All About Cakes

Secrets for Butter Cakes

Use butter, margarine or solid shortening. Don’t substitute oil, even if the recipe calls for the shortening to be melted.

Use solid shortening to prepare the pan. Grease the bottom and sides of the pan with solid vegetable shortening (butter, margarine and oil don’t coat as evenly). Use a paper towel or pastry brush to spread the shortening. Then dust the greased pan with flour, shaking it until the bottom and sides are well coated. (If you’re baking a chocolate cake, you can use cocoa instead of flour.) Tap out the excess flour. For nonstick pans, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Instead of greasing and flouring pans, you also may use pan inserts made of parchment paper. The inserts are available at many cooking specialty stores. Use paper or foil baking cups to line cupcake pans.

Make a hollow. After filling the pan with batter, make a slight hollow in the center of the batter with the back of a spoon or spatula. This will give the cake a nicely rounded, rather than humped, top.

Cool cake in the pan. Cool cake on a wire rack for 5 to 20 minutes before removing it from the pan. To remove a cake, carefully run a knife along the edge to loosen it from the pan. Place another wire rack on top of the pan. With the pan sandwiched between the two racks, turn it over. Carefully lift the pan from the cake. To make sure that the top of the cake will be facing up, once again sandwich the cake between two racks and turn it over. Remove the top rack.

If the cake sticks to the pan, return it to the oven and heat for 1 minute. Remove it from the pan.

Cut the cake with a thin, sharp knife. Use a sawing, back-and-forth motion. If the frosting sticks, dip the knife in hot water and wipe it with a damp towel after cutting each slice. An electric knife also works well for cutting most layer cakes.