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       Volume I - March 28, 2008

Cakes without Mistakes
Notes from Folks...


Question:

I would love to know how to make a good cake without a mistake

Thanks,

Cook'n Reader




Hi,

Here are some cake making tips from the DVO website (www.dvo.com). I hope they'll help you bake up something scrumptious!!

Happy Cook'n,

Desi @ DVO

  • Measure all ingredients carefully, using dry measuring cups for dry ingredients and liquid measures for liquids. A seemingly small amount of variation in the amount of an ingredient can make a big difference in the outcome of a cake.

  • Measure flour and other dry ingredients by spooning them into a heap in a dry measuring cup, then sweeping off the excess with a knife. Never pack dry ingredients down.

  • Overbeating makes cakes tough and causes them to collapse, because it overworks the protein in the flour, known as gluten. Always fold or stir batter just until the mixture is blended.

  • To beat egg whites to maximum volume, start with eggs at room temperature. You can warm them up quickly by placing them in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes. Separate the eggs, placing the whites in a large bowl. Be careful not to get any of the egg yolk into the whites, and make sure the bowl and beaters are squeaky clean. Any trace of fat from the yolk or other ingredients can prevent the whites from whipping.

  • Begin beating the whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed. Beat the egg whites until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to high and gradually add the sugar. Beat until the whites are shiny and thick and soft peaks form, then bend over gently, when the beaters are lifted, about 4 minutes more. Do not overbeat the whites or they may become dry and break down.

  • Folding is an important technique in baking cakes and desserts. When folded correctly, a batter is blended in such a way as not to deflate it. To fold egg whites into a batter, begin by scooping up a small amount of the beaten egg whites with a rubber spatula. Place the egg whites on top of the batter.

    Holding the spatula with the curved side of the blade toward the bottom of the bowl, cut down through the center of the batter and scoop up some of the mixture over the whites. Rotate the bowl a quarter-turn and repeat, cutting down with the spatula and scooping the batter over the whites. Repeat, turning and scooping, and occasionally scraping the side of the bowl, until all of the ingredients are blended and there are no streaks.

  • When blending whipped cream into desserts or adding nuts or other solid ingredients into a cake batter, you should fold the ingredients carefully together to maintain the texture of the batter.

  • Before preheating the oven, position the oven rack so that the cake will cook evenly. For big, deep cakes, place the rack about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom of the oven. For layer and other shallow cakes, place the rack in the center of the oven.

  • Unless they contain creamy fillings, most cakes stay fresher longer at room temperature. Rather than covering them with plastic wrap that may allow moisture to form and make the cake sticky, I cover most cakes with an inverted bowl. Just be sure that air cannot get in. The bowl protects the appearance of the cake better, too.

    From "1,000 Italian Recipes." Copyright 2004 by Michele Scicolone. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

    Over 50 Years of Cake Mix Success

    Covering, Filling, and Accompanying Your Cake

    Baking Equipment

    The right equipment makes cake baking easy and fun. Look for these equipment features when stocking your kitchen.

    Pans

    It's important to use the size of pan called for in a recipe. Standard pan sizes are usually marked on the back of the pan; if not, measure the length and width across the top of the pan from inside edge to inside edge. If the pan is too large, your cake will be flat and dry; if the pan is too small, it will bulge or overflow the pan.Choose shiny metal pans for baking cakes. They reflect heat away from the cake for a tender, light-brown crust.

    If you use dark nonstick or glass baking pans, follow the manufacturer's directions, which may call for reducing the baking temperature by 25 degrees. These pans absorb heat; therefore, cakes will bake and brown faster. Mixer You will need a handheld electric or stand mixer.

    Heavy-duty commercial mixers are too powerful for mixing package cake mixes. It is possible to mix cake mixes by hand with a wire whisk, but an electric mixer makes it easier!

    Bowls

    Choose stainless-steel or glass bowls. Plastic doesn't work very well when beating egg whites. Stock your kitchen with a few in each size-small, medium and large.

    Cooling Racks

    You will need wire racks for cooling your cakes. Stainless steel is a wise choice, because it won't rust and will last a lifetime.

    Your Pan Plan

    To bake most of the cakes in this book, you will want to have these standard-sized pans on hand.

  • 13 x 9 x 2-inch rectangular pan
  • Two or three 8 x 1 1/2- or 9 x 1 1/2-inch round pans
  • 9 x 9 x 2-inch square pan
  • 12-cup bundt cake pan
  • 10 x 4-inch angel food cake (tube) pan
  • Two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch or 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans
  • Muffin pan with medium cups, 2 1/2 x 1 1/4 inches
  • 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1-inch jelly roll pan
  • Shiny aluminum cookie sheets (at least 2 inches narrower and shorter than the inside dimensions of your oven so the heat will circulate around them)

    Knives

    For layer cakes, choose a sharp, long, thin knife for splitting cakes into layers and to slice cakes into serving pieces. Choose a serrated or electric knife for angel food and pound cakes.

