Is there a secret I'm missing?(57 Posts)
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I love baking, I follow the recipes to the letter and yet my bakes are usually rubbish. They don't taste great, I have no idea why I just don't have the 'knack' I guess
Is there a secret to baking cakes I'm missing?
What recipes are you using? I think a lot of the knack to baking is understanding if a recipe will work - not all cakes taste good, even if you make them perfectly!
What makes them rubbish? Too dense, flat, crunchy etc?
I use all kind of recipes, Mary Berry ones in food magazines, healthier ones anything I fancy really. I'm not very good at the science bit, I assume a recipe will work if it's in print.
How can I learn whether a recipe will work?
Sometimes too dense but it's mostly the flavour, I made a coffee and walnut cake followed the recipe sponges rose beautifully left them to cool etc etc decorated. Cut it and it wasn't very fluffy and tasted a bit strange. The buttercream however was lovely, that I can do!
Do you use the exact ingredients or substitute eg baking Marge instead of butter or other shortcuts?
Do you have proper spoons to measure teaspoons and tablespoons?
I use exact ingredients and exact measurements..I guess I just don't have that 'thing' good bakers have!
Check your oven temp and that you're using the correct size of tin. I used to always use tins that were too big and couldn't understand why my cakes didn't rise. 🤦🏻♀️
The common thing that most good bakers have is a good oven. Common issues with poor ovens is innacurate temperature, uneven distribution of temperature and fluctuations in temperature.
I'm sort of the opposite. I alter every recipe - just little changes (I don't touch the ratios of the main ingredients) like changing type of flour, or substituting something like raisins for something else. Always turns out fine I just think about what I want it to taste like if that makes sense?
imo inexperienced bakers are not certain when a cake is done and will give it a couple of minutes more which, esp with a sponge cake, is enough to go from delicious soft cakey sponge to dried out choke a horse bath sponge
Check your oven temperature, there's a lot of malarkey about regarding fans assisted ovens
Watch for shelf position...no matter what oven manufacturers say I would NEVER put a cake in above the centre shelf in any oven
Check your tin size, it does matter.
Lining with baking parchment helps...a nice tall side lining will shelter the cake a little
and remember the cake will continue to bake for a couple of minutes after you take it out of the oven, so quell those "just two more minutes" thoughts!
Some of the art of baking is knowing what things should look like and having the “eye” for that (what “breadcrumbs” look like when making pastry, what “stiff peaks” are when making meringue, what a basic smooth cake batter looks like). In that sense learning by watching is a help. Either because you had someone competent to show you when you were young, or by watching someone like Delia do the basics, or YouTube videos, similarly.
Maybe try to crack shortcrust pasty and Victoria sponge first and go from there?
Get an oven thermometer instead of relying on your oven temp settings.
Are you really sifting the flour and getting a lot of air in?
YY to correct tin sizes, also correct egg sizes.
I’d say oven temperature has been my main problem. Always preheat. And preprepare your tin so that when the cake is mixed you can get it in sharpish. Baking is basically chemistry - once you mix wet with dry a reaction starts happening and you want to get it in the oven so you bake the cake when that reaction is putting the lightness into your cake.
If you don’t bake that often, things like baking powder loose their potency with time - if a cake isn’t rising properly, chuck out your baking powder and buy fresh.
I alter a lot of recipes with regard to liquid, a sponge cake should have a dropping consistency, with a lot of recipes the mixture is too stiff.
Also one you add liquid any baking powder is activated so you can't leave mixture standing.
I will often read the comment section as there is often adjustments that are made by others and they can be very helpful. I do measure but not to the milligram, and I try to keep to fresh products.
Thank you! I'll get an oven thermometer new tins and faff about less lemon cake today..it can only go horribly wrong can't it!!
I've made a note of these tips myself, QueenOfice... keeping my fingers crossed for your lemon cake; I'm sure it will be delicious!
Don’t waste your money on thermometers and new tins. You just need practise. Keep baking and you’ll get a feel for ingredients and textures. Try simple recipes first to get to know your oven and once you’ve mastered simple sponges then move onto flavoured cakes.
It really is just a case of “getting your eye in”. Gardening is the same.
I usually put a skewer in the cake to check it comes out clean as soon as it is I take it out but still it lacks the fluff, I wonder if my oven is too hot even though it 'says' it's on the right one. Also my mum taught me not to open the oven door to keep checking as the cake will sink so I basically tiptoe around the kitchen until times up.
Should I turn my oven down a touch? If the recipe says 170 fan should I use my dial to 160-165 instead?
Agree with practice. I think you could alight upon a recipient that you feel sure will work; Delia usually v reliable and instructions detailed ime. Then read it lots of times before embarking. Perhaps read other recipes for the same cake as well to get more knowledge . Then do it step by step . Repeat, ( obvs for family) , a few times. Agree that ovens vary and if you have measured accurately, got fresh rising agent ( if using) , beat adequately but not too much , then it is probably your oven.you will need to adjust temp or time or both.
Cakes are more resilient than you'd think. They'll only sink of the temperature drops dramatically during the rise or if they're not cooked when you remove it.
Try testing the cake 5 mins before it's supposed to ready then work backwards from there to see how long it really takes.
Oven thermometer is the best thing you will ever buy ever. Oven temps and gas marks are like clothing sizes - made up numbers! The only way to make sure is to measure. And without a fan the temp difference between the top and the bottom can by +/- 50 degrees easy.
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