Are cake disasters bothering you? After all the effort you put in, do your cakes have no wow factor? Our baking expert is here to help you avoid cake disasters.
Who doesn’t enjoy peering into the oven, looking through the warm lights inside and watching the ‘deliciousness-to-be’? As a child, I remember breaking into song and dance when I smelled that indescribable aroma of Mom’s baking; I also remember being told off for standing too close to that ‘hot oven door!’ waiting for it to be done.
To date, the most difficult part of baking for me has been dealing with impatience. From the minute the tray goes into the oven, I am trying to look inside. Has it risen yet? Is it done? Are the tops too brown? Should I remove the tray and check just for one teeny-tiny minute?
Enjoy baking but dislike the end result? You are in the right place because here I am now going to list down most commonly encountered lamentations I have heard from new bakers:
1. My cake rose so beautifully but the next thing I know, it sank. Now my cake has a crater the size of the Grand Canyon.
2. My cake tastes fine, but it’s not as soft and springy as it’s supposed to be.
3. I followed the instructions to the T. Why didn’t my cake turn out like the recipe said it would?
4. I followed the instructions here and there and did my own thing at some parts.
Read on to find out in detail on what you could be doing wrong!
Cake rose? Then sank?
Do not, I mean DO NOT open the oven door until more than 70% of baking time is done. If you have followed the temperature in the recipe instructions, a cake that will take one hour to bake will not be magically done in 20 minutes. So friends, hold your horses and resist the urge to pull down that oven door. According to the experts, the temperature of an oven drops by 10 degrees every second or so that it is open. By opening that door early on, you have invited a giant valley onto your cake. No amount of frosting will cover that up. Trust me – been there. Done that. Didn’t work.
Cake not soft or airy?
Couple of things – I remember thinking as kid while I was mixing batter – “Lump! I SEEEE YOU! I KEEELLL YOU!” Leave those lumps alone! Do not overthink things and do not keep mixing the batter until kingdom come. Just be sure, the ingredients are well incorporated – in the sense, there are no white flour streaks or unmixed cocoa powder hiding in the batter. Ideally a good recipe will ensure you have minimal lumps. Trust your recipe.
Another reason cakes do not reach their full potential of airiness and softness is because your ingredients are not brought to room temperature before you begin. Butter and Egg – I am primarily looking at you. (Melted butter also will not help). When at room temperature, butter and eggs mixed together with the other (room temperature!) dairy ingredients captures air. In the oven, this captured air, escapes and while it does, your baked product rises beautifully creating that soft and airy texture that you desire in your cake.
Followed your baking recipe? Still stuck with a dud cake?
You may have followed them, however shortcuts involving the steps mentioned above, will still hold you back from achieving the ultimate result. If you haven’t chosen shortcuts and you still end up with a mediocre product, you may want to check the temperature of your oven. Sometimes a re-calibration could be called for.
Did not follow your baking recipe?
At the risk of sounding like a school teacher, “Why, child?” Like I said before. Trust your recipe. It always pays to follow the exact measurements that your recipe calls for, because there is a science involved in coming up with those numbers. Dunking some extra baking soda in there in the hopes of achieving a super fluffy cake or reducing the number of eggs because you hate eggs or or or…turning up the oven temperature to be done sooner – ahem! Don’t.
I am a self-taught baker. Whatever I have learnt through the over-cooked, dry, underdone, ugly-looking cakes/cookies/rolls I have made, is that when it comes to baking, patience is truly a virtue. So, grit your teeth, hold on and resist that urge to be done with it all. Because in the end, it is your work of art coming out of that oven door.