Before beginning to bake, read the recipe through and note plan ahead’s.If at all possible, make the recipe the way it is indicated. Don’t substitute ingredients before making it at least once to see the way it’s supposed to come out. When preparing ingredients ahead, cover them with plastic wrap so that they don’t dry out or evaporate. When a recipe calls for softened butter it means the butter should still feel cool but be easy to press down. This usually takes about 30 minutes at room temperature but slicing it in smaller pieces speeds up the process. Unless a cake recipe indicates otherwise, it is important to use bleached flour for the best texture. Cocoa should be sifted to remove lumps and make it easier to measure accurately. If measuring flour rather than weighing it avoid tapping or shaking the cup. This would pack in much more flour and the cake would be heavy and dry. To combine flour, salt, and leavening such as baking powder or baking soda evenly use a whisk. Eggs vary greatly in size and also in proportion of yolk to white. Either use weight or volume especially when a recipe calls for all yolks. A recipe requiring 4 yolks may need as many as 7 if the yolks are very small. To break eggs the most evenly without shattering the shell, set a paper towel on the counter top to absorb any white that will spill out and rap the side of the egg sharply on top of the towel. It will break more neatly than if rapping it against the edge of a bowl. When separating eggs, pour each white into a smaller bowl before adding it to the larger amount of whites. If even a trace of yolk or grease gets into the white it will be impossible to beat stiffly. If a small amount of yolk should get into the white, use the eggshell to fish it out. If the bowl in which you are beating the whites is not totally grease free, wet a paper towel, add a little vinegar to it and wipe out the bowl. Then rinse it and dry it well.
Use 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar per 2 tablespoons/1 ounce/30 grams of egg white (1 teaspoon for 8 egg whites). Add the cream of tartar to the egg white after it starts foaming. This will prevent drying or overbeating the whites. Egg whites can be frozen for over a year. When using either a stand or hand-held electric mixer, always start on low speed and gradually work your way up to designated speed to keep ingredients from jumping out of the bowl. For stand mixers, either use the splatter shield that comes with the mixer or drape a large piece of plastic wrap over the top of the bowl. Flour won’t stick to the plastic wrap the way it would to a cloth towel and you can see through the plastic wrap. When using stand mixers use the flat paddle beater except when making meringue or sponge-type cakes that depend on the eggs for an airy texture. The whisk attachment will do a more effective job of aeration. Use the correct size pans. Choose round or square cake pans with straight, not sloped, sides as the sloped-sided pans have a smaller volume. If in doubt, never fill a pan more than two-thirds full unless indicated in the recipe. An exception to this is a cake baked in a tube pan, which can come up to about 1 inch from the top of the pan. Shiny, heavy aluminum pans conduct the heat best without over-browning the crust. If using dark pans lower the oven temperature by 25˚F. Line the bottom of layer cake pans with parchment to keep the cake from sticking. To prevent doming and dryness at the edges use Rose’s Heavenly Cake Strips to wrap around the sides of the pan. This equalizes the baking between the sides of the pan and the center and keeps the edges of the cake moist as well. Most cakes bake best near the center of the oven, which requires placing a rack in the lower third. If baking more than one pan be sure the pans have at least 1 inch in between them and also between them and the sides of the oven. If necessary, bake them on two racks staggering them so that one is not directly over the other. Preheat the oven a minimum of 20 minutes before baking. If using a convection setting lower the heat 25˚F. (This is not usually necessary for countertop ovens.) If cakes seem to be browning unevenly, it’s fine to turn them half way around after three quarters of the estimated baking time. (Exceptions are sponge cakes that should not be moved until baked fully.) Choose cooling racks with fine wire mesh and spray them with cooking spray to prevent the cake layers from sticking to them. Layer cakes usually should be cooled in the pan set on a rack for 10 minutes before unmolding and then reinverted so that the firm upper crust is up. Sponge-type cakes baked in layer cake pans need to be unmolded immediately after baking. Sponge-type cakes baked in tube pans, such as chiffons and angel food cakes, need to be suspended up-side-down and away from drafts until completely cool. For the most attractive sides for angel food and chiffon cakes, coat the sides of the pan with a thin layer of the batter before adding the rest of the batter. When unmolding, run a thin metal spatula between the sides of the cake and the sides of the pan, pressing firmly against the pan and using an up and down motion. Use a thin wire cake tester to run around the center tube. To get the most perfect design when using fluted tube pans, either coat them with baking spray with grease and flour or oil and then dust with flour, preferably Wondra or sifted flour. Tap out any excess. If using a spray, to ensure the best coating, use a small brush to go into the grooves. Spoon about one-third of the batter into the pan and press it back and forth with the back of a spoon. This will ensure that the batter goes into all the crevices. Then pour in the rest of the batter Cut cheesecake with dental floss held taut. A deeply serrated knife works best for other cakes. Once a cake is cut, use plastic wrap or slices of white bread against the cut sides to keep them from drying. When purchasing chocolate, choose the percentage cacao indicated in the recipe. This refers to the amount of chocolate, the remainder of which is sugar. Using too high a percentage cacao will, for example, make a chocolate ganache bitter and too firm, causing it to separate from the cake when cutting it. When frosting cake layers it is best to place each layer bottom-side-up to avoid crumbs in the frosting. It is easiest to start with a very small amount to create a crumb coating before applying the rest.