For me, it’s like cooking and baking are from two completely different planets! Yes, both processes happen in the kitchen, both involve cooking with delicious ingredients, both require particular skills… but they couldn’t be more different.
I firmly believe that you need to know some basics of cooking, but once you’re in the kitchen, it’s more about your own interpretation of a recipe. You’re free to improvise, get creative and express yourself! Pinch of that, a handful of this, season to taste…
It’s a completely different story when it comes to baking. Baking is a science! You have to be extremely precise with ingredients and processes, and above all, you have to learn the rules and follow them to the letter.
I’m sure you’ve heard the words “I don’t bake” from an excellent cook, or “I don’t like to cook” from a talented baker. There’s a reason behind that!
I’ve spent many an hour trying to understand the science behind baking- it seemed like no matter how much I learned, there were always more questions! At some point, I finally realized: RATIOS and RULES! You have to learn them.
Today I yield the floor to a superb baker and beautiful girl, Anastasia. She will be kind enough to give us many useful tips for a successful baking, just make sure to follow the rules and a you’ll always have a perfect cake! Happy baking!
Tips to remember:
The freshest ingredients – they are the key to a successful and delicious cake. The ingredients should be at room temperature, otherwise the cake will not rise properly. Similarly, when using cream, a low temperature could cause curdling. Sift the flour for 2-3 times to allow as much air in as possible.
Whisking the eggs
If using a mixer, whisk the eggs on medium speed – in this way, the air bubbles will not burst and you’ll have a proper sponge. If the mixture is overwhisked, the cake will be hard; if mixture is under-whisked the cake will not rise properly.
Note: please check if “hard” is the right meaning. Taut is not the correct word in this context, as it is closer to stretched or tense. I can’t understand if the cake is tense, so I took a guess that you mean it was tough or hard.
Oven should be evenly warmed up for 10 minutes before use. Do not open the oven during baking for the first 20-30 minutes at least. Opening the door too early will cause the cake to collapse.
Typically, the cake is placed on the middle shelf of an oven (no convection), with the upper and lower heating in use. Never place the tin with batter in an unheated oven. Temperature is very important; if the oven is powerful, you can prevent the top of the cake from burning by covering it with foil (mirror up). The power of oven vary heavily between models and brands, so be aware of the strength of your oven.
Don’t leave the batter in the tin for even a short time, put it in the oven as quickly as possible.
Testing the cake for doneness
It’s best to check whether a cake is done while it’s still in the oven. Do it as quickly as possible! If removed from the oven before it’s done cooking, the cake will sink in the middle. A sponge cake is ready when the sides have shrunken slightly from the tin, and spring back into place when pressed; a skewer inserted into the cake should come out clean.
Cooling the cake
When your cake is ready, turn the oven off, open the door and leave the cake inside for a couple of minutes to avoid changing the temperature too quickly. Leave the cake in the tin for a few minutes, but don’t leave for too long or it will become soggy. Run a knife around the edge of the cake, cover the tin with a flat plate and invert the cake, peel off the parchment and turn the cake out. Place your cake gently onto the cooling wire rack. When the cake has cooled completely, it can be wrapped up in plastic wrap and put in the fridge or freezer.
A sponge cake without frosting will keep up to week in the fridge (wrapped in plastic). A sponge cake with cream will last for three days.
The egg and sugar mixture don’t increase in volume – the mixture is under-whisked.
The cake is not rising properly – the eggs were under-whisked or overwhisked; the mixture is overworked when flour was added; the oven wasn’t hot enough; baking powder and flour were not mixed together well enough.
Bubbles on the surface of the cake – oven wasn’t hot enough
Decorating the cake
There are endless variations of decorating cakes: cream, chocolate, berries, flowers …
Cake should be cooled completely prior to decorating.
One of the easiest and most popular frosting recipes is made with cream cheese base. First, you whisk butter (at a room temperature) and icing sugar together on a high speed. Then, you add cream cheese and mix on a medium speed until smooth. To make the layers of cream more uniform, it is better to use a pastry bag when spreading on your cake, though a spatula is still useful for the edges. If the cream seems to be too soft, put it in the fridge for five minutes. The cream can be enriched with a flavours of your choice, or it can be coloured with food colouring.