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What are your top baking tips? Share your top cheats, shortcuts and tips with Flora and you could win a £200 John Lewis voucher NOW CLOSED

(180 Posts)
AngelieMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 13-Nov-13 15:25:07

Flora have asked us to find out about Mumsnetters top baking tips and tricks.

Here's what Flora have to say, "At Flora were real fans of baking, but we're always on the lookout for tips and cheats to speed up the creation of cakes. We'd love to hear how you fit time to bake into your busy lives and how you make your cakes extra special with brilliant decorating designs that wow. (We'd also love to see photos of your creations, and we're running a great competition over on our Facebook page with some fantastic prizes, so pop over and upload your pics for a chance to win!)"

What are your top baking tips? Do you take any shortcuts when baking? Maybe you buy ready-made icing? Perhaps you use pastry from a packet? Or do you prefer making everything from scratch? Have you ever bought a cake and pretended that you baked it yourself?

Whatever your top baking tricks are, Flora would love to hear them.

Everyone who posts on this thread will be entered into a prize draw where one winner will receive a £200 John Lewis voucher (in time for Christmas).

Please note your comments may be included on Flora's social media channels, and possibly elsewhere, so please only post if you're comfortable with this.

Thanks and good luck,

BlackberrySeason Wed 13-Nov-13 20:00:47

I've only discovered recently how fast it is to make my own pastry from scratch. So no more packaged pastry for me! smile

CrewElla Wed 13-Nov-13 21:11:33

My top tip is to use parchment paper to line tins, pans, & cookie sheets; it makes clean up so much easier.

I make a deal with dh when he wants a home made cake. I'll bake one if he does the washing up!!

choccyp1g Wed 13-Nov-13 21:21:53

I can tell you one thing; I've never used Flora for cooking, and am not likely to start.
My top tip is if there is a cake recipe that you use a lot, experiment a bit to make it easier. I have a favourite cake that involves whipping egg whites, creaming butter, melting chocolate plus a few other steps, all in separate bowls, then combining it all in the order precisely designed to coat EVERY pan with mess.
I accidently did it in the wrong order and it came out exactly the same.
Next time, I joined a couple of steps together and it came out exactly the same.
Since then I have combined a few more steps every time, and only one has made any difference to the end result.

MadMonkeys Wed 13-Nov-13 21:27:01

Me too Blackberry, I'm a recent convert to making my own pastry and it is so easy, I wish I'd tried ages ago! And it is Trex all the way with pastry (sorry Flora!).

I use 'magic carpet' non stick baking sheets for loads of things - cookies, biscuits, bread rolls... They can be reused loads and loads and loads. Also, parchment tin liners are great for things like loaf cakes.

I've got a rubbery plastic spatula that is brilliant for getting the cake mixture out of the bowl and into the tin with virtually no waste. This also means I have virtually no waist...

HootyMcOwlface Thu 14-Nov-13 13:12:13

My top tip, when you don't have time for proper baking, is to use icing pens to decorate ready made cupcakes or biscuits/gingerbread men. Me and DH have had some good fun doing this for each others birthdays, or occasions like when one of us has had a promotion at work. So much fun, and the sillier the designs, the better!

MothershipG Thu 14-Nov-13 18:08:26

I love my pre-cut baking paper liners, I have them for my sponge tins and my loaf tins, I love being able to pop them in and not faff about with the scissors!

Helliecopter Thu 14-Nov-13 18:27:27

My top tip is to buy yourself an in-oven thermometer (not very expensive, about £3) and don't rely on the thermostat on the outside to get the correct temperature. It's amazing how much ovens can vary! Getting the right temperature is crucial for great bakes, particularly small cakes.

Helliecopter Thu 14-Nov-13 18:30:25

And also, concentrate on flavours. It can be so disappointing when you get a beautifully presented and decorated cake but the flavour is boring and uninspired. For me, it's all about flavour so play around. Get stuck in with the lemons, mint, chocolate, liquorice, rose...whatever you fancy!

Suddengeekgirl Thu 14-Nov-13 18:39:26

I always forget to take the butter out, but 10 seconds in the microwave sorts that. smile

Having a kitchenaid mixer (or any stand mixer) makes a lot of jobs quicker. smile Still one of my favourite ever birthday presents!

BlackberrySeason Thu 14-Nov-13 19:37:39

Ooh yes mad - I am also using trex grin

SaltySeaBird Thu 14-Nov-13 21:15:25

I love baking!

I do always buy pastry though. My top tip when making biscuits is to freeze some of the dough in small discs. You can pop them in the oven and have fresh home made biscuits in no time at all (with no washing up).

ParkerTheThief Thu 14-Nov-13 21:25:27

Put cake mix into warm tins, I'm not sure why but it always makes them rise beautifully.

manfalou Thu 14-Nov-13 21:33:06

Use greaseproof paper and if you're having a 'serious' baking session i.e. not mainly for the kids but they still want to join in, let them have their own ingredients to mess with. My LO gets bored half way through so this keeps him happy for the time he's interested if we're baking for a cake stall or something.

sharond101 Thu 14-Nov-13 21:46:53

Write the size of tins on the bottom of the tin in permanent marker so it's easy to find the size you need when you are covered in flour and in a hurry.

LegoCaltrops Thu 14-Nov-13 21:51:14

I use silicone lining sheets rather than greaseproof paper for lining flat trays, I also have the pre-cut reusable silicone cake tin liners. So much easier, and mine have lasted many years so far.

For pastry I use half butter & half hard cooking margarine (or all butter if it's for something decadent). Use about a quarter self-raising flour, three quarters plain flour, it just gives the pastry a bit of lightness.

I really dislike oily cakes (eg carrot cake) so I just replace the oil in the recipe with the same weight of butter & gently melt it before adding to the mix. No hassle & no more oily cakes!

CakeMonster100 Thu 14-Nov-13 22:31:21

I've recently discovered that you can cook cakes quickly in the microwave! Put a generous squirt of golden syrup in a large microwavable bowl, add a simple sponge cake mix on top and cook for approx. 7 minutes in the microwave for an awesome golden syrup sponge without having to have the oven on for ages.

It's also our dessert of choice when we go camping where we've got an electric hook up but no oven.

telsa Fri 15-Nov-13 09:20:28

I have recently discovered ready made pastry...even croissants in a can! but I feel terrible using it. Did use some samosa sheets recently, as I figure that really thin stuff, like the Filo pastry, is just too hard for most mortals.

I wouldn't attempt to bake if I didn't have all of the right kit. Our Kenwood Chef is a 1970s hand-me-down, but going strong and I just bought the lid attachment so that I can add icing sugar or flour without covering the kitchen. Ready cut circles of baking parchment are great.

MrsKwazii Fri 15-Nov-13 14:20:10

Baking is a science, not an art, so follow recipes carefully to get the right result. Digital scales are a Godsend to help with this and aren't expensive anymore. They've made a huge difference to my baking.

AnnaConda Fri 15-Nov-13 14:31:47

Top cheat for a fancy home-made birthday cake for dc:

Buy several Madeira cakes. Chop into pieces to form the shape of whatever you want to create - we have done a dog and a fish, amongst others.

It will look a bit of a mess at this stage but then you cover it with a thick layer of ready-made buttercream icing and then go to town with decorations, eg using various sweets and ready-made coloured icing to make the dog's eyes and tongue.

