Let's Bake a Cake!


Kids love baking cakes "from scratch." And it's so easy, even grownups can do it!

By FamilyTime

 

Let’s bake a cake! Leave the packaged cake mix in the cupboard and instead rustle up the flour, sugar, eggs, butter and milk. That’s all you need for a dynamite cake, except for a little salt and baking powder and maybe a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

If your kids have never baked a cake “from scratch,” now’s the time. If you haven’t done so in a while, don’t hesitate. Nothing to it! Honestly, it’s not much more complicated than using a cake mix and the end result is much tastier, more tender, and will make everyone feel oh-so-proud.

To Begin

Start with a straightforward recipe for a butter cake (sometimes called a layer cake). A vanilla or “yellow” cake is preferable for beginners or kids. The very best place to find a reliable recipe is in a cookbook or a website that specializes in cooking and baking (such as this one). Random recipes taken off the Internet are not always trustworthy.

Read the recipe thoroughly, and then read it again. Make sure you have all the ingredients and if not, plan a shopping trip.

For most recipes, the ingredients blend better if they are at room temperature, so plan ahead and let refrigerated ingredients sit out for 30 minutes or so.

Measure the ingredients and arrange them on the countertop. Put the exact amount of flour in a small bowl, the sugar in another one and the eggs in a third; put the softened butter on a plate or piece of wax paper; pour the milk into a glass measuring cup; and have measuring spoons handy for the salt, baking powder, and vanilla.

Finally, butter or grease the pan(s) with butter, margarine, or tasteless vegetable spray. Kids are good at this! And preheat the oven.

To Mix

A standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment is the most efficient way to blend the cake batter, but a hand-held electric mixer will do.

The kids can start by mixing the butter and sugar together for three to five minutes or until “creamed.” This means the batter is light and fluffy. Stop the mixer a few times and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Before adding the eggs, it’s a great idea to crack them, one at a time, into a custard cup or similar container and then slide the egg into the mixing bowl. Mix the eggs into the batter after each one is added.

Breaking the eggs first into custard cups insures no shell gets in the batter.

Finally, the flour (often called dry ingredients) and the milk (or another liquid) are mixed in in alternating additions. This can be a little tricky, and smaller kids will need help managing the flour in particular. Usually the salt and baking powder or soda are whisked into the flour, and the vanilla may be stirred into the milk.

Once the batter is mixed—and it’s important to mix it only until the flour is absorbed and not much longer—pour it into the prepared pan(s). It might help if an adult holds the bowl and the kids use a rubber spatula to scrape the batter from it. If baking two layers, use your judgment to decide when the pans are evenly filled.

To Bake and Cool

The cake pan(s) should be baked on the oven’s center rack. Make sure the pans don’t touch each other.

While the cake bakes, don’t open the oven door until it’s time to check for doneness. Younger kids probably should not do this because the oven is very hot. Pull the oven rack a little way out of the oven and insert a toothpick or similar prod into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, with no clinging crumbs, the cake is done.

Other tests for doneness include the sides of the cake pulling away from the pan and the cake springing back when lightly pressed with a fingertip.

Set the cake pan or pans on a wire rack and let the cake cool in the pan for about 5 minutes. Next, put the wire rack over the top of the cake pan and, using potholders, invert the cake onto the rack and let it cool completely. You might have to give the cake a slight shake to release it.

If the cake does not release easily from the pan, run a dull kitchen knife around the cake still in the pan.

Once the cake is cool, frost it or eat it unadorned. Homemade cakes are absolutely delicious even without frosting.