The Essential Eight: What you absolutely need to know when you’re baking cakes

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Learning to bake is one of the greatest skills you will learn and will win you lots of friends! I’ve been baking for over 15 years and my cakes are renown amongst my friends and family; I’m also the regular office baker at work. I’ve made mistakes and also got it right plenty of times too; whether you’ve not baked cakes before, or have but want to sharpen up your baking skills, here are my essential tips to baking great cakes:

Don’t forget to preheat your oven when you start

This is a must for an evenly baked cake!

When you come to measure your ingredients, use your scales

Baking is very different to cooking where you can experiment a little. Baking is more scientific and there is more room for error so I would recommend following the recipe to the letter – you can have fun with fillings and toppings at the end.

Cold butter…no problem!

If you’ve taken your butter straight from the fridge, after you’ve measured it into the mixing bowl, pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds to soften it slightly – it will make creaming the butter and sugar together that bit easier.

Recipes call for butter and sugar to be creamed until they are “light and fluffy”…but how do you know when they’re done?!

In short, if you’re not sure, cream it for another 2-3 minutes so you’re absolutely sure you’ve creamed it enough. Also, if you’re mixing by hand (as I like to) use a metal spoon to cream the butter and sugar in the bowl so you can hear the sugar granules being ground to nothing…when you stop hearing it, you’re not far off being done.

It’s curdled!

Some recipes will ask you to add the eggs after you’ve creamed the butter and sugar; when you mix it they look curdled and, quite frankly, a mess! Don’t panic though, when you come to add your flour, it will turn back to a smooth mixture.

Don’t overwork your flour

When you add your flour, don’t be tempted to mix vigorously, otherwise you risk having heavy, tough cakes (it’s to do with the gluten in the flour) – instead, mix lightly in a figure of eight movement until you have a smooth mixture; the movement will also help to incorporate air into your mixture, which you really want.

Is it nearly done yet?

Resist the temptation to open the oven door whilst your cake is cooking or you’ll lose the heat that has built up. When your timer buzzes, you can check your cake in two ways. For big cakes (such as a Victoria Sponge) or small cakes (such as muffins or cupcakes), if you lightly press on the top, the cake should spring back up. If they don’t, they need a little longer. For large cakes, the second test is to stick a thin skewer or long needle into the middle of the cake; if it comes out clean, it’s done!

Decorating fun

Make sure you leave your cake to cool properly before you decorate. If you don’t, you risk melting fillings or toppings, which will spoil all of your hard work.

I hope you have fun learning to bake great cakes; please share your makes on our Facebook or Pinterest feeds so we can see how you get on!

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