Bless the cook who serves love and laughter :)
Here is a large assortment of tips I’ve accumulated over the years. Different recipes will provide different results, but overall I’ve found the tips do noticeably improve most cake recipes or make baking cakes and working with them easier.
Some recipes success depend on a specific ingredient or action. If one of these tips contradicts your recipe, your best bet is to follow the recipe instruction.
- Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of meringue powder to your cake mix to help it rise a bit higher and make it a bit lighter in texture.
- Add 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin to the cake batter, helps prevent the top of the cake splitting or cracking.
- First add a teaspoon of lemon juice to the butter and sugar called for in the recipe before mixing the rest of the ingredients. Helps make the cake lighter.
- Take your time creaming the butter, beat/cream for at least 5 minutes to get lots of air into the butter. Add the sugar and beat/cream really well again.
- Separate eggs before adding them to recipes–beat yolks till golden and creamy then add to the butter/sugar mixture. Beat the egg whites until light and frothy before folding them into the butter mixture.
Moister Cake Tips:
- Chocolate Cake: Before adding the baking soda to your cake recipe, mix it with a teaspoon of vinegar.
- Fruit Cakes/Dense Cakes: Keep a pan full of water in the oven when baking the cake (replace water if needed to keep it topped up).
- Substitute oil in the recipe for unsweetened applesauce or plain yogurt. Your measure can be 1:1 or 50/50. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup oil, use 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce. Different types of cakes will offer different results for texture and taste, but a good start would try the 50/50. Not only helps for moister cakes, also cuts fat.
- Measure all ingredients to exact amounts first, then sift.
Grease & Flour Pans:
- Use a paper cupcake holder, a paper towel, a piece of wax paper, the butter wrapper paper or a plastic baggy to grease the pans without messing up your hands. You could also use a pastry brush.
- Try dusting the cake pans with a bit of the dry cake mix or cocoa (for chocolate cake) instead of flour.
- Grease pan with shortening then line the pan with a piece of wax paper to fit the bottom. Re-grease the top of the wax paper. Pour in the batter. To get the wax paper to size, you can either trace the bottom of the pan and cut it out, or grease the pan, smooth a sheet of wax paper into the pan (pressing all around the creases of the pan), remove the wax paper and cut out along the crease. This is kinda messy though, better to trace the pan then cut it out.
- To cut fat, try baking a cake without greasing the pans even if the recipe mentions to do so. You can just place a waxed paper liner to fit the bottom of the pan, then pour in the batter. This will also help remove the cake cleanly. For high cakes, you’ll want to still grease and flour sides of pans if specified.
Homemade Magic Pan Grease:
You can buy Pan Grease or make your own. This is used as a substitute to greasing the pans then dusting them with flour when directed by the recipe to do so. Keep unused portion in an airtight container and refrigerate to use for your next batch of baking.
- Recipe #1: Mix 1 cup shortening (like Crisco), 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup vegetable oil and apply to baking pans evenly with a pastry brush.
- Recipe #2: 2 cups of Crisco and 1 cup of flour
Baking A Level Cake:
- Fill cake pans no more than 1/2 to 2/3 full to allow for even baking and rising.
- Once you’ve poured the batter in the pan, wobble the pan sideways a bit so the batter reaches up along each side (with the middle being slightly lower). As the cake bakes the middle and edges will meet and rise more evenly.
- If the cake rose high and uneven in the middle when baking, you may need to slice a bit off across the top so it’s level.
Oven Baking Tips:
- Preheat the oven first before starting to bake, make sure the rack is in the center of the oven (unless directed differently in the recipe) and keep pan in the center of the rack. If you’re baking more than one pan at a time, keep them at least 2″ away from the walls of the oven and from each other.
Check For Doneness:
- Using a toothpick, wood skewer or a piece of raw spaghetti, test the cake for doneness by placing the toothpick into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.
Problems With Cake Sticking To Pan:
- Place a thick, clean towel in the kitchen sink and pour a kettle of boiling hot water over the towel to heat it (don’t plug the sink to retain the water, allow it to drain out). Set the cake (still inside the pan) on the hot towel and leave it for a minute or two, the cake should turn out easily.
- Turn the cake over on a sheet of wax paper or a cooling rack. Place a clean, thin cotton towel on top of the cake pan and using a hot steam iron, heat the bottom of the pan for a few minutes. The pan should lift off cleanly.
- Cool the cakes in the pans completely before trying to remove them. Don’t cool on top of the stove where there’s heat, they’re best cooled on a rack on top of the counter. Gently insert a knife between the outside of the cake and the inside of the pan. Run it along the pan to loosen things up before turning over.
Angel Food Cake
- When the cake has finished baking, take it directly from the oven and place it upside down on the neck of a bottle. This will help prevent the angel food cake from falling as it cools. After 30 minutes, you can turn it over then remove from pan once cooled.
Frosting & Icing Tips:
- Don’t attempt to ice the cake until it’s completely cool. Dust the cake lightly with a pastry brush before frosting, helps reduce crumbs in the icing.
- First ice the cake with a thin layer of frosting, then refrigerate (covered). After an hour you can do a complete frosting job. This helps keep the crumbs at bay and your outer frosting layer should be crumb free.
- After frosting the cake, you can use a hair dryer to slightly melt the frosting. This will give the frosting a smooth, glossy look. If you prefer you can use a metal icing spatula or knife first heated by sitting in hot water, wipe dry, then use the heated knife to smooth the icing.
- Have a bag of chocolate chips on hand? Just sit the whole bag in a bowl of very hot water, and mush the bag up every couple of minutes until all the chocolate has melted and there are no lumps. Snip the corner of the bag and squeeze out the melted chocolate directly onto the cake.
- Have two favorite frostings and can’t decide which one to use on a layer cake? Try both! Spread one frosting on top of one layer, and spread the other on the bottom of the other layer (you’ll want to flip the bottom ‘up’ when frosting). Then put the layers together. The middle will have a delicious two-frosting surprise . Can also use this technique when filling the layers with a combination of fruit and whipped cream or frosting.
- To help prevent a flaking or cracking frosting, add a pinch of baking soda when mixing the frosting.
- If icing is a bit too thin or runny, lightly dust the top of the cake with flour then spread the icing on top. This will help the icing hold to the cake.
- Quick Tip: Icing Cakes: For one layer cakes, turn the cake upside down before icing so that the top is perfectly flat and even. When icing two cake rounds or squares, place a layer of frosting on the top of one round, then place the other round upside down on top for a perfectly flat top.
- Easily Color Shredded Coconut: Shredded coconut can be a nice, decorative touch achieved easily. Simply put the coconut in a clean jar (only one half jar full at a time), add a few drops of food coloring in your choice of color, then cap the jar and shake it until all the coconut is evenly tinted.
Cutting Cake Tips:
- Heat a knife first before cutting a cake for crumble-free slices. To heat the knife, you can run the knife under very hot water then wipe dry with a clean towel.
- Use unwaxed dental floss to slice through the cake (great for the gooey or sticky cakes).
Keep Cut Cake Fresh:
Once you start slicing the cake, the exposed or cut sides can dry out quickly. Here’s a way to keep things fresh:
- Wrap the cut cake with a few slices of fresh apple or cubes of sugar or a slice of fresh bread set inside the cake pan (or in the open space of the cake plate). Make sure to store the cake in an airtight container or wrapped well in plastic wrap.