Queen of the Ready-Made

gingganggooly Fri 15-Nov-13 14:41:19

When a recipe calls for melted butter (ie flapjacks, gingerbread men, brownies), I always melt the flora in the microwave, sooooo much quicker and neater!

TwoMs Fri 15-Nov-13 14:41:42

When making short crust pastry I always wash my hands in cold water prior to rubbing the fat into the flour. It makes a perfect breadcrumb consistency. I also use a mixture of margarine & lard. Everyone seems to comment on how good it is smile

LaTrucha Fri 15-Nov-13 14:45:50

Whe cooking with little children I have discovered that with simple baking exact proportions and methods don't make that much difference. It makes life a lot more fun!

supergreenuk Fri 15-Nov-13 16:11:04

My latest short cut is icing in a can. Terribly expensive but easy, mess free and the kids love it. Rare treat though.

Willemdefoeismine Fri 15-Nov-13 16:15:07

Always use pastry out of a packet after years of answering doors with gloops of pastry stuck to my rings etc.... hmm.

Home-made jam tarts are the easiest thing in the world to make. Also, they are very handy for getting rid of multiple almost-empty jars taking up valuable space in the cupboard/fridge!

BornToFolk Fri 15-Nov-13 16:16:25

Yes, similar to LaTrucha my top tip is when baking with small children is focus on the process rather than the product, i.e have fun and don't worry about how they turn out. If you're making something where results actually matter, don't do it when the kids are around...

fallenempires Fri 15-Nov-13 16:28:52

Keep a stash of butter or margarine wrappers in the fridge for a lazy quick way of greasing and lining baking tins

For rolling out pastry: use clingfilm under and on top of the pastry - it is a godsend and no flour everywhere.

Digital scales where you can use whatever bowl you are baking in and weigh small quantities accurately (eg for yeast and salt) are brilliant, compared to other sorts.

To get golden syrup off a spoon, heat the spoon on the hob before scooping /pouring the syrup, it just glides off.

Oven thermometer instead of relying on the dial is essential with a gas oven.

MrsBramleyApple Fri 15-Nov-13 17:01:28

If I don't have caster or icing sugar I put granulated sugar in the coffee grinder and give it a whizz!

Wheresthecoffee Fri 15-Nov-13 17:11:19

Grease trays with the butter wrapper, ready made pastry and an electric mixer!

Babycarmen Fri 15-Nov-13 17:16:39

My tip is... forget the recipe and experiment! Yes, it might fail but you learn a lot that way.

I do also cheat and buy ready made puff pastry.. but I make any other pastry myself grin

StainlessSteelCat Fri 15-Nov-13 17:27:50

if baking for kids give them the the cakes/biscuits to decorate. saves you doing it, clearance mg up doesn't take that much longer and they love it.

pastry with half and half trex and butter. a tuo from novella, use orange juice instead of water, apparently the acid helps, it definitely makes great mince pie pastry.

birthday cakes are all about the outside. if you are putting all that effort into the decoration don't spend ages on the cake. it has to be ok, not amazing. and the inverse is true. a cake full of flavour doesn't need spectacular decoration as well, simple works better.

keep eggs in cupboard and stork in fridge. then you can make a batch of cupcakes in under 30 minutes from decision to eating (yes, I'm greedy and impulsive grin ).

CaramelisedOnion Fri 15-Nov-13 17:37:28

I prefer silicone moulds to traditional baking tins...much less risky!

I use flora low calorie spray to grease as it gives even coverage without getting hands greasy....when I was a pastry chef in Spain we always used spray butter for this which gave me the idea.

I make my own icing....ready rolled is so expensive! The exception to this rule is if I need black icing....I just can't seen to colour it myself to true always ends up dark grey!

I never use "cooking chocolate" I use proper chocolate chocolate always tastes synthetic.

I often make home made raspberry marshmallows as a delicious filling to add to a jam sponge. They are easier than people realise....and taste so much better than bought...much lighter and fluffier.

if I can't find an essence which I want then I make it myself with stock syrup....for example I could not find ginger essence anywhere so I made a stock syrup (equal parts sugar and water, half a lemon and half a vanilla pod) then put a big piece of ginger in, let it boil then left to infuse overnight. Next morning I blended it with a hand blender, then passed it through a cloth over a fine chinois conical sieve to get the fibres out. You could do this with most flavours.

Preciousbane Fri 15-Nov-13 17:56:42

I put butter and Marge in a small bowl and stick on top of the radiator to soften it up.

prettybird Fri 15-Nov-13 17:59:27

My tip is one my mum gave me for good short crust pastry.

Don't follow all the recipes that say it should be half fat to flour. For melt-in-the-mouth pastry make it with slightly more than half fat to flour: say 9 oz fat (ideal half butter/half lard or cookeen) to 16oz flour (plus a pinch of salt). Rub/food processor together to breadcrumbs and then add enough water to bind together.

My mince pies are legendary. smile

ShatnersBassoon Fri 15-Nov-13 18:02:05

I try to keep a couple of baked sponge layers in the freezer so when I inevitably don't have time to bake for a cake stall, I can pull them out and just fill them after defrosting. I try to do this, but I've let myself down as many times as I've high-fived myself for being clever and prepared.

ShatnersBassoon Fri 15-Nov-13 18:03:57

prettybird, I totally agree with you and your mum. I only go crazy and up the fat for mince pies, but by jove it's worth it! I've had two people ask me this week if I've made mince pies - I haven't even made my mincemeat yet!

Just about everything I bake is a variation on the same amounts of sugar, butter (or Flora!) and flour, plus the number of eggs = the number of ounces of each of the above, halved. So, 8oz sugar, flour, butter = 4 eggs etc. I then add all sorts and bake in different tins to form lots of different things - one day it might be a chocolate cake, another time a mocha cake, another time little fairy cakes with grated carrots, spices and nuts, another day I might stick some chopped up fruit in fairycakes etc etc. Easy, reliable, pretty much fool-proof and usually v tasty.

Plentyofcats Fri 15-Nov-13 18:17:20

Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature before combining. You can warm fridge cold eggs up quickly by popping them into a bowl of lukewarm water for 5 mins.

Creaming butter and sugar takes a bit of time - you know it's done properly when it turns a lighter colour and is light and fluffy. I always used to under-cream mine!

If something is over browning pop a sheet of damp grease proof paper over the top to stop it burning.

When baking with young dc, have everything set up and ready to go. They will get tetchy and destroy if they are hanging around while you find ingredients.

Dolallytats Fri 15-Nov-13 18:43:46

I love baking (and have the body to prove it hmm!!). I have to do it all from scratch, I always feel like I've cheated even if I use a mixer rather than a wooden spoon!!

I like to make a basic sponge and then throw in anything I fancy/have in the cupboard. It's so easy!! Could be apple and cinnamon, mixed fruit, cherry and coconut or a combination of all of these. My DH loves it!!

My 5 year old DS makes lovely scones because bake together often.

missorinoco Fri 15-Nov-13 19:04:51

For the easiest speediest hassle free baking, wait til they are in bed and do it!

I love baking also, and will happily bake with the kids. Craft however, is a whole different issue.
Make sure you have out what you need before you let them stand on a chair against the cupboard or fridge.
Drop your cleanliness standards. It's either than or spend the whole time shrieking.

