Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tips on baking the perfect cake

Posted by kel @ sweet treats at 12:12 PM
Since I'm laid up with a neck/back injury I thought I'd do something constructive and give you guys some tips on baking the perfect cake.

Check your oven is working properly.
Many people blame themselves when their cakes don't bake evenly, sink, crack or burn. But often the blame lies with the oven. Sometimes ovens develop cold spots, hot spots or they don't heat to the correct temperature. The easiest way to check your oven is to buy an oven thermometer, which are available at any good homewares store. They cost under $10 but will save you a lot of grief.

Line your cake tins.
I don't trust greasing cake tins with butter or oil as these can absorb back into your cake mix, rendering them fairly useless as good releasers. I always grease my tins with butter or margarine and then line the bottom and sides with non-stick baking paper. Wait 15 minutes after taking your cake out of the oven before you turn it out on to a cooling rack, then peel off the baking paper. Using this method I've never had a cake stick.

Sift, sift away!
Don't just plonk your flours in! Sift them - this gets rid of any lumps and other nasties and also incorporates air into your mixture. Air makes for delicious, non-stodgy cake!

Measure your ingredients properly.
I love the UK method of using weights in their recipes. Aussies and Americans seem to use cups more than weighted measurements and I think this is a bit risky. Plus, a lot of people don't know that US cups are different sizes to Aussie cups. Baking is not like cooking to taste - you need to get the correct ratios otherwise you might be in for a baking fail.

Work quickly.
The raising agents in self raising flour start reacting as soon as it is mixed with wet ingredients. Don't over beat your cake batter, and make sure you get your batter in the oven quickly to ensure your cake rises correctly.

Don't over-fill your tins.
Over-filling your cake tin can lead to cakes sinking in the middle, so make sure you don't fill them any more than two thirds full. If you're trying to get a tall cake, you're better off baking two separate cakes and sandwiching them with buttercream or ganache. I do this for almost every cake I make as I feel that thin cakes just don't look as professional.

Consider using heating cores when baking large cakes.
This normally isn't an issue for the average home baker, but if you start doing some cakes that are large in diameter you'll need to think about heating the cake from the inside out. I use flower nails inserted with the flat part on the bottom of the cake. Now, these are usually reserved for piping flowers but because they're metal and have a flat base they are also useful for use as heating cores.

Don't get over excited!
It sure is tempting to open the oven door for a look-see, but when you do this you are letting cool air in. This can affect the way your cake rises, so limit the amount of times you open the door. I never open the door before 3/4 of the cooking time has elapsed to minimise the chance of my cake falling.

Don't put your cake in the fridge.
It astounds me how many people rush to put cakes in the fridge. This actually dries them out. If your cake is covered with fondant it can make the fondant sweat and ruin all your hard work. Ganache and buttercream can be left out of the fridge for several days, so there's no reason to think they must stay refrigerated (unless of course the cake is not in air conditioned comfort). Just keep your cake in a sealed, air-tight container in a cool place.

So...there's some quick tips on how to bake a delicious cake. If there are any other tips you'd like in relation to baking or decorating please let me know!

1 comments on "Tips on baking the perfect cake"

Not Quite Nigella on Thursday, 01 December, 2011 said...

Great tips! Having a really good oven is such a help or knowing your oven well. I must admit that I rarely sift though-oops! :P

 

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