Over the year of baking and with every delicious vegan recipe I publish and baking tips / tricks I share, my goal is to help you become a better baker. As a home vegan baker, I’ve made thousands of mistakes in the kitchen, especially when it comes to making the perfect cake. If you’ve ever visited a really good vegan bakery, or just had someone who knew what they were doing bake up something plant-based for you, you know that vegan baking can be not only good, but it can give conventional baking a run for its money. That’s not to say that vegan baking can’t be tricky. It is rather tricky, but the tricks can be learned, and there are a lot of tips for baking - and once you’ve got them down you’ll be baking up vegan deliciousness in no time. I have already spoken about in detail in my previous blog post about basic of vegan baking https://www.siggyblog.ae/blog-eng/the-basics-of-vegan-baking. Now I would like to share my cake baking tips and tricks with you all., which I have learned over the years and with many baking trials. This useful information will help guarantee your next cake is the perfect cake.
Follow the recipe - This sounds obvious, right? Following the recipe is the most important cake baking tip you’ll ever hear/read. It’s also the most ignored. We often substitute ingredients in recipes based on what we have. Subbing out egg substitutes, reducing sugar, using liquid sweetener instead of dry, all-purpose instead of cake flour, baking soda for powder etc. I do not recommend doing this unless the recipe suggests alternatives. Don’t sabotage your time, effort, and money. I’m guilty of this, too! Sometimes I’m in a rush and just not paying attention or I’m making a substitution because I ran out of an ingredient. But ingredients are needed for a reason and, more often than not, a cake fail is because the recipe wasn’t properly followed.
I always recommend following a recipe the first time you try it, then making changes as you see fit the next time. Likewise, make sure you’re using the appropriate size pan. Unless otherwise noted, don’t substitute a 6-inch cake pan for a 9-inch cake pan or a 9-inch round pan for a 9-inch square pan. You can *usually* get away with swapping 8-inch round cake pans for 9-inch round cake pans (and vice versa). 8-inch cakes will take longer since they’ll likely be thicker. There are so many cake pans to choose from, but I find that baking any cake is fare best when baked in shiny ones and in silicon cake forms, since dark ones absorb more of the oven's heat—kind of the way that dark clothing absorbs more heat from sunlight. This is the reason some recipes will say to use shiny aluminum foil to deflect some of the heat to prevent premature over-browning. The shininess reflects the heat. A dark pan does quite the opposite, which can cause your cake to brown too early around the edges and create a hard crust on the surface and general dryness. I use shiny pans all the time – for my brownies and other cakes. While some bakers opt for dark pans because they desire the nonstick properties, any pan can be rendered perfectly nonstick with the proper preparation. I feel silly typing this, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a complete recipe disaster because I didn’t realize a certain step was coming up. Reading ahead of your recipe will help you know the how, why, where, and when of what you are about to do. It will take you 1-5 minutes and could save you from wasting your ingredients (and money!) on a failed recipe. As well always make sure you have all the right tools at your kitchen before baking – it never hurts to double check.
Cakes are best made from room temperature ingredients, so get everything out before you want to start baking. “Room temperature” isn’t listed next to ingredients for fun. There’s science and legitimate reason behind it. If a recipe calls for room temperature ingredients, use room temperature ingredients like vegan butter and plant - based milk. To paint you a picture, let’s focus on room temperature butter in particular. Room temperature vegan butter is about 18°C, which might be colder than your kitchen. It’s cool to touch, not warm. If your cakes are dense, you’re probably softening the butter too much. Allow the vegan butter to sit out on the counter for about 1-2 hours before beginning your recipe. To test it, poke the vegan butter with your finger. Your finger should make an indent without sinking or sliding down into the vegan butter. The vegan butter should not be shiny or greasy. It will be cool to touch, not warm. Sometimes our schedules don’t allow 1-2 hours for softening butter prior to beginning a cake recipe. Don’t take a shortcut and microwave the butter because it will not heat evenly.
