After plenty of research about this topic, I decided to throw my techniques out there for your experimentational enjoyment. (Yes, I know that “experimentational” isn’t grammatically correct). This will hopefully help you get closer to your own brilliant schemes.
Here’s where we begin. Get yourself a cake pan, a bunch of butter, some parchment paper (or waxed paper), a rose nail if you cake pan is 8″ or larger, and finally a scissors.
I’m using parchment paper for this round of cake baking, but only because I’m doing a vanilla cake. I use parchment paper with cakes like vanilla because the moisture and “sticky-ness” level is low. Waxed paper works great for high moisture cakes like chocolate or carrot.
STEP ONE: grab a pencil and trace a circle in the parchment paper around the pan you are planning to line.
Next, cut a rectangular piece of parchment paper to line the side of your pan. I like to make sure the parchment will sit around 2 inches or more above the top of the pan. You can either guesstimate this, or be a math whiz and measure the circumference of the pan and cut the parchment accordingly.
Yes, this is butter. Why don’t I use shortening? Well, firstly because I think shortening is far inferior to butter except in very unique situations. Secondly, my experience has led me to the conclusion that shortening tends to create a strangely dry crust around the edge of the cake. Now, forgive me if you disagree, but I’m quite picky when it comes down to butter versus shortening.
Anyway…. STEP TWO: smear that nasty goodness all over the pan. It doesn’t have to be a thick layer, but it does need to cover the inside of the pan.
STEP THREE: line the pan with the parchment paper, and YES I’M DEMANDING MORE BUTTER
STEP FOUR: cover the top of the parchment lining with another thin layer of butter. You can dust the pan with a thin layer of flour if you like at this point. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t, but I did in this case again because I was making a vanilla cake. I don’t take chances with vanilla.
STEP FIVE: Because this is an 8″ round cake, I am placing a buttered rose/flower nail in the middle of the pan to help it cook evenly.
STEP SIX: Add your batter. Now, most of the bakers I’ve gleaned from say to never fill a pan with batter over half full. I don’t agree (hence the parchment paper collar around the side of the cake to protect it from spilling over). What I do is fill the pan to ALMOST full, and then be super patient and let that thing take its time baking.
STEP SEVEN: Okay, so here’s the deal. Cakes take a long time to cook if you do it this way. At least ones made from scratch do. If you’re going to attempt these steps with a boxed cake mix, I have NO idea what to tell you. Don’t ask me. If you have batter from scratch, this should work. Okay, maybe “long time” is stretching it a little. In the American culture, a “long time” is basically anything over 20 minutes. It usually takes mine over around an hour or so to bake, but keep checking it.
Here’s an important tip: a cake should not take less than 30 minutes to cook. In fact, 30 minutes should be the starting point for any cake 6″ or over.
Here’s another important tip: a cake should NEVER be baked in an oven over 350° F, unless you have to compensate for altitude… in that case, I have no idea what to tell you. I always bake at 325-350°F.
Here’s a tip that’s not vital but is helpful: I always use wooden skewers to test whether or not the cake is done baking. (The cake is done when the skewer comes out clean).
STEP EIGHT: once your cake is finished cooking, let that sucker cool. It takes a while, but be patient. Put the whole shebang on a cooling rack until the bottom of the pan feels cool. Once it’s done, turn it upside down on the rack to let it cool just a little longer.
One more helpful tip: when storing an unfrosted cake, cover it with plastic wrap, and stick it in an air-tight container. I never put my cakes in the fridge because the moisture in the fridge works on the cake, and I’m always disappointed to have a cake dry out after it warms up back to room temperature. I just throw that thing right on the counter and have never had a problem.
In the words of Bill Nye the Science Guy, “NOW YOU KNOW!”