With the global pandemic of 2020 and the subsequent long lockdown, I am pleased to see that many people have ventured into the realms of making cakes at home.

As a cake professional, and mother, I can think of nothing nicer than enjoying yourself in the kitchen, creating homemade cakes for your family and friends. The smells and the taste are unbelievable. 

The worst part about this is, that as a cake professional, my mobile has now become filled up with texts and messages from friends far and wide asking me how to make a cake? 

 My simple answer is you can achieve domestic god or goddess status by simply following a recipe!

But that does not help them usually…. 

Next, I receive the pictures of the sad and flattened dark orange cake, and the tales of woe, after following the recipe was not quite enough for them. 

Therefore, I have decided to list a few hints and tips that will make following a cake recipe and making a cake at home more enjoyable, and hopefully a bit more successful. 

Cake baking and making can be a challenge, especially for beginners, so here are my Top Tips for how to make a cake successfully. 

How to Make a Cake – and Succeed!

1.BAKE LOW AND SLOW 

I do not bake in my fan oven above 160 degrees Celsius (320 F or gas mark 3).

The tip here is to make sure your oven is at the temperature it states on the dial, or the digital read out.

I find that this is the one issue everyone has when they start baking. Your oven needs to be pre heated to the RIGHT temperature.

You can do this easily by purchasing a basic oven thermometer and checking the oven temperature from top to bottom, and side to side inside the oven. 

 DO NOT RELY ON THE DIAL as they are usually way out. 

This simple piece of equipment, the baking oven thermometer will revolutionise your baking!

2..HOW TO GET THE PERFECT RISE

Whenever I am asked ‘How to Bake a Cake’ the most common problem is that the cake fails to rise enough.

Well it took me a few years to realise the little trick that was needed to get that beyond belief rise in my cakes. Baking Bands!

Baking bands go around the cake tin and insulate the sides to ensure the edges do not burn and the centre of the cake has a chance to catch up.

I used to try and cheat and make my own out of an old tea towel, and foil, but they kept falling apart, and then I found them on sale online. It changed my baking.

I use my baking bands around my 3-inch-deep cake tins, as I do not bake in the smaller depth tins.

Bake your cake in one tin and level it when it comes out of the oven. When it is cool split and fill it. Having one deep cake tin is the secret here.

My favorite deep cake tins come in all sizes and produce a level well-risen cake.

3.ROOM TEMPERATURE INGREDIENTS  

 One of the major reasons for your cakes failing to rise, or sinking in the middle, is that the eggs, milk, butter and margarine have been used straight from the fridge! 

All the ingredients need to be at room temperature to avoid your cake sinking in the middle whilst it is baking. 

When baking larger cakes, 8 inches and above, in diameter, I also use a cake nail, or two, in the middle of the tin, with the cake nail head against the bottom of the cake tin, and the spike pointing upwards. This ensures that heat is transferred throughout the middle of the cake whilst baking.

Simply pour the mixture on top of the cake nail until it’s covered, and remove carefully, when the cake has baked and cooled.

4. DO NOT STORE BAKED CAKES OR CUPCAKES IN AIRTIGHT CONTAINERS  

I do giggle, (it has turned into a giggle these days as screaming was a tad anti-social) when I see these plastic cupcake carriers being sold in many cake equipment stores.

Cakes will sweat in these airtight containers, and cupcake cases will peel! Cakes need to be kept at room temperature (UK), in a cake box to stop insects landing on them, etc.

They do not need to sweat and go moldy in a plastic carrier!

Cakes do not need to be stored in the fridge either unless they are fresh cream cakes. 

EXTRA TIP: Once the cake has been cut, place a slice of bread against each cut end, to prevent the actual cake from drying out, before placing back into the cake box.

5. BUTTERCREAM IS MELTING!

Viewers of the UK TV program ‘Great British Bake Off’, will know how hard the contestants battle with their buttercream in the hot summer tent. Cakes go sliding everywhere as the buttercream becomes slippery.

Butter has a low melting point and is not very stable when it is placed in a hot sunny room and therefore, I substitute at least 30 % white vegetable fat (TREX), instead of butter into my buttercream mix.

It is a widely used practice, especially in hotter countries, where they replace the butter in even higher proportions, believe me! 

WARNING: If you replace butter with any amounts of white vegetable fat, your buttercream you can no longer be called ‘Buttercream’. It becomes frosting!

TREX (white vegetable fat), or shortening as the Americans call it, is tasteless and has a higher melting point than butter and will, therefore, stabilize that slippery buttercream to avoid that hot summer disaster. Honestly, it tastes delicious.

6. I DONT HAVE TIME OR THE INGREDIENTS

 Here your freezer becomes your best friend!

You can freeze eggs when you have a few spare and are going away for a few days. Just break then into a bowl, and whisk. Then transfer then into a freezer bag or container and pop into the freezer.

When you want to use them to make a cake, or an omelet even, just defrost and bring to room temperature again.

You can also freeze butter!

I always stock up on my butter and freeze it.

You can even freeze buttercream and cakes. 

My motto for an easy baking life for the hectic professional or busy mom is,

“If you are baking then bake!”

 Upscale that recipe for twelve cupcakes to 36 and use three shelving racks in your oven to save some time.

Utilize the extra shelf from the top oven if you have one or buy another.

Wait until your cakes have cooled down by placing them on a cake cooling rack.

The cake cooling rack allows airflow underneath the cupcakes and again prevents them from peeling.

Cooling racks also assists later when you are defrosting the cupcakes. Again, place a frozen cupcake on a cooling wire and allow airflow beneath.

To freeze your cupcakes place them into cake boxes, and then into the freezer. I used to use freezer bags, but they make the cupcakes sweat and the cupcake cases peel. (Although we use muffin cases, not cupcake cases)

Defrost your cakes on a cake cooling wire when you need them. 

Another professional secret is that we use muffin tins to bake our cupcakes in.

The secret is out there now. Muffin tins are deeper.

You get a much nicer cupcake using larger cupcake or muffin cases.

Another tip is when I make buttercream, I make buttercream and freeze the extra in a flat zip lock bag. When I need buttercream. I take a slice of it out of the freezer and whip it up again.

(Do not freeze buttercream that contains previously frozen butter!)

Making buttercream is so messy, and for that reason, I make a kilo at a time, in my mixer as it has a large bowl and can take 500 grams of butter and 1kg of icing sugar. I have used twice this amount and it still handles it in my all-time favorite KENWOOD TITANIUM mixer which has a large 6.7 litre mixing bowl.

If there is one big piece of advice I will give, and it is, DO NOT skimp on the size of your mixer bowl!!

It pays dividends in saving time believe me.

My other mixer is the domestic god/goddesses dream and has a massive bowl too and it is the KITCHEN AID PLANETARY and it has a 6.9 litre bowl. I just love it too much.

That concludes my How to Bake a Cake and save lots of time and mess, but lookout for more hints and tips coming soon.

Diana