10 Steps to Sensational Cakes

1. Preheat your oven for 10 to 15 minutes before you plan to bake.

2. Buy an oven thermometer and check your oven routinely to see if it is baking at the correct temperature. If cakes are browning quickly, it may run hot. If cakes are not done by the maximum baking time, it may run cold.

3. Place the oven rack in the center position.

4. Read the recipe and be sure to use the correct pan size.

5. Measure liquid by placing a liquid-ingredient measuring cup on the kitchen counter, pouring liquid in the cup, and checking the measurement at eye level.

6. Measure dry ingredients (sugar, for example) by spooning them into dry measuring cups and leveling off the top with a dinner knife. When you measure brown sugar, pack it into the cup before leveling it off.

7. Blend the batter for the time specified, and use a hand or standard mixer set on low or medium speed. If beating by hand, beat at the rate of 150 strokes per minute, resting as needed.

8. Check the cake for doneness, looking for browning in light-colored cakes, pressing the top to see if it springs back, seeing if the cake is starting to pull away from the sides of the pan, and inserting a toothpick in the center to see if it comes out clean.

9. Allow 10 to 15 minutes for cake layers to cool before inverting onto a rack. Tube and Bundt cakes need 20 minutes.

10. Unless the cake is to be glazed while hot, let layer, Bundt, tube, and sheet cakes cool completely, then frost.

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