I have never baked before - what are your top tips?

(64 Posts)

I have bought muffin tray, baking sheet, wire cooling rack, baking powder, sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla essence.
And those paper fairy cake things - do you bake the mixture inside them, inside a muffin tray?

Have in cupboard currants, butter, choc drops, easy cook oats, nuts and cheese (cheese scones only thing I've ever baked). Oh, and toddler cookie cutters and rolling pin!

Also have mixing bowl, whisk and scales.
DO NOT have baking sheets (what are they? Will foil do?) and DO NOT have electric blender whisking thing so will be doing it all with spoons, whisk and fingers. In a hot country.

I don't have sweet tooth so never bothered before but now I am mum to toddler feel I ought to attempt it - things he can join in with even better ( he is mad on Peppa Pig whose mother is always baking).

EllieArroway Tue 02-Apr-13 20:18:09

Can you get an oven thermometer? Getting the exact temperature can sometimes make all the difference.

Filibear Tue 02-Apr-13 20:19:30

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Emilythornesbff Tue 02-Apr-13 20:22:48

Use the paper cases inside the muffin tin. (there are 2 sizes of case -well three but leave that for now- fairy cake and muffin).

Use eggs at room temperature

Get an oven thermometer. Knowing the temp of your oven can Make the difference between great cake and shit cake.
Always follow the recipe to the letter.

Not sure what you mean by the baking sheet question. You might need baking parchment depending on the recipe. But most biscuits can be cooked directly onto metal baking tray.

Happy baking.

noblegiraffe Tue 02-Apr-13 20:23:08

Buy a kids cook book, they have really simple instructions and cakes that are easy for children to make.

PoppyWearer Tue 02-Apr-13 20:24:41

Start with Nigella. Fairy cakes and jam tarts, designed to be made with children. Bung it all in a blender and go. I was a baking dunce about 18 months ago and Nigella saved me!

noblegiraffe Tue 02-Apr-13 20:25:57

I baked fairy cakes the other day using www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/fairycakes_93711 this recipe and they were really nice.

You'll need to buy icing sugar, maybe food colouring and sprinkles or sweets to put on top.

Muffin tin. One paper case in each one.

Preheat oven to 170.

Weigh two eggs in grams in their shells.

Weigh out the same weight each of self-raising flour, butter and sugar. Sift the sugar and the flour because it stops lumps and makes the whole thing fluffier.

Break the eggs and add them to the other ingredients and a few drops of vanilla (about 1/4 of a teaspoon). Then add a handful of raisins.

Mix together with a wooden spoon or electric beaters until runny and fluffy.

Use a teaspoon to put a little bit of mixture into each case. No more than 2/3 full.

Put in oven. After twelve minutes, have a quick peek. If slightly brown on top, remove. If not, give another three minutes and repeat.

Remove from oven. Leave in tin for a few minutes until it is cool enough to touch. Then take each bun out, and leave them on a wire rack (preferably, or a chopping board) to cool completely.

Scoff. You'll be glad and proud.

Then buy the Hummingbird Bakery book. Foolproof.

FlowersBlown Tue 02-Apr-13 20:26:53

Get an electric mixer! You will get more air in which helps the cakes turn out nice and light. Also, it's not easy to beat the butter by hand. Don't try making buttercream icing without an electric mixer.

I've given up on baking.
If I say so myself, I'm a great cook, but my baking is so hit and miss, usually miss that I've stopped doing it.
DD is the baker in our house now.
What you do need is a good, reliable book, I'd suggest Mary Berry or Delia.

hypnotizingchickens Tue 02-Apr-13 20:28:58

Top tips: Don't let little one anywhere near the oven, or anything hot. I've given myself enough horrible burns over the years to know that things can be surprisingly hot.

Lay all the ingredients out on the table before you start.

Get an easy recipe off the internet. (A BBC Good Food recipe is a good bet.)

I used to get my littlie to read the recipes with me and choose what to bake. Very educational. but then I'd go all control freaky and be very sparse with what I;d actually let him do. I applaud you, but I have to admit, I found it a bit stressy.

50ShadesOfGreggs Tue 02-Apr-13 20:31:22

Weigh out your ingredients as accurately as you can.