Most cake recipes begin with creaming butter and sugar together. Butter is capable of holding air and the creaming process is when butter traps that air. While baking, that trapped air expands from the heat and produces a fluffy cake. Not only this, room temperature ingredients bond together easier and quicker since they’re warmer– thus reducing over-mixing. Simply put, cold ingredients do not emulsify together. While you can use ingredients directly from the fridge, the result simply won't be as good. Certain recipes call for ingredients like plant-based yogurt, vegan butter, and plant – based milk to be at room temperature but many people ignore this step. No! Don’t! Room temperature isn’t listed next to ingredients for fun. Recipe authors aren’t trying to make your life difficult. There’s science and legitimate reason behind the importance of temperature when baking. Which brings me to my number one baking rule - if a recipe calls for room temperature ingredients, use room temperature ingredients. There is no way around this and if you use, say, cold butter or cold milk when they should be room temperature– your recipe won’t live up to its potential. And it most certainly won’t taste the way it should. When at room temperature milk, butter, and other ingredients form an emulsion which traps air. While baking in the oven, that trapped air expands and produces a fluffy baked good. Plan to leave these ingredients out on the counter ahead of baking and you'll see the difference by way of a lighter crumb when you bite into your freshly baked cake.
This is actually one of the most important baking tips on this page. As you know, baking is science. Excellent baking requires precise ratios, proven techniques, and well-tested recipes. Unlike cooking, you can’t just bake something by throwing some ingredients together, mess it up, then eat it anyway. (Well, most of the time you can’t!) One of the most crucial baking tips is measuring ingredients properly.
Problems are common if measurements are incorrect. Having a firm grasp of measuring techniques is essential. Measure dry ingredients in measuring cups or spoons because these are specially designed for dry ingredients. Spoon and level (aka “spoon and sweep”) your dry ingredients. This means that you should use a spoon to fill the cup and level it off. This is especially important with flour. Scooping flour (or any dry ingredient) packs that ingredient down and you could be left with up to 150% more than what’s actually needed. A recipe calling for 1 cup of flour and baked with 2 or more cups instead will surely result in a fail. And a rather dry baked good! And for liquid ingredients, use clear liquid measuring cups. Drill this in your head: Spoon & level flour. Do not scoop flour. How do I measure sifted flour? If a recipe calls for “1 cup of flour, sifted” — measure the flour, then sift it. If a recipe calls for “1 cup of sifted flour” — sift the flour, then measure. It all depends where the word “sifted” is in the ingredient wording. If “sifted” is before the ingredient name, sift before measuring. If “sifted” is after the ingredient name, sift after measuring.
Make sure you are using the correct type of oats that your recipe calls for. To measure oats, use the same spoon & level method that you use for flour. Whole oats and quick oats are different and depend on the cut of the oat. I most often use old-fashioned whole rolled oats in recipes like granola, oatmeal bars, and oatmeal cookies. Quick oats are finely chopped whole oats that have a more powdery consistency. When a more powdery, fine oat is ideal in a recipe, I use quick oats. To avoid having two different types of oats on hand in my baking supplies, I make my own quick oats from whole oats. This is very easy: pulse whole oats in a blender or food processor about 5-10 times to break them up to reach the quick oat consistency.
Unlike flour, sugar is measured by scooping the measuring cup or spoon into the container/bag until it is overflowing, then leveling it off with the back of a knife. Sugar is heavier than flour, so it’s less likely to pack down into the measuring cup. It’s also more forgiving in recipes than other ingredients because the sweetness of a finished product depends on your taste buds. However, it is always best to measure the ingredients exactly as the recipe states because sugar crystals are imperative to break down other ingredients. Sugar also aids in proper browning, texture, structure, and stabilization. Measure brown or coconut sugar like you measure granulated sugar. Unless the recipe states otherwise, brown sugar should be packed into the measuring cup or measuring spoon. Light brown sugar is most common, while dark brown sugar has a slightly stronger molasses flavor. Unless the recipe states otherwise, you can use light brown sugar and dark brown sugar interchangeably.
