Rosie's Top Tips

My mother never understood why my bakes always turned out better despite having the same recipes. I don't really know either, but here are a few of my basic tips to what I think makes a successful cake.


Making & Baking

Creaming Butter and Sugar More creaming please

When creaming butter and sugar, it should be done for a good amount of time - until the mixture is really light and fluffy. It's almost impossible to overbeat at this stage.


Overbeating FlourRespect the flour

For light and fluffy cakes, after adding flour to a mixture, don’t overbeat as this will overwork the flour and make the cake dense. Just stir it gently or fold it in until the flour is just incorporated.


Bouncy Sponge CakeBouncy Sponge

Perfectly cooked sponge cakes should be airy and moist with a subtle vanilla taste. You will know that they are done when they turn light golden and spring back when touched.


Chewy CookiesChewy Cookies

Read my article: Top Tips for perfect "gooey on the inside" Cookies for my best tips on how to bake perfect cookies including what ingredients and equipment to use, how to mix them, how to bake them, and how to store them.

Keep Pastry CoolPerfect Pies

For perfect shortcrust pastry, keep everything cool - including your hands. Also, handle it as little as possible. Too much handling will make the fat soft and the pastry greasy. Also, for fruit pies, coat your prepared fruit in a few tablespoons of sugar and leave for 30minutes while your pastry chills, this will draw out the water from the fruit so you don't have a soggy pie.



 

Ingredients

 

Coffee & Chocolate

To enhance the chocolaty flavour in you chocolate cakes, try adding a tablespoon of strong coffee to your cake mixtures. Just mix a teaspoon of instant coffee granules with a little hot water, or you could use strong fresh espresso if you like. Don't worry, you wont be able to taste the coffee, it will just make the cocoa in your cake really stand out.

Easy with the salt

Nobody wants an overly salty cake. Always use unsalted butter, then if the recipe calls for it, add the salt separately. That way you always know how much you're putting in. I prefer butter to any other kind of fat because it adds a richness and creamyness without getting that eggy taste that margarine often brings.

Roast them nuts

Nuts are often nice toasted or roasted before use, which really improves their flavour. Chuck them into a saucepan and toss over a medium-to-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Take them off the heat as soon as they turn brown as they burn really easily.

Perfect Pistachios

For brilliant green pistachios, blanch them before you chop them. Put them in a small pan with enough water to cover them and bring them to the boil. Sieve, cool, then peel off the papery skins. 

Whack it out of the fridge

For optimum height and texture, cake ingredients should be at room temperature prior to mixing. This helps your mixture to blend together better, stops the eggs from curdling, and keeps everything from seizing or cooking early. Eggs and butter from the refrigerator usually need about one hour to reach room temperature. You can cheat and put butter in the microwave on a low heat fo 30 secs, but don't try that with an egg...

Recipe calls for buttermilk?

Buttermilk is still fairly hard to find even in supermarkets. But don't worry, you can make your own in 5 minutes. Just add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to a cup of milk (250ml) and leave it to stand for 5 minutes or so until it curdles. Done.

Need to find UK alternatives to US ingredients?

Have a look at my UK alternative to US ingredients guide and everything will become clear!

Equipment 

Scoop scoop scoop

When making cupcakes or muffins, to fill the cases evenly so that your cakes are uniform in size and height, try using a trigger-style ice cream scoop to measure an exact quantity of batter each time. This is great for cookie dough too.

Ice it like a DJ

A revolving turntable can be great in cake decorating because it allows you the ability of turning the cake as you need to, making it much easier when it comes creating a uniformed look on a rounded cake.

Measure it accurately

Always have a good set of measuring spoons, especially when measuring raising agents like baking powder and bicarbonate of soda as this is key to the success of your cake. I like to use digital kitchen scales, you might find my cups to grams conversion chart handy too for when you tackle those US recipes!

Eating & Keeping

Cool your cake

Cakes need to cool properly before they're handled. Allow cakes to cool in their pans for at least 10 minutes. If a cake hasn't cooled enough, it will not want to come out of the pan. Removing a cake from the pan too soon or too late can result in a cake ruin. Have patience - I know it's hard!!

Keep it fresh

Keeping a cake from drying out is a frustration for many cake bakers. If you know that your cake will not be eaten within a short period of time, you can also add half of an apple to the cake container to help maintain the moisture (it does work, honest). Storing the cake in the refrigerator will keep the cake fresh longer and the apple will keep it from drying out.

Cut it clean

Heat a knife first before cutting a cake for crumble-free slices. To heat the knife, you can run the knife under very hot water then wipe dry with a clean towel. This is especially good for traybakes like brownies and flapjacks.

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