Our superior Diplôme de Pâtisserie students create an array of culinary delights and miniature cakes for their Afternoon Tea event in which they showcase the skills and techniques that they have acquired during their time at Le Cordon Bleu London. But for many baking enthusiasts and amateur cooks, making a cake can be a lot like playing the lottery – you either win, and end up creating a well-risen and beautifully moist masterpiece, or you lose and end up with a deflated, dense or dented sponge.
If you are one of those people that fall into the latter category, then don’t despair because our expert Master Pâtissiers are on hand to ensure that from now on, whenever you get the baking fever, you will end up winning every time.
So here are our Chefs’ four top-tips for making the perfect cake:
- The Two T’s: Temperature and Timing
Do not ignore the recipes when it insists that your butter and eggs should be at room temperature.
Cold ingredients require extra mixing time which incorporates more air into the batter, and warm ingredients require less mixing time, but the heat generated from this process may make the components melt or soften before needed, so you have to get the balance right. It is also really important to not only verify the temperature of your oven, but also that of your kitchen, because this can adversely influence how your ingredients behave.
And don’t forget to make sure that the timer is ticking once you pop your cake into the oven because there is a really thin line between being baked-to-perfection and being overcooked.
Don’t underestimate the importance of each component in your cake recipe.
Before you start baking, check that you have all of the ingredients required and that there is enough of each to complete the recipe. Inaccurate ratios and proportions can lead to inconsistencies in the final product, so ensure that you measure all of the components accurately by using a digital scale. If you want to make a bigger or smaller cake than the recipe accounts for, then there are plenty of recipe converters online. These calculators will ensure that you adjust the ingredients accordingly, and don’t end up making a measurement mistake which will cost you your perfect cake.
Don’t overlook the importance of your mixing method.
When mixing your batter, the desired aim should be to blend all of the ingredients so that they are evenly distributed. You need to incorporate air into your batter in order for your cake to have a great rise and the perfect crumb, so a whisk is the best utensil to use. In terms of mixing methods there are two main options when making a cake:
Creaming Method: This is when you beat the fat (e.g. butter) to emulsify and aerate it with the water component (e.g. eggs). This method sometimes requires the addition of a chemical leavener (e.g. baking powder) to obtain the rise and texture desired.
Foaming Method: This method relies on eggs or egg whites to provide the necessary lift in the mixture, with the egg white providing the structure and the egg yolk providing the softness.
With both methods it is important to note that the flour should be added last when mixing in order to limit the development of gluten.
There are seven stages of baking and the basic components of a cake (sugar, butter, flour and eggs), play an important role in each stage of the baking process and inevitably in how your cake will turn out. So here are some common issues that arise when baking and why they happen:
Low rise: Not enough air incorporated into the mixture during whisking or eggs heated too quickly.
Uneven shape: The temperature of the oven was not regulated or the oven rack was not level.
Crust too dark: Too much sugar used or the temperature was too high.
Cracked surface: Too much flour, the wrong flour, overmixed batter or again the temperature was too high.
Dense and dry: Too much sugar, eggs heated too quickly or temperature too low.
So there you have it, Le Cordon Bleu London’s expert advice for cake baking perfection. If you would like some more thorough training in pâtisserie techniques from our Chefs then make sure you check out our exciting range of programmes.