Special occasions call for cake--and only cake will do--from birthdays and weddings to social events and personal milestones. Cake is a sweet confection that rises to any occasion whether it’s a kid’s birthday party, a church picnic, lunch at your desk or a fiftieth wedding anniversary. There are almost as many versions of cakes as occasions to enjoy them. There are two main types of cakes shortening and foam. Both types have some baking tips in common.
Pans and Pan Preparation
Use the size of pan called for in a recipe. How do you determine pan size? Measure the length and width from inside edge to inside edge. If the pan’s too big, your cake will be flat and dry too small and it’ll bulge or overflow the pan.
Shiny metal pans are the first choice 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° because these pans absorb heat and cakes will cook and brown faster.
Fill cake pans half full. To determine how much batter a specialty pan (such as a heart, star or bell shape) can hold, fill it with water, then measure the water use half that amount of batter. Extra batter? Make cupcakes!
We tested the cake recipes in this cookbook with electric handheld mixers. Because mixers vary in power, you may need to adjust the speed, especially during the first step of combining ingredients. If using a powerful stand mixer, be careful not mix the batter too much, which causes tunnels (large air holes) or a sunken center.
You can also mix cakes by hand. Stir the ingredients until they’re well combined, then beat 150 strokes for each minute of beating time (3 minutes equals 450 strokes). If a cake isn’t beaten enough, the volume will be lower.
If a recipe calls for butter or margarine, we recommend using the stick form. You also can use the stick form of vegetable oil spreads that have at least 65 percent fat, although the batter consistency might be slightly thinner.
For cakes, we don’t recommend using vegetable oil spreads with less than 65 percent fat, reduced-fat butter or any tub or whipped product, whether it’s spread, butter, or margarine. Because they contain more water and less fat, you’ll end up with a cake that’s tough and wet or gummy. (See Fats.)
Bake cakes on the oven rack placed in the center of the oven, unless noted otherwise in the recipe. Cakes are done when a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean. Cool cakes on a wire rack away from drafts.
Cool unfrosted cakes completely before covering and storing to keep the top from becoming sticky. Store cakes with a creamy frosting loosely covered with aluminum foil, plastic wrap or waxed paper or under a cake safe or a large inverted bowl.
Serve a cake with fluffy frosting the same day you make it. If there are leftovers, use a cake safe or inverted bowl with a knife slipped under the edge so air can get in. Store cakes with whipped cream toppings, cream fillings or cream cheese frostings in the refrigerator.
Put cakes containing very moist ingredients such as chopped apples, applesauce, shredded carrots or zucchini, mashed bananas or pumpkin in the refrigerator during humid weather or in humid climates. If stored at room temperature, these cakes tend to mold quickly.
How to Split Cake Layers
Mark middle points around side of layer with toothpicks. Using picks as a guide, cut through the layer with a long, thin sharp knife.
Split the layer by pulling a piece of dental floss or heavy thread horizontally through the middle of the layer, moving floss in a back-and-forth motion.
For layer cakes, use a sharp, long, thin knife. For angel food, chiffon and pound cakes, use a long serrated knife and cut with a sawing motion or use an electric knife.
If the frosting sticks to the knife, dip the knife in hot water and wipe with a damp paper towel after cutting each slice.
For fruitcake, use a thin nonserrated or electric knife. Fruitcakes are easy to cut if you make them three to four weeks ahead of time, wrap and store in the refrigerator. Brush occasionally with rum, brandy or bourbon for a rich, mellow flavor.
Fun, totable cupcakes are perfect for parties and picnics. Make a batch from any of the cake batters you’ll get about twenty-four to thirty-six cupcakes.
-Line medium muffin cups, 2 1/2 x 1 1/4 inches, with paper baking cups. Look for festive cups in colors and special designs at your supermarket, party store or paper warehouse.
-Fill each cup about half full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
-If you have only one 12-cup muffin pan, cover and refrigerate the rest of the batter while the first batch is baking. Then bake the rest of the batter, adding 1 or 2 minutes to the bake time.
Size and Kind Number of Servings
8- or 9-inch one-layer
round cake 8
8- or 9-inch two-layer
round cake 12 to 16
8- or 9-inch square
13 x 9 x 2-inch
rectangular cake 12 to 16
10 x 4-inch angel
food or chiffon cake 12 to 16
12-cup bundt cake
or pound cake 16 to 24
From "Betty Crocker's Complete Cookbook, Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today, 9th Edition." Text Copyright 2000 General Mills, Inc. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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