Baking should be fun, not stressful, and by avoiding these 5 baking mistakes you’ll end up with a cake that looks and tastes amazing!
Over-mixing your batter is a guaranteed way to make a tough, dense cake. For butter-based recipes like my Perfect Chocolate Cake or my Very Vanilla Cake you need to cream the butter and sugar together for several minutes to make a light and fluffy base for your cake. But as soon as you’ve added the flour you need to slow things down and be gentle, only mixing until everything is just incorporated and no longer.
As soon as you add the flour the gluten in it will start to develop and that’s what can make a cake tough. As soon as you can’t see the separate ingredients in your batter anymore, it’s properly mixed so it’s time to stop!
#2 Old baking powder
Old baking powder isn’t dangerous to eat but it won’t do its job anymore. Look at this cake that was made with expired baking powder: it stops rising before it’s finished baking. The cake is dense instead of springy and on the inside it’s doughy instead of cakey.
You can check if your baking powder is still active by pouring boiling water over a spoonful of it and if it bubbles, it’s fine, but if it doesn’t do anything then if you use in your baking, it won’t do anything there, either! Don’t use it past the expiration date or 6 months after you open it.
#3 Opening the oven door
You’ll be excited for your cake or cupcakes or whatever to be ready but if you open the door several times to check on it while it’s baking, you’ll let cold air rush into the oven and the temperature won’t stay constant. What happens next?
The edges of the cake will bake normally but the heat won’t go all the way through so the middle will be undercooked and it will sink. This doesn’t look or taste good and there’s no way to fix it because if you put it back in the oven, you’ll burn the edges of the cake by the time the middle cooks through.
To prevent this, use the light in the oven to see what’s happening and only check the cake 5 minutes before the time listed on the recipe. I show how to troubleshoot all sorts of baking issues like over-rising cakes, domed cakes, underbaked cakes, and what happens if you use too much or too little of ingredients like flour and sugar, in my Basics of Cake MasterCourse. You’ll learn to perfect the foundation of your cakes with modules on EVERY step of making a cake: mixing, baking, leveling and dividing cake layers, making fillings and frostings, assembling cakes, frosting, decorating, storing, transporting and serving!
#4 Turning cakes out too soon
After baking your cakes it’s tempting to flip the pans over straight away but the cakes are still very fragile because the baking process continues as the cakes cool. If you turn the cakes out now, they’re likely to crack and crumble because they have’t had a chance to firm up properly.
#5 Turning cakes out too late
The opposite is true, too. Don’t wait too long to turn the cakes out because once they cool, they can stick to the pans. When you flip the pans over, chunks of cake will cling to the pans instead of coming out neatly with the rest of the cake.
How long should you wait after baking before turning cakes out of pans? As a guide I use this trick: wait until you can pick the pans up comfortably with your bare hands. They’ll still be very warm but not burning. At this point, the cakes have cooled enough to firm up slightly but not so much that they’ll stick to the pans.