Want to try baking a cake but scared it'll go wrong? Cakes keep sinking in the middle? You've come to the right place - follow our 10 simple rules for baking and you'll get perfect cakes everytime...
Want to try baking a cake but scared it’ll go wrong? Cakes keep sinking in the middle or coming out flat? You’ve come to the right place – follow our 10 simple rules for baking and you’ll get perfect cakes everytime…
by Katy Salter, goodtoknow Recipes Editor
1. Use butter and eggs at room temperature
Using butter and eggs at room temperature will make baking a lot easier. Leave butter out of the fridge for an hour and it’ll be soft enough to beat together with sugar for a light, pale and fluffy batter. Cold eggs can cause a cake batter to curdle – if this happens, adding a large spoonful of flour and whisking briskly should rescue the cake.
2. Check your sell-by dates
So you’ve bought fresh butter, eggs and milk for your cake and they’re all in date… don’t forget to check the dates on your dry ingredients too. Baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and self-raising flour can have a shorter shelf-life than you might think, so if it’s been hiding at the back of the cupboard for a while – check the dates. If your cakes aren’t rising, this could be why.
3. Use the correct size cake tins
Cake recipes have precise quantities of ingredients depending on which size and shape tin they use. If you use a recipe for a 18cm-round tin in a 26cm tin, it won’t rise properly. Looking to buy some tins? A 20cm-round tin, a 20cm-square tin and a 2lb loaf tin are all good bets.
4. Weigh out all the ingredients before you startWe’ve all done it – dived straight into a recipe before weighing everything out and prepping all the ingredients, only to get into a flap half-way through. Take a tip from professional chefs and bakers by weighing out all the ingredients first so they’re easy to grab once you start baking.
5. Follow the recipe exactly
Baking a cake is a science – you need the correct ratios of fats to flour, eggs and sugar for the cake to rise properly. Weigh the ingredients carefully and follow the recipe to the letter and you’ll get good results. Save the freestyling for the icing and decorations!
6. Sift the flour
Sifting the flour using a flour sifter or sieve will get lots of air into your cake mixture, which is essential for a light sponge with a good rise. It also helps get rid of any lumps in the flour. Once you’ve stirred the flour into the cake batter, stir it with a large metal spoon until just incorporated.
7.Get the cake in the oven asap
Once you’ve spooned your batter into your cake tin(s) and smoothed the tops, get the cake into your pre-heated oven straightaway, before it can lose all the air in the batter.
8. Check your oven temperature
If your cakes aren’t rising properly or cook more quickly on one side than the other, your oven is probably to blame. Invest in an oven thermometer (they cost around £5) to check whether your oven runs hot or cool, and adjust accordingly. A domed peak on your cake means the oven is too hot, a sinking cake means it’s probably too cool. And remember to subtract 20°C from the temperature in the recipe if using a fan oven.
9. Don’t open the oven!
We know, we know – it’s so tempting to open the oven just to have a little peak at how your cake is doing. But don’t! Opening the oven while your cake is cooking will send a blast of cool air into the oven and could make your cake sink in the middle. Wait until 3/4 cooking time has elapsed before opening that oven door.
10. Cool on a wire rack
Turn your cakes out onto a wire rack and leave to cool. This will help stop the cakes getting a soggy bottom, and waiting until the cakes are cool means your icing won’t run.