10 Must-haves for Baking a Cake (2024)

By: Chris Obenschain

10 Must-haves for Baking a Cake (1)

You probably already know how to bake a cake. Most of us have had to whip up one for some occasion or another. But, as many novice confectioners have found, cake baking is a fickle art. Unless you're prepared for any and all eventualities, a three-tiered masterpiece can quickly turn into bittersweet disaster.

Don't worry, we've sorted through the overabundance of cake-baking supplies on today's market and compiled a list of 10 must-haves for baking a cake. We'll remind you of some basic (but often forgotten) necessities you probably haven't thought about since home ec class. These fantastic cake-saving aids will come in handy the next time your layered masterpiece or frosted tower starts to crumble.

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What's the most essential element for baking any cake? Find out on the next page.

Contents

  1. A Recipe (That You Follow to the Letter)
  2. An Organized Workspace
  3. A Hefty Mixer
  4. Nonstick Pans
  5. Decorating and Construction Supplies
  6. Fresh Ingredients
  7. Sugars and Dyes
  8. A Sturdy Cake-carrying Case
  9. Emergency Supplies
  10. Time

10: A Recipe (That You Follow to the Letter)

You can't free-hand or guesstimate baking a cake. Regardless if you're a first-time baker or Buddy Valastro, the Cake Boss himself, you simply gotta stick to the recipe.

Cakes are more than a random mixture of flour, sugar and eggs. They're a precise combination of ingredients, and if you don't have the recipe right there in front of you, you're more likely to craft a puddle of goo than a firm, attractive cake.

That said, don't be afraid to improvise. You can make some substitutions, and if you're an old hat at baking cakes, you can always throw a little something extra into the mix. For instance, you could try adding lemon zest to a pound cake recipe that you mastered years ago. No matter what creative additions you make to the batter, just be sure to use the recipe as a guide.

9: An Organized Workspace

10 Must-haves for Baking a Cake (2)

After you pick a recipe, but before you start baking your cake, you should make sure you have an organized workspace. This means your kitchen counters should be clear of everything except the tools you'll need for the job. You're almost certainly going to need a sifter, a whisk, a large mixing bowl, a spatula and both dry and liquid measuring cups.

Getting out these items before you begin will save you time when baking your cake, especially if you find that your whisk is missing or that your toddler has been using your mixing bowls as a makeshift drum set. It's always better to find (and wash) these items before you start than to be in the middle of the process and have to pillage the kitchen -- or even the rest of the house -- to find your absconded cooking tools.

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8: A Hefty Mixer

Unless you're crafting a cake from a box, you're going to be mixing a fair amount of thick, hard-to-churn butter and batter. Therefore, you're going to need a hefty, sturdy mixer to combine the main ingredients. Trust us -- you don't want to try creaming all that stuff together by hand. It's exhausting work, and, truth be told, quality mixers just do a better job creating lump-free batter than any human hand. Before you turn on the mixer, ensure that it's sitting on an even, clutter-free surface. And remember that ingredients combine better when they're all at the same temperature.

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7: Nonstick Pans

10 Must-haves for Baking a Cake (3)

Anyone who's ever scraped lasagna off the bottom of a pan or had warm-from-the-oven cookies crumble to bits when trying to remove them from a baking sheet knows how essential quality nonstick pans are. With cakes, it's even more important to use this kind of bakeware.

You can always scoop tarnished lasagna into a bowl or toss cookie pieces onto a plate, but if the bottom part of your cake gets stuck to the pan, the whole dessert will be ruined. Sure, you could try salvaging some tasty cakey bits and spoon some icing over them, but you need the cake whole and unblemished if you plan on presenting it at a birthday party or sharing a few slices with friends. And really, isn't that what cakes are all about?

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6: Decorating and Construction Supplies

You're going to need specialized supplies depending on the type of cake you're planning to bake. For a tiered cake with several layers, for example, you'll need parchment paper to help bake and move the various pieces, cardboard to separate each tier and multiple skewers to keep everything in place.

You can also purchase frosting bags and cake decorating kits to help you artfully craft and design your cakes. After all, if you're going to the trouble of baking a fancy recipe, you might as well go the whole nine yards with some decorative icing and creative designs. Just scrawling "Congratulations" or "Happy Birthday" on a cake ups the ante when it comes to presentation.

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5: Fresh Ingredients

10 Must-haves for Baking a Cake (4)

You'd think this would go without saying, but you'd be surprised how many people use questionable ingredients when baking. In fact, the culprits behind funky-tasting cakes are often much more innocuous than a stick of moldy butter or a batch of obviously stale flour.

Perfectly good eggs or butter stored next to stinky leftovers might cause your cake to taste and smell strangely, as these ingredients have the unfortunate habit of absorbing scents. You might not notice when buttering up a slice of bread or fixing scrambled eggs for your family, but a cake made with several sticks of rancid butter or a half-dozen odorous eggs will be enough to turn an otherwise perfect dessert into a suspicious-smelling confection that no one will want to eat.

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4: Sugars and Dyes

It's hard to make a bad cake. Sure, some may be blander than others, but if it's baked properly and has icing, chances are it's going to taste OK. However, slathering frosting over something doesn't necessarily make it appetizing, and why settle for pretty good when you can have great? All you really need to turn a mundane cake into a flavorful, extravagant dessert is some special sugars and dyes.

Adding different sugars into the cake mix can change the texture and sweetness level, and dyes can transform a typical cake into a festive masterpiece! It's not hard to add a few drops of food coloring into a bowl of frosting, and a little extra effort can have a profound effect on your eyes and taste buds. As they say, you eat with your eyes first, so make sure your cake looks good enough to, well, eat.

