When it comes to dessert recipes, nothing beats the tantalizing aroma and luscious flavor of a home-baked cake. Whether it's a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting or a light, lemon pound cake, many of the preparation principles remain the same. The following information is sure to provide you with everything you'll need to make all kinds of cake recipes and win rave reviews!Cake Baking Basics
Beating Egg Whites
- Cake baking is based on scientific principles and requires the interaction of very specific ingredients in exact proportions. Before you begin, make sure you have the ingredients called for in the cake recipe.
- Measure all ingredients carefully and accurately. To measure flour, spoon it lightly into a dry measuring cup and level it off with a straight edge metal spatula. Do not shake it down or tap it on the counter.
- Use the right baking pans and prepare them according to the instructions given in the cake recipes.
Baking the Cake
- For best results, use a copper, stainless-steel, or glass bowl. Check to make sure bowl and beaters are completely clean and dry. (The smallest trace of yolk, water, or fat can prevent the whites from obtaining maximum volume.)
- Beat the whites slowly until they are foamy, and then increase the speed. (If using egg whites for a savory recipe, add a pinch of salt and cream of tartar at this point to help stabilize them.) Do not overbeat or they will become dry and clump together.
- If recipe instructs you to beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, you can test by lifting beaters straight up from egg whites. Peaks should remain on top of the egg whites, and when bowl is tilted, mixture should not slide around.
- If adding to another mixture, immediately fold beaten egg whites gently into the mixture so volume is not lost; never beat or stir.
TIP: Oven temperatures may vary depending on the oven brand and model, so watch your cake carefully during baking.
- Preheating doesn't really matter if you're making a casserole, but it is very important for getting the best baking results. Preheat your oven according to the cake recipe directions.
- Place the baking pan(s) in the center of a preheated oven. Oven racks may need to be set lower for cakes baked in tube pans. If two racks are used, arrange them so they divide the oven into thirds and then stagger the baking pans so they are not directly over each other.
- Check for doneness using the test given in the cake recipe. A butter cake is done when it begins to pull away from the sides of the baking pan, the top springs back when lightly touched, and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean and dry. A sponge cake is done when it is delicately browned and the top springs back when lightly touched.
Just because you've got your cake out of the oven doesn't mean your work is done. In the next section, we will show you how to cool your cake properly.
Not what you're looking for? Try these:
- Cake Recipes: Find basic cake recipes as well as ideas for types of cakes you may have never even heard of, all on our Cake Recipes page.
- Cake Decorating: Whether you just want to add "Happy Birthday" in piped icing or are ready to attempt a field of frosting flowers, this article will provide the cake decorating tips you need.
- Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.