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Any advice for a truly terrible baker?

(20 Posts)
XandaPanda Thu 11-Oct-12 19:25:14

My little boys 4th birthday is coming up and I'm really wanting to bake a cake for him, The only problem is I am rubbish I tend to burn or just completely ruin anything I try to cook
Surely somebody can help. Please thanks

racingheart Thu 11-Oct-12 19:50:17

What sort of oven have you got? That makes a massive difference to how hot it should be and how long the cake goes in. You can blame your oven if you want.

Also, do you have a set of scales that works properly? Cakes need to be weighed not measured.

Can give you loads of very easy recipes but need to know those details first, to say how long to bake for and at what temperature.

XandaPanda Thu 11-Oct-12 20:04:16

I have a gas oven & yeah I have scales

deleted203 Thu 11-Oct-12 20:16:34

Ok, well my recipe is to cream 8oz butter and 8oz flour together with an electric whisk until they are nice and creamy. Slosh in a bit of vanilla essence. Then beat 4 eggs and whisk into mixture. Sieve in 8 oz self raising flour and fold it in with a metal spoon. Divide between two round cake tins and bake in middle of oven at Gas Mark 6 for about 20 mins (my oven is pretty cool - my ma would say Gas 5). Don't keep opening door - but after 20 mins you can whip them out and stick a skewer in the middle to see if they are cooked. (If skewer comes out sticky with cake mixture give them a few more mins).

To fill it I would use butter cream (whisk 2 oz butter and 4 oz sieved icing sugar together). I would then just use icing sugar with a couple of drops of food colouring and a tiny bit of water mixed in to ice the top. Good luck smile. Homemade cakes are yummy.

PS If you want to be adventurous I sometimes add strawberry essence instead of vanilla - tastes like strawberries and leaves cake faintly pink. For chocolate cake use 6oz of s/r flour and 2oz Cadbury's drinking chocolate instead of the 8oz flour.

I make fab cakes.......but my pastry is dire and like concrete grin.

evilwem Thu 11-Oct-12 20:21:48

What tends to go wrong, other than burning? Whenever I try a new recipe I make sure I've read it a good few times before I start out. It's easy to get lost when you're going backwards and forwards between recipe book and mixing bowl.

hermioneweasley Thu 11-Oct-12 20:25:07

Sowornout - do you mean you cream butter and sugar, not flour?

Gas ovens can be tricky, I would go for a lower temp for slightly longer. Otherwise, follow a recipe exactly with scales etc and grease your pans well. Make sure that when wet ingredients hit dry you finish things off quickly and get it in the oven straight away.

XandaPanda Thu 11-Oct-12 21:33:32

sowornout Thanks will do a trial run this weekend.
evilwem everything that can go wrong does go wrong, last time I made a cake I used baking soda (confused it with something else) I ended up with an oven shaped cake as I used half a tub of the stuff at which point I got banned from baking grin

deleted203 Thu 11-Oct-12 21:34:10

Duh! Sorry....yes, cream butter and sugar. I was typing a recipe quickly whilst testing DS on spellings at same time. Sorry OP.

Cezzy Thu 11-Oct-12 21:37:44

Cheat and use a Betty Crocker mix, you still have to bake them in the oven but they come out nice and big and all you do is add eggs oil and water and whisk. Yes I do bake from scratch, yesterday was flapjacks and drizzle cake, but I do keep a mix in the cupboard in case I in a hurry or out of ingredients.

nannycook Thu 11-Oct-12 21:53:24

Weasley, i agree with you about gas ovens, i've just moved house and i've always had a electric fan oven, now i have gas, alot slower, i cooked a 8 mix sponge this morning before work and normally it takes 25mins, it now takes 35 on gas 4, beautiful and light though!

LadyPeterWimsey Thu 11-Oct-12 22:06:07

Tips from a truly terrible baker who has dramatically improved with lots of recent practice (I often make cake/biscuits for 70-100 people over the course of a week - amazing how doing it lots really helps!) Tonight's special was carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese and orange icing, by the way.

Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature before you start.

Always measure as accurately as you can.

Don't improvise until you know what you are doing.

Be aware of how your oven cooks - I ruined many many cakes over the years by cooking them 20 degrees too hot.

Cook it in the right size and shape tin - that really can make a difference.

Get some fool-proof recipes. I've only ever had one of Mary Berry's recipes fail on me but loads of Nigella's, much as I love her I like it when the instructions are as exact and idiotproof as 'beat for 2 minutes' becausr I never know when I have mixed things well enough or too well.

Concentrate at first - I've made lots of mistakes by trying to multi-task, so set the timer for the oven a few minutes early and check. Cakes are usually cooked when they bounce back when you press them.

Watch a friend who knows what they are doing while they make a cake and ask them why they do things - best way to learn.

Good luck! Few things give me as much pleasure now as being on my own in the kitchen baking, whereas I was so awful before that I used to cry at my cake disasters.

nannycook Thu 11-Oct-12 22:10:59

Ladypeter, you werent in my kitchen were you? i actually made a carrot cake on sunday ( in my new gas oven) and i made cream cheese topping and i cheated somewhat by putting in orange oil, its lovely to be honest, got loads of little bottles and you keep them in the fridge.

bacon Thu 11-Oct-12 22:35:38

Def go for a tried and tested recipe. Go on the BBC good food website. It has excellent review system so you can read from bakers who have found it good/bad. eg

Definately buy a timer or use one on your phone as we all have a tendancy to multi-task and for me means I forget!

