We get this question A LOT. That's cool, it means there's demand for this blog post right?
In the baking course we talk about signs and how by the end of it, you can start to tell which method to use, just from looking at a set of ingredients. Cool right?
In the first week of our beginners baking course we cover a classic Victoria sponge, an apple cake and a vegan chocolate cake too. In the recipes we have included the tin size and baking times for those tin sizes, however you can totally adapt a recipe to bake nicely in a different tin with different dimensions. Yes you can!
For this blog when I say 'standard/straightforward cake batter' I am referring to any of the above and batters that utilise the creaming method, all-in-one, two bowl method or oil into whipped egg method, and batters that include either a chemical raising agent like baking powder/bicarb/self raising flour or leavened through whipped egg whites...mostly!
Let's start by talking temperatures, typically most straightforward batters are baked at 160 degrees fan/170 degrees fan (we always add on 20 degrees if the oven isn't fan assisted). If it's a delicate sheet sponge containing meringue in the base then the temperature may be even lower, around 120-150 degrees fan. If the cake is being baked in a bain-marie or contains lots of dairy, like a baked cheesecake, then your temperatures may be around the 150 degrees fan mark. It's quite rare to find an instruction which indicates a cake batter should be baked at anything above 200 degrees oven, unless it's a quick blast before being turned down (like a Basque cheesecake). - These are all things to think about when you are trying to bake a different cake batter in an alternative tin size.
Mostly, and we mean mostly, a general rule is to note that when you are filling any baking tin. Whether that's a muffin tin or a larger cake tin, you wouldn't want to fill it more than 1/2 - 3/4 of the way up the side of the tin. This way you are giving it enough space to grow and rise and helping to ensure that you won't be left with cake batter spillage all over the bottom of the oven and a dense a$$ cake!
Now we talk timing. When you are baking a cake batter in a different tin it's always worth thinking about timings. If the quantity of cake batter is less than 100g (this amount is usually baked in smaller silicone moulds/muffin tins) and it's a standard batter then you would check it after 12-15 minutes at the smaller end (40-60g) and 20-22 minutes at the larger end (60g+). If the cake batter is around the 400g mark and it's a standard batter, you would want to check it after 30-35 mins. Finally, if the batter quantity is much larger, 800-900g then you would soon get to know by instinct, that a batter that large would need 45mins-1 hour 20 mins!
The sign you are looking for as a clear indication that it's cooked is.... to insert a skewer into the very middle of the cake. If it comes out clean then it's ready! Simple. If the skewer comes out with raw batter on it then it definitely needs longer. For larger cakes it's usually another 10-15 minutes! It's ok to pull a cake out of the oven to check it by the way, as long as it's been in for longer than half way of your specified baking time. Another indication is if the cake is springy to touch and looks dry on top. For sheet sponges especially, if you touch the sponge and some of it stays on your finger then you need to bake it for longer. Dry-to-touch!!
Also note that if the cake is meant to be gooey in the middle then the skewer shouldn't come out dry!!
A really good practice is to keep a note of the tin sizes that you have. When you next fill it with a tried and tested cake batter that works in that tin - weigh it. Keep a note of how much batter fits into that tin so when you're thinking of putting another cake batter into it you know how much (quantity wise) works in there.
So there we go! That's our two cents on how YOU have the power to adapt a recipe to suit your chosen vessel of tin. For more on the theory of all things sweet and practical recipe videos sign up to our beginners baking course here.