Baking is a science. It requires the precise execution of a number of elements that together work to produce consistent results. These elements are: a good, stable recipe; a reliable oven with the 'right' heat; the correct procedures; the right level of humidity in your working environment; the correct baking time etc. The list goes on.
Have I scared you off from baking yet?
Sure, baking is a science and yes, it requires certain things to be done correctly. However, the process doesn't have to be daunting. You don't need to wake up in the middle of the night sweating with dread because you have to bake a cake tomorrow. With the right attitude and a few handy tips, you'll be on your way to better cakes..and sleep, in no time!
Right. Firstly, let's talk attitude.
When you give a new recipe a try, regardless of how fool proof it claims to be, don't expect perfect result the first time around. Why? Because you won't get it. Sure, you may get good results in your first try. But it could always be better. Things can always be fine tuned in order to achieve optimal results with your unique set of variables such as oven, geographical location, availability of ingredients etc.
So, what's the right attitude?
Treat it as work in progress. If you start with a reliable recipe, stick with it for at least a few attempts. Give yourself the chance to fine tune it. Allow yourself to understand it, and how your set of variables behaves with it.
Below are a number of tips to help your cakes bake higher and more evenly.
- Use baking strips
- Use heating cores
- Conventional settings (of oven) over fan-forced where possible.
- Use an oven thermometer
I can't discuss all of the above in details in one blog post, so I'll be breaking them up into a mini series of posts over the coming weeks. To begin with, let's talk baking strips.
Cakes bake from the outside in, which is why the middle is always the last part to cook. By the time the middle cooks through, the sides are usually dry because they’ve had enough time to ‘over-cook’. Because the sides always cook first, all that runny batter in the middle has nowhere else to go but upward, resulting in an explosive dome.
Baking strips are used to provide a layer of insulation between the heat of the oven and the sides of the cakes and can basically be made of anything oven safe that you can use to wrap around a cake tin to create that layer of insulation.
Using them does two things:
Less aggressive heat on the side = less dry sides.
The temperature around the sides and in the middle are more even = sides and middle bake and rise at a more even rate = higher cakes and flatter tops.
You can purchase ready made baking strips which require to be soaked prior to being put in the oven. Or, you can improvise and make your own. Many bakers use a damp tea towel or wet paper towel wrapped in aluminium foil as baking strips. The common theme between these baking strips are wetness. Because they are made from materials that can burn inside an oven i.e fabrics, paper etc, they need to be soaked in water in order to prevent this from happening.
Sounds like too much work? Me think so too!
As you'd know by now, we are all about efficiency at DTC which means no soaking in water thanks! They also have to be quite affordable, please! We used to bake a huge number of cakes each week and at $20 a pop, purchasing ready made baking strips just wasn't an option.
Here's how we make our own baking strips.
They are cheap and effective and can be reused again and again until they start to fall apart.
Give this a try and let us know what you think.
Til next time!