13 Common Baking Mistakes when Baking at home
Baking is sweet. Baking is magic. But Baking is hard. Actually not!
You have to get the knack of baking to succeed at it. It is not as simple as cooking but one notch above. Approximations in cooking recipes will always give you something new! But approximations in baking will give you nothing but cake disasters and a mess in the kitchen!
I have known about people facing failures in baking and giving up at it. Please do not do that! If you want to proudly call yourself a baker, never ever give up and give in to your failures!
As I teach people how to bake at home, they keep asking me about the challenges they face while baking at home “Mansi, my cake is dry and crumbly, which mistake did I make?” or “My cake bottom has burnt, where did I go wrong?”
Baking fails like hard cake tops, overflown batter, burnt cakes and worse..dry cakes are always avoidable if you follow a few baking rules.
If you love to bake, I am sure you must have come across at least one of the above situations. Am I assuming too much??
Nevertheless, do we stop baking? Absolutely not! Baking is really some therapy and is so rewarding! It is something that involves both mind and body. We mix the batter, we bake the cake and we are rewarded with heavenly smelling goodies and heavenly smelling house. My neighbors know when I am making a cake! Don’t forget the compliments people give after eating your cake!
But life would be so good if there were no failures in baking! Or at least if we could keep them to a minimum? I am going to tell you how!
Here is a list of 13 Baking Mistakes when making Cakes, Cupcakes or Cookies at home:
1. Over-mixing the cake batter
This is by far the most common baking mistake all new bakers make. They mix and mix and mix and daydream all lost in their thoughts and the result is a dense and gummy cake! Poor Cake! Well, mixing cake batter IS addictive! But you need to stop doing this!
How to avoid this baking mistake: Mix just till everything comes together.
2. Baking in a Cold Oven
This is like expecting hot water from a geyser tap which is not switched on! You are not going to get it! It is the same with baking. You need to preheat the oven to get things working.
If we consider the same analogy of a geyser, it needs some electricity to produce hot water, similarly there is some heat required beforehand in the oven to start the baking process.
How to avoid this baking mistake: Preheat the oven at 350°F/180°C for at least 10 minutes.
3. Opening the oven door too often
Hello there! How many of us are guilty of this! Let me take a guess…All of us!
This is one of the most common mistakes in baking after batter over-mixing. Do not peep and say hello to your cake! The cake inside will not appreciate it and may sink. The reason behind this is your cake batter has air bubbles which expand till your cake has a structure (i.e. till it bakes) and who rely on the heat for expansion. When we open the door, a lot of heat escapes and the temperature inside the oven changes.
An analogy here is of our moms asking us not to open the refrigerator door in our childhood days. The cool air escaping through the fridge would only make the fridge work more! Same with the oven!
How to avoid this baking mistake: Do NOT open the door!
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4. High temperature in oven which leads to burnt tops
Did you know all ovens are calibrated when they are manufactured. What the heck is calibration? This is nothing but telling the oven how much heat it needs to produce inside when you set the oven to a particular temperature. This is a baking mistake we do without realizing!
Often times it happens that if we set the oven at 350°F, for example, it is highly possible that your oven is not calibrated accurately and will produce more or maybe less heat for a particular temperature resulting in baking fails. In general, ovens are off by 10-15 degrees plus or minus.
How to avoid this baking mistake: Use an Oven Thermometer like this one.
5. Adding all eggs at once
Adding all your eggs required in the cake recipe at once will do you no good. Add them one by one which will ensure that they are incorporated properly with the creamed butter and sugar. One thing you can do is break them in a bowl and whisk together but add the whisked egg mixture little by little in the cake batter.
How to avoid this baking mistake: Add eggs one by one or add whisked eggs little by little.
6. Not adding ingredients in proper order as mentioned in the Cake Recipe
There is a reason the recipe author asks you to follow the cake recipe instructions. For example, butter is creamed in the first step as it makes it very fluffy. Air is incorporated inside it to make a fluffy cake. If you will skip this step, or add melted butter instead, this will take a hit on your final cake as the air bubbles which were supposed to make the cake fluffy are absent! Do you get the drift?
