BAKING SPONGE CAKES & HOW TO AVOID SOME COMMON MISTAKES

BAKING SPONGE CAKES

  • I always set my oven 10° C higher than my recipe asks for.
    • When you open the door of the oven, the temperature falls and you will be putting your cake into an oven lower than the temperature required by the recipe. If you start with a higher temperature than required, then the temperature falls to the temperature you actually want. 
    • Just remember to adjust the temperature once your cake is in the oven so you don’t burn it.
  • If you are asked to cream butter (or margarine) and sugar in a recipe, always make sure that the butter (or margarine) is soft.
    • If the butter isn’t soft enough it won’t mix completely with the sugar and you will get lumps of fat that will “fry” your cake and although still tasty it is difficult to decorate and ice the cake and it will look oily.
  • Once the mixture goes lighter in colour stop beating.
    • The mix goes lighter in colour because you have incorporated air into the mix and this makes your sponge light and delicious.
    • BUT if you overbeat the mix your cake will collapse during baking because it has too much air and it can’t maintain its own structure.
  • Always crack your eggs in a separate bowl, rather than straight into your cake mix.
    • If you get a little bit of egg shell in the bowl it is easy to lift out rather than trying to pick it out of a sticky batter.
  • Unless otherwise stated in a recipe, add your eggs a little bit at a time e.g. add a third at a time.
    • If you add all the egg at once it tends to curdle the mixture and this can affect the way the cake bakes.
  • To avoid the mix curdling, add a little of the sieved flour.
    • A lot of recipes will tell you to add the eggs and then the flour, but I add some eggs and combine with the creamed butter and sugar and then add a little flour, followed by more egg and more flour until they are completely combined, but remember don’t over mix or you will have a heavy cake that sinks in the middle.
  • Sieve your flour and remove any lumps so your mix is smooth.
    • In my Granny’s day they sieved flour to remove little bits of grit and unrefined flour but we don’t get these contaminants nowadays.
    • If the flour is sieved it just means you don’t have to mix the batter for as long, as there aren’t any small lumps of flour which may have formed in the bag.
  • Take the time to line your cake tin.
    • By lining your cake tin you are protecting the mix from overbaking.
    • You can buy reusable liners which are easy to use or you can buy a packet of pre-cut sheets for the type of cake tin you use. I just buy a roll of parchment and cut the size I want.
  • When you are filling the cake tin with the batter do it as quickly as possible.
    • If you spend too much time spreading out the cake batter it will lose some of the air and therefore the sponge will not be as light.
    • If you spread the cake batter around too much you will knock the air out of it. It is important to work quickly and efficiently and get the cake in the oven as soon as possible once all the ingredients are added.
  • I leave a dip in the middle of the cake tin so the cake rises evenly.
    • If you spread the cake batter evenly across the tin it will be higher in the middle than at the sides. Sometimes this is what you want though.
  • NEVER, EVER, EVER bang the oven door!
    • This will cause your cake to fall in the middle.
  • NEVER, EVER, EVER open the oven door to have a wee look!
    • This will cause the temperature to drop suddenly and yes you have guessed it, the cake to fall in the middle.
  • Don’t be afraid to know your own Oven.
    • One of my ovens in the bakery runs 20°C lower than the other two and I adjust my recipe temperatures accordingly.
    • One of my ovens is hotter on the right hand side than the left. I turn the tray with the cakes on it 10-15 minutes before the end of baking.  I realise I am contradicting myself here, but if the cake is “almost” baked then it won’t fall in the middle.  I like to have an even bake and colour so I think it’s worth the hassle.
  • Always check your cake is properly baked before turning off the oven.
    • You can tell the cake is baked by touching the surface of the cake lightly with your finger. If it bounces back and doesn’t leave a finger print then it is baked.  If it leaves a finger print, pop it back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes.
    • If you aren’t sure if the cake is baked, insert a sharp knife into the middle of the cake and if it comes out clean then it is baked.
  • It is well worth investing in a set of measuring spoons.
    • If you have to measure liquids such as vanilla extract or milk it is difficult not to add too much to a regular spoon. Measuring spoons are easier to use and there is less chance of the liquid overflowing.

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