What is the most important piece of baking equipment you have? Your mixer? Nope. Your Spatula? Nope. Your Scraper? Nope. Your Cake Baking Oven? YEP! But how can you make yours serve you better?
Now, here’s the thing. Many of us are using ovens that are years old. We never think to service them. We clean them, we bake in them, many of us also use them for home cooking, and we expect them to keep going week after week. If you’re like me, you didn’t even buy your oven, it came with the house.
Ovens like all pieces of equipment will start to degrade. As they get used, they start to wear out and there is nothing we can do about that. But there are some things we can do to help ourselves from being sabotaged by an oven that may not be working at its best.
Buy an in oven Thermometer
One of the first things to start to degrade on your oven is the heat probe inside your oven. Just because you set your oven to 160 degree, doesn’t mean that’s what its running at. Quite often the heat probe inside the oven isn’t as accurate as you’d like it to be, and let’s face it a cake baking oven needs to be at the right temperature.
So in order to make sure you’re baking at the correct temperature place a thermometer inside your oven and use that to double check the temperature.
They’re not that expensive and can be bought online.
Work with your Oven’s Hop Spots
Most ovens will develop hot spots over time. These are areas within your oven that are hotter than the rest. The reason they occur is due to your oven getting old.
In gas ovens some of the gas jets may get blocked, and in electric ovens the heating elements may start to breakdown in certain areas. This will result in areas of your oven being cooler, and other areas working hotter.
But how do you find where your hot spots are?
Get some baking sheets and lay out slices of cheap, white sliced bread. Set your oven to around 200c and pop the trays of white sliced bread on each shelf. Bake for 5 to 15 minutes, or until they start brown. When you remove the trays of white bread from the oven some sections will be browner than other – these darker sections will be where your hotspots are.
Now you know where your hotspots are in your cake baking oven you can work with them, or avoid them. Personally I know the hot spot in my oven in the top, left corner. Therefore I either avoid that area, or if I have different size cakes to bake I place the larger cakes in the hotter section as they’ll take longer to bake.
Does your Cake Baking Oven Light Work?
Light bulbs in ovens often blow. They are generally the old fashioned filament style bulbs, so will blow with annoying regular occurrence. BUT, the good news is they are super easy to replace, and are not expensive.
Please make sure you replace your oven’s bulb….why? so you don’t have to keep opening your oven and risking your cakes sinking!
And while we’re talking about oven lights, most ovens have a glass cover over the bulb – they can get a bit dirty, clean them!
A note on Cake Pans
Many oven manufacturers will tell you to use dark coloured cake pans. However, personally whenever I use dark cake pans I find the cake is too baked on the edges. I understand why they tell you to use dark pans – they will retain the heat better, whilst light cake pans will reflect the heat. However, I personally find you can’t beat good quality, pale cake pans to get the most consistent bake.
But what if you’re buying a new cake baking oven?
My best advise is to do your research! There are a couple of good articles I’ve found, surveying ovens, both of which are recommended reading.
Saying that, if it was me buying a new oven I would stick to good quality brands, known for their reliability and their longevity – such as NEFF, AEG or Bosch. I would also always stick to an Electric Fan Oven for the most consistent heat, and I wouldn’t spend money on the extra gadgets and gizmos that you probably won’t use.
If you have the room, I would highly recommend having a commercial oven – they are built to be workhorses and rarely let you down.