We all love baking here at our house in Lilyfield. Phil, in particular, is an excellent baker. Seriously the man should have his own a patisserie! He puts my baking skills to shame. We both love simple home cooking and have a load of tried and true easy home cooking recipes. See here for some of them. I do a lot of cake baking for school cake stalls and afternoon teas etc as well as for friends' birthdays. Some of the mums at school keep asking me to blog about my cake making hints so I'm finally getting around to sharing them. They are simple tips but should make a difference to your end result.
Hint 1: measure your flour correctly. I used to be quite haphazard with my measurements, not worrying about being exact, and I know some people advocate a relaxed approach but you can end up with dry hard baked goods if you use too much flour for your mixture.
Instead of scooping your measuring cup into the flour, spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level off with a knife. Easy to do and I promise you it'll make a difference. It will also aerate your flour, making it easier to rise.
Hint 2: use room temperature eggs. While storing your eggs in the fridge will keep them much fresher for longer, cold eggs won't beat as well. Room temperature eggs have a "relaxed" white and will blend into your batter more easily and whisk to a higher volume to ensure your cake rises properly when baked.
Have you ever noticed that your cake batter has a slight curdled appearance? Your cold eggs have caused the softened butter to harden and the batter to curdle ever so slightly.
If you forget to take the eggs out of the refrigerator in time, just let them sit in a bowl of warm water for 15 minutes before use. This will really make a difference to how your cakes rise.
As an aside if you need to separate your eggs, it's easier to separate them when they are cold - when the white isn't as "relaxed".
Hint 3: How to soften butter. If your recipe calls for softened butter and you have forgotten to get it out of the fridge in time, or like me you keep it in the freezer and have forgotten to thaw it; don't worry. Don't melt it in the microwave as this will change how it incorporates in your cake batter. Just grate it like you would grate cheese. If its still not soft enough then you can zap it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds to further soften it (not melt it).
Hint 4: for making shaped cakes, freeze your cake before cutting into shape. If you try and cut your fresh cake into a shape, it will crumble a lot and be difficult to shape and ice. If you par-freeze your cake (wrapped in cling film) for around 4 hours, you will be able to slice your cake much more easily. You don't want your cake to be frozen rock solid obviously. If you have frozen it completely, just let it drefrost for an hour before trying to cut. You should be able to cut reasonably easily for best results.
Once the cake is cut I pop back in the freezer until I'm ready to ice it. Icing the cut sections will be so much easier if they are frozen. There is nothing worse than having crumbs all through your icing.
The flower cake below is one I made for a friend's birthday on Saturday. I used a 40cm diameter round tin with a triple cake recipe this chocolate recipe here. I par-froze the cake then cut out the bits between the petals to make a flower shape. Easy and so effective.
Hint 5: dip your knife in water when icing/frosting. When you are icing your cake, particularly a shaped cake, dip your knife into warm water and run the knife over the cake section you are about to ice, just dampening the area ever so slightly. This will act like cement for the icing. This is very helpful on vertical areas like on the sides, and particularly helpful on a cut edge of a cake where sometimes the icing just peels off. You don't want to make it all wet, just a tiny bit damp.
If you use any of these tips next time you are baking, let me know how you get on.
What are your favourite baking tips? Anything else to add to the list?