Many people love to bake, but there are so many ways it can go wrong. Hopefully, this list of top ten things to do will help you out the next time you want to make something for special people!
1. Follow the instructions to the letter. Though it’s tempting to get creative and experiment, if you’re making something new it’s always best to stick with your recipe. Use a good recipe, too – one that’s been in the family, or one that’s by someone you trust. Only experiment when you feel like you’ve mastered it.
2. You can always add more, but you can never take away. This is especially true when you’re mixing ingredients together. Add your ingredients bit by bit (particularly water and flour!) so that you get the right consistency and don’t waste your ingredients. Be careful not to just throw it all in there if you’re in a hurry.
3. Electric whisks are your new best friend. Whilst some bakers look down on modern technology for baking things (Paul Hollywood, I’m looking at you and your bread making), electric whisks are fabulous. They allow you to get enough air into the mixture so the cakes rise properly, because whisking it for longer does this job wayyyyy better than a wooden spoon. Sorry, nostalgia.
4. Always keep an eye on what you’re baking. Too many times have I wandered off to do something else, and my precious cupcakes were burning in the oven. If they’re only slightly burned you can save some cakes by scraping off the burnt bits with a sharp knife. If you’ve got an oven with a glass door, you can keep an eye on your food without opening the door. Opening the door lets the heat out, so the bakes won’t rise as well as they should. If you haven’t got this, open the door to keep an eye on it, then shut it quickly.
5. If you want to test if something is done, stick a knife or a skewer into it. If it comes out clean, it’s cooked all the way through. If it’s golden brown, it’s also probably done, so bear this in mind. All this advice goes out the window for brownies, of course! If you want them gooey, you can have them gooey.
6. Don’t rush. If you rush, you’re likely to make more mistakes. Take your time and enjoy the process a bit more.
7. Never fill up cake cases right to the top. Otherwise they’ll spill over and look horrid! Fill them up ¾ or 2/3 of the way.
8. Cool your bakes completely if you’re adding any icing, frosting or buttercream. If you rush it, the icing will melt when it hits the bakes, and it’ll look weird. Patience is a virtue.
9. To spread icing nicely, use a warm palette knife/spoon/butter knife. Icing made from sugar and water alone has a tendency to go hard very quickly, and not spread very well. To give it an even coating, dip your icing tool into boiled water, shake it off and spread over the cooled cake. Works every time!
10. If you’re piping frosting, icing or buttercream, make sure you hold the bag vertical to the cake. If you hold it diagonally, your icing will come out weird and you won’t be able to pipe it in the same shape as the book. Many a time have I looked at my rubbish icing and thought, “if only I knew how to make it work…” Hopefully you won’t make the same silly mistakes as me now you’ve read this guide!
Image (and baking!) credit: Alice Barnes-Brown