The Perfect Beginner’s Guide: how to bake a cake
Do your cakes sometimes turn out dry, have high cracked tops, or just don’t taste as you expected? When it comes to baking a cake, there are several little things that you can do to make sure your cake turns out great every time. I’m sharing with you my best tips on how to bake a perfect cake and the things you should take care of each step of the way. You can practice these tips with any of the recipes posted here on the blog, such as this easy marble cake, my favorite banana bread, or these delightful chocolate cupcakes.
- First off, read the entire recipe, I mean the whole thing from start to finish, not just the ingredients. Then get all your ingredients out on your table and measure them.
- Bring all liquid ingredients to room temperature, such as eggs, milk, butter, etc. This is very important and there’s a science behind it, because simply put, when ingredients are at room temperature they blend well together. If the recipe calls for room-temperature butter, it’s very important to leave the butter out of the fridge to reach room temperature, or if you’re in a rush defrost it in the microwave for a minute. It should still hold its shape, feel soft to the touch but not melted all the way.
- Allow for the oven to fully preheat, which can take from 30 minutes up to one hour depending on the size of your oven.
- Make sure that your oven temperature is accurate. Ovens may not show the correct temperature so it’s worthwhile to invest in an oven thermometer to get the temperature right. Place it at the back of the oven before you turn it on to read the oven temperature correctly. If your oven runs colder or hotter than the temperature on the dial, adjust the temperature slightly until it reads the correct temperature on the thermometer. You don’t have to do this every time you bake, but at least the first time ensure you have the right temperature.
- Another point I have to mention and I see a lot of bakers struggle with is do not to bake your cakes at a high temperature like 180ᵒ C. That is just too high. My favorite baking temperature is 160ᵒ C, and you can go up to 170ᵒ C, but that’s my limit. If you want to read and see a good comparison between cakes baked at different temperatures, check out the Baking Temperature Comparison post by The Cake Blog.
- Grease the pans and line them with parchment or baking paper. I use baking spray all over the pans and only line the bottom with parchment paper. You can watch a demonstration of how I prepared my baking pans on YouTube.
- Make sure you are using the appropriate size pans that are mentioned in the recipe to get good results. You can also watch a YouTube video showing you my Essential Cake Pans.
- Make sure to follow the recipe carefully, and try to avoid substitutions. Sometimes we substitute ingredients because we ran out of an ingredient mentioned in the recipe. But unless the recipe suggests substitutions I don’t recommend you do this as you may be risking the entire recipe, and wasting your time, effort, and ingredients.
- Once the flour is in the mixture do not over-mix the batter. You should only mix just until the ingredients are combined. Over-mixing will make a tough texture for any baked goods.
- Do not open the oven door many times while baking, at least not in the first 15 minutes. You can open the oven near the end of baking once or twice to check for doneness or switch the places of the pans but that’s it.
- Check if a cake is done by testing it with a toothpick or skewer, if it comes out clean it’s cooked through. Or gently press down and if it bounces back completely, it’s done. I always use the toothpick method as I would like to ensure the center is done.
- Allow the cakes to cool completely whether in the pans or inverted on a cooling rack. This is especially important if you will decorate the cakes right away.
- If you are preparing the cake for the same day, you can leave it covered at room temperature. I don’t recommend chilling it in the fridge as the fridge dries out cakes.
- If you are storing a frosted cake then in that case you can keep it in the fridge as the frosting seals all the moisture in the cake, so it’s good for 3 – 4 days.
- My best tip for storage is to keep the cake layers in the freezer, even if it’s for one day only. After cooling the cake, cling wrap the layers and put them in the freezer. The freezer will also lock in the moisture of the cake and it can keep for 3 months. When you’re ready to frost the cake, leave it on the kitchen counter to defrost (but not for too long), 30 minutes is enough because it is better to work with cold cakes, they’re easier to handle.
Follow these simple steps and keep practicing until your cakes get better. If you’d like to see a visual of these steps mentioned above, check out my IG stories here