How to Bake a Cake
Before we can get to the steps to make a cake, choose a recipe to get you started. You can keep it simple with a yellow cake (pictured above), or you can choose a slightly showier recipe, like a chocolaty devil’s food cake or a vibrant red velvet cake recipe. If you’re not a fan of frosting, try a German chocolate cake. We also a have a few birthday cake recipes for celebratory occasions. The possibilities are almost endless, but avoid angel food, pound cakes, sponge cakes, and chiffon cakes because they require a different method.
Step 1: Prepare Baking Pans
Nobody wants their cake to stick to the pan, so it’s important to prep your pans before pouring in the batter. With the exception of angel food and chiffon cakes, most recipes call for greasing and flouring the pan or lining the pan with waxed or parchment paper.
As for knowing what type of baking pan to use, our Test Kitchen prefers shiny pans for achieving a golden appearance. If you use a dark or dull-finish pan, reduce the oven temperature by 25°F and check doneness 3 to 5 minutes early to prevent overbrowning.
Step 2: Allow Ingredients to Reach Room Temperature
Many recipes require ingredients such as eggs and butter to stand at room temperature. This allows the butter to blend easily with other ingredients and the eggs will yield a higher cake volume. (For food safety reasons, don’t leave the eggs at room temperature for more time than specified in the recipe.)
Test Kitchen Tip: Never use melted butter when softened butter is called for. It will ruin the cake texture.
Step 3: Preheat the Oven
When a cake bakes too quickly it can develop tunnels and cracks, too slowly and it can be coarse. Let your oven preheat for at least 10 minutes, and use an oven thermometer ($7, Target) to make sure it reaches the proper temperature. If you’re using dark cake pans, you’ll want to reduce the oven temperature called for in your recipe by 25°F.
Step 4: Stir Together Dry Ingredients
Dry ingredients usually include flour, baking powder and/or baking soda, and salt. Rather than adding each dry ingredient individually to the batter, whisk ($8, Crate & Barrel) them together in a bowl beforehand. That way you know the ingredients are equally distributed throughout the batter.