General Cake Baking Hints

Decorating By cakebox Updated 23 Apr 2016 , 10:28pm by kakeladi

cakebox Posted 9 Dec 2005 , 5:19pm
post #1 of 19

A while back I underbaked a cake which had to be tossed (the baking time in the directions were way off) - but had I remembered this next tip at the time I would not have made that mistake. Just tried this out last night and she's right - the cakes get quieter...

Testing for Doneness (Adapted): Near the end of baking time, gently remove pan from oven, bend your ear to it, and listen for bubbling or a slight sound. If you hear something, put it back in oven to bake another 2-3 minutes, then remove again and listen. Let it bake another 1-2 minutes if necessary, until cake is quiet. Or insert a skewer into cake; if it comes out clean, the cake is done. [From Saveur.com Yellow Vanilla Pound Cake ~ Edna Lewis]

Hope this helps somebody else too! Share a tip if you've got one...

18 replies
Godiva Posted 9 Dec 2005 , 5:33pm
post #2 of 19

Why put your ear close to a steaming hot cake? That's a first one!

It's as easy as giving it a 35 minute base baking time, and then when you start smelling your cake, go to the oven...Look at the center of the cake; if firm, you can insert a toothpick to check for doneness...Then give it an extra 10 to 15 minutes.

Or easier...your cake is done when the edges separate from the pan.

cakebox Posted 9 Dec 2005 , 5:38pm
post #3 of 19

Nah, I just listen at arm's length - as long as the kids are in the other room I can hear if it's bubbling or not. You are not actually putting your ear right down into the cake, LOL.

llee815 Posted 9 Dec 2005 , 5:43pm
post #4 of 19

That's interesting! I think I'm going to have to try it next time just to see how it works!

Ironbaker Posted 9 Dec 2005 , 5:51pm
post #5 of 19

But for some cakes, particularly chocolate, if you remove them from the oven before they're done they will fall in the middle, right?

I've also started to just watch out for the "smell". When I smell it, it's usually about done. I read somewhere (I think the Cake Bible) that if the sides start to pull apart in the oven, it's starting to overbake. They should pull apart once you remove it (if done).

bubblezmom Posted 9 Dec 2005 , 6:38pm
post #6 of 19

I with the "follow your nose" crowd. When the wonderful aroma fills your home, then the cake is almost done. Take the cake out of the oven while a few crumbs still stick to the toothpick or fork. The recipes say till there are no crumbs, but that's just begging for an slightly overbaked cake. The window of perfect doneness is just too small.

I've never heard the bubbling noise except when I've taken a DH cake out of the oven. The wet, bubbly sound is one of the reasons I dislike DH. It just aint natural! icon_razz.gif

Cakepro Posted 9 Dec 2005 , 8:00pm
post #7 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by bubblezmom

The recipes say till there are no crumbs, but that's just begging for an slightly overbaked cake.




That's so true...like everything, we have to take carryover cooking into consideration when determining the doneness of things. It was difficult for me to learn to learn this lesson in particular with cheesecake but once I started accounting for carryover cooking, everything was that much better. icon_smile.gif

Taking a cake out of the oven to "listen" for doneness is risking it falling, IMO.

