I always just thought I sucked at baking. After reading several hints and tips on how to achieve perfect texture and consistency, I bought better flour, let my ingredients get to room temperature before mixing, and I made sure to follow all steps to the T. My cupcakes still had odd consistencies, ranging from rock hard to brownie-like, tough and chewy outside, dry and unforgiving inside with the occasional underdone goop hidden within crumbly, chalky walls. I figured that I was just bad at it and let it go. Then I got an idea today.
I bought a thermometer.
I think this was the most significant improvement to my entire baking process. I found out that the thermostat on my oven is off by almost 100 degrees in either direction. I am not joking. When I cranked the thing up to 350, it would skyrocket past 425, hovering just below 450. When I set it to a smidge below 275 it seems to be a lot happier and will register the correct 350 on my thermometer.
Tonight I tried a quick and easy chocolate cake recipe, and my first batch has been just amazing. Nice and firm on top but not crusty, soft and springy texture inside, and the wrapper peels off easily. I'm quite encouraged by this development, and I think the road ahead will be a lot less frustrating. So, at least, I hope.
And now I need to find pastry bags. Neither Wal-Mart nor HEB seemed to carry them (not in any of the obvious locations, at least), so I will have to look to Hobby Lobby next. I'm very excited to learn how to decorate.