Learning by trial and error method has given me some successful, some not so successful and some disastrous cakes at times. Here are some things I have learnt, which could be useful for beginners.
1. Pre-heating: Always pre heat the oven for at least 25-30 minutes. I prefer a conventional Oven Toaster Griller(OTG) for baking as compared to a microwave. I find that cakes baked in the OTG are much better both taste and texture wise, as compared to cakes baked in the microwave. The longer cooking time helps caramelize the sugar and adds to its taste.
2. Baking tins : Invest in good quality shiny aluminum tins . To begin with, a round, a square, and a loaf tin should suffice.
3. Measuring cups and spoons: These are a must and available in most supermarkets. Accurate measurements are a must for good results.
4. Butter paper : These is extremely important for lining the cake tin as it will prevent the cake from sticking to the pan. It also gives a good smooth surface for you to decorate on. Butter paper is also useful for making small piping bags for chocolate decorations, piping designs etc.
Ensure the butter paper is of good quality as a poor quality paper will stick and fuse with the cake. You would then have to cut off the portion of the cake as it would be unfit for consumption. I have found Reynolds a good brand.
5. Baking Time: Check on the cake 5 to 10 minutes earlier than the time specified in the recipe. But do not open the door of the oven too often as it will reduce the temperature inside.
7. Eggs: Eggs must be at room temperature. If your eggs are in the fridge, make sure you keep them out of the fridge at least one hour before you use them.
9. Hand Mixer: Invest in one if you are serious about baking. It gives good volume when eggs are whipped, the egg whites whip really well, extremely useful for whipping cream. My Morphy Richards 300 watt hand mixer is indispensable to me. Professionals would use a stand alone mixer as it is supposed to be much better as compared to the hand mixer. I find my hand mixer good enough for home baking.
10. Sieving : Sieving the flour, baking powder, soda etc is very important as it help achieve 3 objectives. It helps uniform mixing of the ingredients and remove any lumps. It helps incorporate air into the mixture. If you are using cocoa powder or icing sugar, they need to be sieved too.
11. Greasing Pans: When you grease pans, use ghee or butter( and not oil )as it works better.
12. Rubber Spatula : This is very useful for scraping all the batter from your bowl, without wastage and without getting your hands messy.
1. Do not leave the cake in the oven after you its baked even if the oven is switched off. This remnant heat in the oven will cause the baked product to cook further affecting the texture and taste.
2. Prepare the cake tin (grease and lined with butter paper), switch on the oven before you start preparing the cake batter.
3. Once the cake batter is ready, immediately put it into the greased baking tin and into the hot oven. Do not leave the batter sitting for long as the texture of the cake gets affected.
4. Keep all ingredients measured and ready before you start making the batter.
5. Line your kitchen counter or work surface with old newspapers for a easier and faster clean up.
6. If you are adding nuts to the cake batter, dust them lightly in plain flour and the add to the batter. The flour will help avoid the nuts sinking to the bottom of the cake.