Do not try a new recipe that requires concentration when you are cooking with little ones if you want it to work.

Take the eggs out of the fridge in the morning if you are going to bake that day.

I buy puff pastry and filo pasrty, but shortcrust is easy to make.
Except Jamie's cream cheese pastry from Saving with Jamie. That is the work of the devil to turn into pasty, although it tastes lovely.

Like the damp greaseproof paper trick.

If I'm making something that involves using chocolate chips (eg cookies, my DC's favourite) I always chop up pieces of real chocolate rather than buy cooking chocolate drops- they taste so much better!

Rockinhippy Fri 15-Nov-13 19:37:34

Well Flora won't like it grin

BUT - use mayonnaise instead of eggs & butter/marge for baking muffins - etc - so quick & easy & surprisingly tastes more buttery than a normal cake smile

MuffCakes Fri 15-Nov-13 19:39:30

I bake cakes almost everyday at work, 2 top tips melt butter before creaming, and don't over mix once the flour goes in as you need the air.

YeahBuddy Fri 15-Nov-13 20:02:45

I have only just started baking and have stolen loads of tips from this thread but I learned the hard way to always use butter and eggs at room temperature. Also make sure you are using the correct ingredients! I had a bake-off with my dad who is an experienced baker a couple of weeks ago. My cake won before they even came out of the oven because in his cockiness, my dad hadn't looked at the flour he was using and put plain in instead of self-raising!

ILoveWoollyStuff Fri 15-Nov-13 20:25:11

For scones I always use cream of tartar and bicarb with plain flour rather than self raising and take them out of the oven just before they're completely cooked as they continue to cook when they're out. They always rise beautifully and are so light.

CMOTDibbler Fri 15-Nov-13 20:35:26

I love baking, and as I have to eat gluten free its the only way to get nice cakes.

My top tip is when you are making plainish sponge cakes which can tend a little to the dry side, a teaspoonfull of glycerine will make them moist and lovely

MuffCakes do you mean properly melt the butter (so its a liquid) or just very soft? I also struggle with the creaming butter and sugar stage.

mawbroon Fri 15-Nov-13 20:47:34

I often make banana cakes two at a time because it's hardly any extra work and they freeze well.

My top tip is to weigh the tins so that they are the same so that you don't end up with one burned and one raw!

MuffCakes Fri 15-Nov-13 20:56:07

Littlemiss you can do both, some recipes I have your supposed to melt the butter then add sugar and it works well for banana cakes, a vic sponge melt it until its soft but not completely runny (it might be in the middle) then add sugar and blitz till white ish but I wouldn't be worried if the butter melted cakes still turn out lovely.

ILoveAFullFridge Fri 15-Nov-13 20:57:19

I always roll out dough/pastry/icing/marzipan between two sheets of clingfilm. That way I don't need to faff about making extra mess with flour/icing sugar, the stuff in rolling doesn't get dry/oily/warm, and it is easier to transfer to whatever I am lining or covering. It is especially good when lining a fluted quiche dish, as I keep the top layer of clingfilm on while I am tucking the pastry into the fluting, and the clingfilm prevents the pastry tearing. Of course I peel the film off once the pastry is properly positioned.

Cake release spray to errr release the cake from the tin!

To save the kitchen ending up like a war zone try to put each ingredient away as you use it and have a bowl of hot soapy water in the sink to drop each spoon/bowl/knife into.
For pastry use half fat to flour and the same tablespoons of water as fat (4oz=4tbsp)
Sponge is double quantities of everything to eggs (4 eggs = 8oz fat, sugar, flour)
Always line your tins and tip cakes out as soon as they come out of the oven or they continue to cook.

MissRee Fri 15-Nov-13 21:15:24

I've just baked my Chrustmas cake so am surrounded by a lovely smell of Chrismas-bakey goodness grin

I have taken to only ever using American recipes now. I have my cup measures and I'm not afraid to use them! So much easier than fannying around with weights.

I have cut up a sheet of silicon lining into shapes to fit all my cake tins. I also use cake release spray.

I have given up on the old 2+4+4+4 recipe for sponge and now just weigh my eggs and match the quantities it's easy peasy.

I also cook my cakes at a much lower temp than I was taught to. They take longer to cook but are much easier to control.

I'm finding that I am getting more confident and I have recently started experimenting. I'm not frightened to add some fruit, slop in some milk to loosen my batter or try novel fillings (my marzipan victoria sponge went down a treat with DD who asked me to invent it for her birthday).Now I bake most weeks, it is less of a disaster if the odd experiment doesn't quite work.

GetKnitted Fri 15-Nov-13 21:26:26

top bakery cheats for baking with tots is to buy a packet of biscuits and just let them to the decorating

Getknitted - when I'm letting the kids loose with the decorations, I buy the icing too blush can't asked to lovingly make icing only for it to be buried under shed loads of sparkly, sweet crap.

IHadADreamThatWasNotAllADream Fri 15-Nov-13 21:45:52

I got a dozen cheap silicone mini muffin cases on a whim a while ago. They're not much use for their intended function, because any decent recipe makes at least twenty four, and remembering to remove, save and clean them after each use is tricky. However, they come into their own for freezing individual portions of cookie dough. I make up a big batch in the Magimix, cook about a third of it on the day, and then portion it into ice cream scoop sized portions which I freeze in the aforementioned muffin cases or muffin tins for a day before transferring them into a bag. They can then be cooked straight from frozen in fifteen minutes.

I also keep chocolate chips in the freezer in an attempt to make them work better in cookies, but I'm not 100% sure it makes a difference.

maxmissie Fri 15-Nov-13 22:28:50

We use the reuseable baking sheets for biscuits, bread rolls etc. Spatulas are great for getting every last bit out of the bowl or pan.

I use butter in things that I think matter (icing, sponge cake, scones) but use stork for most other things. Not sure how I decide what really needs butter and what doesn't though, there isn't any science to it (other than icing)!

I line tins with remnants of butter/stork which are left on their wrappers and if I don't have them then use groundnut oil wiped onto the tin with kitchen roll (as it's supposed to be healthier!)

IAlwaysThought Fri 15-Nov-13 23:53:51

My top baking tip takes a bit of time to work but when it does it results in years of endless supplies of lovely baked goodies.

My secret is to get your kids to love baking, it's messy and you need a lot of patience but by the time they are about 11 or 12 (or whenever) they start baking on their own. Within a few years they are totally self sufficient bakers and even clean up the kitchen after themselves. You get to sit on the sofa and chat to them while they do all the work. Perfect!

I think my shortbread is better than theirs but, quite honestly, their cakes are every bit as good as mine and they put a lot more effort and glitter into the presentation of their baked goods. cake

Recently they have baked rainbow layer cakes and some great Halloween gravestone cupcakes.

Theimpossiblegirl Sat 16-Nov-13 00:05:10

My tip is to make dough in bulk and freeze it in small pizza base sized portions, to defrost as required. Then defrost them when children come for tea and you can feel like supermum and let them make their own pizzas with no hassle.

Pistillate Sat 16-Nov-13 00:18:41

Plain Flour and baking powder tastes nicer than self raising.

