1. Pre heat the oven & invest in an oven thermometer
The oven is the first thing to look at if you’re having problems with cakes sinking in the middle, bakes over cooked or under cooked, burning or rising unevenly.
All ovens are different, some run hot, some run cool irrespective of whether you use them on a fan or conventional setting. The best way to test your oven temperature is to put your oven on with an oven thermometer on the middle shelf and see what the temperature read out is after about 1 hour. Keep an eye on it during this time so that you get to know how long the oven takes to come up to heat, whether you have to set the thermostat a little higher or lower to achieve the heat required in the recipe for baking.
This is especially important if you’re working with a stove (eg. Aga etc) because not only are the various levels in the oven different temperatures, but the temperature will change if the lids have been lifted etc.
If your cakes are rising unevenly, this could be a sign that there is something wrong with the oven element, it’s easy enough to move bakes round half way through cooking, but if the oven is struggling to come up to temperature or very hot and burning things, it’s time for an engineer to test the elements and thermostat.
4. Cooling the Cake
When your cakes come out of the oven, they are still cooking, so let them sit in the tin for a bit before turning out.
6. Helping the Icing Stick
There’s nothing worse when you’ve made a beautiful cake, start to cut it into pieces and the icing falls off. Melt a little apricot jam and brush on to the top of the cake before icing.
This is also important if you’re doing a marzipan layer first.
7. Use solid fat in cakes, not soft spread
Using block butter or margarine in cakes will give a better result as it has a higher melting point than soft, spreadable butter or margarine.
Use it at room temperature or warm it on the defrost setting of the microwave to soften. If the butter or marg is too hard, you’ll find it really hard to beat smooth and may find there are small lumps in the cake mix.
Spreadable fats usually have extra oil or water added to them to make them stay soft straight out of the fridge. While this is fine for spreading on bread or toast, when it comes to a cake it melts too quickly in the oven and can lead to a cake that sinks or has a coarse texture.