This article is taken from the San Francisco Chronicle. Mrs. Belle De Graf was head of the column which ran for several years. Each week she offers advice and recipes. This week, her advice was for baking cake. In the article there are several tips and general guidelines.
The recipes that go with this article will be separate and I will link to them here.
Exercise of Skill and Judgment Required in Baking Cake Properly
Emphasis Placed on Necessity of Attention to Oven, for No Matter How Well You Put Batter Together, If Heat Is Not Regulated Correctly Failure May Result, Says Expert
Cake comes on the list of luxuries at the present period of high prices, so the utmost care should be taken both in the method of preparation and In the quality of material used. Good flour is absolutely essential, if the best results are to be obtained. Also care should be taken in the selection of shortening, if butter is not used. The best results and flavor will always be obtained from butter. Owing to the high cost at the present time, butter substitutes are being used which give satisfactory results. The mixing and baking of cake require both skill and judgment. The baking needs more study and care than the mixing. No matter how well you have put the cake batter together, if the oven is not right the cake may be a failure.
There are two classes of cakes which contain butter, or other shortening, and sponge cakes, in which the butter is omitted. As the cakes containing shortening offer more variety, we will study that subject first.
Prepare Pans and Oven Before Mixing Batter
Pans should be prepared and oven heated before mixing the cake batter. For success, care must be taken in measuring, all measurements being level. There are two ways to add the shortening; for inexpensive cakes containing a small quantity of shortening the result will be found satisfactory if the fat is melted and added to the batter after the cake is all mixed. For the better class of cakes, where one-half cup or more of shortening is used, the shortening is beaten to a cream, or until smooth and waxy.
This can be accomplished easily if the mixing bowl is rinsed with hot water, then wiped dry before shortening is placed in it. Add sugar gradually to the creamed shortening and continue to beat until mixture resembles, whipped cream. Separate the eggs, beating yolks until thick and lemon colored, and the whites until stiff. Add the beaten yolks to the creamed butter and sugar mixture. Add the flour, sifted with the baking powder, and milk alternately, beating well. Flavor and fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites.
Beating Before Adding Eggs Increases Firmness
The more the cake is beaten before the egg whites are added, the firmer will be its texture. Separating and beating the eggs gives a light, fluffy cake. The eggs can be added to the creamed sugar and shortening mixture one at a time, unbeaten. Beating each egg vigorously when adding to the batter will produce a cake which is moist and fine grained, and one which keeps in good condition for some time.
Cakes should be baked as soon as mixed. So much depends upon the proper baking, and the best way to assure satisfactory results is to time the cake and divide the baking into quarters. It the first quarter the mixture should rise in the pan. In the second quarter it should continue to rise and brown in spots in the third quarter the top of the cake should be uniformly browned. In the last quarter the cake should shrink from the pan, when it should be baked.
If in doubt as to whether the cake should be taken from the oven, test it by touching lightly in the center. If baked, the mixture will spring back, but if not quite cooked it will hold the impress of your finger. This rule for timing applies to all cakes, whether layer or loaf, or where a slow or medium oven is used.
Oven Door Should Be Opened With Caution
The time for baking will vary a little for different ovens. The average, time for a medium-sized layer cake is from fifteen to twenty minutes. Loaf cakes three inches thick will require about forty minutes; sheet cakes and cup cakes about twenty-five minutes. Cakes baked in a brick shaped pan will require an hour or longer. A moderate oven will give the best results for nearly all cakes.
If the batter rises in a cone in the center you are using too hot an oven, and a crust has formed before the mixture has had time to rise. The oven door may be opened to watch the cake if it is done carefully. Not opening the door too wide so the cold air rushes in, and closing the door so as not to jar the oven.