NicNak71 Sat 16-Nov-13 00:38:06

For fantastic fast decoration on fairy cakes put a giant chocolate button on top of each one the moment you take them from the oven. The button melts enough to stick to the cake and they all end up looking exactly the same, no odd shapes or uneven toppings again! It also only takes a few seconds to do.

Star1986 Sat 16-Nov-13 02:15:00

I always melt my butter and chocolate im the microwave, just a quick few seconds and its ready!

nobalance Sat 16-Nov-13 07:15:55

I tend to buy ready made and coloured ready to roll icing for decorating cakes. Make my own cakes and butter cream though. Fid most cakes are five with all in one method in food pro to speed things up

tracypenisbeaker Sat 16-Nov-13 07:44:39

I put a small amount of water into a ceramic mug into the oven while the cakes bake- it prevents the cakes from drying out and makes them lovely and moist.

Another tip is not to overmix the ingredients. Your cakes will come out tough if you do.

And finally, when making fairy/ cupcakes, use a recipe where the mix is more of a batter-like (i.e able to put the mix into balls using an ice-cream scoop) consistency as opposed to runny. This means that your cakes will be uniform in size and less messy when distributing into cases. They are also less likely to stick to the case and crispen around the edges.

ScienceRocks Sat 16-Nov-13 07:45:46

I bake quite a bit, and usually have something in a tin that is being eaten by all who visit my house!

Reusable baking parchment, cut to fit my baking trays, makes it really quick and easy (though I often have to fish it out of the bin because DH forgets it is reusable), as does making mixes in my stand mixer rather than by hand. All the mixer parts go in the dishwasher so I can go from ingredients to cake in the oven plus everything cleared up in a matter of minutes.

I also save butter papers for greasing tins. They are perfect for this.

My other top tip is to use the heat of the oven wisely. I try and time baking to coincide with other things going in the oven, eg. casserole or pie for dinner, and also put just washed baking trays in the still warm but turned off oven to dry.

Read your recipe through several times before you begin, make sure you really know and understand the process.

MikeLitoris Sat 16-Nov-13 08:07:31

My tip would be to perfect a basic sponge recipe. Once you have one that works you can add just about anything to it.

Tips for decoration would be to buy black and red icing, it just isn't worth the hassle of trying to make it.

Practice, practice and practice some more. I started decorating cakes just over a year ago and I'm pretty good at it now.

Another one for me is to make cheese straw pastry, roll out and cut it on a silicon lined baking tray, then freeze the strips, you can cook them from frozen in 10 minutes for a tasty after school (or whenever) snack.

My advice is to use an empty oven while baking a cake, ie no other things cooking in there at the same time. Like a chicken, as I found out last week.

Flat cake anyone?

Also, if using golden syrup and you need a weight measure instead of a tbsp measure, buy the squeezy bottle, and set it in a little warm water for a few mins. Then squeeze out your required amount. No faffing or sticky hands. smile

Tee2072 Sat 16-Nov-13 08:49:32

My top tip is to always use unsalted, room temperature butter, not margarine of any sort, in baking.

I also use ready made pastry, but I don't have an electric mixer so have no easy way to make it.

Spirael Sat 16-Nov-13 09:29:54

Forget the old hassle of melting chocolate in a bowl above a boiling pan of water... Use the microwave! 1 minute bursts, give it a stir, then stop microwaving just before all the lumps have gone and let the last few slowly melt into the residual heat. Only takes a few minutes and you can melt it straight into a jug for pouring.

BooRooandTiggerToo Sat 16-Nov-13 11:52:54

Cupcakes take just 2.5mins in the microwave!

Our oven went wrong a little while ago and I was forced to manage with just a microwave. Having experimented I found that adding the cupcake cases around the edge of the turnplate for just 2.5mins makes light spongy cupcakes, yes they may not be browned on the top but a little icing and you'd never know the difference.

hermioneweasley Sat 16-Nov-13 12:29:02

If I want a lighter than air sponge I always use sponge flour and fold in with a metal spoon so the gluten isn't worked.

You have to cream butter and sugar for much longer than you think to do it properly!

Always wash your bowl and beaters before making meringue.

Both egg whites and egg yolks freeze well if separated.

Blu Sat 16-Nov-13 13:36:59

Top Tips for the Terrible Baker:

When microwaving the butter straight form the fridge in order to be able to cream it: Lurpak wrappers cannot be microwaved.

Check that your DP and DS, when shopping and baking for your home made birthday cake are looking at the correct recipe. The frosting may have an impressive list of ingredients but it makes a terrible mess in the oven.

Bought puff or flaky pastry is excellent - and vegan / vegetarian. Reputable recipe-book-writing chefs use it.

Even if Nigella says add boiling water to the baking powder, don't. You may only have scraped through your GCSE science, but trust your instincts.

Lidl Free Range eggs are 50% cheaper.

You can use a stick blender to rub fat into flour!

IHadADreamThatWasNotAllADream Sat 16-Nov-13 13:41:49

Oh yes Blu - previous housemate killed the microwave by using it to soften the Country Life without taking the wrapper off.

Ruby6918 Sat 16-Nov-13 13:51:26

Home Made Pastry Easy, and Freeze it

12 oz plain flour
60oz butter
Pinch Salt
3 tablespoons of cold water

sift flour and salt into bowl and softened butter in small cubes, Rub the mix together with your fingers to bind, untill the mixture starts clinging to your fingers, add two thirds of the water, mix with a fork, and the last tablespoon of water to form a smooth pastry, add more water if it seems too dry, remove the dough ball and place of a floured surface, work with the dough for a few mins to form a ball. using a floured rolling pin roll out, use for a pie or apple cake, but any leftover pastry can be rolled into a ball, wrap it really tightly in clingfilm, then place in an airtight container and frozen. simply defrost and use when you need it, far nice than frozen bought pastry,, and far cheaper

ouryve Sat 16-Nov-13 13:58:36

No shop bought cake is ever a patch on home made, so no way would I ever claim to have baked a bought cake. The shame!

My tip is to use a food processor for crumble toppings. It's so quick and there's no messy hands of the sort that prompt your phone to ring.

TheDietStartsTomorrow Sat 16-Nov-13 14:29:15

When making a layered cake, I used to often slice the top off to get an even flat top. I now have a few tips to get a flat cake that doesn't require slicing or wastage.

Firstly, use aluminum baking tins where possible. My cakes are just as well risen but with a flatter top in the alumnium cake pans.

Secondly, (and this is genius IMHO) take an old towel and cut it into strips. Wet it thoroughly and tie it around the cake tin before putting the tin in the oven. It means the cake won't rise in the centre more than the sides and you end up with a well risen, flat cake that you can just use without trimming the top off.

Lastly, if you are frosting or lining with fondant icing, turn the cake upside down. The bottom is always flatter than the top.

I use a bit of kitchen roll and a dab of olive oil to grease tins.
Cut out circles from reusable baking sheets to line tins.
I don't weigh flour. One round tablespoon = 1 ounce 25 grams. Just spoon it into sieve.

DeathByLaundry Sat 16-Nov-13 14:38:09

If you're short of time, make cupcakes or muffins instead of large cakes or loaves. Bakes in half the time.

peronel Sat 16-Nov-13 15:20:43

Buy a big block of cheddar then have a mass grating session! Put one large handful in each freezer bag then freeze until needed. Cheaper than ready grated, defrosts on a plate in minutes and makes cheese sauce, gratins and the hundred-and-one other cheesy dishes just that little bit easier.

mousmous Sat 16-Nov-13 15:25:15

when baking cookies roll the dough between two sheets of baking paper. no flour for the dc to traipse all through the house.

