Top 5 baking mistakes to avoid

TOP 5 BAKING MISTAKES

In my opinion, one of the most misunderstood hobbies is baking. Unlike cooking, where chefs can experiment with relatively dier consequences, in baking if you try to diverge away from the recipe and simply “make it up as you go along” the results will rarely be successful.

As more bakers rise into stardom, more of us are inspired daily to get into our kitchens and create. Whether baking beginners or daily indulgers we’re all busy making something, and Instagram and Bloglovin are with us all the way to prove it.

However, social media show us the successful bakes. Very rarely do we ever see the failures, which is fine, I understand, but it’s important we’re all accepting that these failures happen, and perhaps even more importantly, show that we’re not ashamed of them.

If you encounter a disaster in the kitchen, don’t be hard on yourself.  Baking is a science, it’s not easy and mistakes are sometimes inevitable. I am by no means an expert, in fact I’d still class myself a beginner as there are so many bakes I’m yet to make. However when I do bake what I’m confident with, believe me mistakes still happen. Sometimes it’s my fault, and I’ll put my hands up and admit that, other times, it’s an environmental factor like the weather outside, or because I’m using a new oven. These things are sadly out of my control.

“The moment you take the time to understand just why sugar and butter are so important is the moment you become a baker”

I guess what I’m trying to say is that being a beginner or expert doesn’t even come into it as some of the best bakers in the world have been known to have a bad day in the kitchen. What is important though is understanding what the mistakes are, as by being aware of them means you’re more inclined to avoid them.

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Below you will read my Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Baking and these apply to almost every bake I know. I hope you find these useful so please do let me know what you think in the comments below.

Happy Baking.


Rushing through the recipe 

A mistake I made most often when starting out was rushing through the recipe and not actually taking the time to read the steps. I was so focused on the end result that I forgot to understand and learn the process. It’s the latter stage that I truly believe take you from one level to the next. The moment you take the time to understand just why sugar and butter are so important is the moment you become a baker.

Not all recipes are laid out in chronological order so reading it through prior to getting started may highlight something vital. There have been times where I got all prepared for a bake, only to read  half way down that I needed to chill the mixture in the fridge for 24 hours and let me tell you that sucked!!


Measuring Incorrectly

Ahh the lazy baker. Don’t be ashamed we’ve all been there. That little voice tells us that we know what we’re doing, because we’ve made this 20 times already. “I know what 200g of sugar looks like”, “What does a little extra flour matter anyway?”, “That 20g over on the butter isn’t that big a deal right?” WRONG. Nobody knows what 200g of sugar looks like, add a little extra flour to a brownie and you have a cake, and add too much butter to a cake and you have a sinking, shrinking grease muffin. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

If you struggle with scales or heaven forbid you find yours broken, check out this article on GoodtoKnow.co.uk  which converts all grams to cups.  Oh and also make sure you have your own set of Measuring Cups for this moment.

Not preheating the oven


Forgetting to preheat the oven isn’t the biggest mistake you could make, but forgetting to do so is not an efficient use of your time, especially if you’re being timed. The time it takes for your oven to preheat will obviously depend on whether you’re using a fan or gas oven as well as the heat you’re preheating it to, but on average it takes a fan oven 10 minutes to reach 170 degrees C.

Sometimes a recipe will ask you to preheat the oven mid-way through a bake, and this will be because your creation may need to rest prior to going in the oven. Others however ask you to do so straight away so it has reached the desired temperature at the exact time it needs to be baked. Take cake for example, there’s a good reason preheating the oven comes first as raising agents get to work straight away. Therefore to ensure a good rise, your cake mixture should go into the oven the moment it’s ready.

BONUS TIP FOR CAKES:

Never open your oven mid bake. Letting a sudden rush of cold air into the oven will cause it to deflate and sink. I always wait till 5 minutes before my timer to check.


Not timing your bake

Ovens do vary so it’s important to get to know the oven you’re working with, or at the very least ensure you’re watching your bake more consciously as it cooks. Regardless of all this, timing your bake accurately is a huge must in my opinion and I speak from experience. On quite a few occasions I’ve forgotten to set the timer on a bake only to realise half way through and guess what time I had left. On these occasions, when removed from the oven, although my cake tester came out deceivingly clean, my cakes sunk.

Some bakes require more attentive timing than others, such as macarons, however timing everything with equal attention is always recommended. If you tend to walk away from the kitchen during baking, use the timer on your phone so you always have your eye on the time.


