Frustrated by cakes that get stuck to the tin, biscuits that run together and cupcake frosting that won’t swirl? Read on for my Five Tips to Instantly Improve your Baking!
I’m really lucky in that most of my bakes turn out really well (not that I haven’t had a few memorable disasters!), but I know that lots of people struggle with their baking. Even though what you make may already taste delicious, these little steps will add polish and that extra oomph to really take your baking to the next level.
Use good quality chocolate and vanilla (skimp on everything else)
I am a HUGE advocate of using cheap ingredients in my baking – on the things where it doesn’t matter. Here’a s run down of what I use.
- Value unsalted butter (sometimes Tesco or Sainsburys, sometimes Lidl, never over a £1)
- Value plain flour (did you know you can make your own cake flour? Just replace 2 tbsp of flour of every 23og your recipe needs with corn flour and whisk)
- The cheapest caster / golden caster sugar – usually Tate and Lyle or supermarket own brand. Buy a tin of treacle and you won’t need to spend money on dark muscavado / dark brown sugar or light muscavado / light brown sugar – you can make your own! Oh, and it tastes SO much better and keeps your baked goods moist!
- Good quality chocolate – this doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. I often use tesco everyday value plain chocolate in my baking which at 55% cocoa solids does a great job in brownies and chocolate frostings. And its 30p per 100g. Where you want a more intense chocolate hit (75% cocoa solids), I’ll often go for a supermarket version too (about £1 per 100g) – why spend £3 on a small bar of fancy chocolate when it’ll end up tasting the same?
- Free range eggs – here’s where it does matter. Never use value eggs. If the cost on the shelf is super low, the chicken has probably paid the price. I use local free range eggs that are sold by someone I work with, or happy eggs are good too
- Vanilla – okay, here’s where you can’t skimp. My favourite vanilla is vanilla bean paste – it’s like extract but it’s full of vanilla bean seeds for an intense flavour and that gorgeous speckled look that tells you it’s really got vanilla in it! My favourites are Neilsen Massey and Steenbergs. Tesco and other supermarkets occasionally do a baking 3 for 2 which is the time to stock up as they’re £7 a bottle. A bottle lasts me a few months of baking though, and I’m guessing I do more than most people! Given how much I use it, it might be better for me to buy it in bulk really!
Coffee and vanilla make chocolate flavours sing
For a really decadent and delicious chocolate cake or cupcake, include a hefty dose of vanilla bean paste, and coffee too. I like to use a little brewed strong espresso in my cakes or frostings – just a couple of teaspoons is enough to make the chocolate flavour even more chocolatey, without making it taste like coffee – you won’t even know it’s there!
Salt makes cakes, cookies, and breads better
Never skip the salt! Salt wakes up all the other flavours and bring them together – it is so important in your baking, and not just in sweet/salty desserts like my chocolate peanut butter pretzel brownies! I like to use unsalted butter, since it means I can control the amount of salt in my baked goods, but be sure to add a pinch to cake and cookie batter, and even frostings too – it helps balance and cut through the sweetness and make things even more delicious. Sprinkle a little sea salt on top of just baked melty cookies too – sooo good!
Include sour cream, greek yoghurt, or buttermilk in your cupcakes and cakes to keep them moist
Cakes and cupcakes just taste better when they’re moist and packed with flavour! Look for recipes with sour cream, yoghurt or buttermilk and your cake will be amazing and stay moist for days too. I love Annie’s chocolate cupcakes with sour cream, and this lemon drizzle loaf with greek yoghurt. Give it a try!
Invest just £5 in icing nozzles for awesome cupcakes
Want to do a really impressive rose or swirly swirl? You need just two types of nozzle and your cupcakes will look pretty forevermore! A 2d nozzle for a rose swirl, and a star nozzle for the prettiest classic swirl. I also have this great set with seven different nozzles which has come in really handy over the last few years.
Oh, and you’ll also need some piping bags – I love these ones from Lakeland. They’re disposable, because life’s too short to wash out a piping bag!