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How Cakes Work


The Role of the Oven
For best results, bake a cake in the middle of the oven and don't open the door before it's ready, or the cake may fall.  Gabriele Ritz/EyeEm/Getty Images
For best results, bake a cake in the middle of the oven and don't open the door before it's ready, or the cake may fall.  Gabriele Ritz/EyeEm/Getty Images

Although cakes have been made and enjoyed for many centuries, they were prepared mainly by professional bakers until the 18th century and the invention of the semi-closed oven for households [source: Mason]. Using ovens that evenly spread heat at a reliable temperature allow the cake ingredients to better interact with each other and fulfill the purposes previously mentioned, making the process easier for everyday cooks.

Of course, even with our modern ovens, there are still a few missteps that can easily occur during the baking process. First, the cake needs to be baked in the middle of the oven to avoid overcooking the top or burning the bottom. Never slam the door of your oven during the baking process. This can cause a delicate cake to fall because the bubbles facilitating the rising process will effectively burst, and thus your delicious creation will be ruined. In fact, it's best not to open the door at all during the baking process because the change in temperature (between inside your oven and out of it) can cause the cake to fall. If your cake falls without any door-opening-or-slamming incidents, this could be because you overmixed the batter, introducing too much air and weakening the structure [source: Thomson].

If you think your oven is a little hotter or cooler than it should be, grab an oven thermometer to test whether it's heating appropriately. Otherwise, that cake that's supposed to take 25 minutes to cook might be overdone in 18. If you think it's done, lightly tap the center. It's baked if it springs back; otherwise it needs more time. You can also insert a wooden toothpick into the cake to check if it's ready — a fully baked cake will yield a clean toothpick when you pull it out [source: Horn].

Once the cake is out the oven, it needs a chance to cool in the pan. This allows the cake to finish baking from within and to acclimatize itself to the room's temperature. After 10-15 minutes, you can turn it out onto a wire rack to finish the cooling process.