~ Cake Notes


It’s better to use real BUTTER than margarine, although margarine may be substituted with a 2nd best result.  If you use margarine, make sure it is at least 66% vegetable oil OR MORE.

Cake should be starting to pull away from sides of pan.
Color should be lightly brown; should spring back when you lightly press with fingertips; toothpick inserted in center of cake should come out CLEAN.

TURNING CAKE OUT OF PAN:  Allow cake to rest 10-15 minutes on wire/cooling rack.
Any longer than that, and it may stick to pan—except tube and bundt pans may need 20 min.
Run a dinner knife around edges of cake before inverting it—will release easier. You may need to invert the cake again so wire rack lines don’t form on top of cake.  (Cakes baked in bundt & tube pans don’t need to be inverted twice.)

FROSTING:  Remember, it’s easier to wrap a cake (for freezer) after the frosting hardens.
Frostings using milk or cream cheese need to be refrigerated!

To prevent a cake humping in the middle, cover with foil during first part of baking time and only remove for last 10 min.

If surface of cake cracks, oven is too hot.

Too little liquid = dry cake, and gets stale quickly
Too much liquid = small volume, very moist
Too much sugar = small volume; sugary crust

Cream shortening and sugar til looks like whipped cream; until there is no gritty feeling of sugar.  This makes for a better cake, and also makes it rise better.

As you complete the beating process of this or any from-scratch cake the batter should resemble thickened whipping cream.  If it’s watery, the cake will not be light & moist. If the batter is watery it means you added the liquids to the bowl first and everything added after that contributed to creating a “paste” rather than a “batter”. The butter should be softened at room temperature to the point that you can draw your finger through it without effort, but it should NOT be melted.

From the Book:  The Cake Mix Doctor  by Anne Byrn

Don’t have to allow ingredients to get to room temperature
Cake-mix cakes are good keepers, and if stored properly, will last up to a week at room temperature.
No sifting flour, no creaming butter, no adding eggs one at a time.
Messes up ONLY ONE bowl – uses the DUMP method.
Prepared in a fraction of the time a “scratch cake” requires.
Cake mixes are RELIABLE.
Are easily adaptable to adding new ingredients, different pan sizes, and oven temperatures.
They bake up not only into cakes, but also into bars, cookies, cheesecakes, crisps &  pies.
They contain marvelous emulsifiers that seal in moisture and keep your cake fresh on the counter for days.
Mixes also perform if you use too much or too little liquid; if you over/under beat them; if you use the wrong size pan (altho you might not get the volume you expected).  They are RELIABLE.

That “cake mix taste” is the only downside to baking with mixes.

Flavors vary with manufacturers.   For example:  some yellow cakes have an overtone of coconut.

Mixes contain same ingredients a “from scratch” cake does AND MUCH MORE!
Ingredients:  sugar, flour, some vegetable shortening (or other fat) leavenings, emulsifiers and flavorings, binders, thickeners.

Pudding in Cake Mixes:
DO NOT add an additional pkg of  pudding to one of these!
These mixes will be heavier and very moist.  Don’t use if you want a light cake or are planning to make layers with filling/frosting between layers. (The bottom layer will be quite wet.)
They tend to shrink upon cooling – and you may be disappointed in the appearance.

OIL/FAT:  This is CRITICAL.  Select lighter flavorless oils like canola and soybean, instead of heavier, more fragrant oils like olive oil.  Vegetable oil will give an especially moist cake. (more than shortening or butter).  Use lightly salted butter, if/when using.  Margarine is not recommended unless mix calls for it.

LEAVENING:  scratch cakes use soda or baking powder to make the cake rise.  Cake Mixes add all sorts of others leavenings that are very reliable.

EMULSIFIERS:  Are ingredients that keep fat and liquid in a cake mix from separating.  They hold the ingredients together.  Plus they help the cake stay moist for days on the kitchen counter.  In a scratch cake, the only emulsifier is the egg yolk.  Cake mixes contain marvelous emulsifiers that seal in moisture and keep your cake fresh on the counter for days.

COLORINGS:  are all GRAS or “Generally Recognized As Safe by the Food & Drug Admin.

MILK:  If mix calls for WHOLE milk – it is essential to use WHOLE milk – as recipe is depending on the fat in the milk. If not specified – use whatever you have on hand.  It can be added COLD.

EGGS:  OK to add straight from refrigerator – don’t need to allow time to become room temp.  Use size large.

NUTS:  Can add straight from freezer.

FLAVORINGS:  That “cake mix taste” comes from artificial flavorings.  Camouflage this by adding bold-tasting ingredients like coffee, PURE vanilla or almond extract, lime or orange zest, chocolate and boozy things like sherry, rum, and bourbon to the batter.

EXTRACTS:  Be sure to buy PURE extracts.

SPICES:  Buy in small quantities – as the longer they sit on the shelf, the less flavorful they become.

OVEN TEMPERATURES:  350°F is the general rule of thumb, but some mixes/recipes may vary slightly.  Some bundt or tube cake recipes call for 325°F.  Pans with dark finish and glass baking dishes need lower heat (325°F) to prevent over-browning.   For most cakes position rack in the middle of the oven.

GREASING & FLOURING PANS:  Best to use shortening and flour.  Dip paper towel in shortening  and use to apply to pan bottom AND SIDES.  You’ll need abut 1 T shortening per 9 x 13 pan.  Sprinkle 1T flour in it and shake til covers bottom and sides.  Tap out the excess flour into the trash.  This forms a nice, firm, easily frosted crust to cake.

MIXING:  Once everything is in the bowl (except nuts and chips or coconut and some fruits like raisins), mix on lowest speed for 30 seconds to 1 min.  Turn off miser and scrape and mix with spatula.  Then turn mixer back on for 1-2 more minutes on med. Speed.  No need to beat any longer than that (as you would for a scratch cake to get volume)

Ratios of Sheet Cake pan sizes to No. Servings

1/4 sheet=20 servings (9 x 13)
1/2 sheet=40 servings  (18.5 x 13)
full sheet=80 servings (18 x 26)