SquirrellyCakes Posted 9 Dec 2005 , 9:07pm
post #8 of 19

I think everyone has their own way of telling when a cake is done or not. I still like the toothpick method over a cake tester, mainly because I find a cake tester, being metal, well the batter doesn't seem to stick to it anyway. I prefer a flat edged toothpick and for a deeper pan, a wooden skewer. I like to insert in three or four places towards the middle or higher parts of the cake. I think a cake does pull away a bit from the sides also, when it is done, but the centre is my main concern. But this method doesn't apply to every type of cake, for example a cheesecake or an angel food type of cake, you test these differently.
Commercial bakers normally do not grease the sides of the cake pans and this is so the cake can support itself on the sides of the pan as it rises. We grease the sides to get the cake out easier, particularly with character pans and such. The greasing of the sides of the pan is sometimes responsible for the centre of a cake falling. The centres can also fall because they rose too quickly, couldn't support the sudden rising because the sides were greased or sunk because of the too quick rising or the use of too much in the way of leavening agents. Leavening agents are your baking powder, soda, eggs also act as leaveners and the combination of certain ingredients and the ratio they are in, also affect leavening. Generally a more rich batter, as in a chocolate cake made with butter, chocolate and sour cream, will have more sinking in the middle issues. Sometimes the sinking is a characteristic of a certain type of cake and not necessarily a bad sign. Sometimes a cake will sink slightly in the middle in the baking process, sometimes in the cooling process. Be cautious to cool your cakes in an area that is not drafty and do not drop you cake to the counter as this can indeed cause falling issues with a very delicate cake.
The ideal cake pan size is about 8 or nine inches in diameter by about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 inches deep. That is why the standard pans were of these dimensions for many years unless they were a special use pan like a springform or a bundt or angel food type of tube pan or such. But as cake decorators we push the limits and this is part of the problem with getting our cakes to cook evenly, we use 3 inch deep pans or pans of large diameters and such. So we have to find ways of getting that centre part to cook without overcooking the outer edges of a cake. That can be accomplished by putting a bit less batter in the deeper three inch pans than is called for, inserting a heating core or upside down flower nails, using heat strips (none of which I do, but these methods work well for some people), reducing the oven temperature by 25 degrees for larger cakes or after a certain length of time when the edges are cooked but the centre is not and so on.
Ovens should be calibrated once a year. Having an oven thermometer inside is a good way of determining if you oven is indeed reaching correct temperatures. If you are constantly having problems with uneven baking, perhaps your heating elements are not functioning well and need repair or replacement.
Using your oven at peak energy use time, like at supper time, will result in you receiving less power or power that is uneven coming in bursts and falling and your cakes will take longer to cook.
The quality of your pans also influences how well your cakes will cook. Some lighterweight aluminum pans heat too quickly. Stainless steel is not a good conductor of heat.
Generally you should not open your oven door for the first approximately 25 minutes of baking time, longer for larger cakes. Also everytime you open your oven door you are causing the temperature to fall and the elements to come back on to account for the drop in temperature.
Get to know your oven, a lot of this is experience and practice and you will know how to accomodate your baking to your oven. You will get used to the various characteristics of certain recipes and types of cakes and how certain pans cook.
I have been baking since I was 9, so 42 years and I still feel like I am experimenting the first time I use a new pan or recipe. I have to watch it more closely. I have baked the same recipes in 9 different ovens and each one baked at a different rate. The oven I have now is the most consistent with estimated baking times for recipes, of all the ovens I have baked in.
hugs Squirrelly

cakebox Posted 9 Dec 2005 , 9:43pm
post #9 of 19

Hmmm, the hint was for doneness of poundcakes - (scratch in this case so I don't think scratch vs mix applies here) and I think this does work for other dense/moist textured cakes (not other types - other cakes have different tests or indications of doneness, sorry for the confusion). The only underbaked cake I had was when I first tried the wonder mold pan with a dense spice cake. What surprised me was that when I tried to test doneness at the mid point between the post and pan was that it was completely baked there, but underbaked closer (but not all the way) to the post. Is that typical? The cake had slightly pulled away from the edges of the pan and seemed done to the touch - I just didn't hit the right spot closer to the center - and well, spice cakes smell good mostly throughout baking. (So what went wrong? The online baking time directions from Wilton are different than the directions supplied with the pan! icon_rolleyes.gif )

Yesterday I was baking (from a moist cake recipe) two 6-inch rounds (in the back of the oven) and two 4.5-inch squares. Two minutes before the designated bake time I could hear the cakes bubbling before I even opened the oven half way. So I closed the oven without taking out the cakes. Waited a few more minutes - the smaller squares were done (mostly quiet, toothpick had small crumbs) while the 6-inchers were still bubbling in the back (I moved them forward) and gave them a few more minutes. Levelled them slightly - they were fine.

I haven't had many problems with falling cakes in general (except chocolate) - falling cakes could be the result of overleavening, under/overmixing among other things. My scratch chocolate cake falls slightly but does appear to be done when cut or should it be perfectly level? Haven't tried listening to a chocolate cake yet, so I don't know if it works...I have to consciously remember to do that BTW - it is not my first instinct when baking, LOL

cakebox Posted 9 Dec 2005 , 10:05pm
post #10 of 19

Great info Squirelly - I didn't know about power flux problems - I was beginning to wonder if my oven was starting to fail. (Which is a possibility I didn't want to face at this time of year, LOL.)

Cakepro Posted 9 Dec 2005 , 10:34pm
post #11 of 19
Quote:
Quote:

Using your oven at peak energy use time, like at supper time, will result in you receiving less power or power that is uneven coming in bursts and falling and your cakes will take longer to cook.




