About Cake Making
Baking is not any more difficult than other kinds of cooking, but it is very different. That is why it sometimes seems a bit intimidating, even to those with a lot of kitchen experience. When you're making a cake, you can't rely just on good taste, instinct, and ingenuity, which means so much in other kinds of cooking. Baking requires skill and accuracy, there are skills like folding and whipping, to master, and there are basic rules of chemistry to obey, it is important to follow the recipe exactly, to measure accurately, and use a well regulated oven and the right size and properly prepared pans.
Once you accept these facts, you'll find that it does not take long to get a feel for baking and a respect for the wonderous process by which butter, sugar, eggs, flour and a few more simple ingredients are transformed into the sweet, light, tempting confection we call "cake." With the use of good, well tested recipes you'll find it easy to make the perfect cake. Cakes that are light, fine and even textured, with slightly moist crumbs. Your feeling of pride will come from the pleasure that comes from knowing that your cakes are made with fresh, wholesome ingredients.
Kinds of Cake
There are two basic kind of cake; those made with butter or some kind of shortening and those made without shortening. Many of the cakes we are familiar with, white, gold, chocolate, spice, pound cakes, fruit cakes, and gingerbread. These cakes are often referred to as butter cakes. These cakes usually use baking powder or baking soda for leavening. More finely grained than those made without shortening, they are easy to fill and frost and make great layer cakes.
Sometimes the eggs in butter cakes are added whole, sometimes separated, then the whites beaten and folded in just before baking. Buttercakes made with separately beaten eggs are lighter and fluffier than cakes made with whole eggs.
Sponge cakes and angel food cakes are made without butter or shortening. Sponge cakes use separately beaten egg yolks and whites, angel food cakes are made with beaten egg whites only. These types of cake do not usually use any chemical leavening but depend on the air beaten into the eggs. They are delicate and need to be handled with special care.
Have the ingredients at room temperature and measure them all out first before you begin to mix them. Try to get in the habit of turning on the oven to preheat. Always bake a cake in a preheated oven unless the recipe says not too.
Bake cakes on the center rack in the center of the oven, or as near as possible to allow for good circulation. Don't over crowd the oven or let the pans touch each other. If the cake is baking unevenly, turn it a few times during baking. Begin to test for doneness, 5 to 10 minutes before it is supposed to be done, by inserting a toothpick near the center of the cake. Also, a cake that is done will shrink a bit away from the sides of the pan.
At altitudes of 3,500 feet or higher, the amount of leavening in a cake must be reduced and the oven temperature raised, or the cake will be dry, coarse and crumbly. Decrease the amount of baking powder or baking soda by one-third at 3,500 feet, by one-half at 5,000 feet, and by two-thirds above 5,000 feet. Raise the oven temperature by 25 degrees, and do not beat the eggs or egg whites quite as much.
Let butter cakes cool and shrink in their pans for about 5 minutes, then turn out to a wire rack.
Sponge cakes, angel food and chiffon cakes should be cooled upside down by inverting the tube pans that they are baked in.
Glass or dark colored pans will retain more heat than shiny ones. When using them, bake the same amount of time but reduce the oven by 25 degrees.