10 secrets to cake baking

It's time to throw the store bought cake to one side and take on the challenge of baking fresh, delicious, moist, airy creations for your family and friends. My 10 secrets to baking will help conquer all fear and mean you are the best baker on your street.

1. All good cakes start with accurate measuring

It may seem obvious, but the quantities are there for a reason. Be accurate and you'll be on the way to a great tasting cake! A cake is a chemistry experiment, and the quantities are perfect to get the right 'reaction'. You should ensure each stage of the cake making is perfect - and this is the start.

2. The order is everything

Whatever cake you are making, be sure to follow the order of adding ingredients carefully. If you are making a butter cake (e.g. pound cake/most layer cakes) make sure you first cream together the fat (e.g. butter) and sugar. This is how cakes get their soft, fine texture and moistness - then add the eggs one by one mixing thoroughly between additions before incorporating the dry ingredients whilst alternating with a liquid e.g. buttermilk.

3. Know your oven

Since starting to bake professional, I have moved house three times - that's three new ovens to get used to. My advice would be to get an oven thermometer to prevent an under or over done cake. Also, bake the cake on your middle shelf and gently close the oven door - slamming will cause the cake to lose air bubbles. To check if the cake is done, press lightly on the centre and if it springs back, it's ready. Or a skewer should come out clean.

4. Use the correct tin sizes

Your recipe calls for two 8" cake tines, and you only have one 10" cake tin. What do you do? You buy two 8" tins. Tin sizes are specified in the recipe because a cake increases in volume 50 to 100 percent during baking; if your tin is too small, the cake will overflow, if it's too big, your cake will look flatter.

5. Consider the colour of your cake tins

You're probably now thinking, why on earth does the colour of the pan matter? Believe me - it does! Glass or dark non-stick tins usually require a 25 degree reduction in baking temperature versus silver-coloured aluminium tins.

6. Use the right flour for the recipe

The flour in your recipe is that flour for a reason. Different types of flour have different percentages of protein - the more protein, the more gluten.

7. Don't open the oven door too much

I know that sometimes it is hard to resist, but the more you open the oven door during the baking, the more the temperature of the oven will drop meaning an under baked cake.

8. Don't take too long to cover a cake

If you are covering a cake in sugar paste or fondant, the longer it takes, the more the paste will dry out and the more likely you are to get cracks. Try to avoid re-rolling the icing if you can. Rolling it out to the correct thickness first time will give you the best results.

9. Make the cake perfect in every stage

I referenced this in the first point and it may seem obvious. Don't cut corners. Bake the cake as perfect as you can, roll the icing as perfect as you can, spend time smoothing out the icing for a flawless look and to avoid bubbles. It's a hell of a lot more difficult to fix things later down the line.

10. Know your limits

I'm not being patronising here at all. I've been asked to do many different and 'out there' cake designs and it's easy to say 'Yeah, no problem' but sometimes, things are just out of your reach. Push yourself, challenge your ability. But if you push yourself too much, then it could cause you to stress out rather than enjoying the creative experience.

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