15 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Beginning to Bake Scratch Cakes


Knowing these things could have saved me so much trial and error when I started baking scratch cakes!

My passion for making cakes began when I was a child. To be honest, I simply wanted to eat cake all the time, and I knew I’d have to learn to make it since my mom wasn’t going to do it all the time.

I began by using cake mixes and later progressed to making from scratch.

There were definitely many things I did incorrectly, assumptions I made that were incorrect, and I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I thought it would be interesting to compile a list of things I wish I’d known before I began baking from scratch that would have saved me so much time and misery.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m pleased I had the experience and learned the way I did, but if this will help someone avoid some of the problems I had, then that’s my aim.

Lets get started!

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I wish I’d known that preheating the oven really is a big deal.

As a child, I was quite impatient. (All right, I’m still eager.) Anyway, I didn’t see why preheating the oven was required.

I’d forget and then turn on the oven and put the cake in. Then I’d wonder why it didn’t rise correctly or took too long to bake, resulting in a dry product.

However, it is essential to preheat your oven. You must raise the temperature before placing the cake. In fact, even if your oven indicates it’s ready, it’s preferable to let it preheat for a few minutes longer.

You don’t want heat fluctuations in the oven while your cake is baking. You want your cake to rise appropriately, not be too thick, and not dry out due to the prolonged baking time.

I wish I’d known to check the oven temp with a thermometer:

This one took me a bit to figure out. I’m not sure why I was so resistant to just going out and obtaining an oven thermometer, but it took me a long time to eventually decide to do it.

It is, however, quite useful in assessing if your oven is even near to the temperature you have set it to. If it’s off, at least you’ll know how much to adjust the temperature.

I wish I’d known to prepare the cake pans first.

You’re probably thinking I’m stupid right now, but a lot of people don’t understand you need to prepare cake pans before pouring in the batter.

It is not stupid.We just do not know some things at times, and when we do, we do better.

Different recipes will instruct you on how to prepare your pans in various ways. That is critical to remember since you absolutely want your cakes to lift out of their pans.

There are several methods for prepping pans, including using parchment paper (not wax paper), butter, shortening and then flouring, the pan release recipe, or nonstick spray.

If you want to dig further and receive additional advice, I go into a lot more depth and demonstrate my preferred way in this post: How to Get Your Cakes to Release From Pans

I wish I’d known that using dark coated or slanted side pans could cause problems.

This is a huge one. When I realized this, my cake making improved dramatically.

So, although black coated pans are excellent for nonstick reasons, they are not ideal for baking cakes.

If you’re using a dark-coated pan, reduce the oven temperature by around 25 degrees and bake the cake for a bit longer.

Dark-coated pans appear to bake things faster, so keep an eye on it.

When it comes to slant side pans, if you want a good looking cake, they aren’t the way to go. For a long time, I cooked using these tilted pans, not understanding why my cakes didn’t look right and were difficult to decorate.

The slanted sides must be trimmed in order for the sides of the cake to be straight up and down, or else things will seem strange.

It’s simpler to bake in nice pans to begin with since you won’t have to worry about increasing the oven temperature because the pan is dark or cutting the cake edges to get them straight up and down.

Magic line pans are my absolute favorite. They bake cake layers much more uniformly than other cake pans, in my opinion. Because they aren’t black coated, you’ll have to prepare them (as I indicated above), but I’ve always had excellent experience with them.

Magic Line Pans may be purchased here: 8 Magic Line Pans, Round

I also make use of Wilton pans. They don’t bake as uniformly as Magic Line pans, but they’re still terrific pans and less priced. These may be found here: 8 Wilton Round Pans

Check out this article for additional cake-baking tips: 12 Must-Have Tools to Begin Baking Amazing Cakes.

I wish I’d known that the oven rack position really matters.

Most cakes must be cooked in the center of the oven. You don’t want to bake them too hot or too cold, or you’ll have all sorts of problems.

Some cake recipes may instruct you to bake them on a certain rack. Simply follow the recipe’s instructions, but if nothing else is specified, bake your cakes in the center of the oven.

Air circulates better in the center, resulting in more balanced heating.

I wish I’d known how to measure ingredients properly.

Oh, my goodness! I was bad at weighing and measuring ingredients. How significant could it possibly be?

I’m sure I don’t have to explain you how vital it is to correctly measure baking materials. I mean, it’s OK to wing it while cooking, but not when baking.

Baking is all about proportions, and if you get one wrong, the entire thing might collapse literally.

So it’s not only mis-measuring, but also how you measure. There are two types of measuring cups: liquid measuring cups and dry measuring cups.

One such example is measuring flour. Many individuals just dip a measuring cup into the flour bag to measure it. That’s a no-no because it packs the flour inside the cup.

You’ll really be adding more flour to your mixture than you need, which might result in a thick or dry cake.

I’ve written a full post on measurement. There’s also a video showing how to measure liquid and dry ingredients correctly. That may be found here: Baking Cake Ingredient Measuring

I wish I’d known that substituting, adding, or eliminating ingredients can cause a lot of problems.

Making substitutes and changing out components, as well as adding and removing ingredients as needed, is a terrible idea.

