With lock down remaining in place it seems we’ve got a little more time to try out things we wouldn’t normally do and baking seems to be a popular one especially if you have children (read my baking with children blog post). Ive been baking since I was little, i have no formal baking experience, I learnt the basics from my mum and dad and by trying things out. I believe anyone can bake, you just need a bit of confidence to get started.
Yes theres an element of having some basic baking knowledge and a good recipe, but ive tried lots of recipes over the years and you’ll just find ones which work for you and you’ll bake them again and again. But honestly baking cakes maybe considered an art, but actually baking cakes is a science and they come with a handy ‘recipe’ to make them work. It’s true that the science of cake baking can be tricky to master, theres pitfalls that can happen from deflated or shrinking cakes, cakes that are too dry, too wet, or too crumbly, but often they do have an explanation, and more often than not, an easy solution. Many common cake baking issues can be resolved by learning some key basic baking techniques, before you even get to the fun part of decorating!
Teaching & Learning
My bakery studio is a place I teach my self new things and techniques, there is a wealth of videos and support online but most of the time hands on is the best way to actually learn as I think through “trial and error” you learn more.
A few of my friends quizzed me on baking regarding techniques I used and tricks for basic cake baking and decorating. I was more than happy to try help answer these, but what better way than to get hands dirty, and get baking! so I held a mini bake off where everyone baked and decorated their own cake, simple you may think but it gave the opportunity to ask as many questions as they liked when issue came up or if they were not quite sure of something to double check. For example when a recipe say “mixed till pale” what does this look like, how do i know if I’ve done too much or too little? when baking with my mother I was taught a Norwegian word “eggedosis” goggle translate as ‘eggnog’ and i guess this isn’t too far wrong as it a description of the consistency of how sugar and eggs should look when at this “light and pale” point, but if you don’t know this, doing too much of too little can have drastic effects on your bake, so is a good one to master.
It was a really great afternoon and we even had two smaller bakers join in to bake with their mummies (something I love to do read my blog about baking with small humans). It was an experience I throughly enjoyed and felt that some of the things I had learnt along the way from trial and error were actually things other people wanted to know, it was great to share the love of cake with my friends!
They too were all very pleased with what they had created (as was I) and thankful the little things that had been bugging them for ages now they finally knew the answer too and all left with a little more experience and feeling more confident to tackle baking alone, sometimes its knowing just a few basics which are pretty much part of every cake recipe to ensure you get beautiful constant bakes!
Below I’ll share some things which came out of this session and some helpful tips to get you well on your way to baking with confidence, I hope there helpful!!
Baking Pitfalls to Avoid
Weather you suffer from soggy bottoms, peaked tops or uncooked middles alot of the common issue which come with baking can be avoided. I have grouped them into what I think are 7 key areas when baking and hopefully these help ensuring the perfect bake, every time.
- Not correctly measuring the ingredients
Baking is a science and not being precise with your measurements in baking can cause all sorts of issues. Try to measure all ingredients as accurately as possible. If your using measuring cups and spoons check there from the same set as there can be volume differences between sets. Using too much baking powder or baking soda is a common cause for alot of the typical baking fails and often this is the smallest ingredient addition so take extra care at this measuring stage.
- Not following the recipe instructions
Following the recipe is crucial, mixing the ingredients in the wrong order will also drastically effect your bake so don’t just throw them all in at once. It can also sometimes be hard to know if you’ve done enough or too much mixing, but learning the basics like when butter and sugar is well blended, or eggs and sugar are light and pale -“eggedosis” will aid you in almost every baking recipe and practice will make perfect as you familirise your self these common methods. In general, once the flour is added to your batter, you want to mix the batter only as much as needed to incorporate ingredients and achieve a lump-free texture. Over-mixing can cause the gluten in the flour to overdevelop and give the cake a coarse grain. Also if a recipe say ‘fold’ using a spoon, do this don’t just zap it with the mixer (although this may be tempting) and if it says ‘sieve’ dry ingredients don’t just pour them in, as these will also effect your bake. Lastly once the batter is mixed get it in the tin and in the oven, leaving it sitting too long before baking can cause bake issues too.
- Substitutions or changing the recipe
– If your making a 7″ cake mix and put it in a 7″ tin, you’ll get an uneven bake if you use a tin too big or too small.
– If you need a bigger cake than the recipe states you cannot just double the recipe, cake recipes are more complex than that. find a recipe for a larger volume, or bake two cake instead.
– Substitutions ingredients will cause you issues, with the exception of spices, recipes are a balanced blend and what seems like a simple or small change can drastically effect the bake.
– Don’t be tempted to add more lemon juice to your cake for that extra zest, this extra moisture will effect you bake too, instead make a zesty curd or icing instead to add that extra flavour. Fillings or syrups are often a much better way of adding extra flavour to your cake than in the actual cake batter.
- Not preparing your ingredients correctly
I have done this many times and I am sure I am not alone in that, forgetting to bring the required amount of butter to room temperature and being tempted to zap it for seconds in the microwave! Room temperature butter is very crucial to the creaming process (with sugar, for butter icing especially) chopping a block of butter up into thin slices will help it get to room temperature quicker if you do leave it late to take it out of the fridge! Just as chilled butter for pastries is critical to the bake, preparation in baking is key, so plan ahead.
- Using out of date ingredients
Using out of date ingredients can cause baking issue also, it sounds obvious and for us regular bakers who use the ingredients on a daily bases (so maybe never get close to best before dates) if you only bake occasionally you may find an out of date baking powder or flour could be the route cause of your baking woes. check all ingredients are in date to help ensure a good bake.
- Incorrect oven usage
– Preheat your oven; sounds obvious but you need to allow a good 15-20mins before you need the oven to actually get it warmed up to avoid uneven bakes.
– Opening the oven too much can cause a drop in temperature and cause issues. You shouldn’t open the oven door until the cake is more than halfway baked, even then, try to avoid the temptation as you can interrupt the heat reactions, which cause a cake to rise correctly. Equally closing the oven door too sharply can cause extra cool air to enter the oven causing issues.
– Bake on the correct temperature and for the recommend time and place cake tin in the centre of your oven (if your oven bakes uneven you may need to adjust position). Cakes once done will spring back and the sides will shrink slightly away from the tin, you can check its baked all the way through using a cake stick (or i find a wooden bbq skewer handy) in the middle, if it comes out clean its done, if its sticky it needs longer!
- Don’t rush
Baking can be quite frustrating (something i really struggle with, waiting) when all you want to do is decorate it and eat it! Each stage takes time and you need to be patience, under baking the cake can be sole destroying when you cut it open and see a slimy uncooked batter, but equally forgetting to set a timer and guessing can cause you cake to over cook and dry it out. You cannot tell just from the crust alone if your cake is done but slowing down and ensuring your allowing the correct cooking time will ensure a much better bake. Like wise trying to cool the cake too quickly once out of the oven can cause it to collapse, allow it to cool slightly before removing from the tin, but don’t leave it in there too long as the steam cannot escape and could sweat your cake and cause issues too. Once cooled a bit you could careful slice your cake and allow the thiner layers to cool to help speed up a little this stage, but unfortuantly there no trick here it takes as long as it takes, but will be worth the wait!!
Enjoy baking, no matter your age, experience or skill level
you only need a few basics and a bit of confidence!
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