Measure confectioners’ sugar using the same spoon & level method as flour, explained above. Sift confectioners’ sugar if the recipe calls for it. If your confectioners’ sugar is extra lumpy though, it’s best practice to sift it anyway. As detailed above in the Flour section, 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted means that the sugar is sifted after measuring and 1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar means that the sugar is sifted before measuring. Liquids used in baking such as milk, water, oil, etc should be measured at eye level. Using a liquid measuring cup, pour the liquid into the cup. Then, bend down to make sure the liquid is exactly at level with the measuring requirement of the recipe. The semi-liquids I’m referring to here are ingredients like sour cream, yogurt, peanut butter, applesauce, mashed banana, etc. Measure these semi-liquid ingredients in dry measuring cups. They are too thick to be accurately measured in liquid measuring cups. Spoon & level, like you do with sugar or flour, then use a rubber spatula to help release the ingredients into the mixing bowl. What about butter? Butter is usually sold in sticks, either 1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons) sticks or 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) sticks. This makes measuring very convenient– simply slice off however much you need in a recipe. If your butter isn’t in stick form, use a dry measuring cup to measure it. If a recipe calls for melted butter, measure the butter in its solid state, then melt it. The add-ins I’m referring to here are chocolate chips, chopped fruit, sprinkles, nuts, etc. Simply scoop or pour them into a dry measuring cup. These ingredients aren’t typically used to make up the structure of a baked good, so there’s no need to be as precise.
Measure your ingredients before starting a recipe. Read through the ingredients, then get them prepared on your counter. There’s very little room for error when you begin recipes this way; you’re not scrambling and rushing during the recipe process. And avoid making ingredient substitutions. Remember, baking is chemistry. Make the recipe as written first then if you feel confident, make substitutions as you see fit.
Measure properly - This tip also sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s where we most often make mistakes. The difference between a recipe success and a recipe failure could lie within 1 mis-measured tablespoon of sugar. Measuring ingredients properly is imperative.Flour is the most common mis-measured ingredient. When measuring flour, use the “spoon & level” method. Do not scoop the flour out of the container/bag with your measuring cup. In some cases, scooping the flour could give you 100% of the correct measurement. Disaster ensues. Rather, using a spoon, scoop the flour into the measuring cup. Do not pack the flour down and do not tap the measuring cup– both cause the flour to settle in the cup. After you’ve spooned the flour into the measuring cup, use the back of a knife to level off the top of the measuring cup. Now you have spoon & leveled flour. Baking is not very forgiving. Understanding the correct measuring technique for a particular ingredient will guarantee better baking results.
While you may already know that measurements matter a lot when you're baking, you may not realize just how much measurements of sugar and flour can really affect your finished cake. Using too much sugar in your cake can result in a crust that's too dark. On the other hand, not using enough sugar can prevent your cake from gaining a dark enough hue, and also make the texture tough. As for flour, adding too much to the batter will cause the top of the cake to crack, which isn't devastating, but also not exactly desirable. Whenever possible, try to measure sugars and flour by weight. If you don't have a kitchen scale or the recipe does not indicate the measurements in weight, you can do a couple of things to help get the most accurate results in volume. With granulated sugar that's not packed and flour, spoon them into the measuring cup, then gently flatten the top with the flat edge of a knife to remove any excess.
The more cake baking experience I have, the more often I reach for cake flour instead of all-purpose flour. You see, cake flour is a low protein flour that’s finely milled into a delicate consistency. This soft, tender texture directly translates into your baked cake. However, some recipes simply cannot withstand fine cake flour. Chocolate cake, for example, already has cocoa powder— which is a very fine dry ingredient. In my experience, the combination of cake flour and cocoa powder results in a flimsy chocolate cake. Likewise, spice cake, carrot cake, hummingbird cake, and banana cake contain additional wet ingredients (the fruits or veggies), so cake flour usually isn’t ideal. For more detailed information on different types of flour have a read on my blog post on flour types here….
These days, I stick to cake flour when making vanilla cake, white cake, red velvet cake, and other cakes where a fluffy texture is favorable. I’ve been successful substituting cake flour for all-purpose flour to create softer pineapple upside-down cake and funfetti cake. Make a 1:1 substitution with no other changes to the recipe. You can find cake flour in the baking aisle next to the all-purpose flour. The primary difference between each type of flour is the protein content. Flour made from high-protein wheat varieties (which have 10 to 14 percent protein content) is called “hard wheat.” Flour made from low-protein wheat varieties (which have 5 to 10 percent protein content) is called “soft wheat.” More protein means more gluten, and more gluten means more strength. When it comes to baking, the amount of gluten is what determines the structure and texture of a baked good. Now that we’ve had our science lesson for the day, let’s break it down a little further into the difference between the most popular types of flour. Navigating the baking aisle just got a whole lot easier. You might choose to use a different type of flour to bake with in order to improve the health benefits of your food. For example, bread made from whole wheat flour provides better nutrition than bread made from refined grains. But not all flour is interchangeable. It's important to know how you are going to use your flour before you make a swap.