I used to make ALL of those errors and then wonder why things didn’t work out. The issue is, we assume something will not make a difference, but it does.

For example, if you reduce the quantity of sugar in the recipe, you may forfeit moisture, since sugar not only makes a cake tasty, but it also contributes to the moistness of the cake.

Another example is replacing baking powder with baking soda, or vice versa. These are not the same thing, and using them interchangeably may lead to serious problems. I’ve written a detailed post on it here: What Is the Distinction Between Baking Powder and Baking Soda?

There are a few acceptable replacements, but you must use extreme caution. If you want additional information on what you can substitute and a downloadable cheat sheet, check out this post: Substitutions for Cake Baking and a Cheat Sheet

I wish I’d known that just adding more liquid, won’t necessarily make the cake more moist.

Adding additional liquid to a cake to make it more moist is a bad idea.

That alters the ratio, because liquid isn’t the only element that keeps a cake moist. Fat (as in oils, eggs, milk, and so on) and sugar both aid.

If you add too much liquid, you may end up with a strangely textured cake that is rubbery, similar to when you overmix it. Believe me, I’ve done it.

If you’re having difficulties getting moist cakes, I have an article and video on how to accomplish it here that you may want to look at: How to Make Moist Cake

I also have another article regarding dry cakes, why they happen, and what you can do about them here: Why are my cakes so stale?

I wish I’d known not to microwave the butter.

Oh, I used to do this all the time! I was continually forgetting to put the butter out. (Let’s be honest, I still do.)

In any case, microwaving the butter does not uniformly heat it. Parts of it melt, while others remain cold, and this does not mix well with the other ingredients.

So what I’ve discovered recently is to just chop up the butter and place it on a platter. It normally returns to room temperature in approximately an hour.

I wish I’d known that not paying attention to the mixing method could cause problems.

Oh, this is a huge one, and I was the worst at following instructions on the planet. Why should I go through all of these processes and use all of these bowls?

It didn’t make sense to me until I learned more about baking and began following the recipe directions. I then boasted about how much superior my cakes were.

You never realize what you’re missing until you try something new, and that was the case for me.

It makes a big difference how you combine the elements. The recipes aren’t simply suggesting that to make you work harder. (I used to believe this.)

When components are blended in a certain order, everything emulsifies and rises appropriately.

In this article, I go into a lot more depth on mixing methods: Flour Types and Cake Mixing Methods

I also have a detailed tutorial on baking scratch cakes here: How to Make a Homemade Cake

I wish I’d known not to over mix the cake batter.

The most common error I notice is overmixing the cake batter.

I’ll simply say it out loud.Don’t overwork the cake mixture to get rid of all the little bits. That is, in fact, a HUGE error.

It may seem paradoxical not to mix it until perfectly smooth, but if you do, the gluten will get overdeveloped and the cake would be quite thick and rubbery.

Simply mix until everything is nicely integrated. Remove any major lumps, but don’t worry about making it exactly smooth.

I initially heard this someplace online or in a cookbook, but it was in reference to preparing pancakes. So, the following time I prepared them, I tried not to overmix the batter, and the pancakes were even fluffier!

Then I understood it was the same idea as every other baked item. When you think about it, it’s a comfort to know you won’t have to work as hard.

I do have an article on how long to mix cake batter that includes a video of real-time mixing (not fast-forwarding) so you can get a decent sense of how long I’m talking about. How to Prepare Cake Batter

I wish I’d known not to open and close the oven door constantly or slam the door while the cake is baking.

I used to get quite enthusiastic and eager when my cakes were finished. I simply wanted to devour them now!

So I’d check and check and open the door a lot of times, not understanding I was generating all sorts of problems.

Opening the oven door many times while the cake is baking can cause the temperature to vary, which is never ideal in baking.

Slamming the oven door might shake the cake, causing it to collapse since all the small air bubbles you worked so hard to get in there by adding leavening ingredients or creaming butter and sugar will have burst.

The moral of the tale is to try to be patient rather than doing what I used to do and checking it a thousand times.

I have a post that outlines a number of faults that scratch bakers (including myself) may make while making cakes. You should look into this since these problems may be avoided! The Most Common Cake Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

I used to believe that the toothpick test was the greatest way to determine whether a cake was done baking.

Many recipes state that your cake is done when a toothpick put into the middle comes out clean. Well, I’ve discovered that if you wait so long, your cake may get dry.

Furthermore, the toothpick test is not the only one. There are several more methods for determining when a cake is done baking.

So, in terms of the toothpick test, I still use it, but more to see whether the batter is still uncooked on the inside. If it has batter on the toothpick, it has to bake for longer.

But what I’m actually looking for is a few moist crumbs on the toothpick when I take it out. That means it’s great and will stay wet.

If you bake it beyond that point and then test it with a toothpick, it might be slightly overbaked. (Of course, nothing is written in stone, nor does it apply to all cake kinds, but it has worked for me.)

If you want to see the various ways I use and my timetable, I go into depth in my article on determining when a cake is done baking: When Is a Cake Completely Baked?

I wish I’d known not to try so hard to get flat cake layers.