GetKnitted Sat 16-Nov-13 15:32:45

just remembered my best ever tip for baking with little ones. When you've nothing for them to do at their level of ability, set them to the crucial task of cutting the flour smile HTH

Willemdefoeismine Sat 16-Nov-13 16:00:04

Just thought of my best and simplest baking tip. Always keep the butter wrappers after you've put the butter in a dish, refrigerate and then use for easy greasing of baking tins etc.....

CoconutRing Sat 16-Nov-13 16:32:57

When making a sponge or fairy cakes always weigh your eggs first (in shells). I use this tip because the weight of eggs can vary and this affects the consistency of the cake mix.

Then, for example, if your eggs weigh 212 gms, use 212 gms of Flora, 212 gms of flour and 212 gms of sugar. Put all the ingredients in a bowl, mix together (all in in one method) for a perfect, light sponge.

cjbk1 Sat 16-Nov-13 17:00:59

boiling water in a measuring jug for measuring out golden syrup; wet the spoon before each spoon of syrup makes it slide off easily then you can just wipe the jug with kitchen paper and use it for the rest of the recipe smile

I rarely buy SR flour now, instead preferring to just buy plain flour and add baking powder to ensure we use flour up faster (after we found bugs in a bag!)

If baking a birthday cake for your daughter and your Dad needs you to go out with him do not leave your mother in charge of taking it out the oven. I was very upset when she forgot and it burned.

I always store caster sugar in a big jar with a couple of vanilla pods. It gives your cake more depth of flavour, and is much cheaper than buying small quantities of vanilla sugar.

spleenyone Sat 16-Nov-13 19:55:34

My mum taught me well, when making scones or biscuits, always make double quantity if you expect to get some yourself!

Tortoise Sat 16-Nov-13 19:56:12

My top tip is, when using golden syrup, put the spoon in a mug of boiled water. It just slides off the spoon then.

One of our favorites is Cadburys caramel nibbles mixed into brownie mixture. When you bite into it you get a lovely bit of caramel inside.

Rockinhippy Sat 16-Nov-13 20:05:46

Another I discovered when I took ill with a kidney infection part way through making DDs birthday cake - cake made ready for decorating - no way in hell was I well enough to do my usual fancy job, let alone make icing envy

A jar of cheap chocolate spread or Nutella makes great easy & cheaper icing - I plastered the choc cake in it, stuck those chocolate crisp all around the sides so that the edges stuck out & made a star edging all around - crushed some more up, sprinkled on top, finished off with a sprinkle of mixed colour chocolate cake decor stars & dusted with edible gold glitter powder - it lasted 5 minutes, the DCs at her party loved it & took me 10 minutes to decorate smile

I now sometimes use choc spread to pipe onto cupcakes as DD loves it

HazeltheMcWitch Sat 16-Nov-13 20:33:46

Does cutting a cake into 2 layers usually give you 2 odd shaped wedges? Use a cotton thread, not a knife! Dental floss works too.

It's even more foolproof if you mark out a knife cut on each side, then just wrap the thread around, cross it over, and pull tight.

You can also slide the top layer of cake onto a bread board, or the base from a cake tin (anything flat and rigid, basically), so there's no chance of your cakes breaking.

tinypumpkin Sat 16-Nov-13 20:45:00

Another one saying that it is the fun to be had that you need to focus on when baking with small people and not the outcome! My efforts are not great but they enjoy it and that is what matters to me. Fairy cakes a lot in this house with icing and peppa toppers! Also, adding colour to the cake mix and/or icing is something they like to do even if it does look odd.

TerrorMeSue Sat 16-Nov-13 20:56:42

My electric hand whisk is my godsend for baking. Faster than mixing by hand, but easier to clear than a big mixer.

nextphase Sat 16-Nov-13 21:24:12

Oven liner - best thing to make the mess on the bottom of the oven really easy to clear up.
The only thing that I sue flora for is sponge cake. Butter all the way for everything else - and most importantly BUTTER icing should never be made with marge.

VivaLeBeaver Sat 16-Nov-13 21:33:00

Use proper measuring spoons rather than a tea spoon out the drawer for more accuracy.

A decent oven makes a big difference to cakes. Mine is hotter on one side than the other which is annoying.

Keep flour in airtight jars to keep the bugs out.

I've never used a mixer in my life, just a wooden spoon. Doesn't take long to mix stuff.

My main tip would be to not be afraid, try different recipes and have fun. If you get the quantities right and follow the instructions you can't go far wrong.

serin Sat 16-Nov-13 22:09:08

Don't bother with mince pies....too much faff! I use shop bought all butter puff pastry, throw grated apple, mincemeat and a few chopped nuts over it, roll up, slice and bake.

Lovely with lemon icing drizzled over.

joanofarchitrave Sat 16-Nov-13 23:44:05

Don't forget that you can use milk that's very much on the turn in scones. Also that you can be eating scones 15 minutes after deciding to make them.

Frozen fruit (defrosted) and really thick Greek yogurt makes a fantastic filling for a sponge cake.

VestaCurry Sun 17-Nov-13 02:04:31

Making up biscuit dough in rolls and freezing it in batches is my trick. I then defrost the batches and have homemade biscuits on tap.

kateandme Sun 17-Nov-13 03:28:28

silicone cake tins are a godsend.much easier to clean and cake comes out easier.
fondant for birthday cakes.
if you know when you need a cake bake the sponge the evening before you need to deocorate.iot can be wrapped in foil for the next day or even frozen.then the next day you will be aure your cake is cooled completely ready to deocrate.
if using buttercream prepare beforehand if you can and keep in fridge.this insures it will sitffen to keep the cake stable in its layers.
A super celebration cake is a tired cupcake couold make the top layer a whole larger cake for the right effect too then the next ayer cupcakes.much easier.
baking is exact.
if the kids are round and want to make ready made icing in the squirty cNS OR TUBS.the little ones wont mind the more sacrine taste and will jsut enjoy decorating.

stealthsquiggle Sun 17-Nov-13 03:55:45

Parchment paper circles or, even better, tin liners (especially for loaf cakes) save so much faff.

As for golden syrup, I buy it in squeezy bottles. More expensive, admittedly, but so much less mess that it is worth it (for me).

The defrost setting on the microwave is ideal for softening butter.

Tyranasaurus Sun 17-Nov-13 07:42:40

I'm a from scratch type person, so no particular shortcuts or tricks

Real cream always makes a difference in cakes.
Make proper buttercream if you have the time it's so much nicer
Put pastry in the freezer before cooking

HerlockSholmes Sun 17-Nov-13 08:47:33

save old "squeezy"sauce bottles and wash them out. fill them with buttercream and let the kids use them to ice cupcakes- much easier and more fun for wee ones. also works well for writing on cakes.

Mrdarcyswife Sun 17-Nov-13 08:54:55

My top tip for baking with a small child is get a fun pod. They can stand up at the surface and be fully involved, but there's no chance of them falling. Also means they can "help" with the washing up!

