Everybody loves a little slice of cake now and then with a nice pot of tea or a silky smooth café con leche. Its dangerously habit forming and quite often becomes a bit of a ritual.

There is nothing quite as satisfying as serving up a generous wedge of home-baked cake, bread or a satisfyingly sweet pastry. Let’s be honest, nothing beats the taste of something that’s been baked at home, whether it’s a simple sponge, a banana cake or even warm fresh bread. Baking at home seems to be more and more popular these day’s and its easy to see why, it is relaxing, rewarding and great fun. The simple truth is it’s really not difficult to produce great results at home, but you will have to follow a few basic rules. Here are my top tips for perfect baking cakes.

1: Always read the recipe in full before beginning

This sounds really obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a complete and total disaster in the kitchen because I didn’t realize a certain step was coming up. Reading ahead will help you know the how, why, where, and when of what you are about to do. It will take you 1-5 minutes max and could save you from wasting your ingredients on a failed dessert.

2: Always have your ingredients prepared before beginning a recipe

Read through the ingredients and get them prepared and ready on your counter. There is very little room for error when you begin recipes this way. Trust me.

3: Weigh the ingredients carefully

You wouldn’t believe how much can go wrong just because ingredients have been weighed incorrectly. If you’re just a little bit out it can have a catastrophic effect on flavour and consistency, yet it’s one of the easiest things to get right. Just concentrate at the start because any errors will only be amplified going forward!

4: Avoid using cold eggs & butter

Most of know to bring the butter to room temperature, but it’s just as important for eggs—otherwise the mixture won’t emulsify properly.

5: Cooking times should only be used as a guideline

Because all ovens vary and the number on the dial isn’t always the true temperature, an oven thermometer is a good tool. Conventional and gas ovens are hottest at the top, so it’s best to bake on the middle shelf to avoid burning things before they’re cooked through.

6:Keep your oven door closed

You now know how the oven’s temperature can ruin a recipe. But what can completely throw off the oven temperature is constantly opening and closing that oven to peek at your baking cupcakes or sponges.

Black Forest Cake

Prep time: 40 mins

Cooking time: 40 mins

Ingredients - Serves 10-12

250g butter

250g sugar

160g flour

1tsp baking powder

70g cocoa powder

4 free-range eggs


3tbsp kirsch liquor

100g morello cherry jam

350g fresh cherries, stoned

400ml cream

3tbsp icing sugar

Chocolate topping:

250ml cream

2tbsp butter

250g dark chocolate, grated

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375F/Gas 5.

2. Grease a 20cm/8 in loose-based sandwich tins and line the bases with baking parchment.

3. Place the butter, sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and eggs in a bowl and blend until smooth and thick. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake tin and spread it out evenly with a spatula.

4. Bake for 25–30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack. Take off the lining paper and leave the cake to cool.

5. When the cake is cold, slice horizontally into 3 circles, with a long-bladed serrated knife. Take care to keep the knife parallel to the work surface, to get a good even cut. Place the cakes back on the wire rack or a board, cut sides up.

6. For the filling, put the jam in a saucepan with the fresh cherries and Kirsch and place over a low heat. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 6–8 minutes, stirring, until the jam has melted and the cherries are beginning to swell. Leave to cool for 15 minutes.

7. Divide the cherry mixture between 2 slices of the cake and spread evenly. Make sure that the sponge without the cherry topping is from the top half of a cake. Whip the cream with the icing sugar with an electric hand-whisk until soft peaks form. Transfer one of the sponges (with the cherry topping) very carefully to a cake stand or plate – slide a cake tin base under the sponge to help you. Top the cherry mixture with half of the whipped cream gently on top of the cherry mixture and repeat with the next layer. Place the final sponge on top, with its top surface facing upwards.

8. For the topping; Warm the cream and butter in a saucepan and add 200g of the grated chocolate. Remove from the heat, stir until well combined and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Using the flat side of a palette knife spread the chocolate cream over the top of the cake, taking it all the way to the edge. Sprinkle with the remaining grated chocolate and dust with icing sugar.

Walnut & Coffee Cake With Vanilla Cream

Prep time: 20 mins

Cooking time: 30 mins


200g unsalted butter

200g sugar

65g walnut pieces

4 eggs

200g plain flour

4 teaspoons instant coffee powder

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Vanilla-coffee cream topping

1 vanilla pod

350g icing sugar

180g unsalted butter, softened

3tsp instant coffee powder

10 walnuts to decorate

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

2. Line the base of two 20cm (8in) loose-bottomed sponge tins with baking parchment.

3. Beat the butter and caster sugar until light, pale and fluffy with an electric mixer.

4. Crack the eggs into a bowl, break them up with a fork, then add them a little at a time to the butter and sugar, beating well after each addition.

5. Combine the flour and baking powder and gently mix into the butter and sugar on a slow speed. Dissolve the coffee granules in a tablespoon of boiling water, then stir into the mixture. Chop the walnuts(?) and fold them in gently.

6. Divide the cake mixture between the two tins, smooth the top lightly and bake for 20 to 25 minutes - the cake should be springy to the touch and a skewer inserted inside should come out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

For the topping and filling

1. Pulse the icing sugar in the food processor until it is lump free, then add the butter and process to make a smooth icing. Dissolve the instant espresso powder in 1 tablespoon boiling water and add it while still hot to the processor, pulsing to blend into a smooth cream.

2. Spread half the coffee cream over one of the cake halves and sandwich the cakes together. Smooth the remaining coffee cream over the top and garnish with walnuts.

Raspberry and yoghurt teacake

Prep time: 15 mins

Cooking time: 65 mins

Ingredients - Serves 6

200g fresh raspberries

250g plain flour

25g ground almonds

2 tsp baking powder

A pinch of salt

120g soft butter

250g sugar

Zest of 1 large lemon, finely grated

2 large eggs

100g full-fat plain yoghurt

1 tbsp white sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180C./350ºF Grease a 23-centimetre loaf tin and line with baking paper.

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

3. Cream the butter and sugar in a food processor for five minutes until pale and fluffy, then beat in the lemon zest. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon of the sifted flour with the second egg. Gently fold in the remaining flour and the yoghurt until the mixture is smooth, then fold in the ground almonds.

4. Spoon one-third of the cake mixture into a loaf tin and scatter with one-third of the raspberries. Repeat twice, finishing with a layer of raspberries.

5. Bake for 45 minutes until the cake is nicely browned, then cover loosely with foil and bake for a further 20 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

6. Remove the cake from the oven. Cool for five minutes and carefully remove the cake from the tin and put it on a wire rack to cool. Serve in thick slices.