1. USING COLD INGREDIENTS
At room temperature, combining the classics like eggs, butter, and other dairy ingredients form an emulsion which traps air. This means it’s easier for them to work their magic while baking in the oven i.e. the trapped air expands and produces a fluffy baked good. Cue light cakes or tender cupcakes. Have you ever had clumpy frosting, flat breads or cupcakes or large holes in your cakes? Chances are you’ve used a cold ingredient. Easy as they may be to use, cold ingredients do not incorporate together as easily as room temperature ingredients, which bond together easily because they are warmer. I for one can tell you of many cream cheese frosting nightmares including cold butter.
2. NOT LINING/GREASING YOUR TINS
I don’t think I’m alone when I say I don’t like stress and not lining or greasing your tins rarely results in anything less than stress. Yes, yes, every company and their mother advertise their tins as non-stick, but I am yet to find a tin that releases your baked cakes hassle free without lining or greasing. It’s simply an important step in the baking process to ensure that the finished product doesn't stick to the sides of the pan (remember the stress I mentioned earlier?). By greasing or lining your baking tin you're creating 2 layers of non-stick protection and saving yourself the hassle of frantic research into the latest methodology for releasing your cake from your tin without stowaways.
3. FORGETTING TO SET THE TIMER
It may seem obvious, but it happens easily. Let me paint a picture for you. You mix your cake batter, you pour it into a tin or tins, you place it in the oven, you shut the oven and carry on with the rest of your activities. You may even get engrossed in cleaning up and putting things away whilst simultaneously daydreaming about the looks on everyone’s face at work when you show up with your show stopping cake. Suddenly you’re yanked back to reality by the smell of burning cake or your smoke alarm. Sound familiar? Nobody likes this. Set an alarm. Set it on your phone, an alarm clock, your oven etc. The medium doesn’t matter, just set an alarm. It will save you both time and tears. Trust me, I know.
4. OPENING THE OVEN TOO OFTEN
I get it, you’re excited or maybe even anxious about the cake you’ve placed in the oven. You’ve set your alarm, but you want to know how your cake is doing. It may be your first rodeo and you’ve heard your cake needs to rise but your oven doesn’t have a bulb so you can’t see if your cake is rising or not (side note: I believe all ovens should have a bulb, mine doesn’t and it’s annoying). So, you open your oven door with gusto a few minutes in for a sneak peek. All looks fine so you shut it with a bang and a delightful look of satisfaction on your face. At the ding dong of your timer you open your oven for your Nigella moment only to be faced with a collapsed cake. Drat! Turns out your cakes didn’t appreciate your peekaboo moment. Here’s why: the rush of cold air causes heat fluctuations in your oven which could prevent your cakes from rising or worse collapse. It’s important for the heat in your oven to stay even throughout the baking process. You’re better waiting at least ¾ of the baking time set before opening to check how your cake is doing.
5. FROSTING WARM CAKES
Excitement is great. Who doesn’t like that happy feeling of doing something you enjoy? At this point you’ve used room temperature ingredients, lined your baking tins, set a timer and left your cake to bake without any interruptions. Your perfect cake if out of the oven looking Mary Berry perfect. Now to the fun part of frosting your cake. Excitement however can make you start piping frosting on warm cupcakes or cakes. The result? Sugary sludge. This one is simple. Frosting usually consists mostly of butter. Butter melts when warmed. Warm cake plus frosting can only equate to sludge. Use your excitement to bust some moves like Jagger instead and frost your cakes when they are cool.
In conclusion you, if you want a cake like my ice cream cake below, you want to avoid the mistakes I've mentioned.
Are there any baking mistakes you've personally made and learned from? Please share them in the comments section.
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