When a cake is too dense, one might think that adding extra flour will soak up more moisture and lighten up the crumb. However, that’s not usually the case. The cake likely needs more leavening support from baking powder or baking soda. This tip isn’t exactly a cakewalk (ha!) because these two ingredients are scientifically particular. If a recipe includes a lot of acid such as lemon juice and buttermilk and isn’t lifted with enough baking powder, the cake will taste dense. In that case, you may need the addition of baking soda which will react with the acid and create a fluffier crumb. Depending on the recipe, adding more baking powder or soda could leave a bitter aftertaste… so don’t go overboard.
The ratio of wet to dry ingredients determines a cake’s moisture level. If there’s simply too much flour and not enough butter, a cake will taste dry. On the other hand, if there’s too much milk and not enough flour, a cake will taste too wet. Finding the right balance between wet and dry ingredients is key. If you notice that a cake tastes too dry, add a little oil the next time you make it. Coconut oil works wonders in cakes, but if you do not want nay coconut flavor then avocado or virgin olive oil work well as well.
Whether a recipe calls for mixing batter with an electric mixer or simply using a whisk, make sure you’re mixing the cake batter together *just until* the ingredients are combined. Over-mixing batter, whether that’s for cakes, cupcakes, breads, muffins, etc, lends a tough-textured baked good because you’re deflating all the air and over-developing the gluten.
This rule applies to baked goods across the board. Mix your batter until just combined – and not any longer – or your cake will be dense. There is no need to leave your mixer running - it doesn't make the cake any better. Once all of the wet ingredients are added and you are ready to incorporate your flour, stir or beat the flour in until it is just incorporated. Over mixing the flour will make for a tough and less appetizing cake. As with most cakes, chocolate cake batter should not be over mixed. While you may feel the impulse to make sure every ingredient is completely blended, a heavy mixing hand leads to tough cake textures. Instead, mix only until dry ingredients are 99.8 percent incorporated. You need to be extra careful about not over mixing if you're using an electric mixer. To prevent myself from getting overzealous with the mixing, I often incorporate the dry ingredients by hand, mixing them in with a spatula.
First, make sure you have quality cake pans. No matter what size or brand cake pan you use, make sure you prepare it appropriately. These days I always use parchment paper rounds, as well coconut baking spray. Trace the bottom of the cake pans(s) on a large piece of parchment paper. Cut out the parchment circle(s). Then, very lightly grease the cake pans with vegan butter or nonstick spray. I usually use coconut oil nonstick spray or “baking spray” which has a little flour in it. Place the parchment round inside, then grease the parchment round too. Yes, grease the pan AND the parchment. This promises an ultra non-stick environment for your cake. Never any sticking. I usually keep a stack of parchment rounds on hand just in case I’m in a rush to get a cake in the oven. When the cake has cooled, run a thin knife around the edge, invert the cake on your hand or work surface, then pull off the cake pan. Peel off the parchment round. If you’re serving the cake right out of the pan, such as a sheet cake, no need to line with parchment. (Though you certainly could if desired.) Just grease the pan.
The number one component of any baked good: a trustworthy oven. If you bake often, you can tell by the heat radiating out of the cracked oven door whether or not the oven is to temperature or not. You can purchase an oven thermometer to leave in your oven, so you know when it is at the correct temperature. Check your oven temperature by setting it to 180 degrees and then after 10 minutes measure the actual heat using a thermometer. This will help you know whether your oven runs a bit hotter or cooler and so you can adjust baking times and temperatures accordingly. Always pre-heat your oven so items go in at the right temperature.
When you're adding the wet and dry ingredients to your creamed butter and sugar mixture for chocolate cake, be sure to alternate between the dry and the wet, beginning and ending with the dry. Why? Whipped vegan butter can't absorb the liquid very well, so the batter will become inundated with wetness and the liquid will remain on top instead of incorporated. If you then follow with all of the dry ingredients, the cake batter will become heavy and you'll end up with a dense cake. To avoid a cake that's heavy like a brick, add part of the dry ingredients first and mix until just incorporated. Follow with the liquid and finish with the dry ingredients.
