9 Cake Baking Tips Pastry Chefs Learned In Culinary School

Whether it’s for a birthday, a holiday, or just because you’re in the mood for cake, there are plenty of reasons to bake a cake. But that doesn’t always mean it’s going to work out. From cakes sticking to the pans, to opening the oven to find a dry and crumbly cake, to decorations looking worse (much worse) than you intended, there are any number of things that can go wrong, as Baking a homemade cake can really be a complicated process.

This is not to put anyone off, as there are ways you can be better prepared to make the best cake ever. Maybe you’re a seasoned home baker looking to put the finishing touches on your cake to bring it to professional bakery quality, or you’re a beginner looking for some tips to help you fix common baking problems. These are some of the best cakes to bake. tricks that only pastry chefs know. Read on, and for more, don’t miss 9 Secrets to Baking the Best Cookies Only Pastry Chefs Know.

icing decorating cakes
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Baking a cake can be quite tricky – making sure you have the right ingredients, the batter is mixed enough, baking for the perfect time, and cooling properly – but decorating a cake is another story. Decorating not only requires the skill of a baker to ensure that the decorations work well with the cake, but it also needs an artistic touch to make the cake look good, and that is where many bakers can get into trouble.

One of the worst mistakes you can make when baking a cake is putting the frosting and other decorations on while the cake is still warm. One way to ensure your cake isn’t too hot to decorate is by freezing it.

“Frozen cakes are much easier to decorate than room temperature ones,” she says. Carolyn Truett, former pastry chef, cake decorator, and founder of the cooking blog Caramel and Cashews. “If you want the cake to look professionally made, freeze the layers before assembling them. The crumbs won’t be as loose and will get into the frosting as you spread it.”

put parchment paper in a cake pan
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There’s nothing worse than baking a perfect, delicious cake, only to have it stick right out of the pan. Don’t count on butter or cooking spray to help your cake come out of your baking pan easily, just use parchment paper instead so there’s no question that your cake will come out clean. While it is sometimes a hassle to cut the parchment paper to fit the pan perfectly, the entire process can be avoided by purchasing round parchment paper ahead of time.

“You can buy parchment rounds in different sizes, so you don’t have to cut them individually,” says Truett. “Doing so ensures that the cakes pop out of the pan effortlessly.”

opening oven
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Comparing the work of a home baker to that of a professional baker is unfair on some levels. Yes, professional bakers obviously have more education, training, and experience baking beautiful cakes and other baked goods, so there’s a good chance their products will turn out much better than a hobby baker’s.

But they’re also using better ovens, which makes a world of difference. Many professional bakers use commercial ovens, which promote more even cooking. Home ovens do not bake evenly, and many residential ovens have hot spots where they heat up and stay hot faster.

“A quick way to find your oven’s hot spots is to place slices of cheap bread side by side and front to back, covering the entire rack,” says the pastry chef. short mary, the owner of Short n Sweet Bakery & Cafe. “Then turn on the oven light and then turn it on. Notice where the bread starts to brown first—those are its hot spots. Usually the back of ovens is hotter than the front.”

butter cubes in flour
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Usually when baking, a recipe will call for the butter to be creamed, which means room temperature butter will be mixed with sugar until well blended and that usually forms a base to which other ingredients are added.

To make a better cake, you should reverse this step, according to Short, who recommends creaming the room-temperature butter together with flour instead of sugar.

“By coating the flour in butter, you ensure that gluten development is kept to a minimum,” says Short, which will make the cake less bread-like.

baking ingredients
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One of the most important steps in baking or cooking anything takes place before any food begins to bake or cook: it is preparing a mise en place, a French term for putting all the ingredients together and setting everything up, so that when it arrives the time to put the food together, it is easy and hassle free.

“Mise en place means everything is in its place and prevents bakers from forgetting to add an ingredient or adding it twice,” says Short. “Baking, especially cakes, requires precision, and mise en place makes sure that happens.”

RELATED: 10 Cooking Secrets Only French Chefs Know

pour oil into a bowl of flour and eggs
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Butter is a crucial ingredient when baking, and can be found in many recipes, but oil works just as well as butter in many cases and helps retain more moisture in the cake since oil is already liquid at room temperature. So when making a cake that won’t be enhanced by the flavor of butter, such as chocolate, try replacing it with oil for a moister cake.

“If you reduce the butter by as little as a quarter and replace it with oil, you’ll see a significant difference in moisture,” says the pastry chef. justin ellen, of Everything Freshly Baked. “This is because oil stays liquid at room temperature, unlike butter. Now, for something like vanilla cake, we don’t want to replace all the butter with oil, because butter has that delicious flavor that we want. But if it’s a chocolate cake, use all the oil. The cocoa powder will overpower the butter anyway.”

person wrapping brownie with plastic wrap
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One key to having a really delicious cake is to make sure it’s moist. Cakes can dry out due to a number of different mistakes that can be made during the baking process, but there are a few ways to help add moisture back into cakes.

One of them is to wrap the finished cakes in plastic wrap shortly after they have been removed from the oven. Doing this helps trap the steam inside the cake, instead of letting it evaporate, making the cake more moist.

“Immediately after baking your cakes, you want to let them cool for about 10 minutes or until you can touch the pan,” says Ellen. “Then you want to flip the cakes out of the pan and wrap them in plastic wrap. Steam escaping from the cakes will immediately be trapped by the plastic wrap, drawing the steam back into the cake. No more dry cakes.”

person mixing cake batter
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It’s horrible to bite into a finished cake and find that it wasn’t mixed well enough and there’s still a bag of dried flour in there, so it can be tempting to keep mixing the batter until it’s more than perfectly smooth. Instead of resulting in a perfectly even cake, over-mixing the batter can hurt the end result, so while it’s important to make sure all the ingredients are well incorporated into the batter, it’s also important not to go crazy mixing it until just right. at which point you end up with a glutinous, cracked, crumbly cake that resembles bread.

“The number and size of air bubbles incorporated into the batter during the mixing process directly affect the volume and grain of a cake,” he says. Leonora Lahud, a corporate chef at C & H Sugar. “Over-mixing a batter can result in an overly brittle cake with a brittle structure, also peaks on the top and possible cracks.”

woman taking cake out of oven
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Baking a cake can often be intimidating, and hobby bakers tend to be careful with their cakes, especially after they are done baking and while cooking, for fear of spoiling the finished product. However, Lahud says that you shouldn’t be nice to your cake. Don’t throw it across the room or anything, but tap or bounce it lightly on a surface like the kitchen counter to help set the cake crumb.

“Immediately after taking the cake out of the oven, tap or ‘bounce’ it on a surface,” says Lahud. “This movement will set the crumb and prevent it from shrinking.”

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