The whole process of baking a beautiful cake is indeed a therapy! From measuring ingredients to stick the batter in the oven, the whole process requires your undivided attention and of course, Love!
Never bake cakes when you are under stress or in the middle of a hundred chores as something can always go wrong, making you utterly disappointing. It could be very discouraging. Hence, chose a free time that you will not get distracted until the cake it safely out of the oven!
I have mentioned here, crucial tips and techniques of baking a flawless cake and I am sure they will be helpful.
If anyone is interested in baking this might be the first cake to get right. Once, you master this basic pound cake, baking all other fancy cakes will become a “piece of cake”
Recipe for the simple pound cake:
1) Use the right equipment:
- To cream up the cake batter, use an electric hand mixer for best results. My choice is the Kenwood brand which has 2 or 3-speed options and a very durable motor. I have been using mine for the past 20 years without any worries!
- Make sure you beat the batter, clockwise with an electric hand mixer in order to get the right consistency. Mixing will take about 3 – 5 mins at high speed. You need to beat continuously until the yellow colour of the batter turns into pale white. Beating more than 5 minutes can cause the cake to collapse or not rise properly while baking. So, you need to pay attention to stop beating the batter as soon as the right colour and the fluffy consistency is achieved
2)Measure ingredients accurately:
- For a perfect cake, all ingredients should be measured with 100% accuracy as specified in the recipe. The best equipment to facilitate this particular need is a digital scale rather than a normal kitchen scale
3)Use the best ingredients :
- It’s very important to use the best brands for your cakes to achieve delightful results. Hence, never compromise on the essential ingredients needed for a cake. All ingredients should be kept at room temperature, before making the cake batter
Make sure you use Class A medium eggs that are kept at room temperature. Take the eggs out of the fridge 1/2 hour early or if you are in a hurry, drop them in a bowl filled with lukewarm water for 10 mins.
I personally do not prefer using butter, as the cake goes stiff after a few hours in cold climates. Before using, however, you need to soften up the butter, which gives you an extra task to attend to. There are very good spreads available in supermarkets, specially made for baking purposes, which are naturally creamy and stay creamy in the fridge too. Because margarine is less dense than butter, it helps in rising cakes quickly and contributes to a lighter and spongier texture.
I use Stork, especially for cakes tub, which has never let me down; it rather helped me bake such glorious cakes.
Remember to keep the tub of margarine or butter under room temperature before using it. In case you forget this, just a 50-sec turn in the microwave will soften it.
Opt for the best self-raising flour for cakes, unless suggested otherwise in the recipe. Sift the flour and baking powder together, holding the sieve, well above the cake batter. This will allow the air to escape from the flour, giving a very light, soft texture to your cake.
Make sure you use a wooden spoon to co-ordinate flour and batter together, never the electric hand mixer. Lightly, fold flour bringing from the sides and dropping to the middle, and going around gently until all comes together as a soft and fluffy batter.
Caster sugar is ideal for cakes as it dissolves quickly when mixed in the batter. The mixing time will take up to 2-4 mins for caster sugar. However, you can use granulated sugar, which gives the same results. The only difference is that you have to extend the mixing time up to 4-5 mins, up until the sugar granules break down and dissolves. The best way to use granulated sugar is to grind it before adding it to the batter
- Baking powder is a key ingredient, as it helps the cakes to rise. Use a good brand and never use too much. Excessive baking powder will make the cake taste bitter, leave a sunken cake and a wrinkled surface.
- Also, remember to keep the container always closed air-tight. If the cake does not rise, check the quality or the expiry date of your baking powder
4)Choose the right Baking tray:
Choose the right size for your cake is very important. If you have a large tray, you can divide it by using a thick strip of cardboard to fit for a smaller quantity of batter. Always, line up the trays with baking paper/parchment paper so that the cake will not burn from the sides and could easily be lifted out. Remember, never to fill the trays to the brim as the cake doubles its volume while rising. Always leave enough space from the top for the cake to rise freely.
As for cupcakes, use cupcake trays to place the cupcake cases filled with batter so that they do not spill out and stay intact while baking. Silicon cupcake cases are great for handling and they could be re-used after a quick wash with warm water.