Attention to detail results in better cakes. Once you have transferred the batter to your meticulously prepared cake pan, take the extra step to tap the bottom of the pan on the kitchen counter or another hard surface to eliminate any remaining air bubbles in the batter and even out the surface. Doing so ensures even baking.
While it may be tempting to open the oven door to check on your cake's progress during baking, try to withstand the urge. The more you open the door to look, the more heat escapes, altering the temperature of the oven and leading to uneven baking. You should make an extra effort not to open the oven door in the first 20 minutes of baking to give the batter a chance to properly set. After that, only open to check for doneness toward the end, rather than multiple times during.
Timing is always important when you're baking anything, but especially so with chocolate cake. I have found that chocolate cake tends to be more susceptible to drying out due to the addition of cocoa in the batter. One of the joys of chocolate cake consumption is the moistness of its crumb. To avoid dry, sad cakes, do everything you can to mind the time and avoid over baking. If a recipe gives you a time range for baking, check the cake for doneness closer to the fastest time. Erring slightly on the side of under baked is preferable to over baked. An over baked chocolate cake is done for, but a just under baked one will still finish baking in the pan's heat out of the oven and remain creamy on the inside.
In my youth, I frosted a number of not-yet-cooled cakes to disastrous results. While it may seem obvious that even a slightly warm cake will melt the frosting off during the frosting process, my impatience meant I just couldn't wait to finish my cakes! Of course, you should allow your chocolate cake to cool for 5 to 10 minutes in the pan before inverting it onto a wire rack to cool completely. If you have the time to do so, you can also wrap the room temperature cake in plastic and place it in the fridge overnight. This prevents crumbing, making the surface nice and smooth for applying icing. Moreover, the cake will be infinitely easier to slice through.
Chances are, if you bake frequently, this doesn’t apply. But if you are an infrequent baker and haven’t made cakes or cookies in a year… don’t leave your once-a-year batch up to some ingredients that have been hanging out in your pantry for more than 6 months. Flours can take on flavors from those spoiling bananas you meant to use for banana bread, and so on. Keep those baking ingredients up to date, especially leavening ingredients like baking soda. Fresher ingredients, (butter that hasn’t been frozen), nuts that haven’t been frozen, etc. will always make a better cake! Baking powder and baking soda can settle down in their containers over time. Shake it up or give it a stir, then using a measuring spoon, lightly scoop out of the container. Use a knife (or the container if it has a leveler) to level it off. Always remember the difference between baking powder and baking soda. Each expire after 6 months, though I find they begin losing strength after 3 months. Write the date on the box so you know when to replace.
You can determine if a cake is done by testing with a toothpick. Stick a toothpick in the center of the cake and if it comes out clean, it’s cooked through. But let me tell you what I do instead. And you don’t need to waste time and fumble around for a toothpick: Remove the cake from the oven or leave it in, your choice. Gently press down on the cake. If the cake bounces back completely, it’s done. If your finger left a dent in the cake, it needs more time. So easy. I always do this! This little trick can be used on muffins and cupcakes as well.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but we’re often in a rush– myself included. Assembling and/or decorating cakes before they’re completely cool is literally a recipe for disaster. The flavor hasn’t settled and the frosting will melt. Some bakers may disagree, but I always cool my cakes completely inside the pans. I do the same for cupcakes, quick breads, and more. Place the pan on a wire rack and leave it alone until completely cool. If I’m in a rush, sometimes I’ll place the rack and pan in the refrigerator to speed up the cooling process. If I’m in a major rush, I cool the cake in the pan for 30 minutes. Then I remove it from the pan and place it on a baking sheet inside the freezer for about 45 more minutes. Depending on the size of the cake, it’s completely cool in a little over 1 hour.
Unless otherwise noted, cakes taste best at room temperature. If you prepare cake one day ahead of time, you can bake and cool it, then cover it tightly and keep at room temperature. Fresh frosting tastes best, so assemble and frost the day of serving. If storing a frosted cake, keep it covered in the refrigerator. Set it on the counter before serving so it warms to room temperature.