Impatience – Not letting it cool down or rest

Perhaps my biggest vice and one that catches me out more than too often is impatience. Letting your cakes cool before icing or storing, and leaving your macarons to rest and form feet before going into the oven are two huge examples, but there are many more. Not many people realise the importance of being patient as surely “Once it’s baked nothing can go wrong?” Think again. Take cupcakes for instance, not letting them cool fully before storing will cause the heat inside them to condensate and peel away from the cases. It’s at this point that they also form a sticky top and potentially shrink. So many disasters from a single mistake.

It can take up to 4 hours or longer for bakes to fully cool so if you can’t control yourself, leave the house or start a Game of Thrones marathon to keep yourself occupied.


I hope you’ve found these useful. If you have any more examples of mistakes you know to avoid please share in the comments below.

Cake Fit for a Queen Launch with Tesco Finest

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I learnt a valuable lesson last week, suitable in both life and in baking. I’ve always been aware of it, but pressure has never been my strong point. My perfectionist nature means I like to bake with precision, however, when you’re given 30 minutes to decorate a cake in competition with 12 other bakers, both time and perfectionism take a huge backseat. Just sometimes, these moments are worthwhile, as its when I’m reminded that baking isn’t just about creating the perfect cake; it’s about how much fun you have doing it.

This epiphany came to me last week when I had the pleasure of joining the team at Tesco Finest team in London for a Cake Decorating Masterclass, hosted by award-winning master patisser Eric Lanlard.

Eric’s outstanding baked creations and impressive list of clientele, including The Queen Mother, have earned him an international reputation. A reputation such as this is not one to be ignored and with his history baking for royalty and The Queen celebrating her 90th birthday this year, it’s no wonder Tesco Finest asked him to create them a “cake fit for a queen”.

Keeping back from the traditional union jack designs, Eric wanted to create a masterpiece worthy of the royal seal of approval and inspired by the Great British summer parties for which Her Majesty is renowned.

The result? Two layers of enticing pink velvet sponge, sandwiching a rich decadent chocolate layer all glued together with sweet raspberry conserve. The sponge is then wrapped generously in white chocolate buttercream, made using Tesco finest Madagascan white chocolate, and is crowned with a pink white chocolate drip and wait for it….Prosecco buttercream roses sprinkled with a fine dust of edible glitter.

Now if any of this sounds too sweet for you, think again. The sponge cake is flavoured so perfectly that is cuts through the sweetness of the white chocolate, better still this allows you to taste the gorgeous procecco flavour of the buttercream swirls.

Eric Lanlard

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Following a short introduction to himself, his history and of course his creation, Eric took us through some of the basic steps of cake decoration as we all watched in awe. Of course the undecorated layers on sponge laid out in front of us were not there for props, as it was revealed to us that we would be competing with each other to create our very own masterpiece fit for a queen.

From the word ‘GO’ the gloves were off and all 12 of us were frantically dashing around our benches, covered in glitter, food colouring and buttercream. Sadly my masterpiece was not a winner but I’ve never laughed so much in a kitchen and it was so great to see how creative everybody became. I also finally learnt that there really is no such thing as too much buttercream.

The limited edition Tesco Finest Cake Fit For a Queen hits 532 Tesco stores nationwide this Friday 3rd – 16th June and at just £10, it’s the perfect way to celebrate the birthday of our longest reigning monarch in true British style.

Disclaimer: I was invited to the Tesco Finest Launch event but was not asked to write this post. This is not a sponsored post and I was not paid in any way. All impressions and opinions are my own.

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Baking Aid: Top 10 Basic Baking Essentials

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Baking in all its beautiful glory can be very intimidating whether you’re a beginner, or advanced. I’m by no means advanced but like to think I have made and overcome enough mistakes in my baking life to have some wisdom to share in hope of making your baking lives that little bit easier.

To many of you what I share may seem like obvious facts, but, we learn from each other and you never know hidden beneath the obvious may shine a revelation. More importantly I want this series to encourage and inspire baking beginners to get in their kitchens, so without further ado, welcome to “Baking Aid”

When I moved out of my family home in 2014 and settled into my little flat in Surrey, I was left with the daunting yet exciting task of filling my empty kitchen with brand new baking equipment.

With baking such a huge part of my upbringing I was leaving behind a kitchen full of tools we had collected over the years, so in haste and anxiety my immediate reaction was to replicate everything immediately. Reality sunk in the moment I realised I only had one kitchen drawer in a kitchen that felt crowded the moment a second person stepped foot inside.

