I’m celebrating the first episode of The Great British Bake Off with some top baking advice from former champion John Whaite.
John passed on these handy tips – and some secrets from the Bake Off tent – while teaching me to make cupcakes at the Cake & Bake show. He might not have made a ‘Star Baker’ of me yet, but there’s always hope!
1. CURDLED CAKE MIX CAN BE RESCUED
‘When you’re making cake batter and you put the eggs in, it can curdle. In fact, more than likely, it will. All that’s happened is that the fats from the egg yolk and the fats from the butter haven’t been able to emulsify because they’re not the same temperature.
‘Now, people have these big secrets about throwing in a bit of flour, but although it will look as though it’s sorted it out, it hasn’t – it’s just thickened it. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. As soon as it goes into the oven at 160ºC it’s going to emulsify anyway.
‘You won’t have a cake that looks like cellulite – that’s a load of nonsense! It might look like cellulite now, but it’s going to go through a very quick slimming process in the oven.’
2. NEVER OVERWHISK YOUR EGGS
‘If you incorporate too much air to a cake and then add a chemical raising agent such as bicarbonate of soda, then it’s going to rise too much in the oven and then fall in the middle and sink when you take it out.’
3. COOK AT A LOWER TEMPERATURE
‘Another thing that causes that over-rising and sinking is too much heat. It’s quite common with a slab cake or a loaf cake – and while that dip might be a nice place to put cherries or fresh fruit, but it won’t have a good structure.
‘The trick with any cake is to cook it on a low heat, slowly, allowing everything to rise slowly. If you cook anything at too high a heat, the sugars around the edges will cook first. They’ll crisps up, caramelise and stick there, while the raw bit in the middle rises too much to compensate, forming that big volcano.’
4. PIPE, DON’T SCOOP!
‘I‘ve always piped out my cake mixture into tins. That whole thing of scooping it out with spoons is nice and nostalgic but it makes a real mess doesn’t it? Just use continuous pressure on the piping bag and go from case to case counting ‘1-2-3-up, 1-2-3-up, 1-2-3-up’.
‘You’ll get a more even distribution and will be left with some at the end to go round and tidy things up. It’s just so much neater and quicker.’
5. SAVE TIME WHEN PROVING DOUGH
‘If your oven doesn’t have a special proving function, I’ve got a little trick. Put the oven light on and put a tray of hot water at the bottom, then add your dough. It speeds up the proving process never try this or use any other oven-based proving function on laminated doughs, such as Danish pastry or croissant dough, as this will melt the butter layers and ruin the dough.’
6. THE KEY TO PERFECT CUPCAKES
‘Using a piping bag, start with a star in the middle to get the peak. Now, standing over the cake so that you have a bird’s eye view, follow the edge of the cupcake case keeping a continuous firm pressure and without ‘dragging’ your piping bag along.
‘I like to use a mix of mascarpone, cream, icing sugar and a tiny bit of vanilla so it’s not cloyingly sweet like buttercream. Buttercream can be nasty, but this mix is lighter and tastes like it could be good for you!’Tweet