Okay, I’m about to say something that could get me in trouble. We should all quit worrying so much about making cakes with flat tops.

Yes, they are more decorative, but you can just cut the dome or uneven portions off.

People have offered all sorts of tips for attaining flat tops, such as laying a dish, a book, or whatever on a heated cake that is still in the pan to break down the top.

What are we doing? Simply trim the unevenness with a knife or a cake leveler. It just takes a minute, and you will not be crushing your cake.

I don’t like the other techniques since I don’t want to ruin the cake texture by pushing it down. I don’t want a more thick cake.

And it’s not like you’ll be removing a large portion of the top of each cake layer. I guarantee you’ll find someone who will eat it!

Okay, I’ll step down off my soapbox now. Please realize that I am not targeting anybody in particular. Everyone has different tastes, and I understand that, so if another way appeals to you and works for you, go for it. I’ll be your biggest fan.

But if you’re worried about obtaining flat tops, I’m here to inform you that you don’t have to. It’s fine. Just cut those babies off and move on.

In this article, I go into further depth regarding baking equal cake layers: How to Bake Evenly Spaced Cake Layers

By the way, one of the things I mention in the article link above is that many reverse creaming technique cakes will have a largely flat top, so it is something to try if you really want them baked with flat tops.

I wish I’d known that cake layers can be baked ahead of time and frozen.

Oh, how I would have saved time if I had knew I could truly do this and the cakes would still taste nice.

However, if you do it correctly, you may freeze cake layers without them being freezer burnt, and they will taste as if they have never been frozen.

I go a bit beyond with my methods, but I’ve never had a freezer burnt cake using my way. You should look it up here: How to Freeze Cakes and Cupcakes

Wrapping it all up:

Wow, there was so much I didn’t know and so much I got incorrect all the time. But, after all, we live and learn, right? I hope you learned a thing or two from this that will save you time or prevent your cakes from coming out poorly!

Other posts you might like:

  • 25 Insanely Useful Tips for Baking Cakes
  • Why Do Cakes Sink in the Middle?
  • What Became to My Cake? Common Cake Baking Issues


What do I need to know before baking a cake?

Follow the Recipe to Learn How to Bake the Perfect Cake. Isn’t this self-evident? …
Temperature in the room.
Take accurate measurements.
Flour for baking.
Don’t overmix or undermix.
Make use of Parchment Paper Rounds.
Don’t Turn on the Oven.
Bounce-Back Exam.

What are 10 things to remember about baking?

Let’s go a bit more into the baking tips.
Always use the proper butter consistency.
The temperature of the room is critical.
Before you begin, read the recipe.
Always have your ingredients ready.
Discover How to Measure.
Weigh all of your ingredients.
Purchase an Oven Thermometer.
Keep the oven door shut.

How do I start baking from scratch?

The BEST Baking Advice for Novices

What are the 10 steps of baking a cake?

How to Make a Cake in 10 Easy Steps
The Fundamentals of Baking a Cake. Lemm, Elaine.
02 of 10. Preheat the oven and grease it. Lemm, Elaine.
03 of 10. Gather your ingredients. Lemm, Elaine.
04 of 10. The Dry Mix should be whisked.
05 of 10. Cream the butter and sugar together.
06 of 10. Pour in the eggs.
07 of 10. It’s time to join forces.
08 of 10. Pour the batter into the pan.

What are the 5 skills in baking a cake?

Understanding of Mise en Place is one of the six skills that every baker should have.
Team communication is quite clear.
Pay close attention to the details.
Flavor and texture creativity.
Outstanding hand-eye coordination.
Patience in the Face of Adversity.

What should I learn first in baking?

A Beginner’s Guide to Baking at Home.
Begin with a simple muffin recipe.
Measure your components precisely and make no substitutes.
Combine the wet and dry components.
Set the oven to the correct temperature.
In the final 10 minutes, check the cake for doneness.

What are the 12 steps of baking?

Panning.SCS 019| Scaling the Twelve Steps of Bread Baking Ingredients.
Kneading and mixing.
Primary fermentation, often known as “bulk” fermentation.
Dividing by punching or “Degasing”
“Pre-forming” or “rounding”
Benching vs “Resting”
Final shaping

What are 5 facts about baking?

Five Strange Baking Facts You Didn’t Know
Baking soda works like magic.
Betty Crocker isn’t real.
Chocolate chip cookies were an oversight.
Baking is all about chemistry.
Putting baked products in the refrigerator causes them to grow stale quicker.

What are the 6 essential steps in baking?

Wet ingredients, dry components, leavening agents, flavoring, heat, and varied mixing procedures are the six essential elements of baking. Wet ingredients, dry components, leavening agents, flavoring, heat, and varied mixing procedures are the six essential elements of baking.

How do I start baking like a pro?

We have compiled the most useful ideas and methods to inspire and educate you!
Tip 1: Do not mix baking powder with baking soda.
Tip 2: Proper measurement is essential.
Tip 3: Choosing the appropriate butter consistency is critical.
Tip 4: Begin whipping cream in a chilled basin.
Tip 5: Bread aids in the softening of brown sugar.

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