March 20, 2019
They say baking is a science and that it’s difficult to get right, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Over the years, we’ve made plenty of baking mistakes (sometimes on purpose just so we get to make something twice!) but we’ve learnt from them too. We love finding new ways to make our sponges extra springy or our pastry dough super crumbly, so with a little help from some of our wonderful Baking Club members, we’ve combined our favourite hints and tricks into this Baking Tips 101 post. Follow our advice and find out how to become a better, more confident baker!
Have you had a look in our Bake Shop to find your next ideal bake? There’s something for everyone, so come take a look!
Browse the Bake Shop
Big thanks to Baking Club member, Char Dando, who has a sage piece of advice on what to do if your brown sugar has hardened at the back of your cupboard: “Pop it in the microwave for 20 seconds and it’ll be as good as new”. And it really is as simple as that! Pop it in a bowl with a damp paper towel on top. The moisture from the paper towel will transfer into the sugar, removing any clumps with it.
We all buy ingredients thinking they’ll last forever, but every now and then it’s important to have a clear out of your cupboards. Check for old ingredients that have past their best and get rid of them. That baking powder from 1999 is going to be no help to you whatsoever!
Studies have shown that using your ingredients at room temperature can have a positive impact on the texture and evenness of your bake. That means that it’s best to take your eggs and butter out of the fridge well in advance of you beginning. If you forgot to do this, you can cheat a little by cutting your butter into large cubes and placing them in a bowl of lukewarm water for 10 minutes. Simply drain the water off before using your beautifully softened butter in your recipe!
Remember that when working with pastry, the opposite is the case. Using soft or warm butter in pastry will create a greasy, soggy mess. So make sure your hands and butter are really cold when mixing and rolling out your pastry.
Even a slight difference in your ingredient amounts can lead to bakes that don’t turn out as expected. Make sure your ingredients are weighed out as precisely as possible by investing in some digital scales or sign up to the Baking Club where we do it all out for you ;)
Our Baking Club kits feature a brand new Michel Roux OBE recipe each month, and come with all the dry ingredients you need already weighed out, plus some handy extras and a step-by-step recipe card too. If that sounds like something you’d enjoy, join the Baking Club today!
Join the Baking Club
Remember that not all ovens were created equal, so even if the recipe states that something will bake in 20 minutes, your oven could take 15 or even 25 minutes to get the same result. Keep an eye on your oven to avoid burning your bakes, and get to know whether it tends to cook things faster or slower than your recipe states.
You could even invest in an oven thermometer to see what temperature your oven actually cooks at, and we’ll bet it’s not what you think!
We know it’s tempting to open your oven door for a peek while your cakes and cookies are baking, but opening the door causes the oven temperature to drop suddenly and can make your bakes flop. No-one wants a sunken middle or a soggy bottom, do they? Try to resist the urge and keep the oven door closed until it’s time to check whether your bake is ready.
If you have a glass oven door, keeping it clean will make it easier to peek without opening it!
Make sure you place your bakes in the centre of the oven (unless the recipe states otherwise!) to help achieve a nice, even bake.
Before you start baking, read the recipe all the way through from start to finish and gather all of your ingredients together. This will help you prepare for any sneaky instructions in advance and avoid any mishaps or unexpected requirements. Follow the recipe exactly to give yourself the best chance of a beautiful end result.
When it comes to greasing your tins, sometimes more is better! There’s nothing worse than a beautiful bake that sticks to the pan, is there? Be generous with your butter and get into all those corners or the little nooks and crannies if you’re using a special pan. You could even augment the grease by using greaseproof paper or sprinkling flour on top. You’ll regret not doing it!
Make sure you pay particular attention to the way your recipe should be mixed. If the recipe says ‘until well mixed’ you can go crazy and mix it all you want, but if a recipe asks you to fold your ingredients gently, make sure you don’t overmix. Use a spatula to cut into the mixture and gently move the mixture at the bottom to the top. Then, turn the bowl 90 degrees and do it again until everything is just combined.
If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’ll know that we’re fans of baking equipment hacks and using store cupboard essentials and materials substitutes for expensive gadgets.
One of our favourite hacks is the DIY piping bag. Simply put the mixture you want to pipe into a freezer bag and then cut the tip off to get the same effect as a piping bag. However, if you’d rather use the real deal, we’ve got a fantastic range of baking accessories now available in our Bake Shop. Check it out now!
Browse our new range of Baking Accessories
Baking Club member, Kay Lucas, has this fantastic piece of advice to make sure your cake comes out the right size: “Don’t eat too much of the raw batter because you won’t have enough left for the actual cake”. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Kay!
One of our original Baking Club members, Corrina Confarreo, has this wonderful advice on how to make a super light, soft and fluffy sponge cake: “Just replace 25g of the self-raising flour with cornflour instead. Not good if you plan on covering with heavy fondant, but perfect for sandwiching with fresh cream and sliced strawberries”. Thank you, Corrina! Check out her blog Confarreo Creates for more recipes and craft ideas!
Also on the topic of sponges, Baking Club member Michelle Brown shares a great way to keep your sponges moist: “Use a simple sugar syrup to keep cakes moist for days! Mix 75g caster sugar with 75ml water in a saucepan and heat until dissolved. Brush it between cake layers before filling and stacking”.
Michelle also has a great way of getting the perfect amount of batter in each cupcake case. She says to “use an ice-cream scoop to make sure your cupcakes will all be the same size”. Top tip, Michelle!
Once you’ve gone to the effort of making your cake batter, you’ll want to make sure your cake is cooked. To test, insert a skewer into the centre of your sponge. If it comes out clean, it’s done! You can also use a finger to lightly dab at the top of the sponge. If it springs back, your cake is ready!
Now we know it’s not technically a cake, but a cheesecake is close enough, right? And Corinna Miller from our Baking Club has got some great advice for you on how to avoid cracks by using a water bath. She says “Just fill a flat plan with water, then put the cheesecake (still in its springform tin) inside the water bath and then into the oven. You’ll never see a crack again!” Thanks for the tip, Corinna!
If you’re after some quick and easy ways to decorate your cakes, have a read of our post dedicated to simple cake decorating ideas. In the post, we cover everything from how to get the naked cake effect, to which piping nozzles to use to pipe rose swirls on cupcakes. Click the button below to read it!
Read the Simple Cake Decorating Ideas post
Baking Club member, Sheryl Bevan, was keen to share this piece of advice to stop dough sticking to your rolling pin: “Always spread flour on your work surface and around your rolling pin before rolling so the dough won’t stick”. Thanks, Sheryl!
If you have any pastry dough leftover when making a tart or pie, save it! You can re-roll the offcuts to make jam tarts in a greased cupcake tin with a spoonful of jam. Bake in a preheated oven at 180c for 10 minutes and then leave to cool completely on a wire rack before eating. They’re little bites of heaven!
The best baking tip we can share is to keep practising! Things can go wrong sometimes, and it’s important to allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them rather than give up. Perhaps you won’t get the perfect meringue texture the first time you try it, but the second time might be just right. Plus, the more times you try a bake, the more times you get to eat it ;)
If you’re ready to get baking, why not have a look at our Bake Shop to find a new recipe and kit?
Next time you get your bake on, make sure you follow the advice in this Baking Tips 101 post for perfect bakes every time.
What are your favourite baking tips? If you’ve got any more to share, leave them in the comments below and we’ll add them in!
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Thanks to www.freepik.com for some of the photos in this blog post!
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