What I’ve learned this week: cake mistakes

Me walking across fire

This week has been another hectic week for me with work what with walking across fire and attending the Loch Ness Marathon but it hasn’t stopped me from baking. In case I haven’t had the chance to tell you about it, next week I’ll be attending the Edinburgh Cake Ladies event. The theme of the upcoming event is “Feel the fear and bake it anyway” and never one to shy away from a challenge, I decided to attempt the Chequerboard Cake from the Green & Black’s Unwrapped recipe book. Despite the fact that my first attempt at the cake didn’t come out looking too bad at all I did learn quite a few things:

  1. Baking without scales is a disaster. The battery in my scales went dead so I had to resort to measuring with a measuring jug and small measuring spoons. As I’ve said before, baking is a science so any errors in measurements can wreak havoc with the finished cake.  I have now stocked up on batteries just in case this happens again!

    Dying scales
  2. Greasing tins with butter while they are warm completely defeats the purpose of greasing the tins.  I greased my cake tins while they were sitting on top of the hot oven only to find that surprise, surprise, the butter melted in the tins. I ended up having to scrape bits of the cake out of the tins.
  3. Green & Black’s is not the only good chocolate out there.  Green & Black’s make some fantastic varieties of chocolate, including their Maya Gold and Butterscotch however when it comes to dark chocolate I am a huge fan of the 72% dark chocolate from Coco Chocolate.
  4. The “all-in-one” method (i.e. putting all the cake ingredients into a bowl at the same time and mixing) of making a cake is just as effective as creaming the butter and sugar before adding the eggs and finally the flour.  This one actually came from the lovely Mary Berry on the Great British Bake Off. If it’s good enough for Mary, it’s definitely good enough for me!
  5. Filling a piping bag with cake mixture or icing is much easier if you place the icing bag inside a tall jar or tin and fold the top of the bag over the top.  I have always tried to do this using one hand to hold the piping bag while using the other to spoon the mixture in.  It usually just ends up in a mess so  I was pleased to see Jo Wheatley using a very sensible alternative in one of the episodes of the Great British Bake Off.
  6. Piping anything when the room/mixture is too warm never works.  Given the limited work space available in my kitchen, I had to pipe the mixture for my cakes into the tins on top of the oven that was preheating.  Needless to say, the cake mixture did not keep it’s shape and the final effect was somewhat marbled rather than chequerboard.

    Chequerboard or marble cake?
  7. The smell of a vanilla sponge batter is among some of the best, most comforting smells in the world.  Personally, it reminds me of baking with my mum when I was little.
  8. It is perfectly acceptable to lick the bowl when making a cake. I was brought up in the 80s by two food technologists so whenever I feel even vaguely tempted to dive in and lick the bowl, a little voice in my head starts screaming “salmonella”. Following an in depth discussion on twitter, I have discovered that no-one else experiences this and I should stop worrying!
  9. Despite my love for it, soured cream-based icing does not go with everything. Although the Chequerboard Cake recipe calls for a simple ganache made of melted dark chocolate and cream, I only had soured cream available. Unfortunately the effect on this cake was slightly too sour.
  10. I should not bake when I am tired, emotional or short of time and definitely not when I am all three at once!
As you can see, I still have lots to learn.  But if I didn’t make mistakes, life would be no fun at all!

2 thoughts on “What I’ve learned this week: cake mistakes

  1. As one of the afore mentioned food technologists I have to say that raw eggs are not reommended for young children (which you were at that time), the elderly and immuno compromised. this was particularly relevant in the 1980s but applies also today.Just to keep things right!

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