Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How To Bake A Great Cake

After you’ve been making cakes for a while, it’s easy to get to a point to where you don’t remember how hard it was before it became easy. I answered a post on a cake decorating website today that reminded me of how little I knew before I took the cake decorating classes that got me going.

Growing up, my mom was more of a pie, cobbler and cookie person than a cake person. And they were delicious pies and cookies and cobblers! But I don’t remember my mom making many decorated cakes. So I never learned to make a decorated cake.

My cakes consisted of whatever could be made in a 9 x 13 Pyrex pan and frosted quickly and easily. I never decorated them. I didn’t even know where to start. Every so often, I would get the urge to make a pretty round cake. My efforts were almost always subdued right out of the gate, so to speak. Like when I’d try to take the cake out the pan and half of it was stuck! It was kind of hard to go on and make it look pretty. If I did manage to get it out of the pan in one piece, my attempts at icing it were pitiful. I didn’t have the tools or knowledge necessary to do the job correctly.

I’m also one of these people who has to see something done to be able to do it myself. I can’t just read about it then do it. So I took cake decorating classes. I not only learned how to decorate a cake, but also how to bake a cake that is easy to decorate. That definitely helps!

Here are some basic tips for baking a great cake to decorate (out of my Wilton Course 2 book):

The cake that will be your canvas for decorating should be as perfect as you can make it. The good news – baking great cakes is easy to do when you follow these time-tested suggestions. Your reward will be a cake that is beautifully golden brown, smooth and free of crumbs.

1. Preheat oven to the temperature specified in the recipe. Generously grease the inside of the pan using a pastry brush or paper toweling and Wilton Cake Release (don’t use butter, margarine or liquid vegetable oil. Spread the Cake Release so that all indentations are covered.
2. Preheat oven 10 – 15 minutes.
3. Measure liquids at eye level in standard liquid measuring cups.
4. For best results, use large-size eggs (about ¼ cup each)
5. Beat the cake mix batter for the time and speed specified. Time the beating carefully, beating only for the length of time and at the mixer speed specified in the recipe directions.
6. If using more batter than one cake mix yields for a large pan, mix a single package at a time; reduce oven temperature approximately 25 degrees and increase baking time.
7. Bake your cake immediately after mixing, as near the center (both vertical and horizontal center) of the oven as possible. Allow at least an inch of space on all sides and between the pans. If you use two oven racks, stagger the pans so one cake is not directly above the other. Time your baking accurately.
8. Test your cakes for doneness while they are still in the oven. Because of differences in individual oven controls, be sure to test your cake for doneness according to package or recipe directions.
9. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes on cake rack. Larger cakes (over 14 inches) may need to cool 15 minutes. If cake has cooled too long and will not release from pan, return it to a warm oven, 250 degree, for a few minutes.
10. To remove cake easily from pan, place a double thickness of paper towel over the wire rack. The towel prevents the wire bars from breaking the crust or leaving imprints on top of the cake. Place covered rack over top of cake. Invert cake and rack at least one hour before decorating.
11. Inaccurate oven temperatures account for a majority of baking problems. If your cakes have indications of underbaking, try raising the oven setting about 25 degrees. If the problem appears to be overbaking, lower the oven setting about 25 degrees. Use oven thermometer to check for accuracy.
12. Cakes can be frozen for up to three months wrapped in heavy-duty foil. Cake must be thawed complete before decorating.
13. Iced cakes must be frozen tightly wrapped. When defrosting, keep cake wrapped until completely thawed.

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