We regularly make 123 biscuits (1oz butter, 2oz sugar and 3oz flour). V quick and easy and no raw egg, so perfect when your helper likes to eat the mix/ lick the bowl.

whatsthecraic Sun 17-Nov-13 09:03:04

If your cake is domed and you want a flat top to decorate, instead of cutting loads off the top just trim the worst of it off then turn it over and use the bottom as the top. Perfectly flat every time

mousmous Sun 17-Nov-13 09:19:41

when your cake is more doomed to be able to use craic's method, just cut it into lots of little pieces an gently press into tin with some icing. fridge. take it out and decorate as planned.

My DC liked birthday cakes shaped in the number of their age. I seem to remember eight was a tricky one.
If you are cutting out a shape from a large cake, for example for a number, use a very short, pointy knife rather than a long one.

When melting chocolate, always do it the old fashioned way- pan, hot water and ban marie. The microwave can spoil a whole 200g chocolate bar if you forget the short burstsshock

CheeryCherry Sun 17-Nov-13 10:14:58

I bake a lot with simple ingredients, a squirt of lemon juice ensures a moist sponge. A grated bar of chocolate makes a quick bun topping on top of water icing. I use cadbury highlights for chocolate flavouring, it makes a high rise! I recently bought Betty crocker ready made butter cream, made good topping for piping, not too sweet.

I agree about melting the chocolate the old fashioned way, I find it far easier than having to keep opening and shutting the microwave and lifting a jug in and out to see how its getting on, also I burnt chocolate in the microwave once and the stench was unbelievable.

Watch out for "convenience" ingredients, Ii picked up a resealable bag of icing sugar thinking it might be free-er flowing that the normal sort in boxes but weight for weight it was about twice the price.

Chulita Sun 17-Nov-13 12:15:13

I use the simple sponge recipe (3 eggs/180g of everything else) and add flavours depending on what we fancy - lemon/orange/satsuma zest, chocolate chips, cocoa, vanilla, coconut, chopped nuts. The cake takes about 5 minutes to make once you've thrown everything in the mixer, in the tin and it's cooked in 25 minutes. You can go from nothing to cake in 30 minutes and you don't need to get the recipe book out...mmmm!

DXBMermaid Sun 17-Nov-13 12:18:32

I am not very good at baking, especially not at making pastry. However I have recently discovered that lots of recipes can be adapted to have a 'biscuit' base. I use digestives for sweet recipes and oat cakes for savoury recipes.

The GOLDEN tip when making a biscuit base is to NOT melt the butter. You can use Flora straight out of the tub as you just need it to be soft and at room temperature. By doing this you need less butter and it's easier to make the base quite firm.

IHadADreamThatWasNotAllADream Sun 17-Nov-13 13:21:09

Couldn't disagree more about melting chocolate. The stress of keeping the water out of the chocolate in a Bain Marie is much worse than checking that it's not overdone in a microwave. Once you've got a good instinctive sense of the timings a microwave is miles easier.

I don't find the melting chocolate over a pan stressful at all, I use a glass bowl which is bigger than the pan of water so there's no possibility of water getting in the chocolate and have never had a problem.

AliceinWinterWonderland Sun 17-Nov-13 14:13:35

syrup in squeezy bottles - just buy one and keep refilling it from jarred syrup which is less expensive.

silicone pans - great to use - no sticking and clean up is easier. We also make Yorkshire puddings in them, no grease needed.

I too have squeeze bottles in the cupboard (like the ketchup ones from diners) that I refill with golden syrup, honey etc.

I make cookie dough and shale into a long cylinder, then cool them in the fridge before cutting into discs and freezing so if come ones coming over I can pull out however many cookies I need and stick them in the oven. Loads of people comment on how I always have fresh baked cookies on the go when rather come in blush

I also freezer brownies and muffins and a ton of banana bread in slices so I can pull out for lunch boxes and snacks.

Pastry is super easy to make (even easier in the magimix) but I do freeze some of that too for really quick pasties and pies. (Not puff pastry though, I have a life!)

Things like crumble topping and pizza dough are also made in bat he's and frozen for when I'm strapped for time.

Tikkamasala Sun 17-Nov-13 16:09:13

I sometimes use ready made icing, I like the fudge one from Betty Crocker, but I usually just make quite simple cakes so it doesn't take long anyway. I like a good old Victoria sponge, put all the ingredients in together, whisk it up and bung it in the oven, job done!

forcookssake Sun 17-Nov-13 16:33:44

Create your own 'sanding' / decorating sugar by putting a small quantity of granulated sugar in a strong plastic bag with a dab of food colourant and smush it round in the sealed bad to distribute the colour. Voila! Whatever colour you need for decorating cookies, sprinkling on cupcakes or wherever else you need it grin

BarfaStewart Sun 17-Nov-13 16:53:38

I keep my rolling pin and clingfilm in the fridge, so that when I make pastry it keeps it cool. I also freeze the ends so that I can make a few extra things.

I use marg for just about all baking goodies. Even buttercream.

AndHarry Sun 17-Nov-13 16:57:41

I love making cakes from scratch so no shortcuts from me! I'm too impatient to eat cake to decorate properly though so I just tend to melt a big bar of chocolate and spoon it over the top of a Madeira or Victoria sponge cake, then stick on some berries while it's still warm. I haven't had any complaints yet!

Replace a tablespoon of sugar with 1/2 of golden syrup- makes a cake that stays moist much longer.

SaltySeaBird Sun 17-Nov-13 17:07:46

Ooh going to try that barbarian!

MollyBerry Sun 17-Nov-13 19:04:59

Best shortcut when making anything that requires 'sifting' flour. Don't bother pre-sifting it into a separate bowl. Just sieve it straight into your wet mix ie creamed butter and eggs and save yourself washing up a bowl!

I'll only really bake now as an 'activity' to do with DS (although I end up making most of it!). I bake simple things that I know work for me - choc cake, sponge cakes, banana cake. Simple recipes and ingredients i tend to have in the house. And yes to ready made pastry for pies!!

I did make DS's birthday cake this year though and really enjoyed it, so may do more, especially now it's getting wintery and it feels all homely to have baked things.

mindlessmama Sun 17-Nov-13 19:29:24

Ohh love these suggestions.
Baking parchment, tin liners or cake cases for everything.
Use cookie cutters to decorate top of pastry pies.
Post it notes on inside of cupboard doors for pastry/bread/ everyday recipes to save time flicking through books.
Double up on everything and freeze half. (biscuit dough etc).
Warm tins and oven before baking, always helps somehow.
Hot water for spooning treacle or golden syrup ( or smother spoon in veggie oil so syrup slips off).
Give kids there own bowl and ingredients for mixing. Or old scraps of pastry to cut and re roll.
Put bread or dough in airing cupboard with cling film on or a coating of oil to prove without forming a 'skin'.
Melt everything in the microwave in 30 second bursts with a quick stir.
Use 2 sheets of making parchment to roll out dough/pastry to avoid flour cloud. (easy to roll up and freeze for later too)
Have a stash of milk and marg in freezer (thaw quickly under warm water)
Refresh homemade bread by popping in a warm oven with a tray of water under it.
If no weighing scales/ measuring jug to hand look at weight on packet and guesstimate accordingly.
Oven can lose so much heat by opening door and takes time to heat up again to right temp so do as little as possible.
Macaroons and meringues need to cool in oven after it's switched off or it'll crack.
Ice cakes upside down for a flatter surface... The list goes on grin

Taffeta Sun 17-Nov-13 20:07:19

When making cakes that you just want a small slice of, eg Christmas cake, make a square cake, much easier to cut a small slice from.

