How not to ruin your cakes at the last minute
So you’ve picked your recipe, grabbed the ingredients and you are all set. You’ve spent money on fancy schmanzy cake cases and pre heated your oven. After this you meticulously weigh out all your ingredients, ready to mix and stir into submission. As you add the ingredients, you are following the recipe step by step to the letter, making sure that you don’t ruin the perfection that you are planning to bake. You carefully spoon the mixture into your pre greased and lined tin. So very carefully.
The oven light goes off – it is time. You pop into the oven, and dust yourself down.
And this is where it all goes horribly wrong.
Once the fun bit is over, it is all too easy to relax too much and essentially, piss your baking expertise up the wall. The art of baking doesn’t stop when you put it in the oven, and those last few steps on that recipe will make it perfect. You spent the money, you put the work in – why do you want to ruin your cakes at the last minute?
The bit with the oven
The actual cooking of a cake is just as hard as the mix and decorating bits. This is the part where things are most likely to go wrong. Every oven is different, and you’ll get used to yours – whether it cooks fast or slow, or whether your oven needs the cake to be at the top or bottom. Often cleaning your oven helps performance (I know…so boring), but these quick tips will help you cook thike a boss:
- Set a timer – with that is your phone or a proper timer, it is easy to wander off (or in my case fall asleep) and miss the crucial bit – getting it out of the oven.
- Stop opening the oven door – the will make your sponge cakes rise unevenly, and no one likes a sunken sponge.
- Just before the timer goes off, test your cake with a clean sharp knife. You’ll be able to test how gooey it still is, but cakes continue cooking after you take them out, so you might want to take the cake out a bit early so stop it going too firm.
The bit where it cools
If you’ve made it through the cooking bit, so far so good. But the fun doesn’t stop here. I am an impatient sort. Once I’ve taken it out of the oven all I want to do is get my grubby hands on it. Don’t. You are going to end up with the nightmare pictured above. You’ll cry – believe me I’ve been there.
- When it says leave in the tin to cool – leave it in the tin to cool. The cake will still be a little gooey and fragile at this point, and if you attempt to turn a sponge out of a tin, you are likely to end up with a pile of crumbly gooey mess all over your work surface.
- When you take it out of the oven, by all means pop a knife around the sides – this will help you turn it out of the time when you eventually want to.
- After it has cooled, turn out the cake onto a cooling rack, and cool for a little longer. Every little helps.
- All this advice also stands for cupcakes, apart from knifing it to bits – you don’t want to squeeze your cakes in their cases if your cupcakes are still a little warm.
The bit where you need to make it pretty
You’ve got the perfect cake, sitting there on your cooling rack all naked. A pretty sponge, some bald cupcakes, crying out for some assistance before they go off into their cakey world. You’ve got a heap of icing sugar, plenty of sprinkles and a crapload of food colouring. But seriously. Unless you want a cake that looks like Barbie threw up on it, you are going to want to plan your decorating shizzle just a bit before you let loose with a piping bag.
- Go carefully with icing, especially with colour. Icing can be tricky to get right – you don’t want it too runny especially if you want piped buttercream but too stiff and you’ll need a sledgehammer to bite through it. Add a bit of water/colouring as you need. And ALWAYS follow the recipe for ratio of icing sugar to butter.
- If making cream cheese frosting, DO NOT use cheap or low fat cream cheese. I promise you that stuff will melt quicker than a scarf wearing tube commuter in the summer.
- Sometimes, less is more. So what you’ve got a cupboard full of sparkly sprinkles? We don’t need to see all of them on the same cake.
- You want glitter? For the love of all that is brownie, please make sure it is edible first.
Hopefully, you’ve got to the end and ducked and weaved through the pitfalls that can befall even the most experienced of bakers. What are your best tips for not ruining a perfect bake off?