If you're doing everything right in the recipe and your cakes and cookies still come out burned, it could be your oven calibration. If you're using dark pans, you'll need to adjust your cooking time and temperatures.
Photo by Iryna Yeroshko
Chow explains why, even when you follow a recipe, your baked goods may not come out right. Dark pans will cook the outsides faster so either your baked good over-brown or the interior isn't done. Start with lowering the oven temperature by 10 degrees. Then, check for doneness 10 minutes earlier.
Check out the link for other hidden baking problems.