Written by Doris Donnerman (last updated August 11, 2021)
Before you actually bake your cake, read up on tips for preparing to bake a cake. Once you've got your batter in the pan, you can use some simple tricks to ensure your cake turns out great.
First, watch your cake as it bakes. Don't open the oven door frequently (this will make your cake fall), just turn on the light or peak inside occasionally. The center will rise higher than the edges, and the edges will start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Your cake's top will start to crack a little, too, as it gets close to finished.
Test your cake with a piece of uncooked spaghetti or a toothpick. Gently poke the center of the cake (usually the tallest point). If your poker comes out with batter on it, the cake needs to bake a little longer. If it comes out clean, your cake is done.
You can also press the center of your cake lightly with your finger. The cake is cooked through if the top springs back leaving no imprint. If your finger leaves an indent, put the cake back in the oven for a few minutes.
Cakes risen with beaten egg whites—angel food, chiffon, etc.—often fall while cooling. To minimize the chances of your cake falling, invert the pan as soon as it comes out of the oven and let the cake cool upside down on a wire cooling rack. It won't fall out of the pan. You'll have to loosen it with a spatula or palette knife when you want to get it out.
Now that your cake is all done, are you having trouble getting it out of the pan? Don't panic. The sugar and oil have probably hardened against the sides of the pan. You need to heat the bottom of the pan by filling a large bowl with hot water and dipping the bottom of the pan in it. Or, if you have an electric stove, heat a burner then turn it off. Wait until it's warm but not hot, and place the cake pan on it for a few minutes. Either way, your cake should slip out of the cake pan easily.
When turning out a cake that will be served as a single layer, place a sheet of wax or parchment paper on top of the cake, and invert it on a wire rack. Immediately turn the cake back to another rack and remove the paper. This prevents the top of the cake from being marked by the rack as it cools.
When you are going to layer a cake and you want its top to be flat, turn your cake out on a cooling rack and let it rest on its top. This will flatten it a bit, and you'll have less to level off.
Because microwaved cakes often come out sticky, uneven, and unbrowned on top, only microwave cakes that will be frosted or covered with crumb toppings.
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