I use food processor for crumbles and pastry.

Good old lemon curd makes a fantastic filling for a lemon cake.

Taffeta Sun 17-Nov-13 20:08:49

Oh thought of another for pastry that's difficult to handle eg sweet pastry.

Roll out between two large sheets of cling film.

LittleH78 Sun 17-Nov-13 20:45:55

I noticed that Lakeland sell an (rather expensive) 'quick release' spray for greasing baking tins, but I use the flora spray instead which is a fraction of the price and gives a nice even coating to the tin without having to mess around with marg or butter and kitchen roll. Brilliant!

Kipsy Sun 17-Nov-13 21:19:30

I used to bake everything from scratch, now I mainly use Betty Crocker cake mixes - no more baking disasters! There is a huge variety of baking mixes available - lemon cakes, choc cakes, white cakes for making rainbow cakes - craving to cupcake in just 15 mins!

I use a tray filled with hot water at the bottom of the oven to keep cakes soft, and use parchment paper always - I have parchment "templates" and pre-cut linings to use in the baking drawer. I use silicone "tins" for cakes, and paper cupcake cases to make clean up easier. I switched from cupcake tins to mini-muffin tins - less calories per treat, and faster baking!

Kipsy Sun 17-Nov-13 21:24:45

Oh, and I open and split the cake mix pack into 1-egg portions. For example, a 500g cake mix pack uses 3 eggs and makes about 36 cupcakes, far too many for me my child! So I sieve, weigh and split into 3 ziplock bags and pop it back into the cake mix box. I calculate 1/3 of the oil and milk or water or whatever the other ingredients are and note it on the box as well (Saves time on doing the calculations).
The same for pancake mixes or any homemade mixes as well.

Pistillate Sun 17-Nov-13 21:56:56

Use a really light mixing bowl and hold it at arms length (above your knees). Then you can use all the strength in your arms to beat the mixture really thoroughly.

timidviper Sun 17-Nov-13 22:13:39

Children are rarely looking for a perfect birthday cake and enjoy one they help to make far more. I always baked a chocolate cake, filled and coated it with chocolate buttercream then let them decorate it with all kinds of sweets, icings and decorations. it could send you into a sugar coma just looking at it but they loved it!

I use paper circles and tin liners, so much easier than greasing tins and trying to get cakes out without breaking them

flamingtoaster Sun 17-Nov-13 22:20:19

I make everything from scratch due to family allergies. Mince pies take ages to make so replace the "lid" with a sponge mixture which can quickly be spooned on.

For favourite recipes save time by working out where various ingredients come up to in your measuring jug. Much faster than weighing.

okthen Sun 17-Nov-13 22:29:21

There's no need to line cake tins with baking parchment- I just grease then flour the tin. The cake comes out easily every time. A tip picked up by my dp in his days as a pastry chef.

LaVitaBellissima Mon 18-Nov-13 08:19:03

Love baking, I've found reducing the sugar in recipes doesn't seem to make any difference to the flavour so I often do that.

I love letting my twins 'help' too, they get so much enjoyment out of it. Especially the decorating at the end. I have fabulous memories of cooking with my mum, so it's a joy to do it with my own children.

Bread machines are brilliant!

Lent1l Mon 18-Nov-13 14:00:18

My cheats are:-

I always have a large tub of stork in the fridge, can be used in cakes straight from the firdge and cake tastes just as good - no need for room temp butter. Also works well in buttercream.

When cutting out the discs for the bottom of a cake tin from greaseproof paper I don't draw round then cut, I fold the paper in half and half again until I have a triangle then cut across the top in a semi circle shape.

Pastry I make in a food processor - less handling and made in about 30 seconds. You also get really short pastry as you add very little water to get it to form a ball.

CheeseTMouse Mon 18-Nov-13 15:37:27

Batch cooking... I made a load of muffins just before my baby was born. They froze really well and it meant that I had some nice homemade goodies to eat at a point my hands were rather full!

dorothyparka Tue 19-Nov-13 16:06:37

Make a scone round instead of individual scones--far less faff and you don't end up with an odd bit of dough at the end. And when making crumble topping 1) add oats for extra crunch and 2) make more than you need and freeze the surplus (add it straight from the freezer to some fruit and stick it in the oven for a really easy pud)

10thingsihateaboutpoo Tue 19-Nov-13 18:47:51

When baking with DD I do it all from scratch but keep it very simple, so recipes with a minimal number of recipes and simply steps like mixing/pouring etc. Fun times (but messy!).

michelleblane Tue 19-Nov-13 19:16:19

Baking parchment is a must for lining tins (even so called non stick ones)
Brilliant when making things like brandysnaps.
Read the tub before using so called healthy spreads in baking as some of them are 'unsuitable for baking'
Shower caps (like the ones in hotels) are brilliant for popping over the bowl when leaning dough to prove.
Digital scales are brilliant as you can zero them and add to ingredients already in the bowl.
Bendy spatula is perfect for getting every scrap of mixture from bowl.....not very popular with children waiting to 'lick out the bowl'
Have a special recipe notebook to write down successsful recipes, or their location (I have masses of recipe books and forget which one I have used sometimes, so I write it down now)

Hopezibah Wed 20-Nov-13 00:16:49

I can bake a cake in 4 minutes flat in a microwave!

It does come out paler than oven baked but for the time-saving it is totally worth it and by the time it is decorated it doesn't even show.

Tastes just as good!

A mini mug-size cake can be done even quicker in less than 2 minutes!

amaze your friends - give it a try!

Bubbles85 Wed 20-Nov-13 17:20:27

When adding 'butter' to recipes I tend to use spread instead as otherwise it's hard to mix and it takes forever! Even the spread can do with a few seconds in the microwave sometimes.

glosgran Wed 20-Nov-13 19:58:02

When a recipe needs sifted flour I hate the mess and fine powder all over work surface and the time it takes to sift using a sieve. I put the flour into the bowl and then use a balloon whisk to stir through it until it's light and fluffy. So quick and easy and no mess on the work surface. When making a chocolate cake I add the cocoa powder to the flour before mixing with the whisk and this also blends the cocoa into the flour beautifully.

glosgran Wed 20-Nov-13 20:00:06

I've cut non-stick liners to the correct size for my baking tins so when making cakes I no longer need to spend a long time greasing and lining the tins with greaseproof paper or parchment.

LentilAsAnything Wed 20-Nov-13 23:05:16

Don't use flora, go vegan. That's my top tip, no gross animal secretions in my food.
Show me the money! grin

ShatnersBassoon Thu 21-Nov-13 00:12:39

I won't eat gross animal secretions either, only the delicious ones.

ILoveAFullFridge Thu 21-Nov-13 06:50:00

If you need to make dairy-free pastry, you can use heavily processed fatty chemicals like Stork or Trex, they make perfectly decent pastry. But if you want to make utterly delicious pastry with a light texture, use beef dripping.

smileyhappymummy Thu 21-Nov-13 07:06:58

When making biscuits where the dough needs to be rolled out putting it in the fridge makes it easier to roll and cut out. You can also keep some in the fridge for another day - saved me on children in need day when I found out at 7am that I was meant to send dd to school with biscuits / cakes!

gretagrape Thu 21-Nov-13 15:44:35

If making a sponge cake, I do 4x the quantity needed then bake 2 extra large cakes and some cupcakes, then freeze them. They can be defrosted and made into sponge cakes or just with fruit or custard for quick puddings.

