Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Baking a Cake: Tips and tricks

I used to think that baking was just second nature for everyone.  Something that everyone could just do.  I mean, how hard is it to follow directions?  If you can build Ikea furniture... you should be able to bake.  That is until I tried to make brownies with my boyfriend and he almost threw a heaping cup of flour into the batter.  I explained that you had to level it off so it was exactly a cup, or else you would never know exactly how much to put in...  Even measuring dry ingredients in a cup is risky, sifted flour, packed flour and scooped flour all have different weights and can make vastly different baked goods. 

Even though I understand cookbook lingo for the most part, I still come across tips and tricks that make my baking even better.  So here are a few tips that I have picked up while baking that might help you, even if you've been baking forever!

1. Everything should be room temperature when you're baking, unless it says otherwise. 

That includes eggs. When eggs are room temp they whisk up easier and it keeps the batter room temp, which keeps cooking time accurate. I very rarely have room temp eggs sitting around waiting to be baked into a cake, so I put the eggs in a container and cover them with hot water and let them sit while I assemble the other ingredients.  Eggs are usually some of the last ingredients, so this works well for me.  

2. If it says 1 cup sifted flour, that means 1 cup after it has been sifted. 

Don't level off a cup and then sift it into the batter, you will have a lot more than a cup of sifted flour. 

3. When making a cake, put a little batter in a cupcake tin so you can taste the cake before serving.

Every single time I make a cake I worry that I left out an ingredient, or the consistency makes me think it might be dry...  I always fill my little silicone cupcake cups with some batter to make sure the cake tastes just the way I want it to taste.  It also gives me a little snack to tide me over until it's time to cut into the finished product!

4. Try a scratch cake.  At least once. 

The boxed mixes are easy, and do the trick... But once in your life, try a cake from scratch.  It's just like making a boxed cake where you add ingredients, one being the dry mix, you measure out the oil and water and eggs, but there are a few more ingredients.  Be patient, read the directions fully before you start, and take your time.  The end result will be ten times better than any boxed mix.  Except that Ghirardelli brownie mix... that's seriously really good. 

So there ya go.  Just a few things that make my cakes fail-proof great. 

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