Baking is cooking with dry heat. Although usually done in an oven, baking can also be done on the stovetop or over an open fire. This article discusses cakes.
Preparing the batter – A cake made from scratch takes only a little more time than one made with a mix, and the results, given a good recipe followed with care, will be worth it. Cakes usually combine shortening, sugar, eggs, flour, leavening, a liquid, and flavoring. The last should be of top quality-use real vanilla, fresh spices, the best dark chocolate. Have the ingredients at room temperature. In measuring dry ingredients, level them with the back of a knife.
Often the first step is to cream the butter and sugar together; an electric beater or food processor does this more easily and thoroughly than the traditional wooden-spoon method.
Whole eggs can be added in the same way. (If beaten egg whites are to be added, see Egg whites). Use cake flour when called for; if you substitute all-purpose flour, reduce the amount by 2 tablespoons per cup. Sift the flour before and after measuring, or as often as the recipe directs. Mix in the flour only until the batter is uniform, using a mixer, a food processor, or a rubber spatula.
Baking the cake – Preheat the oven to the temperature in the recipe while you’re mixing the batter. Grease the cake pans, dust them with flour, shake the pans to distribute the flour, then shake out excess flour. Regrease any spot where the flour doesn’t adhere. Fill the pans no more than two-thirds full. Place a single pan in the middle of the oven; if the recipe calls for more than one pan, place the pans at least 2 inches from one another and from oven walls. Stagger them so they aren’t directly above or below one another. Bake. Insert a toothpick or wire cake tester; if it comes out clean, the cake is done.