    Ready, Set, Bake!

    Rack Position and Oven Temperature

    For most cakes, position the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Since angel food cake rises so high, it should be baked at the lowest oven rack position. If the rack is placed too high, angel food cake will brown too quickly on top and will test done before it is completely baked.

    If you are making a layer cake, check to see how your cake pans will fit on the oven rack before you heat the oven. Some layer cake recipes call for three round pans. To see if they all will fit, stagger the pans on the middle rack in the cold oven, leaving 1 inch between pans and the sides of the oven.

    Make sure the door will close completely. What if three pans don't fit or you have only two layer pans? You can cover and refrigerate the batter in the third pan or in the mixing bowl while the first two layers are baking.

    Preheat the oven 10 to 15 minutes before you plan to bake to allow time for it to heat to baking temperature. It's a good idea to have your oven heat control checked for accuracy by your local utility company. If this service is not available or is too costly, judge for yourself based on whether baked goods are already golden brown at the minimum bake time (oven may run high) or not yet done at the maximum bake time (oven may run low).

    Preparing Pans

    Correctly greased and floured pans will keep cakes from sticking. In most cases, you will want to grease the bottom and side of the pan with about 1 tablespoon solid vegetable shortening. Then, dust the pan with about 1 tablespoon flour and tap out the excess. You may use baking cocoa to dust the pan for a chocolate cake.

    Be sure to follow the recipe directions carefully. Some recipes may call for greasing the bottom only of the pan or for leaving the pan ungreased. For nonstick pans, follow the manufacturer's directions; greasing is usually recommended.

    Cooking spray may also be used; however, the cake may rise with high sides and a lip. If using cooking spray, coat only the bottom of the pan; do not dust the pan with flour.

    Angel food cake is an exception. Leave the pan ungreased so the cake will cling to the side as it rises during baking.

    Serve It Up!

    Ever wondered how many servings each kind of cake can yield?

    Size and Type of Cake Number of Servings

  • One-layer 8- or 9-inch round: 8 servings
  • Two-layer 8- or 9-inch round: 12 to 16 servings
  • 8- or 9-inch square: 9 servings
  • 13 x 9 x 2-inch rectangular: 12 to 15 servings
  • 10 x 4-inch angel food: 12 to 16 servings
  • 12-cup bundt or pound cake: 16 to 24 servings

    Measuring

    Be sure to measure carefully. To measure liquid, place a liquid measuring cup on your counter, pour in the liquid, bend down and check the amount at eye level. Too little liquid can cause a heavy, low-volume cake.

    Too much liquid can cause a cake to fall. To measure a dry ingredient, gently spoon the ingredient into a dry-ingredient measuring cup and level off with a straight spatula or knife.

    Do not shake the cup or pack down the ingredients. Brown sugar is the exception; pack it firmly into a dry-ingredient measuring cup, then level off. Use measuring spoons for small amounts of both liquid and dry ingredients.

    Mixing

    All of the cake recipes in this cookbook were tested with handheld electric mixers. Because mixers vary in power, you may need to adjust the speed, especially when first combining ingredients. If using a powerful stand mixer, be careful not to overmix the batter, which can cause tunnels (large air holes) or a sunken center.

    You can also mix cakes by hand with a wire whisk. Stir the ingredients until they are combined, then beat 150 strokes for each minute of beating time given in a recipe. Take care not to overbeat. This actually breaks down the cake, and it may not rise as high or it may shrink as it cools.

    Baking Time

    Follow the recommended baking time in the recipe as a guideline. Begin checking at the minimum time. If using a dark or nonstick pan, you may need to decrease the baking time by 2 to 3 minutes. You may need to experiment a bit with the baking time, especially if your oven isn't quite accurate.

    Testing for Doneness

    Follow the test for doneness indicated in the recipe or on the package directions. Typically, cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If a cake contains a lot of "gooey" ingredients, however, this test may not be accurate. You can also judge if a cake is done if the top springs back when touched lightly in the center and the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.

    Cooling and Splitting Cakes

    Cooling Layer Cakes Cool layer cakes in the pans on wire racks about 10 minutes before removing them from the pans. This helps prevent the cake from breaking apart, which can happen when it is too warm and tender. To remove a layer cake from the pan, run a knife around the side of the pan to loosen the cake. Cover a wire rack with a towel. Place rack, towel side down, on top of cake layer. Turn pan and rack upside down; carefully remove pan.

    Place a second wire rack over the inverted cake layer; turn both racks upside down so cake layer is upright. Remove towel and top wire rack. Repeat with remaining layer(s). Allow layers to cool completely, about 1 hour, on racks.

