Basic Crepe Batter – Tips and Tricks to Get the Perfect Crepe Batter Every Time

May 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Desserts, How To

Crepe

Crepe (Photo credit: David Ascher)

As a child I was always barely waiting for my mother to make crepes and eat them filled with home made sour cherry preserves! Back then is when I learned how easy it actually is to make the crepe batter whether you are mixing it by hand or using a food processor or blender. Just follow a few basic guidelines and you’ll always have perfect crepe batter!

Making the crepe batter requires a different technique based on the tools you have at hand to make it. If you have a blender or food processor you can just put all the ingredients together and mix until you get a smooth consistency. If you mix it by hand using a whisk start by beating the eggs then add a bit of flour and milk at a time. Sifting the flour will also help avoiding the flour to clump up but if you don’t have access to a sifter just add the flour one tablespoon at a time and try to spread it all over the batter surface rather than dumping it all in one place. Doing it this way is a bit more tedious but it will ensure that your final batter will be smooth and free of flour clumps.

Consistency wise, I prefer having the batter a bit thicker when using a spreader tool on a heavy cast iron crepe pan or an electric crepe maker, or runny if I use a light pan and spread the batter by tilting the pan. The best consistency is achieved when you poor the batter from a ladle 8 to 10 inches above the batter into the rest of the batter and it forms a continuous stream which does not splash when falling in the rest of the batter. Also you have to keep in mind that if you are refrigerating the batter for a couple hours to leave the flour absorb all the liquid, you will end up with a thicker batter. To compensate for this I usually check the consistency before cooking the crepes and add more milk to achieve the desired consistency.

The basic ingredients and quantities for the basic crepe batter are as follows:

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt to taste

This will create a thicker batter best suited for use with a spreader. Add about 1/2 cup of milk for a thinner batter that will easily spread by tilting the crepe pan.

This batter will work for both sweet and savory crepes but if you want to make just sweet crepes you can add a bit of sugar and vanilla for more flavor!

Bon apetit!

Do you love crepes? So does the author who blogs about them and electric crepe maker machines at http://electric-crepe-maker.com.

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Traditional Southern Banana Pudding Recipe

April 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Desserts

When I was a child, my grandmother would always make my favorite dessert when we came to visit. By the way, she made EVERY grandchild’s favorite. Her chest freezer sat in her dining room, and when we arrived it would be covered by a tablecloth, displaying an assortment of desserts that boggled the mind. Every grandchild would find their favorite among the offerings, accompanied by her pound cake and a few others for the adults. She must have baked all week prior to our arrival.

I always requested Banana Pudding. She would make a large pan of Banana Pudding crowned with meringue. To this day, I cannot see a bunch of bananas without thinking of her banana pudding. When bananas were scarce or too expensive, she would use drained canned pineapple (crushed). That was excellent, also.

I admit that I am a lazy cook. Usually I will leave off the meringue. But you should try it this way- it is worth it.

Banana Pudding Recipe

Banana Pudding--Thee Southern Dessert

Banana Pudding--The Southern Dessert (Photo credit: Old Shoe Woman)

2 Tablespoons self-rising flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounce package vanilla wafers- a good quality wafer
3 large bananas
2 tablespoons sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place flour, sugar and salt into a heavy saucepan, stir well and set aside.
3. Beat the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl at high speed of an electric mixer until foamy, add milk, mix well.
4. Stir the egg yolk mixture into the flour mixture and cook over MEDIUM heat, stirring constantly until thick and smooth.
5. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
6. Layer the vanilla wafers alternately with the bananas in a 1 ½ quart baking dish, beginning with wafers. Put down 1 layer of wafers, then a single layer of bananas, more wafers, more bananas, so on until all the wafers and bananas are used.
7. Pour custard over the top of all so that all the bananas and wafers are covered. You want the pudding to run down between the cookies and cover all. Usually I will shift them around slightly with a knife to allow the custard to run down into all.
8. Beat the egg whites at high speed of electric mixer for 1 minute. Then gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar, a little at a time, beating constantly until stiff peaks form and sugar is dissolved. This may take 2-5 minutes. Peaks should be stiff enough to hold their own when the beaters are lifted.
9. Spread meringue over pudding, pushing it all the way to the edge of the casserole dish to seal.
10. Bake at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes until the meringue is golden brown.

NOTES: Some cooks add the pudding between the layers: 1 layer cookies, l layer banana, 1 layer pudding. I usually layer the cookies and bananas first then make the meringue, then the pudding, this way it is poured over the cookies while hot. The pudding will thicken as it cools.

