Conquer your fear of homemade cakes with these secrets and troubleshooting tips to baking the perfect cake. Cakes are a part of many special moments in life, and you want them to come out looking like a professional baker made them. I'm going to guide you through what makes the perfect cake and how to troubleshoot any problems you might be having with yours, so toss that box aside and let's get to baking from scratch.
Making a cake from scratch is an age old science and so the following are a must when making any cake. First let's start with the basic question everyone asks.
What type of flour is best when making a cake?
You might be asking what is the difference between All-purpose flour and cake flour. It has to do with the amount of protein in the flour. Less protein equals a lighter fluffier cake. All-purpose flour is the most common flour to use when baking bread, cookies, muffins, and pancake batter. All-purpose has a protein content of 10-13% and it will perform very well, time after time. Cake flour has 8-9% protein. Cake flour will give you a light and fluffy cake layers that will make everyone wonder what your secret is. When measuring your flour use measuring cups and level off the top with a knife. Remember this is an exact science so you want exact measurements. If you recipe calls for all purpose by all means use it but if you want to try it with cake flour here is the conversion it's not a 1:1 ratio:
1 cup of cake flour is equivalent to 1 cup of all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons (1 cup – 2 tbsp)
1 cup of all purpose flour is equivalent to 1 cup of cake flour plus 2 tablespoons (1 cup + 2 tbsp)
Tips for Making the Perfect Cake
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- Butter, Milk, and eggs should be room temperature – let eggs and milk sit out for at least 20 minutes. I usually leave my butter out for 2 hours or you can see my tip on how to soften butter quickly.
- Make sure to follow the order and method of your cake recipe when adding ingredients. This one misstep could ruin your cake. Softened butter and sugar should be combined thoroughly – 5 minutes with a heavy-duty mixer, 6 minutes with a standard mixer and 7 minutes with a hand mixer.
- Add your eggs one at a time. Add the next egg after the first one is blended in but don't overbeat them or you will get a heavy and dry cake.
- Pay attention to the size and color of your cake pan – using a smaller cake pan than you recipe calls for can result in overflow during cooking. Glass or dark nonstick cake pans usually require a 25-degree reduction in baking temperature versus silver-colored aluminum cake pans.
- Grease your cake pans with shortening then flour or use Bakers Joy non-stick spray so your cake won't stick to the pan.
- Preheat your oven for 10 minutes before putting your cake in and always put it on the middle rack to prevent burning or over browning. Don't let the sides of your cake pans touch each other and keep the oven door closed until you've reached the minimum baking time to check for doneness. Oven temps can vary and don't always trust what the dial says, especially if your oven is a few years old so it's always smart to occasionally check your oven's actual interior temp with an inexpensive oven thermometer to see if you need to make adjustments.
- Let layer cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes and bundt cakes for 15 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack to cool completely. To invert your cake place the cooling rack on top of the cake pan, hold them together then flip to prevent breakage.
- Let your cakes cool completely before adding filling and frosting or you will have a mess sliding down the side of your cake.
If you're cake still comes out dry, heavy, sticky, cracked, peaked or it doesn't rise at all here are a few ways to troubleshoot any problems you are having.