Cake is a celebratory dessert isn’t it? Cakes almost always enter the scene when the crowd is mid-party. There is something about cake that feels so indulgent and special. Most of us can remember our favorite cakes we’ve ever had. Usually those memories are so strong because they took place around a special or important event, but sometimes it’s because the cake itself was so moist, so decadent, and so perfect that it stayed with us as the infamous never beatable cake.
Home cooks make the mistake of relying on boxed cake mixes when they feel like making a cake in their own kitchen. These mixes never come close to living up to the dream cakes of our memories. And of course they can’t; those mixes are full of unnecessary additives that help them stay fresh on the shelf. They also require tons of oil, and not a lot of creativity. Anyone can make great, from-scratch cake at home. Pay heed to the following tips, and your home cooked cake will eventually be one of those few, great, unforgettable cakes.
Follow a Few Good Recipes
If you are looking to create your own custom from-scratch cake, the first thing you need to do is follow a few really well written and tested recipes. Source your recipes from large reputable sources such as America’s Test Kitchen, anything by Barefoot Contessa, or a large magazine like Bon Appetit. The kitchens and food professionals who wrote these recipes put the ratios and ingredients through the ringer, so you know that the end-result will be a great cake. If you’re really serious about baking, you could attend some Start a Bakery classes to improve your skills.
When you’re following these recipes pay close attention to every detail. Recipes, specifically baking recipes are precise for a reason. Every step, the order of the steps, and the amount of ingredients used is chosen for a for specific reason. After following a few cake recipes you will begin to see patterns: cream sugar and butter first, add eggs, whisk dry ingredients, add dry to wet slowly. These patterns that you notice will begin to teach you something important: how cake works. This is the first step to making wonderful cake.
Stay Organized & Clean
Whether you’re cooking or baking, having a clean and organized work environment is essential. Keeping your area neat means there is less of a chance of you making a mistake. Baking is a delicate act; you do not want to be hurried or flustered by a messy environment. There is a French term for cooking & baking in a clean, organized environment: mise en place!
Accuracy is Important
One of the things that make baking so different than cooking is the importance of accuracy. When you’re baking your cake do not “guess” on the ingredient amounts. Be very accurate. You may consider buying a kitchen scale. They are not expensive, and they will make your baking process much simpler.
Think About Temperature
If your recipes call for cold eggs and room temperature butter, make sure that is what you have. Baking a cake is all about chemistry and how those ingredients reach to one another. Temperature plays an important role in that interaction. You might consider buying a thermometer for your oven, as often the built-in temperature gauge on standard ovens is not very accurate.
When Baking, Don’t Peek!
It can be really tempting to open the oven to peek in on your masterpiece, but try not to. The rush of cool air into the oven can cause your cake to fall, which would be a huge shame. It’s tough, but just wait until it’s done to take a look.
Do Not Frost Until Cool
Baking a cake is not a “last minute dessert”. If you need to have a totally finished cake within a couple of hours, you might as well just go buy one from a bakery. After the cake is done cooking it needs to be completely cool before you frost it. What happens if you don’t wait? Well your frosting will melt into pure liquid, which will be not only sad but totally unappetizing.