Safety Note on Meringue: Since meringue is not thoroughly cooked there is a chance of salmonella using raw egg whites. Instead, use pasturized eggs or powdered egg whites (reconstituted) to make your meringue.

IMPORTANT NOTE ON MERINGUE: The egg whites must be beat with an absolutely clean and grease free beater and bowl. Don’t use a plastic bowl as they tend to harbor a layer of grease that never comes out. You have to clean the beaters thoroughly after the pudding is made, before making the meringue.

Note on making the pudding: You tend to get tired of stirring the pudding, and want to increase the heat to high. Don’t! If you get impatient and increase the heat, you risk burning the pudding.

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Easy Cookie Recipes- One Recipe with Many Variations

April 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Desserts

Easy Cookie Recipes – One Recipe with Many Variations

By Karen Ciancio

There are so many cookie recipes around but often so little time to bake during the busy holiday season.

The solution? A great tasting basic cookie recipe that quickly and easily turns into such a variety of easy to make Christmas treats, friends and family will think you poured over all your favorite Christmas cookie recipes.

Recipes

Recipes (Photo credit: pirate johnny)

Let’s start with the basics.

Basic Cookie Dough Recipe

1/2 cup (or 1 stick) butter (or margarine) at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the flour. Beat with an electric mixer, scraping the sides of the bowl several times, until the mixture is light and fluffy. With mixer at a low speed, add the flour gradually, beating just until everything is well blended.

Place the mixture on a baking sheet using a tablespoon measure and press down with a spoon to flatten a bit. Or roll our and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. Bake at 350ºF for about 12 to 15 minutes, until golden.

This basic cookie mixture is also the base for the following cookie recipes (all baked in a preheated oven at 350ºF).

Orange Cookies

(Makes about 32)
Add 1 tablespoon of grated orange zest to the recipe. Shape into a log that is about 1 1/2″ in diameter and refrigerate for 4 hours.
Slice dough into 1/4″ thick slices. Place on cookie sheet. Cookies can be decorated with candies, rolled in colored sugar, or cut into pretty holiday shapes before baking. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Cherry Coconut Chocolate Squares

(Makes about 54 squares)
In addition to the basic dough you will need:
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups flaked coconut
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, well drained and coarsely chopped

Line a 13″x9″ baking pan with foil.
Stir cocoa powder into basic dough mixture. Press evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the crust looks dry.
In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, sugar, almond extract and baking powder until well blended. Stir in coconut and cherries. Pour over the baked crust.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until top just begins to brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Lift it out on to a cutting board using the foil ends and cut into 1 1/2″ squares. Squares can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Coconut Pineapple Cookies

(Makes about 36)
In addition to the basic dough you will need:
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1/3 cup pineapple preserves (use raspberry or apricot if you prefer)
Add 1 cup of the flaked coconut to the basic dough mixture and mix well. Shape the dough into 1 1/2″ balls and roll in the remaining coconut to coat them. Place the balls 1″ apart on lightly greased cookie sheets. Make a deep indentation in the center of each cookie with your fingertip.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until the cookie is firm and the coconut is lightly toasted. When cooled, fill each hole in the center of the cookies with the preserves.

You can vary this basic dough to make a wide variety of cookie recipes. Add other flavorings like maple, ginger or cinnamon. Add chopped dried fruits like apricots or dates. Or bake them plain in holiday shapes and decorate with colored icing.

Karen Ciancio is a cook and lover of all things food and cooking related. Her website http://www.cookingnook.com contains easy dessert recipes, plus lots of other recipes, cooking tips, measurement conversions and kitchen ideas.

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Cookie Decorating 101

April 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Desserts, How To, z1

by: Mimi Cummins
Many bakers ask for tips and instructions on decorating cookies. Well that’s a tall order because there are as many ways to decorate cookies as there are cookies! Here are a few guidelines for novices and experienced bakers alike to help you generate your own ideas for cooking decorating.

DECORATING COOKIES BEFORE BAKING

Cookies can be decorated before baking with materials that withstand the heat of baking. Some things that you can place on your cookies before baking are:

  • colored sugars or natural sugars such as pearl sugar
  • jimmies, non-pareils, silver and gold drag, and other sprinkles
  • raisins and dried fruits such as cranberries
  • nuts

These items can be placed on top of almost any cookie to dress it up a bit and give it a more festive appearance.

Paint a Masterpiece

You can also paint your cookies before baking them. Make an edible food paint out of an egg yolk mixed with a few drops of food coloring and paint the cookies with a clean paintbrush. The paint will dry while baking and give the cookie a colorful, glazed appearance. This is a fun activity for kids!