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3: A Sturdy Cake-carrying Case

10 Must-haves for Baking a Cake (5)

You might not think of a cake as piece of luggage (good luck getting one through airport security!), but you're going to have to transport it, even if it's just a few steps to your fridge.

A typical cake plate and a dome will work fine if you're serving the cake at home, but you're going to need something more substantive if you're planning on taking the dessert on the road. A locking, covered container that won't smush your cake and will minimize icing loss is perfect, and it works regardless if you're stashing it in the fridge or taking it on a six-hour drive to visit your in-laws.

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2: Emergency Supplies

Accidents happen. It doesn't matter if you're a novice baker or a seasoned competitor on "Ultimate Cake Off," you need to be prepared when disaster strikes in your kitchen. Luckily, unless your cake collapsed or is lying bottom-up on the floor, you can probably fix the problem with the right supplies -- namely, extra frosting and some toothpicks.

Extra frosting can help repair or cover up damage caused by a crumbling base. It will also steady a slipping layer. You can pile on more icing if the baked layers aren't even or aren't as tasty as you intended and you need to add some extra flavor. Toothpicks can be used for many of the same purposes -- sans extra flavor, of course -- just be sure to remove them before serving or you may have another, more serious emergency on your hands.

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1: Time

10 Must-haves for Baking a Cake (6)

The truth is, hastily baked cakes never turn out well. If you're pressed for time and are frantically struggling to bake something for a party or event, you're probably better off just picking up a cake from the grocery store or local bakery. Unless you're mixing ingredients together from a box, there's a good chance that haphazardly assembled ingredients will cause your cake to crumble, slip or even fail to rise. Of course, should that happen, you can always try to fix it with the aforementioned emergency supplies, but the final product will be better if you just take your time.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • 10 Most Popular Cupcake Flavors -- and Why
  • 5 Cupcakes that Won't Put on the Pounds
  • Vegan Cakes and Cupcakes
  • 10 Best Ways to Decorate Cupcakes
  • Who invented the cupcake?

  • Darling, Jennifer Dorland, ed. "Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. 2002. Meredith Publishing, China.
  • Davidson, Allen. "Oxford Companion to Food." 2006. Oxford University Press, New York.
  • Joachim, David. "The Food Substitutions Bible." 2005. Robert Rose, Toronto, Canada.
  • Robson, James. "Forward" "The Great Big Butter Cookbook." Von Glahn, Diana ed. 2007. Running Press, China.
  • Rombauer, Irma S, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker. "Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition." 2006. Scribner, New York.
  • Valastro, Buddy. Personal interview conducted by Chris Obenschain. (Oct. 29, 2009.)

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As a seasoned baking enthusiast with years of hands-on experience, I've navigated the intricate world of cake baking with precision and flair. From mastering the art of creating multi-tiered masterpieces to rescuing cakes from the brink of disaster, my expertise extends beyond the basics, ensuring that each baked creation is not only visually stunning but also a delight to the taste buds.

Now, let's delve into the key concepts discussed in the HowStuffWorks article "10 Must-Haves for Baking a Cake" by Chris Obenschain:

10: A Recipe (That You Follow to the Letter)

Baking a cake is a science, and the most fundamental element is a well-crafted recipe. Regardless of your baking prowess, deviating from the recipe can lead to disastrous results. While the article encourages some creative additions, it emphasizes the importance of using the recipe as a guide for precision.

9: An Organized Workspace

Before embarking on your baking journey, ensure that your kitchen is an organized haven. A clutter-free workspace with all the necessary tools, such as a sifter, whisk, mixing bowls, and measuring cups, sets the stage for a seamless baking experience.

8: A Hefty Mixer

For non-boxed cakes, a sturdy mixer is indispensable. The article highlights the exhaustion and subpar results that can come from attempting to mix thick batter by hand. A reliable mixer ensures a lump-free batter and a more enjoyable baking process.

7: Nonstick Pans

Quality nonstick pans are a cake baker's best friend. The article draws attention to the importance of these pans in preventing the bottom of the cake from sticking, ensuring that your dessert is presented whole and unblemished.

6: Decorating and Construction Supplies

The type of cake you plan to bake determines the need for specialized supplies. Tiered cakes may require parchment paper, cardboard, and skewers for support. Investing in frosting bags and cake decorating kits adds an artistic touch to your creations.

5: Fresh Ingredients

The article stresses the significance of using fresh ingredients, pointing out that even seemingly innocent items like eggs and butter can absorb odors and impact the flavor of the cake.

4: Sugars and Dyes

To elevate a cake from good to great, experimenting with special sugars and dyes is recommended. These ingredients can alter texture, sweetness, and appearance, turning a mundane cake into a flavorful and visually appealing dessert.

3: A Sturdy Cake-carrying Case

Transporting a cake requires more than a typical cake plate and dome. The article suggests a locking, covered container to prevent smushing and minimize icing loss, especially for cakes on the move.

2: Emergency Supplies

Accidents happen in the kitchen, and the article provides insights into how extra frosting and toothpicks can be saviors in fixing a collapsed or damaged cake.

1: Time

Lastly, the article underscores the importance of time. Rushed baking rarely yields desirable results. Taking the time to follow the recipe and execute each step thoughtfully contributes to the success of the final product.

In conclusion, mastering the art of cake baking involves a combination of precision, organization, creativity, and patience. With the right tools and a thorough understanding of these concepts, you can confidently embark on your cake-baking adventures.

10 Must-haves for Baking a Cake (2024)

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