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The Basics of Baking a Cake
When kids get interested in helping their mom or dad in the kitchen, one of the first things they want to do is to help bake a cake. It's a good choice because it is easy, direct and follows the same basic steps every time, with variations that can make it more complicated. Knowing the basics lets you approach making a cake from scratch with great confidence. For this step-by-step example, a chocolate cake is on the menu.Continue to 2 of 10 below.
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Before you begin baking, grease and flour the pans you are using. These could be 8-inch rounds, 9-inch rounds, 13- by 9-inch rectangular, or a Bundt pan. Then preheat the oven to the temperature as directed in the recipe so that it's ready to bake when you are.
Not sure how to grease a pan? Check out our complete photo directions for greasing and flouring baking pans.Continue to 3 of 10 below.
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Melting Chocolate or Other Ingredient Preparation
It's important to have all of the ingredients prepared before making the batter. Many cake recipes call for melted chocolate, so you should do that before beginning to mix up the batter. To melt chocolate, you can use a microwave or a saucepan on the stovetop, the traditional method.
Other ingredient preparation could include chopping nuts or slicing of lemon or orange zest, among many other cake recipe variations.Continue to 4 of 10 below.
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Mix the Dry Ingredients
It's important to measure correctly and then completely mix the dry ingredients so the cake will rise evenly and properly. Use a wire whisk to combine the flour with the leavening agents for a good mixing result.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Cream the Butter and Sugar
Bring the butter to room temperature before you begin baking. When it's reached the proper temperature, beat it until it's creamy. Slowly add the sugar while mixing, if possible. If it's not possible to add the sugar while mixing, add a little of the sugar at a time and then mix until you have added the full amount.Continue to 6 of 10 below.
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Add the Eggs
Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture, one at a time, and mix well until blended.Continue to 7 of 10 below.
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Add the Chocolate, Flour, and Milk
For a chocolate cake, this is generally when the chocolate, flour, and milk are added to the butter and sugar mixture. First start with the melted chocolate. Be sure to mix it completely with the butter, sugar, and egg mixture.
Then, add the dry ingredients mixture and milk alternatively to the butter and sugar mixture which now also contains eggs and melted chocolate. Mix well until it is smooth and uniform.
Note: Some recipes add the milk at the end; follow the specific recipe for best results.Continue to 8 of 10 below.
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Put Batter in the Pans
Carefully divide the batter between two round cake pans or add to one pan if you are using a rectangular or Bundt pan. Gently tap the pans on the counter to even the tops. If necessary, use a spatula to smooth the tops before baking.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Bake and Cool the Cakes
Bake the cakes according to the time and temperature in the recipe directions. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes or as directed in your recipe. Remove the cakes from the pans and cool completely on wire racks before frosting the cake. Make sure the top layer's top is not top down on the rack. Otherwise, there will be grid lines on the top of the cake.Continue to 10 of 10 below.
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The Finished Product
Once the cakes are completely cool, it's time to frost them. Choose from basic buttercream icing, cream cheese frosting, ganache, or whipped cream. If you have two round cakes, put one top side down on the serving platter and frost it. Then put the second cake on top and frost the top and sides. Make swirls as decoration, if desired.