I know that sometimes it seems like it is WAY to hard to bake from scratch, or just easier to use a mix, but really, it's not!
I been baking for 20 years (I like saying it that way, makes me feel "experienced"!) and although things sometimes still go awry. I think I am pretty good at it.. sooooooo here are a few tips and troubleshooting items.
~ use an oven thermometer- this is true no matter if you are baking from scratch or a mix. Ovens can be "off" so you want to make sure that you are baking at the proper temperature.
~ FOLLOW THE RECIPE- baking is alchemy, it is not like cooking where you can just substitute things all willy nilly in the recipe! (I tell my friend that all the time) If you want to try a recipe, try it the way it is written the first time. Once you get an understanding of what the writer intended then you can tweak it to your liking. Joyofbaking.com is a good reference for ingredients in baking and their purpose. Baking soda and baking powder are two different animals, you can't just sub one for the other.
~when making a "butter" cake (as in not a sponge or foam cake) there are multiple mixing methods you can use, the most common being the creaming method. I use room temp butter and eggs, but if you don't you will need to cream your butter and sugar for a longer amount of time. The butter/sugar mixture should be light in color and increased in volume. I also add my eggs on medium (4 on my 4.5 quart kitchenaid and 2 or 4 on my 5 quart kitchenaid). count for about 20 seconds between adding each egg so that it is fully incorporated. (the eggs, not being fully incorporated could result in a tough cake)
~when adding the dry ingredients, add them in at LOW speed on the mixer, you could even mix by hand, but I am usually making too much cake for that! you don't want to overmix which could result in a tough cake which brings me to troubleshooting
***My cake has pulled WAY away from the pan and kinda dips in the side****
this is usually caused by too much liquid. The recipe could be incorrect or your measurements could be off.
***My cake has big holes (or tunnels) in it***
This is usually the result of overmixing, which affects the cakes structure
*** My cake is 'gummy' or has a dark line in the middle***
the cake has "fallen" which means that the structure was not strong enough. this could be caused by many things such as overmixing/undermixing, oven too high, which caused the cake to rise but not be completely baked
the best advice I can give when baking from scratch is to pay close attention to the recipe and don't leave the kitchen to do other things.. (ASK ME HOW I KNOW)
Baking Tips by Samele Thorner
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