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Cooking articles

In the Oven, and Out Again

•  Before placing your cake in the oven, check the oven temperature to make sure it's at the proper heat level, then place the cake on the center rack, unless otherwise specified.

•  Get the cake in the oven and get the oven door closed quickly to avoid heat loss.

•  While your cake is baking, avoid the urge to open the oven door to check it, which will lower the oven temperature and affect the baking process.

•  Your cake should always be the only thing in the oven.

•  If your cake calls for a 60-minute bake time, set your timer for 55 minutes and check it then. Again, this should be done quickly. Slide the oven rack out, and take a quick look. Does it still look wet or glossy in the center? If so, push the rack back in, close the door, and let the cake bake for another five minutes, then check again. If the cake looks uniform in appearance, stick a toothpick in the center, pull it out and look to see if batter adheres to the toothpick. If so, the cake needs a few more minutes of baking time. When the toothpick is inserted and comes out clean, your cake is done.

•  Once out of the oven, cakes should be cooled thoroughly before decorating. Many bakers let the cakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then loosen and remove them from the pan and move to a wire rack to finish cooling.

How's it look?

Your finished cake should have a smooth texture. If it looks coarse, it may be because your oven is too cool, or because your ingredients are not in proper proportion. Next time, make sure to accurately measure your ingredients, and also invest in an oven thermometer to check your oven temperature. If your cake is dry, you've probably baked it too long. Next time, check it a little sooner. If it didn't rise properly, it could be due to a too-cool oven, a pan that's too big, or ingredients that weren't measured accurately. If it's mounded in the center, it could be due to an oven that's too hot, which has resulted in your cake rising too quickly. Again, buy an oven thermometer to check. If your cake isn't brown on top, you may have taken it out of the oven a little too soon. If it's more brown on one side than the other, you can blame your oven, and next time, rotate the cake midway through the baking process for more even results.

Adding flair!

Consider the cake your canvas, and look at the frosting and decorating phase of the cake-making process as your opportunity to show off your creativity and artistic talent. Your decorating "palette" can include traditional icings, fresh fruit such as strawberries or raspberries, fresh-cut flowers, coconut, candies, dried fruits, nuts or almond slices, or even small toys or other objects that will help complete your masterpiece. (Just make sure everyone knows what's inedible to avoid embarrassment and dental work.) With a little imagination, you can create an attractive cake.

Unless the recipe instructs you to frost the cake while it's warm, you must let your cake cool completely before icing -- about four hours. If you try to frost a cake that's still warm, the frosting may melt and slide off. Patience is required after the cake is decorated, too. You should wait about an hour before cutting.

Before frosting your cake, brush away loose crumbs. Then, using a rubber spatula or a broad knife, spread a very thin layer of frosting over the cake; this seals in any remaining crumbs. Then add the final layer of frosting .Once the cake is frosted, you can give it an extra special look by dipping your spatula or knife into hot water, wiping it dry, and then gliding it over the frosting. The heat will melt the frosting just enough to make it shiny.

Our Favorite Cake Recipes

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
Cook up a special cake in less than an hour with this tasty recipe.

Red Regal Chocolate Cake
Chocolate layer cake--an excellent Valentine's Day treat! For a simple yet elegant finish, top with a single red rose.

Honey Spice Cake
A healthy choice--made with whole wheat flour and sweetened with honey!

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
You can buy a pineapple upside down cake mix these days, but trust us -- it's nothing like this!

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Quick Links

» Introduction & History of Cake
» The Importance of Ingredients
» Baking Preparation is Key
» Baking Terminology
» Tips for Perfect Baking Results
» Finishing Touches - Frosting & More
» Our Favorite Cake Recipes

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