Lining the tray: Use parchment paper to line up the tray. Do not worry if you have run out of parchment paper; you can use white blank sheet paper, cut into the shape of the tray and brush butter all over, dust the surfaces with flour and shake off the excess.
5) Taste enhancers:
Use a good brand of natural vanilla essence.
Dropping just a few drops of lemon juice into your cake batter will instantly quash the raw eggy smell and bring a very pleasant aroma as well as enhancing the taste in a great deal.
Most of the modern recipes do not include salt in theirs. Yet, salt used as a vital ingredient for baking since Victorian times. Just a pinch or two salts will help to incorporate the flavors beautifully and heightening the taste. Hence, do not forget “salt”
Which ovens are best for cakes? Gas or Electric?
Gas ovens are usually the preferred oven for baking since it often requires the oven to preheat and to provide moist air. Electric ovens can dry out the moisture in cakes to some extend. To solve this problem, you can dip the tray with the cake batter in a larger tray filled with water and bake your cake.
Pre-heat the oven
Set the oven to 180C, 15 mins before you place the cake in. Usually, the middle shelf of the oven is the best place to bake your cake. However, to be on the safe side, baking on the bottom shelf is advisable as the possibility of the cake burning out is very less.
Stay in tune with your oven
It’s very important to be in tune with your oven. This is a very simple tip to test your oven if it is newly bought or you are new to it.
Make the usual simple batter for pound cake with;
- 150g Caster sugar
- 150g Margarine
- 250g Self-raising flour
- 2 eggs
- 3 pinches of salt and 3 drops of lemon
- 2tbsp of milk
Make the batter
- Beat margarine and sugar together until creamy
- Add eggs one at a time and beat after every addition a couple of rounds
- Add in milk, salt, and lemon
- Sift the flour on to the batter and combine with a wooden spoon until all comes together as a smooth batter
- Your batter is ready to use now
Tip: Divide the batter into two trays. Place one tray on the middle shelf of the oven and bake. Take the cake out and leave it to cool.
Then, the other tray must go on the bottom shelf and bake. Check which one is baked best and how much time is taken. This way, you know exactly on which shelf to bake your cake.
- Do not open the door of the oven in the first 10 mins of baking as it will drop the cake in the middle
- Shut the oven door very slowly after placing the cake in the oven. If the oven door is bang shut the air in the oven suddenly gets disturbed and it will cause the cake to drop from the middle
- Baking time varies according to the setups in ovens or depending on the cake. The normal baking time is 15 – 25 mins
- Do not forget to alert you with a timer
5) While baking:
- Place the tray with the batter in the oven and close the door gently. Never bang it.
- Remember to set the timer but do not forget to peek a few times
- Never open the oven door during the first 10mins
- Wooden skewers: Stab a thin wooden skewer in the middle of the cake after 15 mins of baking time. If the skewer comes clean, your cake is ready! If the skewer is soggy with the batter stuck to it, shut the door gently and bake for further 5 – 8 mins.
- If the cake is browning from the top but soggy in the middle, cover the top with a sheet of foil or baking paper and bake for further 5-8mins
- take the cake out of the oven and leave to cool in the tray itself for 10mins
- Then, gently lift and drop the tray on the kitchen top to loosen the edges of the cake. Take the cake out and leave it to cool on a wire rack
- Cooling: Leave the cake in the tray for 10 mins to cool off. Slowly pull from the sides of the parchment paper and take the cake gently out and leave to rest on a cooling rack
- Your cake is ready to serve
- You can serve the cake straight after cooling, all fresh and with that, “melt in the mouth” effect!
- If you are planning to frost the cake with buttercream, it is advisable to place it in the fridge for better handling
- Place the cake in an air-tight container for keeping the moisture intact
Cutting the cake: Dip the knife in hot water, wipe clean before cutting the cake to prevent it from crumbling
Serve the cake : Store the left overs in an air tight container. When serving next day, microwave the cake pieces on a plate just for 5 seconds and serve beautillyfully warm. You can easily fool everyone believing that the cake came straight out of the oven!