Once you have your equipment and ingredients on hand, preheat your oven. It's best to preheat it for 10 to 15 minutes to ensure accurate baking times.
Then prepare your pan. For layer or sheet cakes, recipes call for greasing and flouring the pan before adding the batter. This makes it easier to remove the cake from the pan after it's baked.
But there are exceptions. Do not grease or flour pans for foam cakes, such as angel food, chiffon or sponge cakes. The batter must be able to cling to the sides of the pan in order to rise correctly.
When filling a pan, only add batter until the pan is one-half to two-thirds full. This will allow baked goods to bake evenly and prevent batter from overflowing the pan.
When placing pans in the oven, use the middle oven rack unless the recipe directs otherwise. Carefully space pans in the oven, allowing at least 2 inches between pans and the sides of the oven for good circulation. Overcrowding can result in uneven baking.
To avoid overbaking cakes and most other baked goods, start checking for doneness at the minimum baking time, then at 1- to 2-minute intervals. The doneness test for most cakes is to insert a toothpick near the center and have it come out clean.
Serving and Storing Baked Goods
Once you remove your baked goods from the oven, follow the cooling directions noted in the recipe. In general, most cakes should be cooled on a wire rack for 10 minutes before being removed from pans. (If your cake is not removed soon enough and sticks to the pan, return it to the oven and heat for 1 minute, then try removing it.)
Don't cover or store cakes until they are completely cool. They also should be cool before filling, frosting or glazing unless the recipe directs otherwise.
Letting bars and brownies completely cool will help prevent them from crumbling when cut.
To freeze baked goods to enjoy later, use freezer bags or containers with tight-fitting lids, or wrap items securely in moisture-proof wrap, heavy-duty foil or freezer paper. Don't forget to label and date items before freezing.