Flour, eggs, sugar, and butter are the main ingredients of your basic cake. Amazing how these simple ingredients, if put together correctly, can produce such a wonderful treat for almost any occasion. But believe it or not baking cakes from scratch was not among one of my high priorities, even with my joy of baking. I, like most people, was intimidated and just knew my final product wasn’t going to taste as good as the cakes made from store bought mixes. Even though baking from a bought mix can be easier, it still requires the basic baking knowledge as when you bake from scratch. Also, although you purchase a mix, you still have to add some of the same ingredients (and quite often the same amount)as you would if you were baking from scratch. For instance, on the back of a well known brand box of yellow cake mix, the formula requires that you add three eggs, a ½ cup of butter or margarine and 11/4 cup water.
The only difference in this formula and one from scratch is that you don’t have to add sugar, vanilla, flour, salt or baking powder and instead of adding the water you would probably use milk. After all, a cake recipe will usually have flour, butter, sugar, eggs, leavener, milk, and flavoring. If this is all still too much for you to attempt now and you wish to remain baking cakes from premixes then that is perfectly understandable. It took me quite a while to even attempt baking a cake from scratch.
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Tip: When using a yellow store bought cake mix, add a teaspoon of vanilla (or flavor of choice) to the batter for a more homemade taste.
PREPARING TO MIX THE BATTER
The leavener will begin to work immediately so you will want to get the batter in the oven soon after you mix it therefore you should attempt to do any preparation before actually mixing the cake batter. Before beginning to mix your cake always read the recipe’s ingredients and mixing method carefully.
Make sure all your mixing utensils are clean and free of any oil. This should be especially true if you are baking an Angel Food Cake.
Preheat your oven at least 15 minutes before putting in cake pans. Unless otherwise noted in the formula or recipe, position the rack in the center of the oven to bake cakes Grease the bottom of the cake pan with shortening. An exception to this would be if you were baking Angel Food Cake. Do not use butter or margarine! Butter and margarine contains water, which may leave gaps when it evaporates allowing the batter to stick to the pan. Only grease the sides lightly. When I first began baking cakes, I read instructions that said to grease the sides of the pan well. I soon learned that it was better NOT to grease the sides entirely as this will cause the batter not to rise as well. It will also cause the edges to develop a rim with a deep indentation around the cake. Also a quick spin of the cake pan will allow the batter to cling to the ungreased portion of the pan’s sides assisting with creating a flat top.
After greasing the pan, sift a little flour and shake it around to cover the pan. Lightly tap on the bottom to knock out any excess flour. If you prefer, you can cut a piece of waxed paper (or parchment paper) the size of your pan and place on the bottom after you grease the pan. Grease the paper and the sides of the pan. Lightly flour the pan and knock out any excess. The flour serves to hold the shortening in place to prevent the batter from seeping through to bottom of the pan.
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