Make sure the measurements of your cake or tart tins match the ones in the recipe.

Start looking through the oven door window to check on your cake a good 10-15 min before it is meant to be ready.

If a recipe starts with mixing butter and sugar or eggs and sugar, don't just mix until combined; give it a really good whisk (about 10 min by hand), or your cake won't rise.

Relax! If you're new to baking you are bound to have the odd disaster, just take it in your stride if it happens.

If your cake doesn't rise or is too dry, you can always slice it and make french toast with it in the morning! smile

Flossbert Tue 02-Apr-13 20:34:55

In terms of getting the toddler involved, sometimes I just make pastry. DD can roll it and squish it and cut shapes as much as she wants. Like hypnotizing, if I'm actually making something I'm going to want to eat, I find it hard to let DD get quite as involved as she'd like.

Not Nigella, her recipes never work well for me they don't Go for Mary Berry, completely fool proof!

I'm not one to big myself up but I'm an excellent baker, my tip, never beat the mixture once you've put the flour in, just fold until its all mixed in. Otherwise you will have a flat cake. hmm

Never open the door for the first 15 mins, make sure cakes are completely cool before decorating.

Last tip, enjoy x

Wow so many fab tips so fast!
Thank you all!
I'm going to see what I can do by hand that's quick and easy before I buy a mixer but when I do, what kind is best for simple stuff? I'd rather not spend heaps as I am not a serious baking fiend. Also not much space in kitchen so a thing that just zaps cake batter, folds and fluffs mixture would do...

Baking sheet doh! Yes I meant the mysterious parchment which no supermarket here seems to sell. Can I cover baking sheet with foil or lightly grease it instead? Or just not bother?

Thanks again smile going to try to when Ds in bed tomorrow night and by weekend hopefully he can join me for rolling, stirring and scattering choc drops and currant duty...

Another random question. Will flour be ok in ziplock air tight bag? I live in tropics and weevils are a problem unless things live in fridge, which I assume not good for flour?

LokiTheCynicalCat Tue 02-Apr-13 20:48:25

I second BBC Good Food and the Hummingbird Bakery, especially the latter.

I went through a baking phase instead of nesting when DS was due and by God was it good! I made HB peppermint tea cupcakes for my birthday and they were fab too, although I don't like huge amounts of frosting so I make two-thirds the amount specified in the HB book but it is plenty.

You can keep flour in the freezer in ziplock bags so fridge should be fine. Safe from water is what matters.

Not foil, it will stick. Grease and flour. Or get imports... grin Silicon paper is bombproof, and the better brands can be washed and used again.

Ooh excited now.
Jam tarts, I think I remember making them with mum. It's just pastry cut out in rings and put in muffin tray (greased first) with jam plopped in, or is that a made-up memory from 36 years ago?

JollyPurpleGiant Tue 02-Apr-13 21:04:22

Follow the recipe. Every time my baking goes wrong it is because I've changed the recipe. Once you know what you're doing you can change it.

Yes, that's it for jam tarts. I use frozen pastry and shop jam <slattern> and you can avoid greasing by using paper cake cases in a muffin tin...

Or use puff pastry and prick the centre before you put the jam on. Goes like vol-au-vents.

More dingbat questions.
Can I just use a simple hand held electric mixer and a big metal or ceramic bowl rather than a fancy system that costs loads of cash?

Basically I want to whip up fairy cakes, savory muffins, muesli bars and cookies to freeze and take to play dates and hand out as snacks/pack lunch to DH and DS. Maybe a coupes of birthday cakes.
I don't actually like baked goods much and would rather just eat cheese and apples yes I know it is a bit weird

So something that helps me make nice cake mix and pastry, that whips and folds so I dont have to crumble and rub mixture with hot hands. I think mum had a basic Kenwood thing and a crap small plastic bowl which she discarded and used a huge ceramic dish instead.

I have a bladed whizzing thing that makes smoothies and sauces and soups already. So I don't need a great big fancy food processor do I? There is only me DH and toddler DS to feed, I don't want to spend serious money but every recipe says to use a mixer.

GrandPoohBah Wed 03-Apr-13 05:39:08

Just get an electric hand mixer - there is no point in yOu buying a stand mixer if you're not a committed baker; it'll be a waste of money.

