03-Bake a Perfect Cake Every Time

Serves: 5



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.

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.

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)

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

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 manufac-turer'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.

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.

Saucy Secrets

Here's how to substitute unsweetened applesauce for oil in cake mix recipes.

Cake Mix Flavor - Ingredients
Butter recipe yellow, chocolate fudge, devil's food, German chocolate or yellow cake.
¾ cup water
¾ cup applesauce
3 eggs

Carrot cake
½ cup water
¾ cup applesauce
3 eggs

Lemon cake
2/3 cup water
¾ cup applesauce
3 eggs

White cake
¾ cup water
¾ cup applesauce
3 eggs

From "Betty Crocker's Ultimate Cake Mix Cookbook." Text Copyright 2004 General Mills, Inc. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This 03-Bake a Perfect Cake Every Time recipe is from the Betty Crocker Ultimate Cake Mix Cookbook Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.

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