A bit of Trompe L’oeil

The folks at Better Homes and Gardens have a creative recipe for Colored Cream Dough which is a dough of frosting consistency that can be piped onto cookies with a pastry bag fitted with a writing or star tip, and then baked. The result is a cookie that looks like it has been frosted but the frosting is baked on and hard.

DECORATING COOKIES AFTER BAKING

Decorating cookies after baking them requires that you apply some kind of liquid-based substance that will adhere to the baked cookie, or that will act as a glue to attach other items. Usually, this takes the form of frosting, icing, or melted chocolate.

Frosting vs. Icing

There is a big difference between frosting and icing. Frosting is thick and holds shapes like rosettes and shells like those you see piped around the edges of a birthday cake. It remains soft to the touch and has a creamy texture, and most people think it tastes better because of the creamy buttery flavor.

Icing, on the other hand, is a thinner, more liquid substance, and as it dries it thins out, becomes very smooth across the surface of your cookie, and hardens. This is the icing to use for the most beautiful, professional results.

Working with Frosting

You can use frosting in two ways. One way is to simply use a knife or rubber spatula to spread the frosting across the whole surface of your cookie. The other way is to place the frosting in a pastry or decorating bag fitted with a small tip and piping out thin lines or rosettes of icing onto the cookie.

Either way, once the frosting has been applied to the cookie you can then further embellish it by using colored sugars, non-pareils, or any of the decorating items mentioned in the Decorating Before Baking section above. Christmas-Cookies.com has a delicious recipe for Buttercream Frosting at http://www.christmas-cookies.com/recipes/recipe.php?recid=306. See detailed instructions on piping frosting from Better Homes and Gardens.

Working with Icing

Icing is a little more difficult to work with but its smooth surface produces the most beautiful results! Icing should always be piped onto a cookie because it will run off the edges if spread with a knife. Once iced you can apply silver drag饳, or other sprinkles just as mentioned with the frosting above, before it hardens. Christmas-Cookies.com has an excellent recipe for Royal Icing at http://www.christmas-cookies.com/recipes/recipe.php?recid=42. Better Homes and Gardens also a recipe for Powdered Sugar Icing ( http://www.christmas-cookies.com/recipes/recipe.php?recid=288 ) that dries less hard than Royal Icing and has a shiny surface. Martha Stewart’s website features an excellent article on how to pipe icing onto cookies for professional-looking results.

Melted Chocolate

Just about any cookie can be embellished simply by dipping it in chocolate or drizzling chocolate over it. You can even dress up the everyday chocolate chip cookie for gift-giving or serving at parties. Melting chocolate is a simple process, but a few rules must be followed in order to make it a success. For Easter, try using white chocolate tinted in pastel shades with food coloring. Use the gel, paste or powdered kind of food color, because the liquid drops may make the chocolate seize up.

What You Need

You can either use chocolate chips or baking chocolate (the kind that comes in 1-ounce squares) and the same process applies whether you use dark chocolate or white chocolate. A small amount of shortening should be added at the ratio of 2 tablespoons shortening for 1 cup of chocolate chips or chopped up baking chocolate.

Double Boiler

Place chocolate and shortening in the top half of a double boiler or in a metal bowl that has been placed on top of a saucepan filled with hot water. The water must be very hot, but not boiling, because the steam generated by boiling water could get moisture into the melting chocolate which makes it curdle.

Allow the chocolate to melt over the hot water and stir it occasionally until it has achieved a liquid consistency.

Microwave

Place your chocolate and shortening in a microwave safe bowl and microwave it on medium power for 1 minute. Stir. Continue microwaving 20 seconds, stir again. Keep doing this until the chocolate is almost melted. Remove it from the microwave and stir it until completely melted.

Dipping

Dip one end of your cookie, or half the cookie, or even the whole cookie into the melted chocolate. Set the cookie on a wire rack to let the chocolate harden. If you wish, you can sprinkle chopped nuts, coconut, or non-pareils over the melted chocolate before it hardens.

Drizzling

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies with Chocolate ...

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies with Chocolate Drizzle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scrape melted chocolate into a ziplock baggie. With a sharp scissors, snip off a very small corner of the baggie. Drizzle top of cookies with zig-zags of melted chocolate. Cool until chocolate is set.

Using these simple techniques will help you produce a variety of beautiful-looking cookies at Christmastime and throughout the year.

Copyright 2004 Mimi Cummins. All Rights Reserved.

