1.Not waiting for the ingredients to get room temperature
When I first began baking, my impatience would get the better of me. I just couldn’t wait for dairy ingredients to reach room temperature and I would myself creaming cold butter and mixing chilled eggs. These acts of pomposity would result in dense treats that baked unevenly. But as it is said you learn from your mistakes So did I! When the dairy components of your recipe are at proper room temperature, they emulsify to capture air. The heat in the oven causes this trapped air to grow, achieving a light and fluffy texture that you definitely want in your cakes.
- Not mixing your batter enough
When you are mixing your cake ingredients, you want to make sure all ingredients are evenly incorporated. Every few strokes, use your spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to re-incorporate any chunks of unmixed ingredients back in with the rest. There shouldn’t be any chunks of butter or sugar left anywhere in your batter, as these will cause pockets of caramelization in the finished cake.
- Mixing your batter too much
The act of mixing flour in the batter helps to develop gluten. The more gluten that develops, the tougher the cake will be. Perhaps too much of everything is as bad as too little. You’ll see that many recipes tell you to mix “until just combined.” The reason for this cautiously worded phrase? Over-mixing makes for a dense cake that lacks the tender crumb we all strive for.
- Not releasing air bubbles
Cake batter needs air in order to bake up into a light and fluffy delight. That said, you don’t want too much air in the batter because it will create holes and cracks in the finished product. To help get rid of air bubbles, tap the pan on the counter a few times after filling it with batter. Doing so will bring the bubbles to the surface and level out the top of your cake, too.
- Leaving your batter out for long
We tend to leave the batter out for a long time. Doing so causes the batter to begin deflating. Most cakes contain leaveners such as baking soda, baking powder, or both. Once the dry ingredients make contact with the liquid ingredients, the rising agent becomes activated. At this point, you’ll want to transfer the batter to the oven to bake immediately. To avoid this problem, always prep your pan or pans beforehand so you are ready to transfer the batter right away.
- Stop playing peek-a-boo
It may be tempting to open the door every few minutes to check in on your cake, but don’t. Each time you open the oven door, you’ll be letting out some heat, creating a change in the temperature and causing uneven baking.
- Don’t forget parchment paper
Treated for use in the oven, this type of paper is resistant to grease and moisture. In order to prevent deep and painful cake removal scenarios in your kitchen, be sure to line the bottom of your cake pan with parchment paper. Doing so will allow your cake to easily release from the pan without breaking into pieces..
- Baking at wrong temperature
Baking and temperature go hand in hand. Most recipes will state what this temperature should be, and you should take heed. Preheat the oven before you get started to give your oven plenty of time to get up to that temp. To ensure that your oven heat is at the right level, I strongly suggest hanging a small oven thermometer on one of the racks inside since ovens tend to run a little hot or cold.
Tip: If a recipe does not state what the temperature should be, keep in mind that cakes, which are high in sugar content, are generally baked at low to moderate temps between 325° F and 350° F so they don’t burn. Yeasted breads, which usually have less sugar, can bake at 400° F to develop a dark golden crust. For yeasted treats that are also loaded with sugar, cinnamon rolls and the like, you should set your oven to 375° F.
- Not taking into account all the signs of doneness together
The best way to check if your cake is done?Poke it. Why not? Using a toothpick or cake tester, poke the center of the cake. The toothpick or tester should come out cleanly with only a few crumbs clinging to it.
- Taking the cake out of the oven too soon!
You want to avoid removing your cake from the oven before it’s finished cooking. Doing so causes the center of the cake to collapse. It’s very sad, of course, and even placing the undercooked dessert back in the oven at this point won’t fix the caved-in middle portion. Be sure the cake has fully risen and the center is set first.