    Cooling Specialty Cakes

    For deeper cakes, such as bundt cakes, cool in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes. To remove a bundt cake from the pan, place a wire rack on top of the cake. Turn pan and rack upside down; carefully remove pan. Cooling Angel Food Cake Angel food cake must cool while hanging upside down or it will sink and collapse. To cool an angel food cake, immediately after baking, turn the pan upside down onto a glass bottle or metal funnel and let hang at least 2 hours. The cake should be completely cool. To remove an angel food cake from the pan, loosen cake by running a knife between the cake and pan in a sawing motion around edges.

    If the pan has a removable bottom, hold pan by the center tube and lift the cake from the pan. Loosen cake from the bottom with a knife; remove cake and turn cake upside down. If the pan is one piece, use your fingers to loosen the cake from the pan. Splitting Cake Layers First mark middle points on the side of a cake layer with toothpicks. To split layer, use a knife or the thread technique. Using thread and toothpicks as a guideline, split the cake layer by pulling a piece of heavy sewing thread back and forth through the layer.

    Or, using a long, thin, sharp knife and toothpicks as a guideline, cut horizontally through the layer. Splitting Angel Food Cake An angel food cake can be split into three layers. Measure the cake with a ruler, and mark into equal widths the number of desired layers with toothpicks. Using a serrated knife and toothpicks as a guideline, cut horizontally across the cake with a light, sawing motion.

    Fabulous Frosting

    Here are some simple success tips for frosting layer cakes...

  • Freeze the cake for 30 to 60 minutes to make it easier to frost.
  • Place a dab of frosting under the cake on the serving plate to keep the cake from sliding.
  • Try a flexible metal spatula that allows you to spread the frosting in a larger area.
  • Use a light touch to prevent layers from sliding and the filling from squishing out between layers.

    Frosting and Glazing Cakes

    Frosting a Layer Cake Start out by lining the edge of the cake plate with 4 strips of waxed paper. Brush any loose crumbs from the cooled cake layer.

    Place the layer, rounded side down, on the plate. (The waxed paper will protect the plate as you frost and can be removed later.) To frost, spread about 1/3 cup creamy frosting (or 1/2 cup fluffy frosting) over the top of the first layer to about 1/4 inch from the edge.

    Place the second layer, rounded side up, on the first layer so that the two flat sides of the layers are together with frosting in between. Coat the side of the cake with a very thin layer of frosting to seal in the crumbs. Frost the side of the cake in swirls, making a rim about 1/4 inch above the top of the cake to prevent the top from appearing sloped.

    Spread the remaining frosting on top, just to the built-up rim. Remove waxed paper strips. Glazing a Cake Glazing is a good option for pound cakes and cakes that are too rich for frosting.

    To glaze a cake, pour or drizzle glaze over top of cake. Immediately spread with a spatula or the back of a spoon, allowing some glaze to drizzle down the side.

    Storing Cakes

    Cakes may be stored at room temperature, refrigerated or frozen. To store at room temperature, cool the cake thoroughly on a wire rack to keep the top from becoming sticky. Store frosted or unfrosted cakes loosely covered at room temperature for up to two days. To loosely cover, place aluminum foil, plastic wrap or waxed paper over cake, or place a cake safe or large inverted bowl over the cake.

    Refrigerate cakes with custard, whipped cream or cream cheese toppings or fillings. During humid weather or in humid climates, refrigerate cakes containing very moist ingredients such as chopped apples, applesauce, shredded carrots or zucchini, mashed bananas or pumpkin. These cakes tend to mold quickly if stored at room temperature.

    Freeze frosted or unfrosted cake up to two months. Cool cake completely before freezing. Place cake in a rigid container (such as a cardboard bakery box) to prevent crushing, then cover with aluminum foil, plastic wrap or large freezer bag. Cakes frosted with a creamy frosting freeze best. Fluffy or whipped cream frosting freezes well but tends to stick to the wrapping. To prevent sticking, freeze cake uncovered 1 hour, insert toothpicks around the top and side of cake, and wrap.

    To thaw cakes, loosen wrap on frozen unfrosted cakes, and thaw at room temperature 2 to 3 hours. Loosen wrap on frozen frosted cakes, and thaw overnight in refrigerator.

    Baking Cakes at High Altitude

    As the altitude increases, air pressure decreases, which calls for some baking adjustments. Because the rate of evaporation is faster at high altitude, cakes often require more liquid and longer bake times. Also, the lighter air at high altitude allows cake batter to expand more and faster, often making it necessary to increase the oven temperature by 25 and to use larger baking pans. And remember to generously grease and flour pans, because cakes have a greater tendency to stick to pans.

    Baking cakes at high altitude can be trickier than other baked goods. There are no hard and fast rules to follow-changes to cake recipes depend upon the type of cake and the proportion of ingredients. For all your baking, we suggest you use only recipes that have been tested and adjusted for high altitude. All of the recipes in this book have been tested at high altitude.

    From "Betty Crocker's Ultimate Cake Mix Cookbook." Text Copyright 2005 General Mills, Inc. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.






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