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How to Bake a Cake

How to Bake a Cake
Kids’ birthdays. Graduations. Big anniversaries. On events like these—and every day, frankly—it helps to know how to bake a cake. You’ll find pro tips right here, from substituting pan sizes to testing for doneness to a step-by-step video on how to frost a cake. Once you’ve learned how to bake 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. If you’d rather see a kid’s eyes light up, get inspired by this specialty birthday cakes video. 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 how to bake a cake, the sky’s the limit!

Cake-baking tips

  • 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.
  • 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

Follow cooling instructions carefully to ensure that the cake does not stick to the pan. Always cool cakes completely on a wire rack before topping with frostings or fillings.

How to cream butter

An important step in mixing cake batters is the creaming of the butter. This incorporates air into the butter for a lighter cake. Room-temperature butter (about 70°F) is best for creaming. Beat the butter only until it is soft and creamy. If the butter begins to look curdled, it was too warm or beaten too much. If this happens, refrigerate the butter for 5 to 10 minutes and continue beating.

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