Sunday, November 30, 2008

Essentials For Great Cake Baking

I have to confess that I've only been baking for a few years now, but have learned (mostly through trial and error) that proper preparation, tools and ingredients make for a much better cake. So I thought I'd start this week's blog by giving everyone 20 important essentials I've learned for baking great cakes. Although these ideas can be used for other cooking as well, they are essential to great cakes. They are not in any certain order, but each one is important. Following as many of these as possible will make your baking so much more pleasurable.

1. Make sure you have all the ingredients BEFORE you begin and that they are as fresh as possible. Eggs should be Grade A Large and butter should be full fat and unsalted. Do not substitute margarine.
2. Have all ingredients measured and in order of use before you start.
3. READ ALL THE INSTRUCTIONS completely BEFORE you begin.
4. Bring ingredients to room temperature before you begin.
5. Don't be rushed.
6. If time permits, bake one day then assemble & frost the next. Freezing the layers make them easier to frost too.
7. When measuring flour DO NOT PACK into the measuring cup. Use another utensil to dip flour and pour into measuring cup, leveling the top with the edge of a flat object such as the edge of a knife.
8. Dry ingredient cups are NOT the same as liquid. Make sure to have each style.
9. When adding the dry & wet ingredients (like flour or milk) always start and end with the dry.
10. Do not over beat flour after adding. Beat only until well incorporated or your cake will be tough.
11. All flour is not the same and most are not interchangeable. All-Purpose is the most used flour for baking cakes. Whole Wheat flour is heavier than All-Purpose and Cake Flour is very, very light. Then there is Self Rising- save it for other baking. Always use the flour called for in a recipe and make sure to check the expiration date.
12. Baking soda and baking powder are NOT the same. They are interchangeable in other recipes but not so much in cakes. Make sure to use the correct one.
13. Regular granulated sugar is better than super fine sugar for baking cakes. Super fine makes better frosting and pastries.
14. Always bake your cakes on the center rack in the middle of the oven.
15. When prepping the inside of a pan for a chocolate cake, use cocoa powder instead of flour. It works just as well and keeps the sides of the cake from turning white.
16. When baking more than one of the same cake at the same time, it is best not to double the ingredients. Just start fresh with each cake.
17. I find a hand held electric mixer works better than a stationary mixer for getting all the ingredients up from the bottom of the bowl.
18. Metal baking pans are better for even baking than glass pans.
19. Try to get the best pans you can afford. A better pan makes a better cake. If you can't afford them right away, do like I have done. Buy one every other month. By the end of the year you'll have great pans for great cakes!
20. Never make plans for a new cake recipe to be served to guests the same day. In other words experiment with a new recipe only when you are not using the cake right away.
ENJOY! I hope these helpful hints make your baking as much fun as it has mine.

1 comment:

Steph said...

Steps 1 and 3 are SOOOO important! I (keep) learning the hard way!