1. Choose recipe and read thoroughly. If there are any terms you are unfamiliar with, check them out on the Internet.
2. Use fresh ingredients
3. Bring eggs and butter to room temperature
4. Preheat ovenmake sure rack is close to center (with exception of Angel Food cakes which need the rack at lowest position).
5. Be sure to use the correct cake pans. Visualize your decoration with frosting, choose cakes accordingly. Most popular birthday cakes are sheet cakes because you can write a lot of words on them. Second most popular is two round pans because cake is so much more tasty with frosting between layers. Cake pans can be round, square, sheet, tube, Bundt or cupcakes. Your recipe may suggest the best cake pans to use.
6. Grease the pans with shortening. Take a small sheet of waxed paper and wrap it around your index and middle finger. Dig into the shortening and apply same to the cake pan. You need quite a bit of shortening to make it look like white layer of cold cream on your face. Be sure to get right into the edges so the cake wont stick. [DO NOT GREASE OR FLOUR ANGEL FOOD CAKE PANS]
7. Flour the pans. Take about 1/4 cup of flour and sprinkle it over the shortening. Pick up the pan and hit the sides so the flour will distribute equally. You want the flour to adhere to the shortening, but you dont want mounds of flour. Toss the excess in the sink. Repeat with additional pans.
8. Use paper liners when making cupcakes as this provides ease in decorating and clean-up.
9. Gather and measure all ingredients before you start mixing. Use medium bowl for flour and small bowls or containers for salt, baking soda, extracts etc.
10. Dry ingredients are measured with dry measuring cups and spoons. Dry measuring cups look like small bowls and there is one for each amount. (ie. cup). When you measure dry ingredients, overfill the cup while holding it over your container. Then run a knife over the top of the cup to level the ingredient with the absolute top rim of the dry measuring cup. Use this same technique with measuring spoons when you are measuring dry ingredients like baking powder, baking soda, salt.
a. An exception to the dry measure technique is when you are measuring brown sugar. You must compact the brown sugar in the dry measuring cup by mashing it with your hand into the bottom of the dry measuring cup. Fill it to the top and scrape off excess with a knife.
11. Only liquid ingredients are measured in glass measuring cups. Glass measuring cups have lines drawn to designate the amount (ie. 1/3 cup, 1 cup, 2 cups, etc.). You measure small amounts of liquids (ie. Vanilla extract) with measuring spoons. They should be filled to the rim. Its a good idea to have at least two sets of measuring spoons, one for dry (salt, baking soda) and one set for liquid.
12. When measuring margarine or butter use the measuring guide located on the stick wrapper and cut evenly. Then let it come to room temperature. If you are using margarine or butter from a tub, its a good idea to place a small piece of saran wrap inside the measuring cup and then spoon the butter (or shortening) into the cup, this makes for easy clean-up.
13. For extra moist cakes (and muffins), add 1 Tablespoon of sour cream to your batter.
14. Follow your recipe for the order in which to mix your ingredients. Very few recipes say to dump all ingredients in at once. Often, you need to beat in eggs one at a time on low speed.
15. Use an electric mixer, if at all possible. It is much better at mixing your ingredients than you can do by hand. Mixing by hand in a large mixing bowl is possible, but it takes at least 300 beats to properly mix a cake. When you can see no flour or dry ingredient, your cake batter is properly mixed. Stop the mixer occasionally to scrape the batter from the sides of the mixing bowl. An electric mixer will do your work in two to three minutes.
16. Use a sturdy wooden spoon for adding in ingredients like chocolate chips, nuts or dried fruit. Take a few tablespoons of flour and mix with the dried fruit. This will prevent dried fruit from sticking together.
17. Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pans. Use a rubber spatula to scrape as much of the batter from the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl and beaters as possible. Smooth out the batter so that it reaches the sides of the prepared cake pans.
a. If using two pans, try to get the batter evenly distributed between the two pans. Some cooks use a measuring cup to evenly distribute between the two pans, but that takes time. You do need the two pans to have approximately the same amount of batter so that they will rise and cook the same in the same oven.
18. Carefully, put cake pans in the pre-heated oven.
19. Some ovens require you to change from pre-heat setting to bake setting. If this is required, please do so. Preheat uses both the top and bottom heat elements and baking only uses the bottom. So if you dont want to scorch the top of your cake, be sure to set the oven on BAKE.
20. Set a timer. You can set it 5 minutes less than the recipe calls for. Peaking that late in the process will not make the cake fall.
21. DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR, until the timer goes off. If you open an oven door while a cake is rising, the cold air from the kitchen will rush in and cause the cake to collapse.
22. Cake is ready when the sides have gently separated from the sides of the pan. Best test is to stick a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, cake is ready. If there is batter stuck to the toothpick, return to oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Test until toothpick comes out clean. [Pull the rack with the cake pans halfway out of the oven, then test. ]
23. When cakes are ready, remove from oven and place on cooling racks on kitchen counter. Set timer for 10 minutes. Do not disturb the cakes.
24. After 10 minutes, run a butter knife around the edge of the pan (between the pan and cake) to ensure the cake has loosened sufficiently around the edges. Place a cooling rack over the cake with one hand and gently turn the cake over with the other. If you have used enough shortening, your cake pans will lift off the cake layer easily. If not, you may have to gently shake the pans to separate them from the cake. Try not to tear the cake at this point or you will be covering your mistake with frosting.
25. Cool THOROUGHLY before frosting. When you place the palm of your hand on the cake, and it feels cool, you are ready to decorate. It may take 30 minutes to cool.
* For each cup of flour, increase by 1 tablespoon. Add an additional egg to rich cakes to prevent them from falling.
* For each teaspoon of baking powder or baking soda, decrease by 1/8 1/4 teaspoon.
* For each cup of fat, decrease by 1-2 tablespoons.
* For each cup of sugar, decrease by 1-2 tablespoons.
* For each cup of liquid, increase by 2-4 tablespooons.
* Try increasing baking temperature 15-25 degrees to “set” the batter .
Experiment with different combinations. All adjustments may not be necessary.