Have you ever baked a cake from scratch, only to take it out of the oven and see that it hasn't risen, it's burnt or unevenly cooked?
We recently tested nine 20cm round cake tins bought from Argos, John Lewis & Partners, Lakeland, Le Creuset and more, so we've been mixing a lot of ingredients and baking a lot of cakes.
Plan ahead and take eggs and butter out of the fridge and allow them to lose their chillbefore you start to make your cake.
Softened butter will puff up much more when you mix it with sugar. Also, room-temperature eggs will give cakes more volume.
This will result in a light and deliciously fluffy cake.
You might be tempted to skip greasing and lining your cake tin to save time, especially if it's a non-stick cake tin.
In our tests we baked cakes with and without greasing and lining the tin first. We found it's so much more difficult to remove a cake intact if you neglect this stage.
Although we were able to remove one or two of our freshly-baked sponges, several of them completely fell apart as we tried to detach them from the cake tin.
We simply don't think it's worth the risk.
It is true that air in your cake makes it light and fluffy, but too much can lead to holes and cracks in your finished sponge.
Luckily, this is easy to avoid. Simply tap the batter-filled cake tin on the kitchen counter a few times.
This helps to smooth out the surface of the batter and also bring out the extra bubbles.
It's always tempting to open the oven and take a look at your cake to make sure it's rising and not burning.
But opening the oven door will allow heat to escape, which changes the internal temperature of your oven and will lead to an unevenly baked sponge.
Leave the cake to bake undisturbed for the minimum time stated on the recipe. Then check it quickly and carefully to see if it needs more time.
Where you place your cake in the oven can have a big effect on how it turns out.
For the best results place your cake tin in the middle of the central oven rack. That way you should avoid over-browning on any one side.
You don't want it on the highest rack as heat rises and this could lead to burning or uneven browning. You also want to avoid the lowest rack as it may lead to a partially undercooked sponge.
If you need to use two racks because you want to bake two cakes, you should quickly swap the cakes around about halfway through the baking process, so each is baked as evenly as possible.
It's very tempting to slice right into that fresh cake as soon as it's out of the oven.
However, it's important to resist as although the cake is cooling, it's still baking inside.
Leave it to cool completely, preferably on a wire rack instead of a solid base so the air circulates.
This prevents you from ending up with a soggy sponge and ensures the texture and volume of the sponge are at their best.
Needless to say, it's also much easier to ice and decorate a fully-cooled cake.
Our researchers put a selection of nine round 20cm cake tins through a series of tests.
We looked at build qualityand checked them for any faults or manufacturing flaws.
To assess how easy each one is to use and how well the non-stick coating worked, we first baked cakes without greasing or lining the tin and then after cleaning them, we baked a second cake but this time the tin was greased and lined.
We looked at how easy it was to remove the cakes and how well they had turned out - whether they were evenly cooked or if any had burnt edges or undercooked middles.
To check the durability of the cake tins we cleaned them with wire wool and then we scraped the interior surface with a metal spatula.