The incoming voltage on an oven is regulated, therefore the temperature is not affected by any changes in the electricity being delivered to the oven.

Plus today's ovens are electronic so the only thing that might happen is the electronics in the oven would be damaged. If there was that much flux being experienced in the delivery of electricity to a house, the problem would manifest itself by damaging things, such as blowing compressors and such, not changing the temperature of your oven. icon_smile.gif

SquirrellyCakes Posted 9 Dec 2005 , 10:39pm
post #12 of 19

Well, I have never listened to a cake, so I doubt I would be any help on that one. I do talk to them though, haha! But you know, next time I will!
Yes, I think that is typical of the Wondermold pan, not one of my favourites to bake. I tend to play with the oven racks to adjust them when I use this pan, trying to make sure there is about the same distance above the cake to the heating element as there is below to the heating element. I have a convection oven, but I don't bake on convection. However it does effect the proximity of the heating elements to the oven racks. The wondermold pan is so deep in comparison to its circumference and the rod is small and this is why it is a bit harder to get a consistent cake from, I find. I find that the edges will be cooked well before the centre when using this pan. So when the edges are done but the centre still isn't, I reduce the temperture by 25 degrees until towards the centre tests clean. Again this will depend on what recipe or mix you are using, how much liquid is in it, the leavenings, the fat types etc.
I find that the Wilton baking times are the most accurate if you are baking a cake mix cake exactly according to the box instructions. If you vary from there by using milk or adding sour cream and such, I don't find the time accurate at all. Since I rarely use cake mixes and when I do, I doctor them, those timeframes don't work for me. A couple of times though I have made the marble cakes according to the box and I found baking times fairly accurate for the regular round Wilton type pans.
Usually the back of the oven isn't quite as hot because the elements are not centred over your pans. I have a tendancy to prefer always baking in the centre of the oven if I want a really perfect cake, so often, I do not put several cakes in the oven at the same time. But that is me, there is nothing wrong with using all of the oven space, but I find that centering in the middle, gets the best results. And yes, when you bake several cakes at the same time, you do need to move them around.
Many chocolate cakes from scratch will sink slightly while in the oven or while cooling, it is just normally a characteristic of a richer batter and a chocolate cake will fit into this catergory. I don't worry about it, if the cake is cooked in the centre, then so be it. Some fruit cakes will also do this because of the weight of the fruit in the batter.
I use cooking times that Wilton supplies as a guideline, but don't find them accurate for larger or deeper cakes, but then I am dealing in mostly from scratch cakes and their guidelines are for cake mixes as per box directions.
For me, the toothpick test along with the sides pulling slightly away, is the most accurate. I don't go by smell because I have a wall oven and live in a split level house. The smell actually rises upstairs but you do not notice it downstairs. So I would be running upstairs to check, haha!
I test jellyroll type sponge cakes by feel, lightly touched they should spring back. I test angel food the same. I test cheesecake with a knife in the centre, it should make a split that pulls away from the cut slightly, for mose cheesecakes, sometimes the batter should sort of wiggle a bit, but not slide, there are variances on cheesecakes. I also find the best trick with a cheesecake instead of just cooking like a regular cake or instead of inserting it into a bain marie (water bath), I prefer to put a shallow pan of hot water on the bottom rack while the cake is cooking. Check for doneness, immediately slide a knife along the sides to loosen them and then let it cool to room temperature in the oven with the door ajar.
I think cooking times are the least accurate for the 3 inch deep pans and for pans like the Wondermold, the ball pan etc.
Interesting thing, when you place the recommended amount of batter called for, for a 2 inch deep pan, into a 3 inch deep pan, your cake will rise to about 2 1/2 inches. That is because the batter has more room to rise and will achieve more volume. But filling the 3 inch deep pans more than about 1/2 full, will make your cakes take a lot longer to cook in the middle. Now this is with most batters because not all batters rise at the same rate. Initially when Wilton came out with the 3 inch deep pans, they recommended filling them 2/3 full, but now they have lowered the amount of batter called for to approximately 1/2 full. Again, more space, more room to achieve better volume.
And these same rules about volume apply when you are mixing your cakes, particularly when you are creaming and beating your eggs and such in that process. If your bowl is not big enough, you will not be able to incorporate as much air and therefore the leavening action will suffer somewhat.
And I am talking about baking from a domestic baking point of view mostly, not a commercial one. I do sometimes use a commercial recipe and method, but for the most part, I just bake in a domestic oven using mainly domestic recipes and methods and ingredients. I am not a commercial baker nor do I have commercial eqipment but I do have some commercial knowledge. There is a huge difference between commercial and domestic baking.
Hugs Squirrelly

SquirrellyCakes Posted 9 Dec 2005 , 10:48pm
post #13 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cakepro

Quote:
Quote:

Using your oven at peak energy use time, like at supper time, will result in you receiving less power or power that is uneven coming in bursts and falling and your cakes will take longer to cook.



