The ABC’s of Cake Baking

A cake baking lesson from the founder of SusieCakes Bakery, Susan Sarich.

Let’s have a cake baking lesson!  When I saw SusieCakes on the table at Noah/Maya’s Graduation party, I knew we were in for a treat…

Graduation Party

…their desserts were introduced to me by a Nice Girls Crew fan up in the Bay area; I still remember the first time I bit into that classic, frosted cupcake.

Cupcakes

Why bother baking when Susan Sarich’s got stores all over California?

SusieCakes

Lucky for you folks outside the state, she shared some Cake Basics at home.

  1. What pans MUST we have? Please tell us brand names! Chicago Metallic & Nordicware are both great options.
  2. What is your preferred method of greasing a cake pan? My grandmother Mildred taught me to use real butter & spread it around using the butter stick’s wax paper wrapping.
  3. What’s the best way to store a cake and how long will it last? If it’s a buttercream cake, at room temperature, under a glass cake dome, 3-4 days after it is made.
  4. If I don’t want to serve a cheesecake on the springform pan bottom, what are my other options? There are 2 options : My grandmother bakes & serves her cheesecakes in a glass Pyrex pan – and they turned out beautifully. For a less home-style, more traditional presentation, you can use a regular cake pan but make sure to line the bottom & sides with parchment. This allows the cake to slide out easily once cooled.
  5. Why is my cake beautiful when it comes out of the oven, and then sinks in the middle while cooling?  This could be due to a number of factors: underbaking, allowing the batter to sit too long, or opening the over door too much. If the cake is not baked completely, the center will sink because the flour and the eggs haven’t completely set up. Always use a toothpick to check the “done-ness” of the center. The second most likely reason is that the batter sits too long before it goes in the oven. Ideally, the batter should bake within an hour from when you mix it. If it sits, the air created by the chemical reaction of the ingredients escapes & cake eventually collapses. The third reason is that the oven temperature drops throughout the baking due to the oven door being opened too much. This causes the temperature to fluctuate & can adversely affect the rising of the cake.
  6. How do you keep a pool of glaze from forming in the middle of a bundt cake?  I think the extra that collects in the center is the best part, so I don’t try to avoid it!
  7. My nonstick pans all of a sticky film left on them.  How do you recommend cleaning them?  Great question! I think a mixture of baking soda and water as a “paste” works well. Use a non-abrasive sponge in a circular motion to remove film without damaging the protective coating. Also letting the pan sit with very hot water and ¼ cup of vinegar works well too.
  8. If I want to bake a cake in a cast-iron pan, should I adjust baking time?  Not the baking time but temperature. Cast iron conducts heat better than other metals & you will need to adjust the oven by 25 degrees (versus adjusting the baking time) to avoid excessive browning.
  9. I don’t have a stand mixer.  Is my cake life hopeless?  Absolutely not at all! Neither of my grandmothers has a stand mixer, and they are exquisite cake makers!
  10. What’s the best way to transport a cake?  On the floor in the back seat – my secret is to place the box on top of a yoga mat to prevent sliding.
  11. I know this is sacrilegious, but are there any cake mixes you recommend?  NO!
  12. I don’t own a piping bag.  Is there a way to frost/decorate the cake that still looks fancy?  Use cake combs – you can get a variety of textures on the sides that are easy to execute on a rotating cake turntable.

Cake

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