There are ten mistakes listed in this article, each of which can significantly lower the quality of your cake. Whether you are a rookie just venturing into the art of baking or a longtime artisan, anyone can make these cake mistakes. Merely rushing through the process can make you skip essential steps or do them the wrong way. So, first and foremost, learn to be patient, and try to enjoy the process just as much as you want to enjoy eating the cake!
Here are 10 common cake mistakes and how to avoid them:
Mistake 1: You forget to measure the ingredients in advance
As hinted above, baking is an art and for optimum results, you'll need to master patience. Most of the mistakes listed in this article are things your may already know but overlook because you forgot or are trying to kill time by combining steps. In your hurry, you may even forget to add an important ingredient!
How to avoid: If you want a perfect cake, then make sure to be very mindful of all the steps. An easy way to achieve that is by getting organized; using a checkbox, make sure you have all the ingredients, both wet and dry, needed, measure the required quantities and set them atop your counter, ready for a smooth baking.
Mistake 2: You don't pay attention to the temperature of the ingredients
Have you noticed that a cake recipe requires you to heat the butter or milk before use? Did you do that or just overlooked it thinking it was just a shoddy addition to preparation time? It may be difficult to understand but such peculiar steps are what makes an expert different from the rookie.
That's because an expert understands that certain ingredients perform better at specific temperatures. For instance, room-temperature eggs give cakes more volume, warm water activates yeast, while cold butter won’t fluff up as much when you mix it with sugar.
How to Avoid: Again, get organized. Plan for each step ahead, and make sure your ingredients are at the proper temperatures before you mix or bake.
Mistake 3: You've been baking on the wrong rack
Yes, even the kind of rack you use can affect the quality of your cake. If you use the wrong rack, the cake will cook and brown unevenly so you are most likely getting an undercooked — or even worse, burnt cake!
How to Avoid: first, place the cake pan on a rack in the center of the oven to allow your cake cook evenly and prevent overbrowning on a single side. If you need to use two racks, rotate the pans halfway through baking so that the bottom cake goes on top, and vice versa. Try also to rotate the pans midway through the bake so that the front faces back.
Mistake 4: You use the wrong pan
Bet you didn't know that your baking tools can be just as important as the ingredients themselves! One of them is a cake pan; these come in various sizes and shapes, just befitting of the versatility of cakes themselves. Each cake recipe requires a different pan and you have to decide which to use before even mixing your batter. Remember, even using a 9-inch pan instead of an 8-inch can totally change the texture of your cake.
How to Avoid: determine the pan you'll need for your cake from the recipe. If you don’t know a pan’s size by heart, use a ruler to measure directly across its open end. (Don’t include the side walls of the pan in the measurements.)
Mistake 5: You don't coat the pans before use
As menial as greasing a cake pan may seem, not doing it is one of the easiest ways to ruin your cake. The grease helps keep the cake from sticking to the pan so forgetting to rub some on the pan will leave your cake in an unsightly shape.
How to Avoid: rub some butter or oil on the cake pan before pouring in the batter. And yes, this also applies to non-stick pans!
Mistake 6: You scoop flour directly from the bag
If you've been doing this, then you've probably noticed that that your measurements have not been precise! This is because there is a higher chance that you pack the flour down into the cup, taking more than you actually need. Such imprecise measurements can ruin the texture of your cake.
What to do: Get a digital scale if you bake frequently. If otherwise, here are some tips to keep in mind while measuring with cups and spoons:
- Don't use a liquid measuring cup for dry ingredients.
- When working with an ingredient like flour, fluff it up inside its container, then scoop out with a smaller spoon into the measuring cup. Level off the cup with a knife so the top is smooth.
- For clean pouring, grease your cups before measuring sticky ingredients like honey.
Mistake 7: You bake with boxed mixes
This is a mistake many of us are probably guilty of, which is understandable since there are times that a pre-packaged cake mix is really the fastest way to making a cake. But, if you have also tried a homemade cake then you probably also know that such boxed mixes can never beat a cake made from scratch.
How to Avoid: Instead of using a boxed cake mix, try making a simple cake recipe. Sponge cakes require very little preparation time and can be ready in under 40 minutes!
Mistake 8: You slice your cake while it's still warm
Resist the urge to cut into your cake straight out of the oven. Let it cool down completely first so that the final texture and volume will be at their best.
How to Avoid: place the cake on a wire rack immediately after removing from the oven to prevent moisture build up as it cools. Remember, be patient!
Mistake 9: You bake by time only
Your cake isn't only done when you hear the timer ring. This is because the time required for it to fully cook can be influenced by factors like humidity, air temperature, oven temperature and altitude.
How to Avoid: if you don't want the unsavory experience of biting into a raw cake, make sure to check the cake for doneness using a toothpick. Simply insert the toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, then your cake is ready.
Mistake 10: You under (or over-) beat the batter
When it comes to whipping up the batter, the way you mix matters. Excessive beating will toughen the cake, while undermixing will give it a crumbly texture.
How to Avoid: Most cake recipes will call for alternating wet and dry ingredients into the creamed fat. This somewhat tedious method helps prevent gluten from forming, which is what causes cake to become tough. Once all the ingredients are in the bowl, mix until they’re just combined.