Are you ready to learn how to make perfect cakes to impress your friends and family? In this baking tips post, I will teach you 10 Tips for Baking Perfect Cakes! With these tips and tricks, you will be able to take your cakes to the next level, making them look professional and taste amazing!
Cakes are works of art. There are endless possibilities of flavors and ways to decorate cakes. Cakes are central to numerous celebrations in our lives and are always the focal point of any party.
Many people feel intimidated by baking cakes, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Through my years as a baker, I have picked up some simple tricks along the way to help make my cakes look and taste spectacular. These tips are easy things you can do to help make your cakes look impressive and professional. Here are my top 10 Tips for Baking Perfect Cakes!
1. Ingredients at room temperature
This is an important one folks! Allow all of your cold ingredients to come to room temperature before making your cake batter.
Butter, eggs, milk, sour cream, or other chilled cake ingredients have an easier time combining and emulsifying to create the perfect cake crumb. We are looking to achieve a tender, soft cake crumb, but also one that maintains structure.
Think about it. Would you rather jump into an ice cold swimming pool or one that is closer to your body temperature? I choose the second one! If you pour cold milk into warm butter, the butter will seize up. We are looking for all the ingredients to combine well and play nice with each other!
I don’t always remember to pull my ingredients out of the refrigerator before I am baking! So I have a couple quick tips to help!
- Butter – Place wrapped butter in the microwave and heat in 5 second intervals, turning the stick of butter 1/4 turn each time. Once you start to feel the butter slightly soften, remove the butter from the microwave.
- Eggs – Place cold eggs in a bowl and fill the bowl with hot water (not boiling). Allow eggs to sit in the water for 5 minutes.
- Milk – Pour milk into a glass measuring cup and microwave for 30 seconds. Test the temperature and continue to microwave in 10 second bursts until room temperature.
2. Use parchment paper for a clean release
Have you ever made a delicious cake and as you invert the pan to remove it, half the cake plops onto the cooling rack and half is stuck to the bottom of your pan? Heartbreaking, I know. Been there, done that! Perfect cakes aren’t pieced back together with frosting and prayers!
Parchment paper is an easy way to prevent this from ever happening to you! By lining the bottom of your cake pans with parchment paper, you are guaranteeing a clean release from your pan and a perfectly flat and even bottom. My favorite can pans are Fat Daddio’s Anodized Aluminum Cake Pans because they bake the cakes evenly!
I love using parchment paper circles to save on time and effort! I usually have 6 inch, 7 inch, and 8 inch parchment circles on hand because those are the size cakes I make the most often! Of course you can figure out what size pans you use the most and invest in parchment circles to fit.
Place the parchment paper flat on your countertop and place your cake pans on the parchment. Using a pen, trace around the cake pans. Then cut the circles out of the parchment.
To prepare the cake pans, spray the cake pans with non-stick cooking spray on the sides and bottom. Then place the parchment circle in the bottom! It is now ready for batter!
Once your cakes have cooled, you will invert the pans and peel the parchment paper off the bottom. You will have a perfectly flat cake bottom!
3. Measure/weigh batter for even cake layers
I love the way a cake looks when you cut into it and all of the layers are perfectly even. Yes, I have slight OCD tendencies. One way to help us achieve even layers is to ensure that there are equal amounts of cake batter in each pan.
My favorite way of measuring cake batter is to use a kitchen scale. They are relatively inexpensive and I am not lying when I say that I use my kitchen scale every single day for cooking and baking. This is one of my essential kitchen tools.
First, “eyeball” the amount of cake batter by dividing it into the cake pans. I usually leave a little batter in the bowl to even out the layers once they are weighed. Next, weigh the cake pans. Add the cake batter remaining in the bowl to even out the weights so that they are all the same. We aren’t looking for perfection here, just close proximity. Sometimes you may have to steal a little batter from one pan to put in the other.
If you do not have a kitchen scale and do not wish to get one, another great way to measure out the cake batter is using measuring cups. Simply scoop the cake batter using a 1 cup measuring cup and divide equally between the pans!
4. Bake at a lower temperature for a longer time
This tip is one that I discovered over time with some trial and error. I am no food scientist, so I can’t confidently give you the science behind this, but I have found that baking the cakes at a lower temperature for a longer time usually results in cake layers that are more level and also a cake that is more moist (there’s that word…shiver).
I presume that the lower heat makes the leavening agents (baking soda or baking powder) in the cake batter react more slowly, which leads to a slower rise. If the heat is too high, the cake will rise too quickly causing the cake to have large cake humps (affectionately).
As one of the keys to a perfect cake is to have nice even layers, we would be cutting the cake humps off anyway, so by allowing the cakes to rise slowly and evenly, there is less cake for us to carve off.
5. Touch test instead of a toothpick
My favorite way to test if cakes are done baking is to give them a little poke! A GENTLE poke. If the cake bounces back and regains it’s shape, you are ready to remove it from the oven! If the cake feels wet, does not bounce back, or a slight indentation forms, keep baking!
I have nothing against toothpicks, I just don’t always have them. Plus, I have found that the touch test is a more accurate way to test for doneness. I have had toothpicks lie to me in the past as well. My finger poke has yet to lie to me!
A word of caution. You are giving a gentle poke to a HOT cake in a HOT oven. Please use caution. Quick, gentle poke. If you do not feel comfortable doing so, use a toothpick…it will be alright!
6. Cool the cakes completely in the pan
Whaaaaaat? Yes, really. Cool the cakes in the pans.
This may seem strange and counterintuitive, but I have found that this strategy works extremely well.
If you try and remove the cakes too soon, there is a higher likelihood that they will crack and break. Cooling the cakes in the pans to room temperature reduces the chance that this will happen.
I urge you to still be gentle with your cake layers. They are sensitive.
If you followed tip #2 of lining your pan with parchment paper, you won’t need to worry about the cake sticking to the pan when it cools.
Take a butter knife or small offset spatula and run it between the cake and pan to ensure that the cake is detached from the sides. Then invert the cake and remove from the pan. Peel off the parchment and you are good to go!
7. Chill cakes completely before leveling or icing
Chilling the cakes before you level or frost them is a great way to reduce the chances of cracking. By chilling the cake layers, the cake becomes more stable and easier to carve and frost.
Once the cakes are completely cooled and removed from their pans, wrap each individual layer in plastic wrap and chill overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, unwrap the layers and immediately level them (see below).
While they are still cool, fill the cake with your desired fillings and do a crumb coat (see below). Chilling the cake layers before carving and frosting and during the decorating process is a helpful way to ensure your cakes come out looking smooth, even, and perfect!
8. Level cake layers before icing and stacking
Leveling cake layers means cutting off the cake humps to create a flat surface. This makes the finished cake look spectacular! With even, flat layers, not only will the cake look great on the outside, but the inside as well. When you cut into the cake you will be able to see uniform layers.
There are tools specially designed to level cakes that can be used. Personally, I don’t use them. My tool of choice is a serrated bread knife.
What I do is place the cake layer on a cake turntable. If you do not have a cake turntable, you will still be able to level your layers. Using a gentle sawing motion, I cut around the top of the cake, right underneath where the cake hump starts.
Once there is a slight cut into the circumference of the cake, cut through the cake using a sawing motion. Keep your arm and elbow close to your body for stabilization.
Remove the cake hump and proceed to enjoy your snack! Or save for cake pops!
If you would like to be extra, you can cut the caramelization off of the edges and bottom of the cake. Caramelization is the natural browning that occurs as a result of the cake touching the pan. By cutting it off you will have an even more beautiful slice. If you have a chocolate cake, don’t waste your time.
9. Measure out filling for even layers
Just as we are looking to achieve even layers of cake, perfect cakes have even layers of filling. Cake filling possibilities are endless. Buttercream, custards, mousses, and fruit fillings are the most common.
In order to create uniform layers of filling, measuring your filling for in between each layer.
There are two simple ways to do this: (1) use measuring cups and (2) use a cookie/cupcake scoop. Simply measure out the filling and repeat the same amount between each cake layer.
10. Crumb coat
A crumb coat is essential to creating the perfect cake. The crumb coat is a very thin first layer of frosting that traps all of the cake crumbs so that when you put your final layer of frosting on, it is smooth and crumb-free.
Using an offset spatula, the cake is completely covered in a thin layer of frosting and then chilled for about 30 minutes for the buttercream to firm up. This ensures that the crumbs are trapped so they don’t sneak into your final layer.
Creating a crumb coat will also help with the stability of your cake. If you are filling your cake with buttercream or another filling, the crumb coat and chilling the cake will help prevent the layers from sliding!
My favorite go-to frosting is my Vanilla American Buttercream. My Vanilla American Buttercream is light, fluffy, not overly sweet, and is packed with vanilla flavor. It only takes 5 ingredients and 10 minutes to make and is a great buttercream to make the perfect cake!
If you follow these 10 Tips for Baking the Perfect Cakes, I’m confident you will be baking beautiful and delicious cakes for your friends and family!
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