25 Tips for Baking Perfect Cakes

25 Tips for Baking Perfect Cakes from Start to Finish

25 Tips for Baking Perfect Cakes from Start to Finish

Before I get to my 25 Tips for Baking Perfect Cakes I want to give you a bit of an update on things. For 2017 I’m narrowing the focus of my blog just a smidge. Before I had Cole I could post regularly, maybe two or three times a week but these days, not so much. I am just about managing to post once a week. Having my energies focused on this one post has made me re-evaluate what I am really interested in and what I am good at so I can use this post wisely and productively. And it all comes back to cake. This makes sense, I bake cakes a living, it’s my great passion and I am inspired daily to bake, experiment with flour and create delicious and interesting gluten-free cakes, bakes and desserts..

Fig Almond and Salted Honey Cake

I have been avoiding this change on the blog as I didn’t want to snub long time readers who enjoy my savoury stuff but I have to go where my heart takes me which is why I began this blog in the first place. I’m sorry if a lot of my readers will be sad to see my savoury stuff relegated to the back burner for a while but there is still a tonne of dinner recipes here which I won’t be getting rid of and they are all just as delicious as ever if you wanted to check them out.

So with that in mind I want to kick off talking about cake, specifically a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while and that is these 25 Tips for Baking Perfect Cakes. Shall we?

25 Tips for Baking Perfect Cakes

1) READ THE RECIPE. Twice, nay three times, especially the ingredients list, well before you begin as sometimes ingredients have to be prepped or soaked. Then before you get started double check to make sure you have all ingredients to hand.

2) PREP YOUR BUTTER. If your recipe calls for room temperature butter take the butter out of the fridge and cut into cubes before you do anything else, preferably 1 hour before.

Butter

3) PRE-HEAT THE OVEN. Pre-heating your oven is a must to ensure it has time to get to the temperature your cake needs.

4) PRE-CUT BAKING PARCHMENT. I recommend pre-cutting a bulk load of the paper to fit all your most used cake tins on a boring rainy day as it’s a job I hate doing right before I bake.

5) CAKE RELEASE SPRAY. This makes greasing your cake tins so easy, it’s something I cannot do without.

6) DIGITAL SCALES. I am fortunate that I was taught to bake by always weighing all my ingredients. Digital scales mean you can get accurate measurements to avoid any discrepancies.

7) TEASPOONS. Buy a proper set of teaspoon measurements so you know you are adding in the right amount of baking powder or bicarbonate of soda. Just ¼ teaspoon difference can really affect the finished results.

Teaspoon Measurements

8) SILICON SPATULAS. Smooth silicon spatulas will change your baking experience. It is so easy to scrape the sides of the bowl and then make sure you can get all of your cake batter out of your mixer and into the cake tin. Plus, if they are totally smooth then you can avoid any cake batter getting into any nooks and crannies. Also these spatulas wash up a dream in the dishwasher.

Silicone Spatulas

9) SIFT. Do sift all dry ingredients including cocoa powder and brown sugar which have a tendency to clump.

10) SUGAR. If you want the recipe to turn out exactly as it was intended then use the right sugar, for example brown sugar has a lot more moisture so might be too heavy for your cake so means you may have to mess around with the quantities of other ingredients.

11) CREAMING. Most recipes start with the creaming of butter and sugar. Don’t cream at too high a speed. You want the butter and sugar to come together to be light and fluffy, but for best results beat together at a low-medium speed for about 6-8 minutes.

12) EGGS. They should be at room temperature so they can add the necessary volume we need from them. Break the eggs into a separate bowl before adding to the batter to avoid any errant shell falling in the mixer. Always add one at a time.

Eggs

13) VANILLA. Use extract not essence – but we all know this don’t we?

14) CHOCOLATE. Only use good quality chocolate and cocoa powder, this is what your cake will taste like so you want it to be as delicious as possible. Baking chocolate is just horrid.

15) FLOUR. Don’t dump it in all at once, add in thirds to ensure it mixes in evenly. If you are using wheat flour be careful not to overmix so you don’t toughen up the gluten. If you are using gluten-free flour then you don’t need to worry about this.

16) ADDITIONS. Are you using chocolate chips, glace cherries, blueberries? Roll your additions in a small amount of whatever flour you are using to ensure they are kept suspended during the bake rather than sinking to the bottom.

Blueberries

17) OVEN POSITION. Always bake your cake in the middle of the oven so that the heat is evenly distributed around the cake. If you have two cake tins try and fit them in side by side.

18) OVEN THERMOMETER. Buy an oven thermometer to ensure the accurate timings of your bake. If your oven runs a little hot you need to know to adjust accordingly to avoid a burnt or undercooked cake.

19) CHECKING. Never check your cake in the first 20 minutes, this is the most crucial time for your cake to rise. If it’s a long bake then resist until at least the 30 minute mark.

20) MY CAKE IS BURNT ON THE TOP. If the top of your cake is browning too much before the middle is cooked then put a very loose foil lid over it for the rest of the bake. This could be the result of an oven that runs a little hot.

21) HOW DO I KNOW WHEN MY CAKE IS READY? An inserted cocktail stick should come out smooth or the cake might be pulling away from the sides a little or you can press your little finger gently into the cake, a perfectly baked sponge should bounce straight back up.

22) REMOVE cupcakes from the tin immediately or too much moisture will be retained in the cake and the cases could start to pull away.

cupcakes

23) LEAVE whole cakes in their tins for 5 minutes to settle before turning out.

24) BE PATIENT. Always wait until the cake has cooled completely to room temperature before icing.

uniced cake

25) HOW TO STORE A CAKE. Keep cakes preferably in large cake tins in a cool dark place. Tupperware will cause the cake to release too much moisture. If you have to store your cake in Tupperware then place it on some paper towels which will help to absorb the moisture from the plastic. Try not to store cake in the fridge as this will cause the cake to dry out. If the cake is iced, eat within 2 days. If un-iced the cake may keep longer.

