When making a cake, the most challenging step for most is baking. This is because we, as bakers, are able to control all of the elements involved in prepping our pans and mixing our batters, but when it finally comes time to bake, we are somewhat at the mercy of our ovens. Depending on age, make, model, altitude, and wear and tear, ovens are not all created equal, and the resulting hot spots can be a real bummer for bakers when our carefully crafted cakes are unevenly baked and lopsided.
Luckily, there are precautions that we can take to mitigate disaster and promote better results, no matter the oven. Recipes offer us specific suggestions based on the specific cake batter we are trying to work with, but understanding the importance of pre-heating, rack arrangement, rotating, and cooling practices can help us adjust our baking technique to be more effective for our own particular oven's charmingly quirky issues.
Click through this slideshow to learn more about the whys and hows of the steps we take when baking cake layers. Then get to know your oven a bit by testing out these techniques using this awesome Martha Stewart recipe for classic Boston Cream Pie.
About the author: Lauren Weisenthal has logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute.