Here are my top 8 tips to fudge your way to fab cakes!
1. Dense flat cakes
Cakes that have loads of pureed fruit such as banana can sometimes make the end product dense and collapse. Add extra baking powder and bake it in a smaller container. Or as cupcakes. The smaller surface area will assist in better rising. I have a couple of Jamie Oliver silicon pans that 17cm x 9.5cm. These are a perfect size and most cake recipes will yield enough to make two of these – one for now and one to freeze.
Make it look like you’ve done more work than you really have by slicing your layers in half. It’s best done with a long, thin bread knife, very carefully, and with your eyes level to the center of the cake. Place your flat palm on the cake’s surface while you cut—it’ll help you get the layers more even.
3. Add a layer of fruit puree
Add a layer of fruit between your layers instead of icing. It adds a tart flavor for a break from that sugary frosting, as well as another texture. Try lemon curd and raspberry puree, but you can experiment with any kind of pureed fruit you like.
4. Imperfect frosting job?
Cover it with toasted nuts. As well as being delicious, things like poppy seeds and chopped pecans are your friends and add another textural experience.
5. Toss the Old Stuff
The recipe calls for baking soda. You have baking soda. Sounds great, right? There’s just one problem: The soda’s been in your fridge since 2008. Solution? Toss it and buy a new package. The majority of ingredients used in baked goods—like baking soda, baking powder, yeast, and, yes, flour—have a relatively short shelf life, so if you don’t fire up the oven frequently, purchase them in small quantities so they don’t sit in your cupboard, quietly going rancid. If you’re not sure how fresh an ingredient is, either simply buy a new one or test it. To check the freshness of baking powder, pour boiling water over a small quantity—if it bubbles, it’s still fresh. Flour should smell fresh and feel light, not chalky.
6. Use Salt
If you’re looking to cut down on the sodium, baked goods are not the place to do so. The half teaspoon of salt added to two dozen cookies won’t set you over your daily allotment, but leaving it out will drastically change the taste of the cookie. Salt isn’t necessarily in a recipe to make it taste salty (unless we’re talking salted caramel) — it’s usually there to keep the baked good from tasting flat, one-note, or overly sweet. Salt makes other ingredients, like vanilla, almond, lemon, and sugar “pop.”
7. Rotate Halfway Through
Every oven has a hot spot, especially gas ovens, and if you don’t correct for it, you run the risk of unevenly cooked cakes —or worse, some that burn or wind up underbaked. When a recipe calls for turning a baking sheet or pan 180 degrees halfway through the process, don’t ignore it. If the back of your oven is hotter than the front, you need to give every corner and side of your concoction the same treatment. Don’t, however, open the oven constantly to check on progress — it’ll lower the temperature and alter the baking time.
Many cake and baking mavens will tell you that you should not substitute what is written in your recipe. I’m here to tell you that you can! Go wild! As long as you are substituting like for like and weight for weight. For example – replace cane sugar for stevia as long as it is granulated stevia, not liquid. Reducing sugar altogether is ok, but make up the difference by adding flour or reducing the liquid. Swap self raising flour with almond meal, but ensure you add 2 – 3 tsp of baking powder to each cup of almond meal.
If you have any questions on substitution, please comment below.