UNTIL ITS DONE

cake in oven 2

“Most Asked” question I get almost daily.
“HOW LONG DO I BAKE IT?”

I do understand that question, and the need to have it answered precisely and exactly. I understand this question, because I too asked this very same question in my first semester of Baking 101 at the Culinary Institute of America way back when……

The one thing that was drilled into our heads, quite possibly more than anything else during my time at culinary school, was that in baking the 2 factors that play THE MOST into everything you do, is TIME and TEMPERATURE.

Whether it is the temperature in the oven, the temperature in the room, the temperature of the ingredients that went into the mix. THESE ALL PLAY INTO THE ANSWER OF HOW LONG IT BAKES. How long did it mix, how long does it bake due to these other factors? Would it be different if it sat on the counter for an hour before baking vs. popping it right in the oven?

So for me to give you guys an EXACT time and temperature with every single cupcake pan, cake pan, loaf pan?

Impossible……..how deep did you fill your batter?

How cold was your butter and your eggs?

How old is your oven and is it calibrated properly? Did you preheat it?

Where do you live in the world?

The scenarios are ENDLESS.

So I guess I would have to say that this is my LEAST favorite question because it tells me you have NO IDEA what to look for in a properly baked product. (((That just plain upsets me, not like upsets me in an angry way, but in a sad way because I want us all to look at a cake baking in the oven and KNOW it has a couple more minutes, or it should come out NOW! That to me is a peaceful world. I know I am shallow! ))))

I have learned so much in my many years experience working as both the Pastry Chef leading a crew, as well as a pastry cook inside of a kitchen crew, being led by head chef.

I have learned to value each persons understanding of things as well as their confusion.

I am thrilled when someone has a EUREKA!! moment, as nothing gives me greater satisfaction than when I know a person has just had a breakthrough on a certain subject that until that moment had been just a grey area.
I also find myself going to great lengths to help others who are still lost in that grey fog to find their way out. I understand that each person’s thought process can be just a bit different than the next person, and that not all people learn the same way.

It pains me when I think I am explaining something so very clearly and I get that “deer in headlights” looking back at me. I then rack my brain to try to cover the material from a different angle to shed light on whatever is at hand. I pride myself on being “a pretty good teacher”.

The intention of this article today is to clarify why my answer to the question “How long does it bake?” is often a very short and very abrupt, “Until it is DONE!”

I cannot stress this enough. LEARN TIME AND TEMPERATURE and don’t rely on exacts.

Of course if it is your first time baking this certain recipe, I get it, you MUST know approximately how long it will take in the oven, me too!

If I have never mixed something before in my life, how could I possibly know when it is finished?

So I always give approximate times in my recipes, but I will be the happiest person on Earth if you learn the “Eye for done-ness”.

This means that if the timer rings at 25 minutes because I said, approximately 25 minutes…..You don’t pull it straight out of the oven and then the middle collapses and I get a nasty email saying my recipes don’t work!

But this takes practice and well, what better way to practice a craft but with cake recipes! Yumm!

WARNING: Mistakes May Taste Delicious!

I will love nothing more than if you all could understand that when a cake is fully baked and not OVERBAKED, it has a certain springy-ness to it.

No fingerprint stays indented, but it springs back light a fluffy as if to say! “YES! I am PERFECT!”

In my recipe instructions, I do always mention how long to bake it and at what temperature, typically I will also say this in the video at the end , when I am about to place it in the oven. 

Happy Baking everyone! Practice makes perfect !

“Keep trying because if you haven’t yet failed, you haven’t tried hard enough!”

For certain things like brownies, there is the old classic way that I still use to check if it is done (see video above!) and that’s the good old toothpick inserted in the center.

Brownies are tricky and can fool you in a matter of minutes. Those few minutes will make all the difference in the world.  If your toothpick comes out with moist crumbs still attached, you are GOOD TO GO!

If it has wet batter, it needs more time.  If it comes out, with NOTHING on it?  Well, dip it in your coffee or add a ton of icing to it, because you have got yourself a dry brownie!

 

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18 Comments

  1. Hi Gretchen, i am also one of your fans here in jeddah. Thanks for the advice it is really a big help for me. I have a question about how to use the oven. In baking cake i am only using the heat at the bottom and not the top, and it comes out perfect but it takes time. Am i doing it right? What will be the effect in my cakes or cupcakes if i use the top and bottom heat of my oven? Thank you… :*

    1. Hi Joan! I’m not sure if by “top heat” you mean Broiler? If so, then no- no broiler.
      But perhaps your oven has all around heating elements like a convection? In which case, yes the top & bottom functions will be great!
      But it’s difficult for me to say since Im not so sure about your oven. Just dont ever BROIL in baking!

  2. Hi Gretchen!
    Are the baking temperatures you post for conventional or convection / fan forced ovens?
    What changes would me make to switch from one type of oven to another?
    Thanks for all your tips
    And keep up your great work!!

  3. I’m sorry but this made me laugh. Sometimes the answers are so simple and no matter how many times you say it or how many ways you phrase it, someone will always say ” how long do I bake it ? ” Just makes me giggle

    1. If you are really have a patience to learn baking. why dont you read it and understand it what Gretchen meant all about.
      we used to say… please god help me! when you dont help yourself!
      logic thinking is necessary!.

      1. I think Login Wolff is in agreement with us: Saying that- Some people just want the answers and still cannot understand even when I DO give exacts! 🙂
        At least that’s how I read that comment.

  4. Hi Gretchen! When baking one 9″ cake or two at the same time does the time become more with 2 pans (same amount of batter in each pan whether its one pan or two)? I guess I’m asking if you keep adding more pans to the oven will it change the cooking time?

    One more question please! My oven has two “middle” positions. Which should I be baking on? Or does it not matter. I usually bake on the lower but haven’t tried the slightly higher position for fear of the top browning too quickly, but its only a couple inches difference. Hope this makes sense. Thanks!

    1. No the time will be same with 6 pans in the oven (give or take a minute or two with some switching around of pans if necessary throughout baking depending on your oven hot spots, etc)
      I know what you mean and you have to find what is bets spacing for your particular oven, I use the lower and then the one in the middle

  5. Hi Ms. Gretchen, greetings from the Philippines! I’ve been following you since the ancient of days! Lol.. Thank you for your generosity and kindness of sharing your best recipes to your millions of followers.. I tried this recipe of yours several times and it’s always a hit.. just a query, the middle part of my cake depressess everytime i make this cake/brownie, i wonder what the problem is, pls help master chef! Thanks in advance and happy holidays!

      1. Ooppss.. Im so sorry, i got lost i need a map! Lol.. your famous and the best among the best chocolate super moist fudge brownies! Btw, i also added 2tbsp coffee, and it came out fantabulous except for the thinning of the middle part when it got cold.. hope u could help me.. Thank you

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