It started over a month ago, when my father started reminding me about his upcoming birthday and the coconut cake I had baked for him last year. He loved it so much he decided he wanted the same cake when asked what kind of cake he wanted this year.
“I love that coconut cake you make,” he said. “I like that lemon filling you put in the middle.”
And so for the past month, everyday, my father would call and tell me that he had a birthday coming up and he would sure like “that coconut cake,” again. When I asked what he wanted for a present, he simply replied, “Just that coconut cake.”
Well, my dad loved his coconut cake and he told me it was so good he wasn’t sure if the cake would make it past the weekend. (His birthday was on a Thursday this year) I began to wonder why so many of my other cake baking efforts were a big flop. One cake bakes like a dream, another, a huge fail with me throwing the cake in the trash as if it were a frisbee. I began to believe my abilities in cake baking were limited, and I would just have to settle for title of at-home baker with a hit-or-miss record. The Great British Baking Show was not in my future.
But I am not one to give up! I may moan and cry and pout for a couple of hours, but come morning I have a new determination. My, “I cannot rest until I figure this out,” attitude kicks in and once again I am off like lightning, my brain spinning like a hamster wheel.
Since it is impossible for me to sleep in one of these spells, I stayed up streaming YouTube videos on cake decorating. I have decorated cakes with success, maybe I could be inspired to try cake again.
After many nights falling asleep to the musical backgrounds provided during many a wedding cake video, I came across Global Sugar Art and a Chef Alan Tetreault. After watching him make even the most elaborate designs appear easy-breezy, I found his video on baking cakes from scratch. Apparently, I am not the cake baking failure I always thought I was. First things first. The tools of the trade have as much to do with the success of our bakes as do the ingredients.
My mind began taking notes of the complexities of oven temperature, and exact placement of pans on the oven racks. It seems a 350* oven and a pan of cake mix is more complex than I thought. Here, I would like to share Chef Tetreault’s tips about ovens and cake pans.
First, use an oven thermometer to check that your oven is truly reaching the desired temperature. Many ovens can be off as much as 20 degrees!
An oven set at 350* is fine…as long as you are using a simple aluminum pan.
Baking pans made of Anodized aluminum, glass, dark metal pans, and sheet pans, need a lower temperature because they conduct more heat. 325* is a better bet for these types of baking pans.
And according to Chef Tetreault, never bake a cake on a rack placed any higher than the middle of your oven. Higher than that and the cake will form a crust on the top of the cake and as the rest of the cake bakes, it will spill out over the sides of the pan, causing your cake to erupt! No one wants to clean out that mess!
Another hint: When using a convection oven, always set the oven to the setting for baking cakes. This is something I have no understanding of, as I am using an “apartment style” oven, but if you have a convection oven, I assume you know what this means.
There is so much information in this video, and it is eye-opening for us at-home, hobby bakers that I am placing the link for the video at the end of this blog. I hope you will take the time to watch the video in its entirety. There is so much useful information and Chef Tetreault is a very calm presence. It feels like he is teaching you step-by-step and not talking down to his viewers. That’s all for now.