Do pastry in your blender - it's the best way, particularly in hot countries smile

Maggie111 Wed 03-Apr-13 07:41:19

I do a lot of baking - all I recommend is a small cheap electric hand held whisk. If you have the blade thingy, seriously you just need £5 on a whisk and you're all set.

My best tip is that "creaming the butter and the sugar" together means whipping it a lot more than you would think - it should go light and fluffy. If it's still yellow and lumpy it needs to go more. That's why it helps to have an electric whisk smile

Good recipes are definitely important - always get a recommendation before you start - otherwise it will put you off baking for life!

www.bbcgoodfood.com/ is a great resource!

tigerlilygrr Wed 03-Apr-13 08:19:32

Cereal bars are so easy: mix porridge oats, nuts, seeds, raisins etc with condensed milk (enough to make it stick together, not enough to make it runny), smooth down into a tin to your preferred cereal bar thickness and bake at 150 degrees for an hour.

For baking, my toddler absolutely adores it but it is hard to wrest the ingredients from her sticky fingers! So sometimes I just give her flour and brown sugar in a bowl and ask her to mix that (decoy baking)

tigerlilygrr Wed 03-Apr-13 08:20:19

Sorry then cut into individual cereal bars.

MrsKwazii Wed 03-Apr-13 08:43:53

Digital scales are fab - mine were only a tenner. Baking is about chemistry, so don't wing it. Follow the recipe and method and you shouldn't go wrong.

And when making cakes, always sieve the flour, makes mixture smoother and gets more air into the mixture wink

Hand mixer and digital scales are a must. Other than that, I find cakes are pretty forgiving and don't care if you mix them in a washing up bowl (slight exaggeration).

Peacocklady Wed 03-Apr-13 08:56:08

When you check the cakes towards the end, if the front or back seems browner turn the tray round for the last couple of minutes.

Leave to get completely cold before decorating.

When making icing, use a tiny bit of water at a time, mix throroughly and add a tiny bit more if needed, so it doesn't get too runny.

More great tips! Thanks v muchsmile
Horry I made the buns and they were great! Put choc drops as well as raisins and although they sank to base it was still very yummy. Bought hand held whisk and wasn't sure how long to mix it for but it seemed to work after a few mins. Only three left after DS, DH and neighbours ate 9!
Ps. The buns rose to top of the paper holder - were they meant to rise above it? I gave them smiley faces and sprinkled and nobody minded


Sat will be making cereal bars.
DH can stop eating Kellogg's crap ones next week...

recall Thu 04-Apr-13 01:54:32

Might be worth getting a set of measuring cups so that you don't get stumped by American recipes.

nextphase Thu 04-Apr-13 02:51:46

I know you've now got a mixer, but find a muffin recipe - and mix by hand. They work best undermixed.

Chocolate brownies are also appreciated here - but you need a loaf or square tin an inch or 2 high.

I only use baking parchment / greaseproof paper for lining cake tins - and then when I've run out of butter papers - if you can get paper wrapped 250g butter, it works quite well for cake tins.

I don't grease etc sheets for biscuits - leave them for a few minutes, til they start cooling, and so hardening, and then use a fish slice to move off.

If you start cooking lots, a cooling rack (or the mesh from the grill!) is useful to move cooked biscuits onto, and then let them cool properly.

You say your in a hot country - do you get "proper" chocolate, or is it lower cocoa butter, slightly gritty, hard to melt chocolate? In which case, be careful with chocolate containing recipes!

Flour is also OK is a big screw or clip top jar.

Cereal bars sound good - tiffin is another no cook of you can get plain digestive / rich tea style biscuits.

lisianthus Thu 04-Apr-13 06:28:49

Yes, do get a set of cup measures and a set of and spoon measures- they are great and will open up a world of non-UK recipes. Also, I see you didn't get bicarb (bicarbonate of soda, or baking soda), just baking powder. Baking powder is bicarb + cream of tartar, so you may need to get bicarb as well for a number of recipes.

A recipe we have been making a lot lately is playdough (not edible, of course!)

1 cup plain flour, half a cup of salt, 1 tablespoon oil, 2 tablespoons cream of tartar (or four tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar), a few drops of food colouring, one cup boiling water.