The incoming voltage on an oven is regulated, therefore the temperature is not affected by any changes in the electricity being delivered to the oven.

Plus today's ovens are electronic so the only thing that might happen is the electronics in the oven would be damaged. If there was that much flux being experienced in the delivery of electricity to a house, the problem would manifest itself by damaging things, such as blowing compressors and such, not changing the temperature of your oven. icon_smile.gif



Not wanting to argue here, but this information is indeed accurate in my province of Ontario, perhaps not where you live but here yes.
I am not talking about power surges, where you can damage appliances, but rather when too many people are using a lot of power, they will all get some power, just not the same amount. So basically the elements will come on more often in an effort to maintain the temperature. This is actually a well known fact here. In effect it is a moderate type of a brown out.
Monday mornings are the favoured day for people to do laundry here and indeed baking on an average Monday morning will mean that your cooking time will be longer.
It was my understanding from the Wilton site that this is a common problem elsewhere too, perhaps not where you live, but in other areas of the United States as well.
Hugs Squirrelly

bubblezmom Posted 9 Dec 2005 , 11:15pm
post #14 of 19

Yes, we have the same probs in the US. The quasi brown-outs are frequent during hot summer evenings when everyone cranks up the a/c at the same time.

FYI, I know someone whose furnace just got fried b/c too much power was coming from the electric company. The voltage was only a little higher than 110. The furance was damaged over time from being exposed to the higher voltage. The other appliances are fine. They are old and are probably made a lot better than the relatively new furnace.

SquirrellyCakes Posted 9 Dec 2005 , 11:27pm
post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by bubblezmom

Yes, we have the same probs in the US. The quasi brown-outs are frequent during hot summer evenings when everyone cranks up the a/c at the same time.

FYI, I know someone whose furnace just got fried b/c too much power was coming from the electric company. The voltage was only a little higher than 110. The furance was damaged over time from being exposed to the higher voltage. The other appliances are fine. They are old and are probably made a lot better than the relatively new furnace.



Actually this information was from my hydro energy provider, so I did assume it was a common problem. But is was also the basis of a discussion on the Wilton site and the information also appeared on other professionaly type baking sites too. For us the surges haven't been so much of an issue but the brownouts are. Actually before I even knew there was a reason, I had noticed it when baking at supper time and on Mondays, haha! The cakes just took longer. Basically what happens is your elements have to go on more often to maintain a constant temperature. Since most ovens work in that the elements go on when the temperature fluctuates more than say about 25 degrees, well it stands to reason that your cooking time will be longer.
Some communities within certain areas have even more problems with surges and in effect brownouts to some degree.
Hugs Squirrelly

DoriKT Posted 22 Apr 2016 , 6:52pm
post #16 of 19

HI all, I was wondering if maybe someone could please, please help me out? I've been baking for good few years and my cakes were always good, well baked - but not too dry. About a year ago I've started having some technical issues - my cakes are constantly under baked inside and over baked outside. When it started occurring I haven't changed anything - I've used the same ingredients, the same baking tins, the same temperature, the same oven. But something must have happened as from half of the cakes being underbaked I went up to 2/3. It seems there's no rule for it and I can't figure it out. Any suggestions? :( 

MimiFix Posted 22 Apr 2016 , 7:25pm
post #17 of 19

It sounds as if your oven is running hot and might need a new thermostat. For now, try baking at a lower temperature and see how that works. Good luck. 

DoriKT Posted 22 Apr 2016 , 7:48pm
post #18 of 19

Thanks MimiFix! I'll investigate it, I might buy an oven thermometer or smthing. I'll give it a go. 

kakeladi Posted 23 Apr 2016 , 10:28pm
post #19 of 19

I agree w/mimi.....there's most likely something wrong w/your oven.


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