In this section I will try and give some helpful cake baking tips to help your cakes turn out great.
Weigh and measure your ingredients. Cake making is a science and things can go horribly wrong when you have too much raising agent, or too much flour. Lots of American recipes use cups for measurements. I like to use cups for liquids but for anything else you get a more consistent results if you weigh the ingredients, and its also less messy. When using spoons use a level spoon unless otherwise stated. I have some old fashioned scales which small children love to help with, the other advantage is the battery never runs out. Use large eggs for recipes. For sponge cakes weigh the eggs to ensure consistent results.
Ensure that your eggs and butter are at room temperature. It makes the cakes much hard to mix when they are cold and it tends to lead to a heavier cake. On a really hot day the butter might be too soft, the right texture is like cold cream cheese, if its too hot put back in the fridge for a few minutes.
Use the right raising agent. Baking powder and baking soda do different things. If you add too much a recipe you can sometimes taste it and you risk that the cake might rise up too early and then sink in the middle. Always check it is in its sell by date.
To make self raising flour add 1 level tablespoon (3 teaspoons) of baking powder to 225g of plain flour. If you need a different amount use a multiple of the flour e.g make up 450g of flour with 2 tablespoons of baking powder, or two 15g packets of German Backpulver. To ensure it is well mixed put it in a large storage jar and shake to mix.
Sieve the flour and raising agents to ensure they are well mixed, this should help get an even rising cake.
Don’t over mix the mixture. Over working the flour can lead to heavy stiff cakes. Mix till the flour and other ingredients are just combined. The picture below shows what you should be aiming for when making a sponge cake.
Line or oil your cake tins, if you are using them. It stops the mixture from sticking. Alternatively use paper cases for cup cakes. I have just bought some mini cake tins and they work really well giving a golden brown outside finish without the need for extra cases. You can use silicon cases but I find the cake edges are not as golden brown.
Try and spread out your mixture evenly, that way your cakes should be ready at the same time. An ice cream scoop makes it a lot easier for cup cakes.
Preheat your oven before putting the cakes in. It helps take some of the guess work out of when they will be ready. Don’t open the oven until the minimum time is up unless you think your cakes are starting to burn. Letting cold air in before the cakes are cooked can cause them to sink in the middle. When the minimum time is up, first check the colour, then use a skewer to poke the cake, if it comes out clean they are done. If not check again in another couple of minutes. If you are making banana bread the cake is quite sticky test that the top has some spring in it and that it has a good golden colour. If your cakes rise up and then sink it is due to there even being too much raising agent or that your oven is too hot. Try cooking at a lower temperature next time round.
Leave to cool in tin for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack. This stops the cakes from getting a soggy bottom.
Its easier to make icing in a food processor. Icing sugar normally has lots of lumps in it. Blend it on its own first before adding the other ingredients. Add the liquid a little bit at a time to try and ensure it doesn’t get too runny. Ice the cakes when they are completely cold.
Store cakes in an airtight tin. Most cakes don’t need to go in the fridge unless they contain cream. Fridges tend to dry out cakes.