Cake Baking Tips
Preheat your oven for at least ten minutes.
Set your oven to 325 degrees. Setting your oven to 325 degrees will help keep your cake from over cooking and turning out dry.
Trust yourself. Your nose knows. Baking time varies depending on a ton of variables: humidity, altitude, the make of your oven, the amount of batter, pan size, etc. A good indication of a cake that is done is when its sweet smell permeates the air.
Test a cake for doneness with a toothpick. Insert the toothpick in the center and if it comes out clean with no wet batter adhered to it, it is done.
Grease your pans. See my Pan Grease Cake Release recipe, it's amazing. Do not use butter or oil, as both can easily incorporate themselves in the batter and butter will burn.
Once your pans are filled with batter, tap the bottom of the pans onto the counter as this will release any bubbles in you batter.
Wrap the sides of your pans with a strip of damp cloth. I cut up an old towel into a strip long enough to go around the outside of the baking pan and pin it tight. (See: Video Tutorial) You can use Bake Strips by Wilton, but my method works just as well. Free to boot! Its main purpose is to keep the sides from cooking faster than the middle. This will help ensure your cakes will be leveled, cook evenly and less likely to form a dome.
If your cake does form a dome, right when you take it out of the oven, with an oven mitt or kitchen towel, press down into the cake. Pressing it enough to even it out. Be cautious of hot steam!
Worse comes to worst, you may have to level it, but that's easy. Check out the tutorial for leveling and torting cakes. Coming soon!
For pans more than 10 inches in diameter or that are 3 inches high place a no. 7 flower nail with the head down in the middle of the pan to ensure that the center is cooked thoroughly. No one likes a soggy uncooked center.
Don't leave your cake cooling in its pan for over ten minutes. Let it cool in there for a couple minutes, run a knife around the side, then turn it over quickly, tap the pan, and if you greased it well, it should pop out.
Scratch baking is great, but for all intent and purposes of cake decorating, using cake mix is acceptable. I give you permission, especially since it is a well known secret that many professionals use mixes. They are dependable and are a gift to any novice baker. To improve taste, doctor a mix by using milk in place of water, and melted butter in place of oil. Here's also a great secret!, use sour cream in place of water if you have it on hand. Your cake will be moist and don't worry, you don't taste the sour cream. - When you feel more adventurous, try different liquids like orange juice or add a teaspoon of your favorite extract.
When possible, use High Ratio shortening. Using high ratio shortening makes all the difference in the world! It will make your buttercream frosting taste and feel less greasy and easier to work with and it contains microemulsifiers that allow a batter to hold more sugar and liquid. You can substitute with Crisco, but I wouldnt reccomend it.
Brand Names: It comes in solid form called Sweetex and liquid form called Nutex. Another company sells it as Alpine Hi-Ratio Shortening.
To create a perfectly domed cupcake, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and right before you place your pans inside to bake, lower the oven to 350 degrees.
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