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About The Author

Mimi Cummins is co-author of the book “Christmas Cookies Are for Giving: Recipes, Stories, and Tips for Making Heartwarming Gifts.” This book, “enthusiastically recommended” by Midwest Book Review, is full of baking tips and hints, including nearly 50 recipes each with a full-color photo. For more information visit http://www.christmascookiesareforgiving.com/ or order here.

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Preventing Burned Cookies-Never Burn the Bottoms of your Cookies Again

April 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Desserts, Tips

Never Burn The Bottoms of Your Cookies Again!

by Monica Brooks

If you are like me, you love to bake cookies, but hate the all-too-familiar problem of burning the bottoms. During the past couple of years, I have discovered some techniques that have ended my burnt cookie bottoms frustrations. I know these techniques will work for you as well. Happy baking!

Chocolate chip cookies on parchment paper.

Chocolate chip cookies on parchment paper. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oven Temperature
The first step on how not to burn cookies is to make sure your oven temperature is accurate by checking it with an oven thermometer. I bought one recently at a discount store for under $4.00. If your oven thermometer does not match your oven temperature setting, you will want to have your oven calibrated.

Oven’s Center Rack
Bake cookies on the oven’s center rack only. By using the oven’s center rack, your cookies will receive the same amount of heat on both sides of the cookies.

Baking or Pizza Stones
Bake cookies on flat baking or pizza stones. Baking stones are available at most specialty kitchen stores or online. They are much better for baking cookies than any metal pan because they are porous and allow air to circulate evenly through your cookies while they are baking.

Scoops
I recommend using scoops instead of spoons or your hands for placing cookie dough onto the baking stones. These are also available at most specialty kitchen stores or online. The scoops ensure your cookies will be the same size and will be beautifully round when they are baked. They also make releasing the cookie dough onto the baking stones easier than using spoons or your hands.

Parchment Paper
Always use parchment paper when baking cookies. Using parchment paper keeps your baking stones clean for easier clean-up. More importantly, it allows you to easily remove the cookies from the stone to the wire cooling racks without messing up the beautiful round shape of the cookies. Once the cookies are completely cooled, they easily peel from the parchment paper. No more scraping cookies!

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About the Author
Monica Brooks
Monica Brooks is a full-time Mom and cookie connoisseur. She is the author of The Guaranteed No Burnt Bottoms Cookies Cookbook available at www.NoBurntBottoms.com. She lives in the Louisville, Kentucky area with her husband and two children.

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How to Make Molten Chocolate Cake

April 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Desserts

Molten Chocolate Cake (serves 6)

Chocolate Fondant Cake/Lava cake

Chocolate Fondant Cake/Lava cake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Powder sugar for dusting
4 large egg yolks
4 large whole eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 lb. high-quality, bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cake flour (plus more for dusting)
Vegetable spray
2 sticks unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using vegetable spray, grease (6) 6-ounce ramekins and dust with cake flour.

In the top of a double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, whole eggs, and egg yolks. Whisk in the cake flour.

Evenly distribute the batter among the 6 ramekins, and bake for 10 minutes or until the sides of the cakes are set but the center still jiggles.

Let the cakes cool for 2-3 minutes, then run a thin knife around the sides and invert onto plates. Garnish with powder sugar and serve with either vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

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Decadently Rich Chocolate Truffle Cake

April 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Desserts, Holidays

This chocolate truffle cake is perfect for the holidays or a special occasion. It is a little more complicated to make, requiring a filling and a ganache coating, but the results are well worth the effort.

Ganache

Ganache (Photo credit: julesjulesjules m)


Chocolate Truffle Cake

Ingredients:

For Cake

* 1/4 cup unsalted butter
* 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
* 1 large egg
* 2 teaspoons vanilla

For filling

* 1 1/2 cup walnuts
* 1/4 cup unsalted butter
* 1 cup packed light brown sugar
* 1/4 cup honey
* 1/4 cup heavy cream
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

For ganache

* 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
* 1 pound fine-quality bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F and butter a 9-inch springform pan.

Make base: In a small saucepan melt butter and stir in cocoa powder. Remove pan from heat and add brown sugar, stirring until dissolved. Stir in flour, walnuts, egg, and vanilla and spread batter evenly in spring form pan. Bake base in middle of oven 10 minutes, or just until firm, and transfer to a rack to cool, still in the spring form pan.

Make filling: Arrange walnuts in one layer on top of base. In a small heavy saucepan combine butter, brown sugar, and honey and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes, or until a candy thermometer registers 280°F. Remove pan from heat and add cream, vanilla, and lemon juice, stirring until smooth. Cool mixture to room temperature and pour over walnuts, spreading evenly.

