Have you ever made a cake and you’ve followed the recipe perfectly but it didn’t work out? It happens to the best of us but sometimes there can be very simple things that you don’t think much of that can have a big impact on how your cake or baked good turned out. I thought I’d share a few because over the years I’ve answered readers questions and comments and offered suggestions on why things haven’t turned out.
All ovens are different
We’ve lived in a few houses with different ovens but most of them have been old kitchens and old ovens. That got hot quickly. Make a note of how long things take compared to the recipe so that you can adjust the cooking time when you are baking. Keep a close eye on baked goodies when they are in the oven which will also help. This was my favourite oven, my Esse which had a few different sections to cook in. Another thing to consider is if you have a fan forced oven. You can lower the temperature slightly if you are using a fan forced oven or adjust the cooking time or opt not to use the fan while baking a cake.
Position in the oven
The best place for a cake is in the centre of your oven. In fact one of my cookbooks says to have the top of the cake in the middle of the oven for best results. Too close to the top of the oven and it will cook too quickly as the heat rises. Too low down in the oven and it’s going to take too long to bake.
One little change makes a big difference. I’m reading one of the Barefoot Contessa’s cookbooks and she talks about how you should make a recipe first and then once you’ve got it down pat then you can play around with it. Perhaps you tried something different, used a different tin, added a bit extra? All of these things can have a big impact on the end result. So make a recipe first and then play around with it but always be careful with cakes because of the right balance needed with ingredients.
Did the recipe call for self raising and you used plain? Did you use bicarb instead of baking powder? Too much bicarb makes a cake taste funny so be careful. If you want to use gluten free look for a good quality, cup for cup substitute. I also recommend leaving the cake in the tin for longer and to cool before cutting when using gluten free flours. Something else to think about is the brand of flour, not all flours are the same so I tend to stick to the same brand all the time so you can get used to the results and adjust if necessary.
Cake tin size
If you use a cake tin that’s too big you’ll have a flatter cake or a thinner baked slice. I have a few round cake tins and if the batter doesn’t look that big then I’ll use the smaller 20cm tin but if it’s a lot of batter and a big cake then I’ll do bigger. A square cake tin is also wonderful for cakes, fruit cakes and slices. Well worth grabbing one. Something else to think about is if you use silicone forms. I’ve found that slices can be a bit hit or miss if I use a silicone tray so be careful. Slices that pop in the refrigerator aren’t the problem but because the sides aren’t sturdy and you can bend them you can find filling comes out so be careful especially when making slices with 2 or more layers.
Out of habit I use baking paper for all of my cookies, slices and cakes. When I’ve run out then I’ll grease and then flour (tip in some flour and then tip it out once the entire inner surface is covered). But baking paper can easily be lifted out and nothing sticks. I can’t live without a roll of it in my kitchen drawer.
Temperature of your ingredients and the temperature of your kitchen can affect your baking. Check to see if your recipe says that the butter should be softened or the eggs should be cold. Little things can affect the finished product.
If you are using an american recipe then be careful with cup measurements as there is a difference between australian and american cup measures. A good online converter can be a great help if you are trying to work out the correct quantities for a recipe. I like to use traditional oven for my conversions. Using measurements in grams can be easier if you have accurate scales or a thermomix. I also have a mug that is pretty accurate that I use when a cup is required and I will never throw out that little mug as it comes in very handy. Remember to flatten off the top of flour with a knife, check measurements and check the recipe to make sure you have read the measurements correctly. Also think about egg size, has the recipe mentioned the egg size? Try to avoid the jumbo eggs in your cake recipes if you can. Save them for frittatas or your egg dishes.
Be careful with substitutes
When a recipe has been made it has been made with the exact ingredients mentioned and measurements. Perhaps you don’t have the right type of flour or milk or you can’t eat a particular food. Google to see if there is a good substitute but remember that you might need to adjust another quantities in the recipe and this will affect the finished product.
Well I hope that helps. I also recommend a really good book on cakes can be such a help to have in your kitchen. I love the Australian Women’s Weekly Cake books because they have great advice, tips and photos and I always find their cakes contain lots of photos to help you. It’s handy to have a good reference book in your kitchen to help you.