Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Baking is a piece of cake, for me. As long as it's cookies or brownies.

Now, cake is another matter. I don't remember if I've ever baked a cake before, but if I had, I'm sure there was a mix involved and a can of icing. Since I love to eat cake, I decided it was time to try the homemade version.

Cakes fall into two main categories: foam cakes (angel food or sponge cakes) and butter cakes (pound, carrot, devil's food and most layer cakes).

This time we're tackling butter cakes. The butter in these cakes is creamed with sugar before the remaining ingredients are added. If the batter isn't completely mixed before baking, the center will fall and still be gooey when the rest of the cake is done.

Most layer cakes with flat bottoms and smooth sides don't have to be baked in greased and floured pans. Instead they can be lined with parchment paper. If you grease the pan, use a thin layer of solid shortening or vegetable oil spray. For a pan that also needs to be floured, sprinkle a tablespoon of flour into the greased pan and move the pan around until the surface is completely and evenly coated. Then turn the pan upside down over the sink or trash can and tap out the excess.

Baking requires more precision than cooking does. Ingredients must be measured exactly. The easiest way is to weigh ingredients. If that's not convenient or if you prefer measuring cups, sift the flour before measuring when the recipe calls for sifted flour. Spoon the dry ingredients into the measuring cup, and level the ingredient by sweeping a knife across the top of the cup. Results will be better if you use the size of measuring cup or spoon that's called for and avoid using tableware to measure ingredients in smaller amounts.

Ingredients should be at room temperature so the butter, liquid and eggs can mix properly. The butter should be cool, firm but malleable when squeezed - not soft and squishy.

The oven rack should be in the lower third of the oven unless otherwise instructed. This means the cake pan will be just below the center of the oven rather than in the upper half.

By Cheryl Martin
Wednesday, August 22, 2007 in the Evansville Courier & Press