In French it's called mis en place and refers also to "putting things in place" for cooking. Everything works more smoothly when one is well-prepared. This is the way we start all of our recipes. In our new book, Rose’s Baking Basics, we start each recipe with a mis en place if needed, which is reflected in the Ingredients Chart as well. Virtually all recipes will list the ingredients in the order which the author will incorporate an ingredient into the recipe. So butter, for example, will many times be listed towards the middle or end of the list. If you forget to see that it needs to be softened or clarified you could be in for a unwanted surprise. Listing it as a mis en place ingredient, it will be one of the first ingredients on the Ingredients Chart for you to prep ahead.
With cakes, if key ingredients aren't at the proper temperature, it will adversely effect the texture of the baked cake.
The five most essential things in cake baking to get ready are:
Softening the butter if used the butter needs to be between 65˚ to 75°F/18 to 23°C. Cold from the refrigerator it will take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to reach this temperature depending on how cold the frig and how warm the room. To speed softening slice the butter in 1 inch/25 mm pieces. it is amazing how quickly butter comes to temperature when more surface area is exposed. You can also cover the pieces with plastic wrap and as they start to soften, press them flat.
Combining cocoa and boiling water if used be sure to cover the mixture tightly with plastic wrap so that there is no evaporation and allow it to cool until it is no longer warm to the touch.
Preheating the oven most cakes bake at 350°F/175°C. and close to the center of the oven. Set the oven rack just below the center and start preheating the oven a minimum of 20 minutes before baking. (In some ovens 30 minutes is better.)
Warming the eggs eggs need to be at room temperature but this is easy to accomplish if you forget to take them out ahead of time. Place them still in their unbroken shells in a bowl of hot from the tap water and allow them to sit for 10 minutes.
Preparing the cake pan except when a recipe such as angel food or chiffon cake requires that the cake pan be left uncoated it is necessary to grease and flour the pan. I prefer using a baking spray which contains flour, especially for fluted tube pans. if there is any clumping of the spray brush it away with a silicone or bristle pastry brush to avoid holes in the top crust. If the pan has a non-stick coating it isn't necessary to line the bottom with parchment. For the most even cake layers that are not over-baked or dry at the edges use a cake strip. (If you use rose's heavenly cake strips there is no preparation of the strip--just slide it around the cake pan.if you are using cloth strips you need to wet them first and attach them with a pin unless they have velcro closures.)