The science of the cake


Posted: Wednesday, October 03, 2007


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  A perfectly baked cake tastes as good as it looks. Photo by Sue Ade/Morris News Ser

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake is paired with silky smooth chocolate ganache. Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa was used to make the cake pictured here.

Photo by Sue Ade/Morris News Ser

You're about to read of a masterpiece and how to create it.

For those of you who have never made a cake before, you will find flawless recipes here with the magic to transform a cake buyer into a passionate cake baker.

If you are an accomplished baker, you will appreciate the recipes for their simplicity and ease of preparation.

To ease the cake-baking anxieties of novice bakers, please keep in mind that you will be working with formulas that have been kitchen-tested and proven time and time again.

Producing a beautifully baked homemade cake is not a matter of luck but rather an exact science, where ingredients are carefully balanced and the directions precisely followed. Do this and you will be assured success every time.

Ready to get started?


Food companies frequently print their best tried-and-true recipes on the back of cans, boxes and bags. Hershey's has manufactured cocoa since 1894.

Photo by Sue Ade/Morris News Ser

Before you begin

* Read through the recipe, from beginning to end.

* Check to be sure you have all the ingredients needed and assemble them; bring ingredients to room temperature.

* Use quality ingredients, the best you can afford.

* Don't make any changes to the recipe and follow the directions precisely.

* Preheating the oven is important. Do not skip this step, or you'll end up with an unpredictable baking time and uneven cake layers.


The tools of the trade include measuring spoons and cups, spatulas, whisks and wire racks.

Photo by Sue Ade/Morris News Ser

Tools of the trade

* Use a liquid measuring cup with a handle and spout for measuring liquids. This type of cup will not work for measuring dry ingredients. For dry ingredients use graduated-type measuring cups. Spoon dry ingredients (the flour and the sugar) to the brim, then level the top by passing the straight edge of a knife over it.

* Use the proper size baking pans. Pans are measured across the top, from rim to rim.

* If you are unsure of the accuracy of your oven, use an oven thermometer to verify oven temperature. Place cake pans as close to the center of the oven as possible, with room for air circulation around the pans.

* Test cakes' doneness by inserting a metal cake tester or bamboo skewer near the center of the cake; it should come out clean.

* Cool cakes on a wire rack. Cakes that are not properly cooled will be soggy.


A perfectly baked cake tastes as good as it looks.

Photo by Sue Ade/Morris News Ser

When it all goes right

* You'll know it's time to remove the cake from the oven because the edges of the cake have begun to slightly pull away from the sides of the pan.

* The top surface springs back without leaving an impression when lightly touched, and a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

* The cake is moist and dense with a close-grained texture.

* The cake's surface is smooth and even, free of cracks or "humps."

* The flavor of the cake is intensely chocolate with a rich and distinguishable homemade taste; its color is deep and even.

* When carefully wrapped, the frosted cake may be frozen for up to 2 months; unfrosted layers, up to 6 months.


A freshly baked and frosted homemade cake is a masterpiece, a work of art that is first tasted with the eyes.

Photo by Sue Ade/Morris News Ser

Frosting the cake

* Be sure cake is thoroughly cooled before frosting.

* Place one cake layer upside down on a plate.

* Using a spatula with a flexible blade spread about 1/2 cup of frosting to the edge.

* Allow to set slightly.

* Place second layer, right side up, on frosting.

* Spread frosting, in a thin layer, all around sides of cake. Using free, easy upward strokes, spread another layer of frosting on cake, forming a small ridge above top of cake. Keep sides straight.

* Spread remaining frosting on top of cake, making swirls with the spatula.

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