Mix in a bowl, knead briefly until elastic, allow to cool, hand to toddler.

I like this recipe as if i cooked cakes or biscuits every day as my toddler would like, we'd all be the size of houses, with no teeth.

BankWuggery Thu 04-Apr-13 07:14:10

Slightly off topic but mu top tip for baking is:
Do not, under any circumstances, post pictures of your creations on your facebook page. Please. (curmudgeon day today)

Tigglette Thu 04-Apr-13 07:55:05

If you're using a recipe that wants you to cream the butter and sugar, then beat in eggs then mx in flour try alternating adding some egg then some flour until its all added - it'll stop the mixture from curdling and won't affect the overall cake. With biscuits and small cakes, when you can smell them cooking in the room next to the kitchen they're done.

WhoKnowsWhereTheChocolateGoes Thu 04-Apr-13 08:03:13

Have a look at Delia Online, she has just launched a new school of videos with all the basic techniques, if you've got a tablet you can prop it up

Oh I'm so glad they worked - it is a good easy recipe. No, they aren't supposed to rise out of the case but so long as they rose you've done just fine.


WhoKnowsWhereTheChocolateGoes Thu 04-Apr-13 08:06:02

Have a look at Delia Online, she has just launched a new school of videos with all the basic techniques, if you've got a tablet you can prop it up in the kitchen to watch as you work.

I'd put flour in freezer not fridge, it's more likely to get damp in the fridge.

WhoKnowsWhereTheChocolateGoes Thu 04-Apr-13 08:08:17

I highly recommend this book, does exactly what it says on the cover
Muffins Fast and Fantastic.

rubyflipper Thu 04-Apr-13 08:12:48

I don't know which Hummingbird cookbook you're all raving about but the one I used was hopeless. The quantities of ingredients meant some of the cakes were greasy and refused to rise. Others had too much sugar to the point of being inedible.
I'm good at baking cakes, so it was nothing to do with my technique or oven, before anyone asks!

Toasttoppers Thu 04-Apr-13 08:36:50

Careful opening the oven you will scare the cake
Smash the bottom of cracked eggs to stop Witches using them as boats

These were genuine bits of advice given to me by my Mother who was a decent cake baker, she also refused to use scales and measured the ingredients using spoons. She never had a baking disaster.

Interesting ruby. I use the original Hummingbird Bakery book from 2008 ish. I haven't tried all the recipes yet but have had success so far.

For example, I find the chocolate cake (Brooklyn Blackout) richer and darker and less sweet than usual recipes, even before I substitute in coffee instead of milk. In general I find the recipes more moist than standard British recipes so maybe that's what you perceive as greasy.

rubyflipper Thu 04-Apr-13 10:13:27

I'll try Hummingbird again - but I'm not optimistic ...

I have made cereal bars, except I decided to make them in a silicon muffin tray I found. They will be ready in an hour...I mixed condensed milk (warmed with a bit of almond essence as unsweetened), Scottish oatmeal and dried fruit and crushed pecans. It didn't stick together very well, was more like damp muesli or wet flapjack so we shall see... If it fails I will call it individual granola portions and eat with yoghurt.

Might ask to move thread to Food as shame to lose all the good tips...

Flapjack always looks ludicrously crumbly before and during cooking. It only even starts to set as it cools. Scary though.

tigerlilygrr Thu 04-Apr-13 21:46:49

I think they'll be ok as mine look like that while cooking. I do find sometimes they can be a bit hard to cut so I break into irregular shapes (at first this annoyed me, now I think they look pleasingly homemade). Hope they taste good!

loveulotslikejellytots Thu 04-Apr-13 21:56:11

My tip would be to read the recipe twice before starting. Too many times I've got part way through and the recipe says "now leave to cool completely". And I end up trying to rush it and ruin it!

Also when making jam tarts, brush a bit of milk over the jam before they go in the oven. It stops the jam from boiling and coating your oven in a lovely sticky mess!

BertieBotts Thu 04-Apr-13 21:57:48

Savoury things can be easy and toddler friendly to bake too - try cheese straws or savoury scones.

Wouldn't make pastry in the tropics unless you have air conditioning. It's needs to stay cold til you bung it in the oven.

