Lessons Learned – Baking A Cake

The next few days I will be spending more than normal amount of time in the kitchen baking my daughters birthday cake and M&M Cookies for a school fundraiser (recipes for these will follow later in the week).  Anyway I started thinking about how many cakes I have made in my life time and realised it’s too many to count! I have been baking birthday cakes for a long time, I have made cakes for my husband every birthday we have been together that’s 14, also a birthday cake every year for each of my kids…  so that’s a total of  35 cakes, and that’s just birthday cakes!

 I am no professional baker and I’ve had plenty of disasters in the kitchen but I think I’ve learned enough now that I can produce a pretty good cake.

So here are some lessons I have learnt so far to get a good home-made cake.

Cake heavy and dense like a brick? And is not a fruit cake ?

(Fruit cake is the only cake that should weigh as much as a brick!)

It’s because the flour has been over worked. Flour has gluten and the more it is worked/mixed, the more glutenous it gets, great for bread not good for cakes so once dry ingredients  are added it’s just a light mix to combine.

Cake not rising?

I can think of a couple of things depending on the type of cake. If the cake requires egg whites beaten to soft peaks to be added at the end or alternate with dry ingredients this will be the cakes rising agent and the trick is to fold in gently, so best to get out  a metal or wooden spoon to do the mixing.

Well creamed butter and sugar with lots of air in it is also a key factor I find  using unsalted butter and having the butter at room temperature helps it cream easier, if the butter is melted I think it’s a lost opportunity to add air to a cake.

If baking powder or self rising flour is used and the cake does not rise, chances are the baking powder or self rising flour is no good, I have had this problem before and sometimes the baking powder or self rising flour has been exposed to the air to long or is just to old.

Crater cake?

If a cake has sunk in the middle it is supposed to be to do with temperature fluctuations during cooking this is why you are not supposed to open the oven during cooking, but to tell you the truth I open the oven door all the time! I’m always pricking and prodding to see if the cake is ready so this means I should have nothing but sunken cakes. The only time I have had a sunken cake is when I greased the sides of my cake tin, I now only line/grease the bottom of my tin and the cake should pull away from the sides as it cooks but if there is some sticking  I just run a wet knife around the sides of the cooked cake to release it from the cake tin . I think the cakes needs the sides of the tin for support to help the cake rise evenly.

Volcano cake?

A slight domed top is ok but if a cake comes out looking like a volcano or if the cake is all cracked in the middle it’s because the oven is too hot. I have an ancient gas oven that has only low, medium, and high for temperature! So when a recipe calls for mark 4 or 180 celsius I have to go with my gut but so does every body because every oven is different! It’s ok to go against a recipe and if a cake comes out cracked or mountainous cut the top off and next time drop the temperature.

I think I have learned more from my baking disasters than I have from any cook book!

 Have you had any baking disasters?

Any lessons learned that you would like to share?

If so leave a comment, it would be great to read them.


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