Buy good pans. Brands like masterclass/silverwood means the pans dont warp and heat well. Sainsburys do taste the difference pans which are better than the cheaper ones.

Line pans with greaseproof/baking parchment. Plenty of instructions on google/youtube.

Dont confuse baking powder with bicarb. If you use, use no more than a teaspoon of baking powder.

Keep the dry mix away from the wet. ie mix butter, sugar, yogurts first with mixer once all the wet has been added you can hand mix flours. Dont go mad, just make sure all the powder is folded in. Over mixing makes the flour tough and you can kill the mix if you think adding tons of air will make a great cake.

Ensure fan assisted is turned down if recipe states conventional. Middle shelf.

If doing a victoria sponge you can see the edges shrinking away from the sides when ready. A basic sponge in a sandwhich cake takes 20mins but dont worry about opening the door as long as the cake has been in the oven for 3/4 of the time stated its safe to check. You want a nice colour. Use a cocktail/kebabd stick to check if ready.

I make pastry in the magimix (not over mixing) and now make fab pastry. I always add an egg - seems to make it bind, keeps moisture and makes it rich.

racingheart Thu 11-Oct-12 22:44:32

Is it a fan oven? I kept burning cakes until I turned our fan oven down from 180 to 150 and increased cooking time.

Sowornout's recipe sounds delicious. Classic victoria sponge. It's rich though. 4 year olds might be be better fobbed off with something lighter if they're also eating party tea.

I do this one a lot:

Easy all-in-one chocolate cake

200g self raising flour
150g caster sugar
150g unsalted softened butter or stork/sunflower marge
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 level teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon OJ
1 heaped tablespoon cocoa powder

Just bung them all in a large bowl together and mix with an electric whisk or a wooden spoon until smooth.

Turn into a cake tin which has been rubbed all over with butter, then coated with flour, to prevent sticking.

Bake for about 30 mins at 150. Check with a skewer and put it back for 5 mins in if the skewer doesn't come out clean.

For topping, mix 50g softened butter with 150g icing sugar, 25g cocoa powder and a tiny drop of vanilla essence. Smooth it over cake then decorate with chocolate buttons. Good for 4 year olds.

nannynick Thu 11-Oct-12 22:55:42

I find a loaf cake (a cake you make in a loaf tin) can work well at a lower temperature, so less risk of burning. If it does burn you can slice off the top and as it is cooked in a loaf tin it leaves quite a lot left which is unburnt.

Banana Cake works well, though not all children like it:

2 Bananas
2 Eggs
2oz Butter
6oz Flour
2oz Sugar
1tsp Bicarbonate Soda

Beat eggs. Melt butter in pan. Mash bananas and stir in pan.
Into the bowl put the flour and bicard, and sugar.
When bananas softened, whip it all together.
Cook for 45 Minutes, 325°F / 160C

I struggle with burning cakes at work... it's all about Oven temperature I think and it's so hard to get right. May get an oven thermometer, so I can see what temp the oven really is, rather than what the control think's it is.

ohforfoxsake Thu 11-Oct-12 23:03:43

Mary Berry's baking bible. Dead easy and always work.

Do as she says. use the right amount of baking powder.

Oven thermometer to check temp.

Good luck grin

racingheart Fri 12-Oct-12 13:18:42

Bacon - can we have your egg pastry magimix recipe please?

bacon Fri 12-Oct-12 20:17:32


Great savory pastry
225g plain flour or a mix made up with wholemeal/spelt
150g cold butter

Pulse in magimix with plastic pastry fitting - try not to over mix but get a crumb
drop in 1 small egg
Pulse, be be careful not to kill it. You can knead a little just to make sure all mixed in.

Pop in freezer bag, chill for min 30mins.

never fails - fab for quiche.

bluebird68 Mon 15-Oct-12 13:33:17

i'm a good baker but even i make mistakes when i'm not focusing or using a recipe which has a mistake. So my advice would be:

focus on task in hand.

Read through recipe- all the way, and look up techniques you aren't familiar with. When it says cream together butter and sugar it may not specify more than that- you need to know what it should look and feel like (some recipes will say until pale, light and fluffy )

check your oven temp.

use accurate scales and don't mix imperial and metric. choose one.

check front of book for notes on the oven they used- some will give the temps for a fan oven and gas but only mention this in the introduction- a pet hate of mine! I mean who can remember that little nugget of info in all their baking books? Why not just put all the temps down?? (rant)

use a reliable recipe/book. Agree with poster who reccomended Mary Berry. I've the orginal version of her baking bible and i've tried numerous recipes in it, most have been delish, none have failed, a couple haven't been great but not disasters.

You'd be amazed how many mistakes there are in recipe books! baking is partly a science so mistakes in them will often lead to a disaster or something just not being that great.

bluebird68 Mon 15-Oct-12 13:37:08

and as others have said using the right size tin does make a difference- might not be a disaster but doesn't help to use wrong size. e.g too small for quantity of mixture and it won't rise very well.

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