How to avoid this baking mistake: Follow the recipe to the T. Measure and mix the ingredients in the order mentioned in the recipe.
7. Using a small Cake Tin
This baking mistake is very costly. Whenever you use a small cake tin which fills up till its neck with cake batter, it is a given that your batter is going to overflow while baking. If it does not overflow, chances are the cake middle will sink after baking is over. Why? The limited space available in the cake tin to the remaining cake batter is not enough to accommodate all expanding air bubbles. So it either overflows or sinks.I will not lie I am guilty of doing this! Learnt hard from my mistakes.
How to avoid this baking mistake: Fill a cake tin only till the 2/3rd mark or Use the cake tin size mentioned in the recipe by the author.
8. Approximating the ingredients
You have definitely heard of this: “Baking is a Science.” Well of course it is. And so every teaspoon of that dry ingredient plays a role and is very important. The way in which you measure ingredients and weigh liquids lays the foundation of your cake.
How to avoid this baking mistake: Make sure your ingredients are perfectly measured till the last gram. No Approximations ever!
9. Substituting ingredients
Not only Baking soda and baking powder, you are not supposed to substitute even milk for yogurt and yogurt for eggs. Why? Because the consistency and the final weight of these ingredients are very different from each other. Your cake will not have the same texture as with original ingredients of the recipe. And as every ingredient plays a vital role in this chemical reaction called baking, you would not consider substituting ingredients like you do in cooking.
Needless to say, Baking Soda and Baking Powder have different roles in baking and substituting them for each other is a sin in baking! Your Cake will be a disaster.
How to avoid this baking mistake: If you do not have an ingredient on hand, try another recipe. Nowadays recipes with different ingredients are available very easily on the internet. Try those or plan to bake on another day when you can arrange all the ingredients before starting to bake.
10. Not using parchment paper or not greasing the cake tin properly
Parchment Paper will not let your cake stick to the cake tin. Works like magic trust me. If you are thinking about cutting costs by avoiding this one, you will pay a higher price (read stress and worry) if your cake sticks to the bottom and you are running short of time! You can also go with the oil-flour method, but parchment works the best!
How to avoid this baking mistake: Use Parchment Paper!
11. Trying to demould when cake is hot/handling cookies when they are hot
When a cake comes out of the oven, it needs some time to settle down. Underline these words. It needs at least half an hour to come to normal temperature and half an hour more to cool down completely. So do not even consider demoulding your cake after half an hour even if it seems completely cooled as it is still warm on the inside.
The same goes for cookies. Cookies are very soft when they come out of the oven at around the 10-12 minute mark and eventually harden once they start cooling down.
How to avoid this baking mistake: If using parchment paper to line the cake tin, let the cake cool down for at least 20-30 minutes in the cake tin and then invert it on a cooling rack.
If you have used oil-flour method to coat the cake tin, wait for at least 45 minutes before you invert it on a cooling rack.
12. Not recognizing the hot and cold spots of your oven
Every oven has hot and cold spots. What does that mean? Your oven is hotter in few places and generates more heat there as compared to a few cold spots where that much heat is not generated.
Oven calibration and servicing is very important to
Best place inside the oven to bake is in the center of the oven.
How to avoid this baking mistake: Placing your baking tray in the center of the oven or rotating it midway while baking and Regular Oven Servicing.
Baking on stove top without proper setup which burns your cake base
Nowadays people have started baking on stove top which is a marvelous thing on its own! But without the proper setup, your cake is destined to burn! No Pun intended.
You have to imitate an oven setup where your cake will receive heat evenly from all sides and not only from the bottom.
How to avoid this baking mistake: Make sure the gas flame is not set on high and you have the correct setup for it.
These are the common mistakes to avoid while making your cake. Now you know what you are NOT supposed to do to get your cakes right.