Cakes are one of the most popular desserts in the world. It’s not hard to see why: cakes look great, they taste amazing and can be made with a variety of different flavours. However, it is important to remember that making a good cake requires more than just throwing ingredients together at random! In this article, we’ll outline some of the best tips for making a delicious cake every time you bake.
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
When it comes to baking, planning in advance will save you a lot of time and hassle later on. It is important to have all the ingredients that you need at room temperature. This will make your cake lighter and more fluffy as it bakes. Before starting, preheat the oven and set a timer for when each ingredient should be added into the mixture so you know in advance what’s coming next.
You’ll Need Some Equipment
Even the novice baker will need some special equipment when it comes to tackling a cake. Cake tins are a must, the recipe you are working from will let you know what kind of size tin you need. An electric whisk will also be handy but is not essential. You’ll also need an oven thermometer — it is important to know that your oven’s temperature reading might not be accurate. This can lead to either a cake being over or undercooked, so you will need some way of checking what the true temperature in the oven really is. No one likes a soggy bottom or a burnt top!
Read and Follow the Recipe Exactly
Think of cooking and baking as separate disciplines; cooking is like theatre — baking is physics. You will need to know, for instance, which shelf your cake should go in the oven and how long it will take to cook. And, once you have baked your cake and checked the temperature, make sure you let it cool. As a rule of thumb sponge cakes should rest in their tin for a few minutes and then be set to cool on a rack. Fruit and heavier cakes should generally be left to cool in their tin.
Making your Cake Look Beautiful
To decorate a cake, you’ll need icing sugar or caster sugar — both are fine but caster is more finely ground and usually what professionals use. You can buy ready-made royal icing off the shelf in supermarkets if you want to cover your cakes with something other than buttercream, marzipan or grenache, you will need a piping bag. Before you pipe you should practise on a piece of baking parchment, the cake won’t be forgiving of typos! If you feel that you are ready to take on a more advanced design and no longer feel like a novice, be sure to check out Anges De Sucre for some inspiration.
Store Cupboard Essentials
Before you attempt to make any cake you’re going to need some ingredients. Obviously, each cake recipe will require different ingredients but here are the basics you will need to get you started:
You’ll be surprised at how many recipes chocolate will pop up in when you start your cake making journey! Go for plain chocolate which is at least 40% cocoa.
This will add depth to any recipe.
Get plenty, you’ll need them.
You’ll need both plain and self-raising and both of which are a store cupboard essential.
You will need caster sugar, icing and brown, depending on the recipe and all are inexpensive.
Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice will often crop up.
Believe us, you’ll need this one! It features a lot of recipes.
Black and golden treacle will feature in a number of recipes, especially for more ‘pudding’ type dishes.
Dried fruit, nuts, candied peel and nuts.
It’s not required in all recipes but you’ll need some more often than not.
You’ll need some of this, more often than not, especially as a topping bit it can also feature as a key ingredient.
A Recipe to Get you Started
A Victoria Sponge is a classic cake recipe, perfect this one and you’ll be making a layer cake with a fancy top in no time!
Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Butter two 20cm sandwich tins and line with non-stick baking paper. In a large bowl, beat 200g caster sugar, 200g softened butter, 4 beaten eggs, 250ml self-raising flour (or 230 g), ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda and 60 ml milk together until you have a smooth batter that falls in ribbons from the spoon when lifted quickly but sticks if left for longer than 10 seconds before lifting it up again – this is called ‘dropping consistency’. Bake your sponges for 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Once baked, allow both sponges to cool completely.
To make the filling, beat the 100g softened butter until smooth and creamy. Gradually add 140g sifted icing sugar while adding a drop of vanilla extract (if you’re using it). Spread this over one layer cake sponge before topping with 170g strawberry jam on top for another level to enjoy. Dust with just enough icing sugar so that it doesn’t become too sweet but also covers all layers nicely. Keep in an airtight container if not served immediately because they’ll be gone within 2 days at most.
Top Tips for the Novice Baker
If you are a first-timer, don’t be scared. Anyone, with a little practise and the right equipment, can bake a beautiful cake. It’s probably best you try a few dry runs first, however. Maybe consider baking an ‘occasion’ cake when you have perfected a few basic ones first. Pound cakes are a great place to start, pound cakes contain a pound of each ingredient and can be quite forgiving in terms of timings in the oven. And, if you don’t want to whip up your own statement cake, you could do worse than ordering one from an Online cake delivery Shop.