Lilpickle08 Thu 21-Nov-13 19:11:23

I try and make cooking really enjoyable for the kids - now they're at school we make lots of yummy homemade cakes (some healthy, some not quite so healthy) and I always make sure I freeze a load so I can put them in their lunchboxes the following week - it means that they remember what they've baked, and have the satisfaction of eating it for days to come too (and they ALWAYS eat them!) :-D

MoogDroog Thu 21-Nov-13 20:56:44

I've been undergoing an intensive programme of baking improvement over the last year and my top tips are:
Read the recipe at least twice before you start.
Follow the recipe exactly

I know it sounds obvious, but after years of being an instinctive cook and a terrible baker, recipes do actually exist for a reason!

BitchinInTheKitchen Thu 21-Nov-13 23:02:29

Betty Crocker ready made frosting is amazing

If you make cookie dough, it freezes really well. So make a massive batch and put half in the freezer in a sausage shape, approx 6cm across. When you next want cookies, slice off as many 'discs' of cookies as you want, put on a greased baking tray and bake. Fresh, warm cookies whenever you want!

ViviDeBeauvoir Fri 22-Nov-13 00:22:21

My top tip is to ditch baking and go raw. Some of the tastiest and healthiest snacks and cakes I've ever eaten are paleo. No faffing around with ovens/burning/rising. Just pop them in the fridge instead. smile

Mamafratelli Fri 22-Nov-13 10:03:16

This is top secret, people beg me for my icing recipe. Little do they know I top my cakes and buns with marshmallow fluff. (You can get it in the supermarkets now) If I have time I pop them under the grill just long enough to broken the fluff. Toasted marshmallow cakes. Delicious!

Mamafratelli Fri 22-Nov-13 10:04:00

*Brown the fluff not broken. Damn autocorrect.

Uzma01 Fri 22-Nov-13 11:25:45

When making cookies or biscuits - roll the dough into a dat sausage shape, wrap in clingfilm then pop in the freezer for 30-60 minutes. It'll be easier to cut them into round discs ready for the oven. Plus this way they don't spread out too much.

sazzle82 Sat 23-Nov-13 10:24:36

For the perfect sponge weigh your eggs in their shells. Whatever they weigh use the same amount of flora, sugar and flour. Add a glug of vanilla essence and you're done.

Cooking wise, once I can smell the cake cooking I know it's nearly done. A handy tip if you have an oven that's a bit temperamental.

sazzle82 Sat 23-Nov-13 10:25:52

Oh and mince pies can be frozen Pre cooked, then cooked from frozen.

Can make your house smell of baking and Christmas at the drop of a hat when you have visitors, and means you can serve freshly baked mice pies too.

buttonsforbreakfast Sat 23-Nov-13 11:40:25

Rather than buying over priced 'cake release' sprays, make your own. Mix melted margarine with plain flour to form a paste, then use a pastry brush to coat the inside of the pan. It keeps well in a sealed container in the fridge for weeks too! Just melt in the microwave whn you want to use it! Works every time!

supermam Sat 23-Nov-13 12:04:23

Like using rather tired bananas for banana loaf. Very easy & delicious. Also even easier when I discovered tin liners; prevents messy tins & more convenient than grease proof paper.

lottietiger Sat 23-Nov-13 14:29:42

I always use bakeoglide non stick baking sheet, I have it cut to cake tin sizes and baking tray, saves on loads of washing up and lasts years. 99% of the time I buy pre made pastry and stick it the the freezer til I need it. The rubbery spatula things are great for getting mixture out of the bowl and leave the bowl almost clean. For cakes and bread I use a kitchen aid mixer, expensive but fab.

ataraxia Sat 23-Nov-13 17:19:28

It has to be ready made puff pastry, I'm afraid - life's too short!

pussinwellyboots Sun 24-Nov-13 00:47:12

When baking with the kids I try to get everything ready first (however this often doesn't happen and then its chaos with me trying to play catch up!) I also use the microwave to soften butter/margarine. I love Delia all in one cake recipe as everything can be thrown in together.

Twoplus1 Sun 24-Nov-13 08:55:20

All you need to be able to bake is the ability to follows recipe. I love simple ones. I tend not to cheat much when baking though I do always buy the ready made marzipan and royal icing for my Christmas cake.

I love experimenting with new flavours or even making a cake recipe into cupcakes

I also agree it's good to have an oven thermometer my oven runs 5c hotter

I'd also be lost without my kenwood mixer it's my fav bit of kitchen equipment I have.

When making coloured buttercream icing if you trex instead of marg or butter you get a really nice true colour.

OPeaches Sun 24-Nov-13 10:54:07

My top tips are:

Grease and flour cake tins rather than faff around with cutting grease proof paper, cakes always come perfectly.

Half butter/half trex and milk make tastier, lighter butter icing.

Save money on flowerpaste for less delicate decorations by mixing one part flowerpaste with four parts sugarpaste, it will set hard enough.

AlfieandAnnieRose Sun 24-Nov-13 14:23:13

A good tip is to take the butter out of the fridge at least an hour before baking so it is at room temperature and easier to work with. But if you forget to do this then you can soften the required butter by cutting it up in cubes and placing it in a bowl of slightly warm (not hot) water. Then drain the water away after about 10 minutes, by now it should be soft and will make your cake mix blend so much better! Also your cakes taste much nicer too in my opinion.

Maiyakat Sun 24-Nov-13 14:31:54

Using an electric mixer gives great tasting cupcakes, but beating the mixture by hand is far more therapeutic!

DoItTooJulia Sun 24-Nov-13 14:33:49

Use a good quality marg instead of butter...easier to cream straight out of the fridge!

GoingGoingToGallifrey Sun 24-Nov-13 16:47:00

My hands are too hot to make good short crust pastry, so I use the food processor to make a big batch. Pastry can keep in the fridge for a few weeks, so I can use it when I need it.

Any bits of pastry left over, get rolled into balls and frozen, to be used as dumplings in casseroles.

TiredDog Sun 24-Nov-13 18:03:12

Top tip from someone who has used an unreliable oven for years... the cake needs longer if it's sizzling regardless of how it looks

I don't make pastry very often. I don't like cake mixes (tasteless)

SolidGold Mon 25-Nov-13 15:01:23

I don't use any cheats, as ready made products just don't taste as good to me.

If I make an all-in-one sponge, it's very quick and easy to make, who needs packet mixture? Buttercream and icing are also easy to make.

My top tip would definitely be to be careful with your cake, don't slam the oven door, and also check if the cake is cooked by inserting a wooden skewer into the cake, if it comes out clean and dry the cake is cooked through.

DinoSnores Tue 26-Nov-13 14:15:44

To grease tins, I use spray olive oil as it gets into all the corners better than getting butter all over your fingers.

AngelieMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 26-Nov-13 17:22:31

Thanks for all your comments! The winner of the prize draw is TheDietStartsTomorrow - congratulations! I'll PM you for your details shortly.

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