Make ganache: In a saucepan bring cream just to a boil. Finely chop chocolate. Put chocolate in a metal bowl and pour hot cream over it, stirring until smooth. Cool ganache to room temperature and beat with an electric mixer until it just holds soft peaks (do not over beat or it will become grainy).

Spread ganache evenly over filling. Chill cake, covered, at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

Run a thin knife around edge of cake and remove side of pan. With a large spatula transfer cake to a plate and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.

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The Perfect Cake

April 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Desserts, How To, Know Your Ingredients

The Perfect Cake
By Diane Watkins

The perfect cake is easily recognizable.  It’s shape is perfectly symmetrical with a  golden brown crust.  It has a  feathery velvet texture. It is moist and light.  The taste is pure heaven.  You can certainly recognize a perfect cake, but can you make one?

red velvet cake with whipped cream, blueberrie...

red velvet cake with whipped cream, blueberries and strawberries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When making a cake it is important to follow the recipe exactly.  If you try to skip a step you may have less than desirable results.  Skip the sifting step and your flour will be heavier than it should, creating a heavy, dry cake.  Over-mix and your cake will be tough and chewy, more like a good bread.

So, what are the steps in making a good cake?  Lets explore these separately.

The Right Ingredients
First, use the right ingredients and measure carefully.  If the recipe calls for cake flour, you will have best results with cake flour.  All-purpose flour can be substituted, but will not make as tender a cake.

Mixing
Beat the liquid ingredients well before combining with the dry ingredients.  Once the dry ingredients are added, the cake should be stirred gently, unless the directions tell you otherwise.  If your cake is course and dry, or has tunnels, you have probably over-mixed.
All-purpose flour has a higher gluten content, and this will affect your results.  Also realize that all-purpose flour varies according to the region of the country it is produced.  Southern brands of flour are a softer gluten than those in the northern US.  If you must substitute all-purpose flour for cake flour, either use a southern product, or use 2 Tablespoons less per cup of flour suggested.

Leavening Agents
There are three different leavening agents used in cake making.  Baking powder, baking soda, and air.  Occasionally, you may see a recipe calling for yeast, but this is not the norm.  If the recipe does not call for either baking powder or baking soda, then your leavening agent is air and your beating step is very important.  Pound cakes, sponge cakes, and angel food cakes all use air as their leavening agent.  Many cakes use a combination of leavening agents, including air. Beating the cake at the suggested speed for the appropriate time listed will beat in the air and make your cake light.

Baking powder also comes in different varieties, including regular and double acting.  If your recipe specifies a variety, be sure to use the one called for.    Most recipes that call for baking soda require buttermilk, lemon juice, or vinegar.  Do not substitute regular milk for buttermilk without adding acid, as it is necessary to activate the baking soda and make the cake rise.

Shortening, Oil, and Butter
Again, using the correct shortening is important.  If substituting, be aware of the liquid content.  Everyone is aware of the need to decrease the liquid when using oil, but you may not know that butter contains more liquid than shortening, requiring an increase in volume and a decrease in the liquid added to the recipe.

Baking Pans
Choose the correct size and shape of baking pan.  The batter should almost fill the pan, without any spillage or bulging.  Baking times and temperature will be dependent on the pan size.  A thinner pan may need a higher temperature to bake the cake without drying it out.

Prepare the pan as directed.  Most recipes call for the pan to be greased and floured.  A piece of waxed paper or parchment paper cut to fit the bottom may be placed in the greased pan if desired.  This will aid removing the cake when done.  If using the paper, grease the bottom and sides, place the paper into the bottom and then flour the sides if directed.

Baking the Cake
Preheat the oven as directed.  Starting in a cold oven, or too hot an oven will affect the rising and browning of the cake.  A cake started in a cool oven will not allow the cake to rise sufficiently before the crust forms and the cake may fall.  Too hot an oven may cause a crack to develop, and the crust might harden and over brown.   The cake should be placed in the center of the oven for best heat distribution.  Be aware of your oven, if there are hot spots in your oven you may need to adjust.

The cake is done when it is lightly browned and it springs back when lightly pressed with the fingertip in the center or when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and dry.  The cake will have begun to shrink away from the sides of the pan.

Follow the recipe on removing the cake from the pan.  Some cakes can be removed immediately, some need a 5 minute rest, and others must be allowed to cool completely in the pan.  Proper attention to this detail will prevent repairs caused by the cake sticking to the pan and tearing.

Using the proper ingredients, mixing well at the proper time, and careful baking will produce a light tender cake that you will be proud to serve.  Follow the recipe, understand the reasons behind the directions, and you, too will have the “knack” for cakes.

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