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 it 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 and 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 something decadent like a rich, delicious black forest Gateau. 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
· 250ml cream
· 2tbsp butter
· 250g dark chocolate, grated
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375F/Gas 5.
Grease a 20cm/8 in loose-based sandwich tins and line the bases with baking parchment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Keep the cake cool or chill until ready to serve.
Hazelnut and chocolate chip banana bread
Ingredients: Serves 6
· 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
· 130g butter, softened
· 180g light brown sugar
· 2 whole eggs·l 80g toasted hazelnuts, crushed
· 100g chopped dark chocolate
· 250g plain flour, sifted
· 1 tspn baking powder, sifted
· 1 tspn bicarbonate of (baking) soda
· 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
· 120g golden syrup
Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F).
Place the butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs and combine well. Add the mashed banana, hazelnuts, chocolate, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder and golden syrup and pulse to combine.
Spoon the mixture into a lightly greased loaf tin lined with baking paper. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until cooked and golden brown.
Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.
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