Note: this is Part Two of my previous post, Tips for Cake Baking.
Cream your butter and sugar well. By that, I mean at least three whole minutes. And I don’t recommend softening your butter, unless it’s pretty rock-hard. If it’s a couple of degrees below room temperature, it will cream beautifully right in your stand mixer.
Beat the eggs in one at a time. Nigella Lawson says she’s too lazy to do this, and prefers to add all the eggs at once and “stir like mad”. Um, no- not a good idea. Add your eggs one at a time. I like to add an egg, run the mixer for twenty seconds, and so on. At this point, there’s no danger of overbeating your cake batter, so really get it well incorporated.
Fold in your dry ingredients gently and just barely. Here’s where you want to turn your mixer off- and once you add your dry ingredients (flour, etc.) you never want to go above the “stir” (or the lowest) speed. This right here is where you must not overbeat, or you’ll end up with a tough cake. Ew.
Use buttermilk. I almost always substitute buttermilk for milk in any cake recipe. It makes for a more tender, moister crumb. You can also add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to a cup of milk for “instant” buttermilk.
Line your cake tin. I buy huge rolls of baking parchment in bulk, and use it for everything- baking and cooking. I like to line the bottoms of my cake tins with parchment paper, adhering it to the pan with a light spray of baking spray (e.g. Crisco spray, Baker’s Joy or PAM). It makes it so much easier. Note: whatever you do, do NOT line your cake tin with plastic wrap. It will melt. Not pretty.
Start checking your cake a few minutes early. Most unsuccessful cakes have been overbaked. The best thing is to get to know your own oven, its hotspots and cold spots. And remember that your cake will continue cooking for a few minutes after you remove it from the oven, so you want there to be at least a few moist crumbs stuck to your cake tester.