Find your oven’s hot and cold spots with the Simple Test Cake

August 26th, 2015

Appliance Hack Appliance Talk Ovens Ovens & Cooking Recipes

Find your oven's hot and cold spots...(1)

It’s an inconvenient truth that not every oven is perfect. Even the highest-quality ovens can sometimes heat unevenly, leaving some corners of their chambers warmer or cooler than others. This can result in baking that’s decidedly substandard, at least until you have a good idea of how your oven performs.

The practical team over at Chef have found a great way to check whether your new oven has any eccentricities in its performance – baking a test cake. If it browns unevenly, you’ll know that thre’s something up with your oven’s heating.

Chef includes the following simple cake recipe in the manuals for its gas and electric ovens and stoves so you can put them through their paces early on with an easy recipe that sets the baking standard:

Simple Test Cake


  • 125g butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons (80mL) full-cream milk


1. Butter base and sides of two, 20cm straight-sided round or square cake pans. Then line the base with grease
proof paper or baking paper.

2. Preheat oven to moderate ‘180ºC’ (170ºC fan forced) for 30m and ensure oven shelf is in position 2 of the oven.

3. Cream softened butter and sugar until light in colour.

4. Add vanilla essence.

5. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

6. Sift flour and salt into the mixture and beat until well combined.

7. Add milk and beat or stir to combine.

8. Spoon mixture equally between prepared cake pans.

9. Bake in preheated oven, position 2 for about 25 to 35 minutes.

Tip: Insert a fine cake skewer into the cake mix. If it comes out clean, or if the edges of the cake have come away slightly from the sides of the cake pan, the cake is ready.

10. Remove from oven and place on wire cake rack and rest for 5 minutes before removing from cake pans. Cool completely.

To Serve: sandwich together with your favourite jam or conserve, and dust top with pure icing sugar.

FOOT NOTE: if desired, substitute butter for either margarine or olive oil spread. Recipe is based on the Australian standard metric 250mL cup and 20mL tablespoon sets.

And that’s the Simple Test Cake, which is exactly what it soundas like. It probably won’t bring you home the grand prize on a TV cooking show. But it will help you work out if your oven heats unevenly, based on whether any sections are darker or lighter in colour when the baking time is up.

Plus, if you’re not much of a baker, this cake can be a great starting point for beginners. Once you’ve mastered the Simple Test Cake (which can be jazzed up with some exciting icing), you’ll be well on your way to mastering more exciting cakes, such as those in the legendary Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book (possibly the best cookbook ever written).

Of course, this cake isn’t the only way to test an oven (though it is a pretty good one, as it’s a pretty familiar example). Any recipe that you’re familiar with will do the job nicely – if it’s anything less than the perfect results you remember, then there may be something weird going on…

Mark joined Appliances Online in November 2011 and has since learned more than he ever expected to know about appliances. He enjoys looking for new and unusual ways for to solve everyday problems using typical household appliances. When he’s not toiling at the desks of Appliances Online and Big Brown Box, he tries to find time to write the next big bestseller and draw satirical cartoons, but is too easily distracted by TV, music and video games. Mark’s favourite appliance is the Dyson Groom Tool, as he loves the concept of vacuuming your dog. Google+

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