Saturday, 21 February 2009

Simple Techniques to Perfect Your Cake

Some basic cake-baking techniques I learned from my instructor during baking class. These are especially helpful when the recipes are not specific on the baking methods. You are welcome to add comments or your own tips.

Butter Cakes
1. For butter cakes, use mid-speed when creaming butter and sugar. 'Creaming' essentially means mixing the butter and sugar until the butter becomes almost white and has a cream like texture, and the sugar is almost totally dissolved. This will definitely take more than 10 minutes on a regular mixer.

2. When adding egg yolks to butter cake mixture, either a) cream butter with sugar, then mix egg yolks first then add in 4 batches or b) cream butter with 1/2 sugar, mix egg yolks with 1/2 of the sugar, the add the latter to the former

3. When mixing flour, do not beat too much or excess gluten will develop in your cake (like kneading bread), resulting in a elastic, rubbery texture. Bread flour is not a substitute for plain flour for cake, as bread flour is too high in protein for cakes. (I think excess gluten will develop easily)

Chiffon Cakes
For chiffon cakes, use max-speed when mixing egg whites. Stop immediately when whites becomes stiff as overbeating results in a 'rough' texture. You can do the 'inverting-the-bowl-over-your-head' technique as seen in Jamie Oliver's show. If nothing falls on your head, it's stiff enough. Also, there is still this 'threshold' (perhaps there is a more technical word?) for maintaining the stiffness. If you exceed this threshold by overbeating or leaving the stiffened egg whites standing for too long, its liquid content will separate out and the egg whites become useless.

1. Greaseproof paper lining at the bottom of cake prevents cake from sticking to the pan.
However, for Chiffon Cakes, greaseproof paper or greasing with oil is not recommended as the cake needs to 'cling' to the side of the tin for support.

2. Similarly, if dough is thin, avoid lining sides of baking tin.

3. Do not use springform pan without lining for cakes with high butter content, as the butter will leak out during baking process.

1. When baking more than 1 cake, it is not advisable to make 2 dough portion and leave 1 portion standing while the other is baking in the oven, as cake might not rise fully. Always make 2nd dough while the 1st cake is baking.

2. For thicker cakes, baking should be done at lower temperature (150 degrees C) to prevent a thick crust forming, but baking time should be longer. For thin cakes, bake at high temperature (180 degrees C) to save time.

3. When baking bread or bun, it is possible to bake 2 layers in the microwave conventional oven.

4. Due to differences in oven temperature settings, always reduce baking time by 10 mins when testing a new recipe.

5. If top of cake is already too brown but cake is not yet done, cover the top of the cake with foil to continue baking.

6. Most cakes are considered done when a satay inserted comes out clean (i.e not sticky with mixture).

If cake is overbaked and too dry, cover top of tin with plastic wrap when cooling to retain moisture.

Cake stores best in paper box overnight and not the refrigerator. Store cake only when it has cooled down slightly.

(Captain Jaxe's Treasure Land)