Temperature & Cookware
- If your oven temperature is questionable, invest in an oven thermometer. Some ovens can be off by as much as 75°.
- Before mixing the batter, prepare the pans, turn the oven on, and make sure the rack is in the center.
- Shiny pans reflect the heat, and are your best choice for cake baking.
- Reduce the oven temperature by 25° when using glass pans.
- Substitute 8-inch square pans for round if you want, or use 2 to 3 8 X 4-inch loaf pans. The baking time will be less, so begin checking about 15 minutes before the time suggested.
- Have all ingredients at room temperature for best results.
- Grease pans with about 1 tablespoon of fat per layer pan.
- Use cocoa (or carob powder) instead of flour for dusting a greased pan when making a chocolate cake.
Ingredients & Techniques
- When measuring flour, fluff it in the bag then spoon into the measuring cup; level off with a knife.
- To “lighten” a hard wheat flour, spoon 2 to 4 tablespoons of cornstarch into a 1-cup dry measure, then sprinkle the flour in until full and scrape off the excess with the back side of a knife.
- For better texture, try substituting buttermilk for regular milk in your cake recipe. For each cup of buttermilk used, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the dry ingredients.
- Beat butter and sugar for as long as the recipe directs.
- To make a lighter cake, separate the eggs first. Add the yolks to the butter mixture, beat the egg whites then fold into the batter.
- In general, use 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder for every cup of flour in cake batters.
- To speed up the softening of cold butter, grate or thinly slice it and let stand for about 10 minutes over a bowl of warm water.
- Toss nuts, raisins and chopped fruits in flour first. This will help keep them suspended in batters.
- To split layer cakes loop a long strand of unflavored dental floss around the center of the cake horizontally. Cross the ends and slowly and firmly pull on each end to cut cleanly through the cake.
- Cool the cake thoroughly before frosting.
- To moisten confectioners’ sugar frostings, use other liquids in place of milk. Melted jelly, fruit juices, coffee, peanut butter (with a little milk), honey, or maple syrup are just a few alternatives.
- Make chocolate whipped cream by combining 2 tablespoons each unsweetened cocoa powder and confectioners’ sugar in a mixing bowl. Gradually stir in 1 cup whipping cream, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before beating