This section is from the book "The American Woman's Cook Book", by Ruth Berolzheimer. Also available from Amazon: The Domestic Arts Edition of the American Woman's Cook Book.
For any cake made with fat, grease the pans with a melted, unsalted fat, using a pastry brush or a piece of soft paper, then dredge the pans with flour, and shake them to distribute the flour over the surface. Invert the pans and shake them to remove all surplus flour, leaving only the thin film which adheres to the fat. This helps to give the cake a smooth under crust.
If the oven temperature is difficult to control, if the cake pan is not smooth, or if the cake contains only a small amount of fat, it is advisable to line the pans with smooth paper. Cut the paper to fit the bottom of the pan, plus an allowance to cover the sides. For a rectangular pan, cut out the corners of the paper so that it will fit against the sides of the pan without overlapping or wrinkling. For a round or oval pan, cut gashes along the edge of the paper as far as the part which is to cover the bottom. The paper will then overlap smoothly on the sides of the pan. Grease the paper after it is fitted into the pan. The grease will hold the paper against the sides as the cake batter is poured in.
If you want the cake to rise to the top of the pan, fill the pan about two-thirds full. Spread the batter well into the corners and against the sides of the pan, leaving a slight depression in the center. As cake tends to rise more in the center than at the edges, this will help to make it flat on top when it is done.
Baking Temperatures - Place the pan in the center of the lower grate so that the greatest amount of heat will reach it from underneath. A moderate temperature, varying from 350° to 375°, is best for baking a butter cake. If the oven is too hot, a thick brown crust will form on the outside before the cake has fully risen and before the inside has thoroughly baked, resulting in a cracked surface.
Divide the time of baking into quarters: (1) During the first quarter, the cake should rise and little bubbles form on the top; (2) in the second quarter, it should continue to rise and to form the crust; (3) in the third quarter, it should begin to brown, and (4) at the end of the fourth quarter it should be browned sufficiently and shrink from the tin.
Testing the Cake - When the cake is fully baked, it will shrink from the sides of the pan. When touched lightly with the finger it will spring back. If the finger leaves a depression, the cake is not done.
Another test is to insert a clean wooden toothpick into the middle of the cake. If no particles of batter adhere to it when it is drawn out, the cake is done.
Care After Baking - After removing the cake from the oven, allow it to remain in the pan about two minutes. Then, with a spatula or knife, loosen the edges. If there is any tendency for the cake to stick on the bottom, wring a cloth out of water and place it on the bottom of the pan for a few seconds. Turn the cake out on a wire cake-cooler and allow it to stand until cool.