01 The Basics of Baking a Cake
When kids get interested in helping their parents in the kitchen, one of the first things they want to do is to help bake a cake. It's a good choice because cake baking is often an easy, direct process and many recipes follow the same basic steps every time. Knowing the fundamentals allows you to approach making a cake from scratch with great confidence. For this step-by-step example, a chocolate cake is on the menu.
02 Grease and Preheat
Before you begin baking, grease and flour the pans you are using. These could be 6-inch round pans, 8-inch rounds, a 13" x 9" rectangular sheet, or even a Bundt pan. Then preheat the oven to the temperature as directed in the recipe so that it's ready to bake when you are.
03 Prepare Your Ingredients
It's important to have all of the ingredients prepared before making the batter. Many cake recipes call for melted chocolate, so you should do that before beginning to mix up the batter. To melt chocolate, you can use a microwave or a double boiler on the stovetop, the traditional method.
04 Whisk the Dry Mix
It's important to correctly measure and then mix the dry ingredients completely so the cake will have an even and proper rise. Use a wire whisk to combine the flour with the leavening agents for a best results.
05 Cream Your Butter and Sugar
Bring the butter to room temperature before you begin baking. When it has reached the proper temperature, beat it until it's creamy. Slowly add the sugar as you cream your butter if using a stand mixer. If you're using an electric beater or mixing by hand, add a little of the sugar at a time and then mix until you have incorporated the full amount.
06 Add the Eggs
Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture, one at a time, and mix well until blended.
07 It's Time to Combine
For a chocolate cake, this is generally when the chocolate, flour, and milk are added to the butter and sugar mixture. First, start with the melted chocolate. Be sure to incorporate it completely with the combined butter, sugar, and eggs.
Then, alternately add the dry ingredients and milk to your wet ingredients. Mix well until it is smooth and uniform. Some recipes suggest you wait until the end to add milk; follow your specific recipe for best results.
08 Pour Your Batter in Your Pan
If making a layer cake, carefully divide the batter between two round cake pans. If you're using a rectangular or Bundt pan, scoop out all of your batter into your prepared pan of choice. Gently tap the pans on the counter to even the tops and remove air bubbles. If necessary, use a spatula to smooth the tops before baking.
09 Bake and Cool Your Cakes
Bake the cakes according to the time and temperature in your recipe directions. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes or as directed in your recipe. Remove the cakes from the pans and cool completely on wire racks before adding frosting. Make sure the top layer isn't upside down on the rack; otherwise, there will be grid lines on the top of the cake.
10 The Finished Product
Once the cakes are completely cool, it's time to frost them. Choose from basic buttercream icing, cream cheese frosting, ganache, or whipped cream. If you have two round cakes, put one top side down on the serving platter and frost it. Then put the second cake on top and frost the top and sides. Make swirls as decoration, if desired.