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How to Make a Cake
How to Make a Cake

How to Make a Cake

Get recipe: Best-Ever Chocolate Fudge Layer Cake

Kids’ birthdays. Graduations. Big anniversaries. On events like these—and every day, frankly—it helps to know how to make a cake. You’ll find pro tips right here, from substituting ingredients to testing for doneness to a step-by-step video on how to frost a cake. Once you’ve learned how to make a cake, you can start out small—with easy cupcake recipes, progress to our top-rated cake recipes—and graduate to gourmet cupcakes. Or you can start with chocolate cakes (never a bad idea) and work your way up to a restaurant-style showstopper with this video on how to make molten chocolate cakes. You can even stretch your definition of cake a bit here, and explore tiramisu recipes, or shoot off into the entirely different world of cheesecakes. Once you learn the basics of how to make a cake, the sky’s the limit!

Getting Started

  • Heat oven to recipe temperature before baking.
  • If your butter is in the refrigerator, take it out, cut it into 1-tablespoon pieces and place in mixing bowl to soften. It will take 20 to 30 minutes to get to the right temperature for creaming.
  • Measure ingredients accurately. For helpful tips, watch this video on measuring.
  • Prepare baking pans as directed in recipe. Don't have the right size baking pan? You can substitute a slightly larger pan for the one called for in the recipe. (Do not use a smaller pan or the batter may run over the top of the pan during baking.) Remember that a larger pan may result in a shortened baking time, so check for doneness earlier than the recipe specifies.

How to Cream Butter and Sugar

To know how to make a cake that will wow the crowd, you need to know how to make cake batter the right way. An important step in mixing cake batter is the creaming of the butter and sugar. This incorporates air into the butter for a lighter cake. Room-temperature butter (about 70°F) is best for creaming. At the right temperature, it should be cool to the touch and leave an impression when pressed gently. It should not be spreadable or melted. Beat the butter briefly on medium speed until smooth. Add sugar; beat on medium speed 3 minutes or until light and fluffy, scraping down beaters and side of bowl occasionally. If the butter mixture begins to look curdled, it was too warm. If this happens, refrigerate the butter for 5 to 10 minutes and continue beating. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in flavoring, such as vanilla or other extracts.

How to Add Dry and Liquid Ingredients

Add your dry and liquid ingredients alternately, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Always beat on low speed, just until the ingredients are incorporated. Typically, the dry ingredients are split into thirds and the liquid ingredients into halves. This method ensures the least amount of mixing, giving you a more tender cake.

Cake-baking Tips

  • Since opening the oven door during the cake baking time can cause drafts and fluctuations in the oven temperature, do not open the oven door while the cake is baking unless absolutely necessary.
  • Whether using a homemade cake recipe or a boxed cake mix, check cakes or cupcakes at the minimum baking time indicated in recipe. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick in the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.

How to Cool a Cake

It may seem like a simple step, but following cooling instructions carefully before removing the cake from the pan ensures that the cake does not stick to the pan. Always cool cakes completely on a wire rack before filling or topping with frosting.

How to Split Cake Layers

  • To easily split baked cake layers, insert toothpicks into the side of the cake to mark the center point. Then, use a serrated knife and gentle sawing motion to cut the cake horizontally in half, using the toothpicks as a guide.
  • This technique is demonstrated in this Luscious Four-Layer Pumpkin Cake cooking video.

How to Make Birthday Cakes

  • For everything you need to know about buttercream frosting, click here.
  • Our recipe for a chocolatey Snowball Cake is sure to make an impression at your next holiday party.
  • From castles to Martians, we've got great Themed Cakes for your special birthday girl or boy.
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