layer of frosting.
- Make sure the cake is done. Many cooks test a cake for doneness by pressing on the center of the cake. Not only is this not a surefire way to make sure your cake is done, it can leave you with singed fingers. No, the best method is an oldie but a goody. Take a wooden toothpick and gently insert it into the center of the cake. You’ll know the cake is done when the toothpick comes out clean.
- Use exact measurements. With many recipes, you can throw in ingredients haphazardly and, more often than not, the dish will still turn out great. But baking is different. You want your ingredient measurements to be as exact as possible. For example, when measuring a cup of flour, don’t just dip your measuring cup in the flour and then dump the flour into the mixing bowl. Use something flat, like a butter knife, to scrape any excess flour from the top of the measuring cup.
- Use unsalted butter. As stated earlier, cake recipes don’t always go into the finer details of turning out great cakes. For example, most cake recipes call for butter. What they don’t always tell you is that, more often than not, the butter should be unsalted.
- What if your cake sticks? Trying to remove a cake that’s stuck to the pan can completely ruin the cake. It might still taste great, but it won’t look so hot. To prevent this, first let the cake cool completely before trying to remove it from the pan. Then gently run a thinly-bladed knife around the sides of the cake. If the cake still sticks, turn the pan upside on top of a plate or piece of wax paper. Cover the cake pan with a towel, and run an iron set to “steam” across the bottom of the pan. That should do the trick.