There are cake baking mistakes that can turn the most astonishing recipe into a disaster. Instead of being afraid of making desserts, avoid them and enjoy the amazing experience of baking cakes to perfection!
My first homemade dessert was terrible. I was about 22 and I wanted to impress my boyfriend with a homemade chocolate. The result was more like toffee, that stuck to our teeth, smelled and tasted like powdered milk. He said I’m not that good in the kitchen, but he liked me anyway. Since I was a beginner, it was a pretty discouraging experience.
For a long time after this experience and after I started to cook more, I avoided making cakes and desserts. I was absolutely afraid of trying to bake something. The idea of strictly measuring the ingredients scared me. I knew that when baking cakes and making desserts every drop of lemon juice mattered more than when wrapping up a salad.
When you’re a beginner, you can make simple things, with a few ingredients and basic skills. Even if baking isn’t very forgiving — especially when it comes to cakes – if you avoid some cake baking mistakes you can do it!
10 cake baking mistakes you should avoid
1. You don’t grease and flour the pan
Some recipes tell you to do this, some don’t. But, if you want to make a cake, you always have to follow this rule: grease and flour your baking pan just after you turned the oven on. When the batter is ready, just pour it into the pan! This easy step makes your life easier when you take the cake out from the pan.
2. You don’t sift the flour
If you think that sifting flour is a waste of time you’re wrong! This is one of the most common cake baking mistakes that can ruin your work in the kitchen! Usually, when you make a batter, you have to mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another. For an airy sponge cake, mix the dry ingredients and sift them together. Flour tends to form clumps so, by sifting it, you remove them. Plus, sifted flour is much lighter than unsifted flour and it’s easier to mix in other ingredients when forming a cake batter.
3. You don’t measure the ingredients as you should
In cooking, measuring ingredients is important. In baking, measuring ingredients is vital. It’s important to measure everything carefully because one of the worst cake baking mistakes is to not follow the recipe precisely. When you bake cakes and cookies, even one extra spoon of flour can yield disastrous results. Maybe you should invest in a digital scale, to be more precise when your recipe asks for ounces and grams instead of cups.
4. Wrong temperature of the ingredients
Do you usually skip the step that requires bringing the butter to room temperature? For most cake and cookie recipes, ingredients such as butter, eggs, and milk need to be at room temperature. Bringing butter to room temperature is crucial when you make a cream if you want a tender texture to the baked goods. So, take them out of the fridge 30-40 minutes before you start cooking.
But there are also recipes which require cold ingredients. Cream whips more easily immediately after you take it out of the fridge, and butter should be cold when you make pastries.
5. You don’t use the right pan
When you make a cake, you should use the pan recommended in the recipe. Using a smaller pan instead of a larger one won’t allow the batter to rise and, of course, the baking time will increase. Also, if you use a larger pan than you should, the cake will bake quicker but will end up thinner.
6. Undermixing or overmixing the batter
Combine the batter properly by gently folding the ingredients until the flour is absorbed. Be careful not to overmix either. Undermixing is easy to spot in chocolate batters - because you’ll see swirls of white and black in it – and you can repair it before time runs out, but things get tricky with white batter.
Still, one of the commonest cake baking mistakes is overbeating the batter, especially now, when we gave up on whisks and we often use stand mixers. Avoid baking a collapsed cake by incorporating the dry ingredients as gently as possible, with a light hand, using a wooden spoon. This will improve the texture of the cake.
7. You don’t know your oven
Can you trust your oven when it shows you 350 degrees F/180 degrees C? Sadly, not all the time. Every oven is different so when a recipe tells you to bake the cake at 350 F/180 C for 40 minutes, don’t take it for granted! After 40 minutes, your cake can be overdone, still raw in the middle, or burnt in the back corner. You should pay attention to your oven and get to know it. Until then, keep an eye on the cake and, 10 minutes before the baking time is up, just test the cake with a toothpick. Repeat if necessary.
8. You open the oven door when baking
It’s tempting to open the oven door when there’s a cake in there. Sometimes you have to do it – when you need to see if the cake is baked. But avoid it as much as you can. If you must, do it toward the end of cooking time. Opening the oven creates fluctuations in heat, which can make your cake collapse.
9. You remove the cake from the oven too early
Removing a cake from the pan too soon or too late can drastically change its appearance and texture. Even if you must test if the cake is baked, don’t take it out of the oven. Just open it, stick a toothpick in the middle of the cake, and, if it comes out clean, the cake is done.
10. You cut the cake before it’s cooled down
We know it’s hard to wait. But, after removing the cake from the oven, let it stand in the pan for 10 minutes or until the top feels firm. This gives the cake a chance to finish baking from within and acclimate itself to room temperature.
If you make a sponge cake, turn it over onto a cooling rack to cool completely without removing it from the pan. Once it’s properly cooled take it off and frost it. Rich fruit cakes are better cooled in the pan.
If you're new to baking, here's a simple cake recipe you can start with: