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"Top 10" Cake Baking Mistakes
by Chef Lele
Hey baking enthusiasts! I’m about to share with you some of the most frequent cake baking mistakes people make and that I made when I was first starting out baking cakes. Mistakes we should all avoid so we can make that perfect cake and eat it too!
1. Preparation Is Key — Before you begin to bake anything whether its cakes, pies, cookies, bread, etc., you should properly prepare your ingredients and also carefully read over your recipe. Having all of your ingredients handy before your bake will save you lots of time in the long run. I mean once you begin baking you don’t want to be running around looking for things you need and so forth. Reading your recipe is a must because obviously it let’s you know which ingredients you will need but it also tells you steps you may need to take before you can complete the recipe. This can be something such as allowing your butter to come to room temp. If you already know beforehand that you will need room temp butter then you can allow the butter to sit on the kitchen counter while you are preparing other ingredients. Your recipe could also require you to refrigerate something overnight before you can move on to the next step so it’s critical that you have a basic idea of what is required to complete the recipe in its entirety. So always plan ahead you will be glad you did in the long run.
2. Check Your Oven Temperature Frequently — Although there are dials on all ovens that supposedly let you know the temperature of your oven, you should NEVER solely rely on this. Oven temps tend to vary from time to time and there is no real way you will know the exact temp of your oven unless you are using an oven thermometer. Even still with the oven thermometer from time to time you should replace them so that you are getting an accurate temperature reading. When I first started baking I used to rely on the dials on my oven and never tested my oven's temperature, that is until I noticed my products were turning out dry or burnt. This is when I decided to do my due diligence and find out why this was happening and that’s when I learned about checking my oven temperature. Once I figured this out I never had anymore problems with my oven. Baking is science so having all the right ingredients and baking at the right temperature is essential for your baking success. If a recipe calls for baking your product at 350 degrees then you must do so and make sure your temperature is accurate or else you could risk the chance of over baking or under baking. Although the latter would be best it’s still just a better idea to know what you are working with. You can find oven thermometers at your local Wal-Mart or by simply ordering one from an online retailer such as Amazon.
3. Measuring — It is important that when you are measuring ingredients for your cakes/desserts that you are getting the correct measurements. I rarely rely on measuring cups for measuring out my ingredients. Instead I prefer to measure all my ingredients using a kitchen scale. However if you choose to use measuring cups make sure you are not scooping or packing flour into your measuring cups. Doing so results in a denser/dryer product because measuring cups may not always give you the correct measurements. Therefore I use a kitchen scale because I know it will give me the most accurate measurement. If you are just starting out in the baking world I strongly suggest investing in a kitchen scale to measure your ingredients. You should also become familiar with conversion because some recipes are not given in cups but in grams or ounces so knowing how to convert from cups to grams, etc., will ensure proper measuring.
4. Cake Pan Prep — You must prep your cake pan first before pouring your cake batter into the pan. Many bakers line the bottom of their cake pans with parchment paper and then add a baking release spray of cake pan grease. For me I skip lining my pans with parchment and just use pan spray of cake pan grease AKA pan goop because this is a definite MUST and I never have any issues but feel free to line your pans if you’d like. You can purchase cake pan spray at your local grocery store or you can make your very own pan grease release (goop) at home with a few simple ingredients in your pantry. Failing to at least coat your pans in pan grease will result in you having a difficult time removing your cake from the pan. I highly suggest you do so because you don’t want to waste your time or lose your product because you can’t get it out of the pan and it tears. Trust me on this one!
5. Sunken Cake Center — Ever bake a cake and look inside the oven and it’s rising perfectly and you think it’s done so you go to open the oven and remove it and BAM all of a sudden the center sinks in? Now what was once a beautiful cake layer in the making has sunk drastically in the center. Oh nooo! Trust me it’s happened to me before and it sucks but you can avoid this happening to you by baking the cake for the right amount of time it takes and simply by not opening the oven a moment sooner. I know, I know, it gets tempting to open that oven door especially when it starts smelling like SUGA, but you must resist! So bottom line, just use the oven light on your stove to look inside at your cake and bake your cake in the amount of time the recipe calls in order to avoid this cake common fail.
6. Cracked Cake — If you notice that your cakes have deep cracks in them once they come out of the oven it is due to a few factors and you may want to look into these to correct the issue. One reason can be from not properly measuring your ingredients so therefore your cake doesn’t have enough moisture because you may have added too much flour. Another reason is the oven temperature is off and your oven is too hot. To avoid this happening simply make sure you are getting the correct measurements for your ingredients and check your oven temperature constantly.
7. Using Expired Ingredients — Some ingredients go rancid and may have a smell so typically one does not use these. However, some ingredients may not give off a smell or indicator of expiration such as baking soda or baking powder. Even flour may not seem as if it has expired. You will not know something is amiss until you’ve gone through the motions of baking and your cake doesn’t turn out quite the way you wanted. Everything is given an expiration date for a reason. For example, when a recipe calls for baking soda and you use one that has expired it will probably not react well. Baking soda is a chemical leavener that releases carbon dioxide upon activation which causes your cakes to rise. If it is expired then guess what, your cake will not rise properly so this could definitely be the culprit for a flat cake. I highly suggest when doing inventory you are looking at expiration dates on all the ingredients you use. To prevent waste try the FIFO method when you purchase new ingredients and put them away. FIFO stands for First In, First Out. In other words any new ingredients you purchase should be stored behind older ingredients you have on hand. Use the oldest first to avoid waste.
8. Scrape That Bowl! — Again baking is science and a step by step process. When you are mixing your ingredients it’s important for you to stop periodically when adding more ingredients and scrape the sides of the bowl. You want to incorporate all of the yummies within your batter. Failing to do so may cause some of your ingredients to not get mixed in. So where your recipe may have called for 2 tsp of baking powder, while mixing let’s just say one of the tsp of baking powder was part of the area that wasn’t scraped down therefore it wasn’t fully incorporated into your batter. Although this may seem minor in the baking world this is a big deal because even the slightest wrong measurement can throw your recipe into a tailspin. So again scrape the sides of your bowl!
9. Not Using Room Temp Ingredients — If a recipe calls for room temp ingredients then you must do so. Some recipes will call for room temp butter or eggs. The reason why you will want to ensure you don’t skip this step is because for some cake recipes and other recipes that require you to cream butter and sugar together, not allowing your butter to come to room temp first will cause issues when creaming. Simply put, don’t do it! In order to cream butter and sugar together the butter must be room temperature. If not then it will not incorporate into the sugar the way it is supposed to. Same for eggs if they are not at room temp then it will not mix well into your batter.
10. Not Allowing Your Cake To Cool — Allow your cake to cool completely. Once the cake has finished baking and it’s removed from the oven you should allow it to cool for 10-15 minutes and then remove from the pan onto a wire baking rack to finish cooling. You will need a completely cooled cake before you begin frosting or decorating your cake. You should NEVER add frosting to a cake that has yet to cool completely. Doing so will melt all of your frosting and yes, you guessed it, you will end up with a hot mess!
I hope you found these baking tips helpful. What kind of cake baking mistakes have you made? Do share! Until then, happy baking!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chef Lele launched her cake baking career after completing her studies at Le Cordon Bleu school of culinary arts. Known as the “Cake Queen,” Chef Lele has created decadent custom desserts such cakes, decorated cookies, cake pops, and cupcakes from heaven for so many clients over the years. Chef Lele strives to give her clients delicious works of art that are completely edible for any and all occasions! Chef Lele and her famous cakes have participated in countless community events, parties and festivals. Chef Lele also trains current and aspiring bakers to follow in her successful footsteps. You can find her on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, on various podcast radio shows, as well as TV! So, grab a plate and step right up! Chef Lele's got a slice of cake and some great life advice waiting for you.
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