Cake tins

To download a PDF handy checklist of all the above please click below!

Download Checklist

SHOP THE RECIPE

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PME Release A Cake Spray 600 ml | Smart Weigh PL11B Professional Digital Kitchen and Postal Scale with Tempered Glass Platform, Silver | OXO Good Grips Silicone Medium Spatula – White | Nielsen Massey Pure Vanilla Extract 118 ml | Sophie Allport Cake Tins – Chicken (Set of 3) | Master Class Rectangular Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons (Set of 6)

Homemade Glacé Cherries

Homemade Glacé Cherries
If there is one member of the household who is thrilled that our kitchen is constantly filled these days with blackberries, damsons, crab apples and cherries it’s Wesley. I have spoken before about his obsession with pears but his fruit addiction is now getting out of control. I can’t turn my back on a bowl of freshly picked fruit without piquing his interest and five minutes later finding him batting them all over the kitchen floor.

Wesley and the cherriesYesterday, after a bounteous yield of crab apples was happily soaking up the sun streaming in from the window, I was called into the kitchen by the sound of an energetic animal bouncing something around on the tiles which never spells goods news. I walked in to find Billy Buddy enthusiastically chasing round a poor crab apple. How did he get hold of that, there’s no way the puppy can get anywhere near our kitchen counter? I looked round the corner to see Wesley looking on forlornly as his hard worn apple had been rudely swiped by the puppy. He learnt the hard way that it’s not nice when someone else steals your fruit.

Glace Cherries | Stroud Green Larder Unfortunately for Wesley his fruit supply is about to be cut short. From this week all furry little creatures are being banned from any food preparation areas, which is a sad little side effect of now opening my kitchen up as a business. I will feel very nostalgic for the days when my steadfast kitchen companion is fast asleep stretched across the full length of my counter as I’m in full on baking mode, flour and sugar flying across him blissfully unaware. I will especially miss the times when I am chopping onions in his vicinity and his eyes start blinking, full of confusion as to why they are now pouring with water. I am ashamed to say this is something that will never fail to make me laugh, as well as the time that he pounced up on the side as I was juicing some lemons. A cat with lemon juice in his eye produces a very sour look.

Glace Cherries | Stroud Green Larder

Glace Cherries | Stroud Green Larder

Thank goodness then that I just about managed to ward Wesley off these glacé cherries during the entire length of this candying process. These cherries, like Monday’s salt beef have been a bit of a labour of love. I started them weeks ago and only now are they finally ready to be presented to the world, having ascended from a lovely healthy fruit to pretty much just sugar.

I have been really keen to make glacé cherries for some time now as I always thought the cherriness of the commercially made versions was somehow lost in the candying. These homemade glacé cherries are a world away from anything you might have had before, they don’t have the brilliant postbox red colour but instead command an alluring burgundy. Their texture is also much more dense and fudgey; I can imagine them being the secret ingredient of the world’s best brownie.

Glace Cherries | Stroud Green Larder

However, next time I will probably amp up the amount I make. I would love to include them in recipes like Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake which featured on The Great British Bake Off last week but I couldn’t bear to lose my precious gems all at once amongst such a big cake. At the moment I am sequestering them away from snack venturing fingers to be saved for only the most reverential of cocktails, the most exquisite of cupcakes and to adorn only the most luxurious trifle. Although I think I am being too precious about them, the last thing I want is to save them and save them until they are spoilt and no longer as prizeworthy as they currently are. One thing I know for certain, they are nowhere near any sneaky little cream coloured paws.

Glace Cherries | Stroud Green Larder

Print Recipe
Homemade Glacé Cherries
A luxurious cherry for all your baking needs, recipe from The Cook's Scrapbook by Reader's Digest
Homemade Glacé Cherries
Prep Time 15 minutes each day
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
1
Ingredients
  • 450 g cherries stalks removed and stoned
  • 570 ml boiling water
  • 750 g granulated sugar
Prep Time 15 minutes each day
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
1
Ingredients
  • 450 g cherries stalks removed and stoned
  • 570 ml boiling water
  • 750 g granulated sugar
Homemade Glacé Cherries
Instructions
Day 1
  1. Place the cherries in a large pan with the boiling water and cook until the fruit is just tender.
  2. Drain the cherries but reserve 425ml of the liquid. Put the cherries into a heatproof bowl.
  3. Pour the liquid back into the saucepan with 250g of the sugar. Stir over a gentle heat to dissolve the sugar and bring to a boil.
  4. Turn off the heat and pour the syrup over the cherries.
  5. Cover the bowl and leave to soak for 24 hours.
Day 2
  1. Strain the syrup into a large saucepan and return the fruit to the bowl.
  2. Add 60g of sugar to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for a couple of minutes making sure the sugar has completely dissolved.
  3. Pour the syrup back over the cherries, cover and leave for another 24 hours.
Day 3-7
  1. Repeat Day 2
Day 8
  1. Times are a-changing. Strain the syrup into a large saucepan but this time add 85g of the sugar into the saucepan.
  2. Cook over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved then add the cherries and bring to a boil.
  3. Turn down to a simmer for 3 minutes, then pour the fruit and syrup back into the heatproof bowl, cover and leave to stand for 2 days.
Day 10
  1. Repeat Day 8, but only add the remaining 55g sugar and then leaving for 4 days.
Day 14
  1. The syrup should have now turned very thick and heavy, if not, repeat Day 10. Otherwise, drain the fruit, place on a wire rack and leave in a warm dry place until no longer sticky. They should be ready after a couple of days.
Homemade Glacé Cherries