Cake baking advice?
November 25, 2010 6:43 AM   Subscribe

To bake and take? Or to take and bake? In need of Thanksgiving day cake logic.

I'm making a maple pear upside-down cake and taking it over to a relative's house today.

I can't decide whether to 1) bake the thing in advance and then just reheat when I get there, 2) bake it partially and reheat/finish there, or 3) pack ingredients and bake the whole thing there. The last option seems a bit unrealistic considering how packed her kitchen and oven will probably be. Though, most of the action will center on main course items, so I guess it's feasible that I could make it later, after the main meal, though that sounds like a drag.

Another option: 4) I could assemble at home all the uncooked ingredients (maple, pear and batter) in the pan and then simply pop it in the oven when I get there. Can batter sit uncooked in a cake pan for a few hours and still yield a good cake?

I could ask her, of course, but she's in the thick of prepping and not picking up her phone.

Any suggestions?
posted by cymru_j to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would say no to anything but baking fully at your house. I'm not an expert on the chemistry of baking but I think you run the risk of the ingredients that cause rising losing their oomph if you let the batter sit around. (This does seem to work okay for some pancake recipes, but I wouldn't chance it. And like you say, oven space will be precious.)

Cake sounds delicious! Have a good time.
posted by lakeroon at 6:47 AM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Does it need to be served warm?
posted by galadriel at 6:48 AM on November 25, 2010

Best answer: I think I'd personally go with the bake then reheat option, since cakes don't really need to be very warm and really you could even get by probably without reheating, but the idea is that you don't need to risk overbaking it.

And mmm, pear cake? That sounds yummy! Think I could sneak into your relative's house for dessert? ;)
posted by Stormfeather at 6:49 AM on November 25, 2010

Best answer: Definitely bake at home, reheat when it's time to eat it. The kitchen will be a disaster, everyone will be wanting to put the finishing touches on their meal, and as much as you will try to keep the work to yourself, you needing to cook at the place will put an extra burden on the host. All this, as well as the fact that baking is chemistry, and if the ingredients sit together too long uncooked, or partially cooked, it could have some bad effects on the final product.
posted by arcticwoman at 6:50 AM on November 25, 2010 [8 favorites]

I'm baking the layers of my carrot cake and bringing the frosting, walnuts, and decorating tools to my mom's place.

For me the deciding factor was that I want it to look nice when we eat it, and there are hills and 60mph roads between us.

In your case, I would do the messy/equipment heavy prep (mixing batter, slicing fruit) at home, put it all in a cooler, bring every single piece of gear for baking and assembly with me, and hope it only needs to be in the oven for the amount of time it takes to carve the turkey, set the table, etc.
posted by SMPA at 6:51 AM on November 25, 2010

4) Can batter sit uncooked in a cake pan for a few hours and still yield a good cake?

No. You don't save any time this way in any case. You can, however, mix all the dry ingredients, mix all the wet ingredients, and prepare your fruit beforehand, then assemble and bake the cake there. I'd recommend baking the cake earlier rather than later in the day, but so long as you're not competing for oven space after the main course is done, you can bake it then.
posted by beerbajay at 6:56 AM on November 25, 2010

Best answer: The other element of this is that the importance of your cake probably does not trump the sanity of your hostess. If you arrived at my house on Thanksgiving day and announced you needed to cook in my kitchen, there is a good chance I would graciously rearrange, re-time and re-clean everything I needed to in order to make that happen for you, pour myself a gin, and then lock myself in the pantry to commit ritualistic suicide.

The fact she's too busy to pick up her phone today indicates that arriving with a cooler of ingredients, a dish of batter or anything but a fully baked cake is not the right answer.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:06 AM on November 25, 2010 [20 favorites]

Bake and reheat -- never impose on someone else's oven on Thanksgiving any more than is absolutely necessary, unless you've talked with them about it well in advance and worked it into their Thanksgiving Day plan. Especially for baking, which requires very specific times and temperatures, rather than just an allotment of space at whatever temp the oven is already at.

If you're going to impose, a dessert is, perhaps, not the end of the world, since it can bake while people are eating, when presumably most everything else is out of the oven. But still.

I wouldn't underbake it and finish it later, since that would mean getting it fully back up to cooking temperature once you get it there, and then waiting for it to cool down before it can be eaten. You're better off just gently warming it at a relatively low temperature to the point that it's serving temperature.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:15 AM on November 25, 2010

Bake it at home. The host will already have a full oven/kitchen and trying to figure out how to accommodate you, even if you wait to bake it later, is just going to add stress on a day that is already stressful for whomever is cooking.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:15 AM on November 25, 2010

Bake it fully, allow to cool before you leave. Anything else is asking for trouble, do not attempt. Warm if necessary just before serving.
posted by meringue at 7:15 AM on November 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, all! I think I'll go with the sane and sage bake-and-reheat route.
posted by cymru_j at 7:17 AM on November 25, 2010

Bake it at home and leave it in the pan and reheat there. Bring over some simple syrup (1 part sugar to 1 part water, heat in a pot until sugar dissolves) and brush the cake with the syrup after it comes out of the oven and just before you turn it out onto your serving plate. This will make sure that the cake is still moist. If you can't reheat, then just brush the cake with the syrup before you turn it over onto your plate. Happy Thanksgiving!
posted by tealeaf522 at 8:00 AM on November 25, 2010

Also, if you drop a baked cake it's still edible. If you drop a pan full of cake batter it's probably not.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:19 AM on November 25, 2010

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