This post is FILLED with my best tips for baking cakes…25 tips to be exact. I won’t bore you with a long intro here, since we’ve got a lot to cover. First I’ll say that these tips are in no particular order, because I think they’re all pretty important in their own way. So, let’s get to the 25 Insanely Useful Tips for Baking Cakes.
If a cake recipe calls for butter, get it almost room temperature, but slightly cooler. It’ll warm up when mixed.
You can substitute buttermilk by using 1 cup of regular milk, minus a tablespoon. Then add back in one tablespoon of lemon juice. Let it sit for five minutes. If you need more than one cup of buttermilk, just adjust the ratios as needed.
Adding just a touch (1/4 – 1/2 tsp.) of almond emulsion to vanilla cake really brings out the vanilla flavor and you don’t really taste the almond flavoring. Try this almond emulsion:
Use a paddle (flat beater) attachment to mix your cake batter. It’s not as harsh on the batter as the whisk attachment. I use this one:
Flat beater attachment
Don’t substitute baking soda and baking powder. They aren’t exactly interchangeable. Without going in to too much scientific detail here, you’ll use soda when an acid is added to the batter like lemon, buttermilk etc. Baking soda is much stronger than baking powder, so don’t try subbing them out equally.
If the recipe calls for cake flour and you don’t have any, you can make your own in a pinch. For each cup of cake flour you need, just take out two tablespoons of flour and add in two tablespoons of cornstarch. Mix it well.
Don’t adjust the cake recipe (unless you’re really experienced, or feeling lucky.) You don’t want to make adjustments to the ingredients or you could throw off the ratios and you don’t want to change the mixing method because you could get a totally different texture than you expected.
When trying to get cold butter to come to room temperature, cut it into smaller chunks so it will warm up quicker.
Room temperature ingredients mix better than cold ingredients. Try to get your cold ingredients as close to room temperature as you can before mixing your cake batter.
When measuring flour, don’t pack it down into the measuring cup. Spoon it out of the flour bag and into the measuring cup. Packing it down, by using a measuring cup to spoon it out of the bag, will add too much flour to your cake batter.
Prepare your pans well, so you don’t waste time making the perfect cake, only to have it stuck in the pan.
Check your oven temperature. Get yourself an oven thermometer. They’re cheap. Pop it into your oven and make sure the degrees you’ve set your oven to, is what’s showing up on your thermometer, then adjust as needed. I have one like this one:
Don’t leave the oven light on when baking. Ok, some ovens this may not make a difference, but I’ve noticed in mine that if I leave the light on, it seems to brown cake layers more on that side of the oven.
Don’t slam the oven door or otherwise jostle the cake inside. That’s a good way to get the cake to sink.
Don’t over-beat a scratch cake batter. The texture of your cake will come out all wrong. It can be super dense, it could fall, it could have gluey streaks and even tunnels in it. You can beat a cake box mix batter longer, but not a scratch cake.
When adding chocolate chips or fruit bits into your cake batter, coat them with flour to help keep them from sinking to the bottom of the pan.
Once your cake is baked, cool them inside the pan and on a rack for only about ten minutes (a bit longer for large or bunt cakes). After ten minutes, turn them out of their pans to cool on the rack completely. If you let them sit too long in their pans, you could have trouble getting them out later.
Do freeze your baked cakes. If you do it the right way, you won’t get freezer burn and no one will ever know they’ve been frozen.
Use magic line pans. Seriously don’t put off buying some. Once you do, you’ll kick yourself for not getting them sooner. Your cake will come out evenly baked every time. You can find magic line pans at the link below:
Magic Line Pans
Stop worrying about getting flat tops on your baked cakes. There are a ton of tricks out there to get them to bake with flat tops, but I don’t like messing with the texture of a cake. Let the cake layers bake up normally and then just use a leveler to cut off the dome. You don’t need a fancy leveler either. Just use a large knife or this leveler here:
Make sure to check your baking soda and baking powder. They’re not good indefinitely. Write the dates on your containers when you open them the first time. If you’re like me, you think you’ll remember, but you never do.
Ok, this is an obvious one, but you’ve GOT to preheat that oven. Make sure it’s fully preheated before you get that cake in there.
When mixing up your cake batter, don’t skip out on scraping down the bowl. It’s important to get any random bits of butter or flour incorporated into the batter. If you’ve got a stand up mixer, also scrap the bottom. Sometimes the beater doesn’t reach areas toward the bottom.
This one might go without saying, but don’t open your oven a hundred times to check the cake. You’ll let out too much heat, which will hurt your baking time and could cause the cake to sink.
When baking cakes with fruit in them like banana, carrot, zucchini or pumpkin, let them sit overnight before serving them. This helps the flavors to meld together and they’re much tastier the next day. Just make sure to cover well with saran wrap or press-n-seal, so it doesn’t dry out.
Phew! That’s a lot of tips! Now, to be fair, there are more I could add, but there’s only so much one can take in at a time. If you’ve got tips I missed, feel free to add them to the comments below. I’d love to hear them!