With this I had to sit down and deliberate over what tools and equipment I needed to buy immediately, and to be honest I was completely intimidated by it all. After some time however I came to conclusion that I didn’t need the fancy tools straight away, in fact most recipes only call for a limited amount  of equipment, or as I call them “The Essentials”. For 6 months I managed with those essentials and by the time a recipe that called for a new tools came along I had organised my kitchen to be able to accommodate them.

Whether you’re a baking addict, or it’s something you are looking to simply dabble in, below you will find all the essentials you need to create perfect cakes, cupcakes, cookies and traybakes.


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Mason and Pyrex mixing bowls


My mason bowl is one of my favourite tools to use when I’m not using my KitchenAid. I love being able to beat or rub together butter and sugar for cookie dough with my own hands and a large mason bowl is the perfect partner for that. The large rim around the edge also keeps anything from spilling.

I own at least 12 pyrex bowls in a mixture of different sizes and I use almost all of them with every bake.  I use them to weigh each of my ingredients when preparing for a bake, and as a cake decorator they come in handy when colouring icing and batter. The smaller bowls are also perfect for holding small ingredients like spices, and as they are heatproof they’re perfect for melting butter and chocolate.

Measuring jug


You cannot measure liquid out accurately without a jug so they are an absolute must. However aside from the obvious they are also super useful for whisking eggs or pouring milk into a batter.

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Spatula


One of the most important tools I rely on is the spatula. Unlike the wooden spoon a spatula will scrape out large quantities of batter or buttercream with ease meaning no waste. Look for one like this that is sturdy, otherwise you will find that it bends with weight of heavy batter which isn’t at all helpful.

Whisk


One of the cheapest tools in my kitchen drawer, yet the one I use most often. A large whisk is perfect for blending big quantities of liquid ingredients and gently folds sugar into beaten egg whites without deflating them.

Cake Tester


It took me a long time to get a proper cake tester, yet it wasn’t until I finally got one that I realised just how important they are. When baking cakes one of the vital stages is checking that it has baked through. Testing this requires poking something sharp through the cake to see if it comes out clean. My ‘something sharp’ used to be a knife, but this just left a unslightly slash in the top of my cake so after a while I stopped doing it. Big mistake. My cakes thereafter were either under baked, resulting is a sinking centre or slightly over baked so they went dry.

As much as I like to think I have a pretty good ‘sense’ of when my cake is fully baked, nothing tells me better than when it’s been tested. You can find most cake testers in leading supermarkets or baking stores, but as a Lakeland advocate I recommend getting a cute cupcake one like mine here.

Off-Set palette knife


An offset spatula is your best friend when it comes to smoothing cake batter, frosting cupcakes, and loosening cakes and bar cookies from their pans. The smaller size will be used more often, but when you want to frost cakes a much large size gives you a smooth, more professional finish.

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Spoons/Cups/Scales


The beauty of this internet is that we can find recipes from every corner of the globe. As a proud Brit I am passionate about baking in grams however many US recipes will give you the ingredients in cups. Quite often depending on the recipe I will convert the cups into grams and weigh it out, however occasionally if it’s a bake I’m not familiar with I will use the cups to be sure I’m following the recipe letter by letter. When buying cups and spoons, look for ones with clear easy to read measurements on the handles.

With scales while the old-fashioned do make your kitchen beautiful I cannot recommend digital ones enough as they allow you to measure ingredients out to perfection.

Regardless of what you use, it is SUPER important to weigh everything out accurately as it can make all the difference between perfect and utter disaster.

Baking Parchment


Baking parchment will be your best friend in the kitchen, especially when it comes to baking cakes. Lining your cake with parchment paper allows it to bake more evenly and protects the edges from catching. It also saves you from tin removal disasters which I am forever grateful for.

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Baking Tins/Trays


My weakness when it comes to baking is tins and trays. There are so many to choose from I literally want them all. Take a step back however and you’ll find you only need 4 key styles; two 6inch or 8inch sandwich cake tins, a cupcake tray, a brownie tray and a flat baking sheet. If I had to push it to 5 I’d add in a loaf tin for good measure. Lakeland do such an amazing range of bakewear. Their premium range is made from heavy duty carbon steel that is oven safe up to 240°C so it will never twist, warp or bend. They’re also super space-saving and when stacked neatly nest inside each other. Shop here for yours.

Cooling Racks


Every baker needs a cooling rack and they are handy for more than just cooling. Aside from the obvious, once my bakes are cool I use the rack to decorate my cakes or cookies so that any unwanted drips fall away leaving me with the perfect decoration.