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The Test Kitchen's Tips for How to Bake a Great Cake Every Time

Proper creaming is key to a light cake.

Proper creaming is key to a light cake.

  • Proper creaming is key to a light cake.
  • Even if the recipe doesn’t say to do so, stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beater whenever it looks like your batter is blending unevenly.
  • Before you begin, make sure your cake pans are straight-sided (pan at right) so your finished cake will stack neatly.

By Fine Cooking Editors, editor

October 28th, 2009

Whether you’re making one of the cakes from our Cake Fancy article or another favorite recipe, there are several steps you can take to guarantee the best results. Culled from years of testing cake recipes, these are our best tips for great cakes.

Don’t use cold ingredients Butter, eggs, and other dairy ingredients will blend better if they’re not refrigerator-cold. Unless your recipe specifically calls for cold ingredients, let them sit at room temperature until they’ve warmed or softened a bit. Don’t let your butter get too warm, though—the ideal temperature is around 65°F, just shy of room temperature.

Cream thoroughly Three to five minutes of beating butter and sugar together may seem excessive when they appear combined much sooner, but proper creaming is key to a light cake. A lengthy creaming time ensures that enough air bubbles are created to lift the cake. If you’re using a hand mixer, add an extra minute to your creaming time.

Start slowly To keep dry ingredients from flying out of the bowl as you mix them into wet ingredients, run the mixer on low speed at first just until moistened and then ramp it up to the speed recommended in the recipe.

Scrape often Even if the recipe doesn’t say to do so, stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beater whenever it looks like your batter is blending unevenly.

Use a scale Not only is a scale great for measuring your ingredients, it also makes dividing batter between cake pans faster and easier. Start by weighing your mixing bowl. When your batter is ready, weigh it in the bowl, subtract the bowl’s weight, and divide by the number of pans you have to fill. Then simply weigh that amount of batter into each pan—no messing around with measuring and scraping cups of batter into each pan.

Make sure your tools are clean When beating egg whites for a meringue or foam cake, make sure your bowl and whisk are spotless. Even a trace of fat on your equipment can slow down foaming and decrease the overall volume.

Use straight-sided cake pans Some cake pans are made with slightly slanted sides—not ideal for layered cakes. Before you begin, make sure your cake pans are straight-sided so your finished cake will stack neatly. If you need to purchase some straight-sided pans, we recommend Parrish Magic Line pans.

Ready to test these tips? Try them out on one of these bound-to-impress recipes:

Outrageous Coconut-Cream Meringue Cake   Hot Chocolate Layer Cake with Homemade Marshmallows
Outrageous Coconut-Cream Meringue Cake   Hot Chocolate Layer Cake with Homemade Marshmallows
     
White Chocolate Macadamia Cake with Raspberries and White Chocolate Buttercream Pear Ginger Cake with Whipped Cream and Rum-Caramel Glaze  
White Chocolate Macadamia Cake with Raspberries and White Chocolate Buttercream   Pear Ginger Cake with Whipped Cream and Rum-Caramel Glaze  
   

Photos: Scott Phillips

posted in: Blogs, baking, cake, tips, pans
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