Muffins are great as you don't have to mix them really well. Also all in one recipes are great so you don't have to worry about curdled eggs, just make sure that for cakes your butter is nice and soft.

ELR Thu 04-Apr-13 22:07:12

Just use the 4/4/4/2 method as in 4oz or 115g each of butter, sugar, and self raising flour and 2 eggs and 1/2 tsp vanilla.

Always cream butter and sugar then add eggs then fold in flour a dash of milk to get the consistency and you are done.
This will make 12 small fairy cakes or 8 medium sized muffins or a 8 inch Victoria style sponge.

You can add the zest and juice of half a lemon to make lemon drizzle leave out the vanilla.
Substitute 15grams of flour for cocoa powder for chocolate cake and add some chocolate chips.
Substitute 15grams flour for Desicated coconut then cover with raspberry jam and more coconut.

membershipcard Fri 05-Apr-13 12:44:25

Lakeland has now shared this thread on their Facebook page!

Well, nearly all my baking gear comes from there and the only reason I didn't mention them was that the OP said she was in a hot country, presumably not the UK!

Catchingmockingbirds Fri 05-Apr-13 15:28:06

Always double check you've actually turned the oven on before going to make yourself comfy while you wait. I've been caught out by that so many times in the past few months thanks to my baby brain.

... and remember to listen out for the timer. Burnt cake isn't as tasty.

Rather than buying vanilla extract/essence all the time, make some vanilla sugar instead. It's really easy - just bung a couple of vanilla pods in an old, lidded, jar (they can be previously used) chuck in enough caster sugar to fill the jar, shake and leave - it's useable any time from about a week of making, and just top up sugar as necessary. The flavour is much more subtle too, particularly when doing cookies or biscuits.

I use vanilla bean extract from Waitrose, it's very concentrated so lasts ages and has the seeds in you so get the lovely speckles. I do the vanilla sugar thing sometimes too, just pop it in the packs of caster sugar, but haven't got one in at the moment, after a couple of years it had got so dried out I chucked it away and haven't got round to replacing it.

Anja1Cam Fri 05-Apr-13 21:53:51

What others have said: Muffins are easy and you don't need a mixed or any whisking. you normally start with two bowls - one with the 'wet mix': eggs / oil / yoghurt all mixed together, the other with the dry mix: flour and sugar, baking powder etc. then tip wet into dry mix till it's come together but it can stay lumpy, don't over beat. half-fill the paper cases that you put in the muffin tin and pop in the over. There are a gazillion recipes out there, for example this one:

just substitute your preferred ingredients. Add a tablespoon of cocoa powder to the flour for a chocolate base. they're also great to make with toddlers in tow as they can help stir at various stages and the baking time is not as long as with 'big' cakes.

Be aware that American recipes frequently use a lot more sugar as UK ones.

This is so great thank you all!
The breakfast bars were a bit damp and crumbly at the base because I used silicone muffin things so they were deeper than a bar made in square cake tin but still vv nice.
Going to make fairy cakes and peanut butter cookies next.
When a recipe just says mix the ingredients is it always ok to use electric whisk? When do you use the electric folding paddle thing and are there times when a spoon is better ie making cookies?

nextphase Sat 06-Apr-13 02:09:24

Is it breakfast with you, Trucks? ie are you over my way????

If the silicon loaf tin makes things too deep, only cook / mix half quantities, so it is the same thickness as in a square tin, iyswim?

I would use a spoon for muffins, and and for mixing in raisins, glacé cherries, chocolate spots etc at the final stage - ie not use electric mixer for things I want lumps in!

I've never used anything other than the whisk attachments.

nextphase Sat 06-Apr-13 02:10:23

Oh, and most of my biscuit recipes say beet sugar and butter with electric whisk, and then fold in rest with spoon or table knife.

KateSMumsnet (MNHQ) Sat 06-Apr-13 17:26:25

Hullo all,

We're going to move this to food in a mo so these excellent tips don't go poof after 90 days.

And while I'm here, made these the other day - probably one of my most successful baking adventures, and dead easy.

Ooh they look amazing.
nextphase not same time zone as you, am 6 hrs behind UK.
Thanks for the beating and whipping tips sounds rude!

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