Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cakes 101 ~ Baking Basics Etc.

So here it is, the first installment of my caking tutorials! Let's dive in...before you know it you'll have your gang saying " THAT's good cake!"

1. What's your pan, man?

I recommend basic, shiny aluminum pans for all your cakes except cupcakes. The dark, non-stick pans actually get hotter in the oven (elementary science there...darker colors absorb more heat), therefore cooking the edges even faster. For cupcakes my fav is the Pampered Chef stoneware pan. Perfect every time!

2. Pan Prep

No matter what pan you decide to try out, be sure to prep it correctly. Go for an all-in-one baking spray...I like Pam for Baking best. Baker's Joy (gets clogged easily and stinks for some reason?), and Wilton's Cake Release (not a spray I believe) are other options. In a pinch you can use the old fashioned method and paper towel on some shortening and then dust with flour. Lining the bottom with parchment paper is another good option, but takes an additional step so I just skip it.

Extra bonus tips:

  • Purchase a flower nail (sold with the Wilton stuff at Wal-Barf, Michael's etc.) for a dollar or so, flip it upside down and stick it in the middle of your cake pan before pouring in the batter. The nail will act like a tiny heat conductor and help the middle of your cake (ya know, the part that likes to still test "gooey" while you cringe watching the edges almost burn) get done at the same time as the rest of the cake.

  • Use baking strips! Wilton's are called "bake even strips", but you can make your own by cutting up old terry-cloth towels . Basically you need a long strip of absorbent toweling cut the same height as the outside of your pan. Soak it in cold water, wring out and wrap around your pan, fastening tight with a safety pin (I've never made my own, but make SURE you watch your cakes carefully so the towels don't catch on fire!). Using baking strips will keep the outside edge of your pan cooler, therefore making the edges bake a little slower than usual (evening out to the time of the middle...hopefully). Once I figured out how prep my pans correctly, it made baking day a breeze in comparison to the many times I would whisper prayers that all the cake would come out of the pan. There's just nothing to shoot up the blood pressure like seeing 1/4 of a cake stuck to the bottom. Ugh!

  • Turn down the heat! Bake your cakes at 325 degrees rather than the old standby of 350. It may take a few minutes longer, but they'll come out more even. Now, this isn't the case for ALL cakes...stick to 350 for really dense pound cakes and cupcakes. Actually, if you want a nice dome on your cupcakes, preheat your oven to 425 then turn it down to 350 right when you pop them in. They'll be nice little mountains for ya. If the batter is chilled before they'll be even better! Of course, I kind of like flat cupcakes for decorating...but anyhow. Once your cake is done (no gooeys sicking to the toothpick tester, and edges just barely starting to pull away from the sides), pop that pan out of the oven onto a cooling rack. NOT the counter directly or the need some air moving under the hot pan. Right away grab a clean dishtowel, folded in half and gently, gently PRESS any unevenness out of the cake. Yup, push on the top of your cake...make it flat. Just trust me.Let it COOL for 10 minutes. Set your timer so you don't forget! Then run a knife around the edges to make sure it's loose there. Grab a cooling rack, set it on top of the pan and FLIP it out onto the rack. Now put your other rack on top of the "bottom" of the cake an FLOP it back over to finish cooling.

All righty then...that's a wrap for this morning! I'm vacationing on the West coast right now and have some more sights to see! I'll be back soon with some recipes....mmmmmm! Let me know if you have any requests!


Christi said...

I learned a lot! Thanks cake lady! :)

Starry-Eyes said...

Nice blog!! Very interesting :)