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Cooking Tips

Stop Making These 5 Rookie Mistakes When You’re Baking Cakes

You might not be a professional baker, but there’s no reason to live with sunken, cracked or just plain messy cakes. Hone your baking skills so you can avoid these all-too-common mistakes.

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Have you ever seen those Pinterest-versus-reality posts? You know, the ones where someone attempts to recreate a delicious and gorgeous looking cake, only to end up with something that’s the complete opposite (and kind of a disaster!). As hilarious as these baking fails are, you can’t blame rookie bakers for making a few errors along the way – in fact, you’ve probably had some messy final results in your very own kitchen. Cake baking is a mistake-filled disaster waiting to happen if you’re not armed with the right information.

Since baking is a science, you can’t freestyle with recipes as much as you can when you’re cooking. But if you follow the recipe closely and avoid these five simple mistakes, it’s possible for even the least skilled home baker to create a moist masterpiece.

Mistake #1: Over-mixing the batter

Mixing all of your cake ingredients into one, clumpless batter is insanely satisfying. But while you lose yourself in the stirring, it’s possible that you could overdo it. According to Cake Decorist, overmixed cake batter can lead to a dense and weak cake. This would be the ultimate let-down when you’re expecting light and fluffy slices.

Whether you’re mixing by hand or using an electric mixer, pay attention to what you’re doing. You’ll know it’s time to stop mixing once the ingredients are fully combined. Once that happens, you can move on to the next step. There’s no reason to keep going unless the recipe specifically says to.

Mistake #2: Opening the oven in the middle of baking

Once the aroma of baked goodness starts filling your kitchen, it can be tempting to open the oven and sneak a peek at your dessert. But beware, fellow bakers! This seemingly harmless check-in can end up dramatically impacting the cake’s outcome.

The experts with Betty Crocker reveal that opening the oven in the midst of baking can cause your cake to collapse. This is because cold air can rush in and stop the cake from rising. Avoid opening the door for at least three quarters of the cooking time. If your cake needs to bake a little longer, try waiting at least five to 10 minutes before opening it again, if possible.

Mistake #3: Not properly greasing the pan

It would be tragic to end up with a ripped and broken cake after all the hard work you put into baking. But if your pan isn’t properly greased, then your cake will inevitably stick to it as it bakes. This will not only make it difficult to decorate, but also tough to achieve smooth, aesthetically-pleasing results. 

So, what can you do to avoid this baking disaster? Grease the pan with some fat or oil! You can also sprinkle some flour over the pan and shake it around until it’s evenly coated. With these steps, your cake should slip out of the pan in one piece. 

Keep in mind that some recipes, like angel food cake, don’t require you to grease the pan. Just make sure you follow the recipe accordingly.

Mistake #4: Forgetting to check the cake for doneness

It can be tricky to know when a cake is ready to be taken out of the oven. Although following the recipe gives you a good idea of how long the cake needs to bake, every oven cooks differently – so you’ll have to do your due diligence to know for sure and avoid mistakes. The best way to do this is by checking the temperature with a thermometer.

Towards the end of the baking time, gently insert a thermometer. The sweet spot for denser recipes like carrot cake or red velvet cake is 200 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. For lighter recipes, like angel food cake or sponge cake, the number should hover between 205 to 210 degrees. 

Checking the cake for doneness will prevent your cake from being under- or over-baked. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can always check it the old fashioned way by inserting a toothpick. The cake is ready to be removed if there isn’t any uncooked batter visible on the toothpick when it’s pulled out. 

Mistake #5: Decorating too soon

Once your cake is out of the oven, you might be in a hurry to get it frosted and decorated. However, it’s important to wait for the cake to be entirely cooled down before doing any kind of frosting or icing. This is because the cake is super delicate and fresh out of the oven (and it’s still hot!). Spreading icing on too soon will lead to breakage, excess crumbs and ruin its smooth appearance.

Secondly, putting the icing on the cake too soon can lead to a runny and melted icing. Try waiting at least a couple hours, or even overnight, for your cake to cool completely so you avoid any decorating mishaps. If you’re short on time, try placing the cake in your fridge or freezer to speed up the process. 

For more expert baking tips beyond correcting cake mistakes, keep reading:

Featured recipe: Chocolate Peppermint Naked Cake