Friday, June 1, 2012

Tips On Making The Ultimate Chocolate Cake

Baking the Ultimate Chocolate Cake can strike fear in the hearts of some cooks. Thoughts of a tasteless cake, icky frosting and other horrors fill their minds. But really, it's not all that hard if you use the right tools and just take things one step at a time. Also, try to stick with easier chocolate cake recipes to begin with until you're more confident in your cake making skills. Here are some steps to get you started on the path to cake baking nirvana!

Preparing the Pan:

-Always be sure to use the size pan that is called for in the recipe.

-Grease and lightly flour your pan prior to assembling the recipe.

-If the cake pan you are using has an elaborate design be sure to grease all the nooks and crannies of the design thoroughly. In this case it is better to use too much than too little.

-Another option is to use a vegetable non-stick spray. These work very well.

-Do not grease or flour your cake pan if you are making an angel food cake or a sponge cake as this may prevent the cakes from rising. You can, if necessary line the bottom of the pan with parchment or wax paper.

Mixing the Batter:

-Have all your ingredients at room temperature.

-Measure all your ingredients out prior to assembling the batter.

-Turn on the oven and preheat while you prepare your mixture.

-If you are using an electrical beater to mix your ingredients, only beat the mixture until the ingredients are blended. Do no over beat.

-If you are mixing your batter by hand, keep in mind it will take a bit more time to get the ingredients thoroughly blended.

-When making a cake with butter be sure the butter is soft prior to blending with the sugar.

-If your recipe calls for several eggs add them one at a time and blend them into the batter before adding the next egg. This is especially true if you are mixing by hand.

-Each chocolate cake recipe asks for a different type of chocolate. There are so many dark chocolate bars available on the market today. Do not limit yourself to just baker's chocolate. Use your favorite dark chocolate. Just be sure it is as least 70% cocoa.

Filling the Cake Pan:

-Do not fill the cake pan more than ¾ full to allow for rising.

-If you are using a square pan be sure to spread the batter into the corners.

-If you wish to use a square, rectangular or irregularly shaped pan instead of the round pan the recipe calls for be sure you make enough batter. To calculate how much batter to make, simply fill your substitute pan 2/3rd full with water. Transfer the water to the pan the recipe uses to judge volume. Adjust the batter accordingly based on how full the recipe pan gets when the water is added. If the recipe pan is overflowing, cut back on the batter. If the recipe pan is not full enough make extra batter.

-If you use a pan other than the one the recipe calls for keep in mind cooking time will vary.

Baking Cakes:

-Always bake the cake in a preheated oven.

-Glass or dark colored pans will retain more heat. Cook for the same amount of time but reduce the heat temperature by 25 degrees F.

-Bake your cake on the center rack of the oven so heat can circulate.

-If you are baking multiple pans do not let them touch each other.

-If you are using more than one rack, stagger the cake pans so they are directly over or under each other.

-If you notice the cake is baking unevenly then turn it several times during the cooking process.

-Start testing you cake about 8 minutes before the cake should be done.

-To test if your cake is done, insert a small toothpick into the center of the cake as far as you can. It should come out clean.

-Another way to test if a cake is done is to lightly press the cake surface. The depression should spring back if the cake is cooked thoroughly.

-Also a cake that is done will pull away from the sides of the cake pan.

Cooling Cakes:

-Let cakes made with butter cool in their pans for about 5 minutes. Then turn out onto a cooling rack. If it should stick, try to loosen gently with a spatula.

-Angel food cakes, chiffon cakes and sponge cakes must be kept in their pans and inverted to cool. If the top of the pan does not have little feet for the pan to stand on when you invert it then tip the pan over a large bottle with the neck of the bottle going through the hole of the pan. When cool, loosen with a knife and turn out.

Frosting a Cake:

-If you are short of time and you are making a layer cake, use jelly between the layers. Or place slice fruit between the layers and dust with confectioner's sugar.

-Better to make too much frosting than not enough. Extra frosting will keep very well in the refrigerator.

-If your frosting was not made from scratch or was "not cooked" spread it on a cake while the cake is warm.

-If you just made your frosting, it is best to spread on the cake after it is completely cooled.

-If your frosting calls for beaten egg whites and the whites are not stiff enough just put it in the top of a double boiler and beat over the simmering water.

-If you cream frosting is too watery place it in the refrigerator for several minutes, beat over ice or add a little more butter to thicken.

-If, on the other hand, your frosting is too thick, add a few drops of hot milk or water.

-If your cake is lopsided feel free to re-shape it using a sharp knife.

-If you are making a 3-layer cake and the middle layer has a rounded top, slice off the raised portion

-To frost set the bottom layer on a plate covered with strips of wax paper to catch and frosting that may drip. Spread you icing on the top of this bottom layer and add the top cake layer over the spread icing.

-Cover the sides of the cake first with frosting using a spatula or frosting knife.

-Pile the rest of the frosting on the top middle of the cake and swirl out to the edges.

-Remove the strips of paper once the frosting sets.

-Decorate as desired.