Home baking is one of the most rewarding cooking skills. While you are learning basic techniques, follow recipes and measure ingredients carefully. Once you have gained confidence, you can adapt recipes to your own taste.
There are four basic techniques used in preheating the oven and prepare the pans first, making cakes: melting, creaming, cutting since you are most likely to get a good rise if the in, and beating. Whichever method you use, the cake is baked as soon as possible after mixing.
• Cutting spares: If you often use a particular pan for baking, cut several thicknesses of waxed paper at a time, and keep the spares for future use.
• Protecting the edges: Line a cake pan for a fruitcake with a double layer of waxed paper to protect the edge of the cake from excessive heat.
• Greasing pans: Use oil to grease a cake pan; it is easier to brush on than butter and is less likely to burn or stick.
• Adding paper: Place a small square cut from nonstick paper in the base of a greased and floured pan to ease removal.
Making Ring Pans
Make a ring pan by placing a tall food can, weighed down with pie weights, in the center of a round cake pan. The beans will stop the can from moving when the batter is poured around it.
Making Heart Shapes
Bake a round and a square cake, with the diameter of the circle and the sides of the square the same length. Cut the circle in half, and place one half on each of two adjacent sides of the square.
Removing from Pans
• Allowing standing time: Leave a sponge cake in the pan for 2-3 minutes to let it contract and firm up before removing it from the pan. Let a fruitcake cool completely.
• Loosening sides: Run a knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the sides of a cake.
• Using a can: To remove a cake from a loose-bottomed pan, rest the base on a tall can, and push the sides down.
• Inverting pans: Prevent a cake from drying out by inverting it onto a cooling rack and placing the pan over it.
• Using an oven rack: Use an oven shelf as a cooling rack. Raise it above the counter by placing it on a springform ring.
• Pressing die top: Apply light pressure to the top of a sponge cake with your fingertips. The lop should feel firm and should spring back into shape without leaving an indentation.
• Checking the edges: Look closely at the edges of a cake. They will have shrunk away slightly from the sides of the pan if the cake has cooked thoroughly.
• Listening closely: Listen to a cake. A sizzling noise means that it is still cooking.
• Using a skewer: Test a cake by inserting a metal or bamboo skewer into its middle. The skewer will be clean if the cake is cooked.
Dusting with bran: Grease a cake pan as usual,
then, instead of flour, sprinkle a little wheat or oat bran inside it to add fiber as well as flavor to die cake. Turn the pan to coat the base and sides evenly.
Adding Flavorings And Fillings
A simple sponge or a plain fruit cake can be transformed through the imaginative use of fillings and flavorings. Try enhancing a basic sponge cake with scented leaves or extracts, or create a lavish showpiece in minutes by adding a dash of liqueur and rich frosting.
Using a geranium leaf
Before adding sponge cake batter to a pan for baking, place a lemon scented geranium leaf in the bottom of the pan. As the cake cooks, the leaf’s delicate scent will permeate it.
Spreading A Filling
Before sandwiching two halves of a sponge cake together, spread a filling, such as frosting, onto both halves. Press them gently together so that they will remain in position when the cake is cut.
Making a low-fat filling: For a low-fat filling, mix
together 7 oz (200 g) reduced-fat cream cheese made from skim milk with 2 tbsp (30 ml) honey, then flavor with finely grated citrus
zest. Use as a filling or topping for a sponge or carrot cake as an alternative to a rich cream-cheese frosting.
Even the most experienced cook can make a mistake when baking. However, most problems can be rectified. If a cake appears
burned, for example, it is often only the outer crust that is affected. Remove the crust with a knife, and disguise the top with frosting.
• Correcting curdling: If a sponge cake mixture begins to separate during mixing, add 1 tbsp (15 ml) flour, then beat the mixture thoroughly.
• Mending cracks: To repair a cake that has cracked while being removed from the pan, brush the pieces with warmed apricot jam. Reassemble the cake in die pan to cool.
• Concealing cracks To hide cracks in a roulade or jelly roll, pipe cream over them. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, cocoa, or grated chocolate.
• Moistening sponge Sprinkle a dry sponge cake with fresh orange or other fruit juice.
Cutting Out The Center
If a round fruit or sponge cake has an undercooked, sunken center, make it into a ring cake by cutting the center out neatly with a sharp knife. Cover the ring with frosting.
To moisten overcooked or dried- out fruit cake, turn the cake upside down, and pierce it with a skewer several times. Spoon brandy, whiskey, or rum over the surface and let stand for 24 hours.
You do not need special skills to decorate cakes impressively. The simplest, most basic techniques are often the most effective, so there is no need to spend hours in the kitchen. Cool, dry conditions are best for sugar and icings, so avoid working in steamy kitchens.
• Pouring icing: To ice a sponge cake quickly, place it on a wire rack over a cookie sheet and pour glaze or melted chocolate over the surface in one movement, smoothing around the sides with a knife. Let set.
• Softening almond paste: If almond paste dries out and is hard to roll, warm it in a microwave on Medium for 30 seconds. Knead the paste until it is soft enough to roll.
• Using fondant: Roll out ready-made fondant icing on a surface lightly dusted with sifted cornstarch instead of confectioners’ sugar. Cornstarch will be easier to brush off the cake than confectioners’ sugar.
• Smoothing fondant: To smooth the sides of a cake iced with fondant, roll a straight- sided jar around them. Dust the jar first with cornstarch to prevent it from sticking.
Decorating With Sugar
Using a doily: To decorate a plain cake, place a paper doily on top and sprinkle the cake with confectioners’ sugar. Lift the doily off to reveal a lace pattern.
Cut out paper shapes, and arrange these stencils on top of the cake you wish to decorate. Sprinkle the cake with confectioners’ sugar, then remove the shapes to reveal the stenciled design.
Washing flowers Wash delicate edible flowers with a fine water mist before using. Shake off excess water, and dry on an absorbent paper towel.
Coating Edible Flowers
Decorate edible flowers with a thin coating of sugar. First, brush egg white onto the petals with a soft paintbrush. Sprinkle the petals lightly with superfine sugar, and let dry for 24 hours.
Using a skewer: Control the addition of small amounts of liquid food coloring to icing by using a skewer or a toothpick. Dip it in to die bottle, and use it as a dropper to drip the coloring into the icing.
Filling Piping Bags
Working with a cup: To fill a piping bag without the mess, fit the bag with a nozzle, place in a measuring cup, and turn the top of the bag over the top of the cup. The bag is held open while icing is spooned in.
Making a Piping Bag
If you do not have a piping bag to ice a cake, improvise with one of the following:
Using a plastic bag: For plain icing, snip a corner off a strong plastic bag without a seam, and insert a nozzle.
Making a piper cone: Cut an 8-in (20-cm) square of waxed paper, and fold it diagonally to make a triangle. Lift a bottom corner, and curl it around to meet the tip of the triangle at the front. Then curl the other corner around the back to meet the tip. Snip the point off the cone, and pipe through the hole.