Baking Better Cakes

May 9, 2017

Looking to improve your cake baking and make your next layer cake from scratch? Let’s start off this post by saying that I am not above boxed cake mix. Add an extra egg for a little more flavour and top it off with some Betty Crocker frosting in a can, that’s the kind of homestyle birthday treat that I will always treasure.

These are my tips for baking lighter, fluffier, and better tasting cakes because why buy a cake from a store when you can personally bake one for a loved one with blood, sweat, and tears! Also icing sugar in the frosting, sift that, ok?

Birthday cakes are so sacred to me and second only to birthday cards, since only one day a year can I ask for handwritten notes from all my friends and family and I live for that.

Room Temperature Ingredients

Standard baking practice but worth reiterating. Take all of your ingredients out of the fridge at least 30 minutes ahead of time so you don’t get cooler bits of fat forming throughout your mix. Everything that’s the same temperature will combine much better.

Weigh Everything

Weight matters! Good baking recipes will be in metric since standard benchmarks like cups can fluctuate every so slightly and there’s no room for error in baking! It’s very hard-core and precise.

Buy a basic kitchen scale on Amazon for under $20 and you’re set for life.

Don’t Overmix

This goes for cookies too, since working the flour causes the gluten to activate and creates a chewy bread-like texture. Which is not what we’re going for!

This honestly blew my mind because every boxed cake mix I’ve ever made has always said to use a hand mixer for 2-3 minutes to blend your batter to smooth and this is Poor. Practice! Betty Crocker cake mix betrayed us!

Essentially, you want to mix your dry ingredients into your wet until they are just combined. Don’t overbeat all those bubbles that you gathered beating the liquid together. Mix in a bit of your dry flour at a time, and only until it’s just mixed with no leftover bits. Your cake will be lighter and more flavourful for it.

Grease Pans with Solid Vegetable Shortening

You can’t believe it’s not butter? That’s right, margarines with a high liquid-to-fat ratio and butter are about 20 percent water and can cause cake layers to stick to the pan. Ensure everything is smooth sailing with a little Crisco or old-fashioned lard. 

Third Grade Science Fair Lessons

I recently baked a red velvet cake, which has a couple acidic ingredients in the form of vinegar and buttermilk.

Quick Buttermilk: Mix 1 cup of milk with 1 tbsp of lemon juice and leave it for 5 minutes to curdle

The leavening ingredient in that particular Cookies and Cups recipe is baking soda, which is just like every third grader’s volcano diorama project. Mix baking soda and vinegar together for a rapidly foaming mess! Or in the case of cake, a lot of extra carbon dioxide bubbles infused throughout the cake.

Another throwaway tip for red velvet, any coloured cakes, or frosting: use gel food colouring. You end up using way less, so that’s less chemicals and less additional liquid into your recipe. It throws off the ratio and it’s not worth it.

Layer Cakes are a Time Commitment

This is probably not a one night situation. After you bake your cakes and let them cool free of the pans, wrap them in saran wrap and chill in the fridge for at least a few hours, better overnight.

This will make it much easier to level the cakes with a bread knife and will also result in less crumbs when you’re frosting.

Homemade Frosting is Unbelievable

It’s literally combining butter and sugar, of course it’s delicious. This is a total game-changer also if you really don’t have time to bake your cakes, let them cool wrapped in the fridge, etc. Beat the butter with an electric mixer for at least five minutes until it changes from a pale yellow butter colour to a much lighter white.

Take the time to bake the cake for your friend’s birthday. It really does make a big difference.

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