Q1. Can I use milk instead of buttermilk? What can I substitute buttermilk it with?
A1. No, buttermilk provides a cake with a slightly tangy, extra soft texture and helps the cake rise. You can make a buttermilk substitute easily. For every 1 cup of buttercream you need you can make a substitute by mixing 1 cup of milk with 1 tbsn of milk removed out and adding in 1 tbsn of either white vinegar or lemon juice. Essentially what you are doing is adding in the acid that changes the texture of the cake. If you don’t have lemon juice or vinegar handy you can whisk together 1 cup milk with 1-3/4 tbsn of cream of tartar. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 mins, then stir and use.
Q2. What is cake flour and what can I substitute it with?
A2. Cake flour makes the cake slighter and fluffier. It is hand to get a hold of but a substitute is really easy. You can make your own by using corn starch / flour and plain flour. If you need 1 cup of cake flour use 1 cup of plain flour and remove 2 tbsn of plain flour. Add in 2 tbsn of cornstarch. Easy as!
Q3. Why did my cake sink?
A3. Your cake can sink for a few reasons, some of these being: Over-beating, more beating does not equal more rise in a cake. Also if your oven is to high or low that can sink a cake. An undercooked cake can look perfect one the cake is out of the oven then when cooling down will sink in the centre (see Q4 for a solution on this).
Q4. What do I do when a cake is uncooked in the centre?
A4. Place the cake in the microwave for a few minutes, checking if the cake springs back in the center (or a skewer inserted in comes out clean) every 1 minute. Depending on how undercooked the cake is will dictate how long the cake needs to be microwave for.
Q5. Why did my cake dome?
A5. A cake generally will dome when the outside of the metal tin heats at way to fast and the batter cooks before the cake has a chance to rise as it is suppose to. To stop this from occurring you can use a silicone cake mould (available at Kmart, Target etc) or place newspaper around the tin on the outside and tie with string. This will stop the outskirts of the tin overheating so much.
Q6. How do I get my cakes to rise evenly? How do I make self raising flour?
A6. This answer covers off both the above questions. If you want an even rising cake you need to make your own self raising flour. To make this all you need to do is combine 1 cup plain flour, 2 tsn baking powered and 1/4 tsn bicarbonate of soda, easy! I cup of evenly raising self raising flour. If this fails to work you need to check your oven temprature is not to high and ensure you stir the flour in the mix properly before baking.
Q7. Help I broke my tart shell how do I fix it?
A7. If you have a slight break in a tart shell once its has been baked you can use egg whites on a pastry brush as ‘baking glue and sealer’. Once you have done this you can then place the tart back in a hot oven but tuned off for 2 minutes to cook the seal. The filling will stay in the tart now.
Q8. How do I cool a cake down in minutes? How do I stop cake layers bleeding into each other?
A8. If you need to cool a cake down really quickly wait until it is warm and can be held in your hands and place in the fridge or even freezer. Cakes do continue baking after they leave the oven but if you let it cool for 10 minutes before placing in the fridge you will be fine and it will cool extremely fast. Now you can ice without the icing melting!
Placing a cake in the fridge or freezer is also perfect for setting a cake layer and stopping layers bleed before the next can be added. If you need to let ganache/cheesecake/caramel etc set place in the fridge or even freezer and it will set in 1/6 of the time.
Q9. Should I cook with unsalted butter or salted butter?
A9. I recommend you use unsalted in all your baking. This way if you need to add salt to a recipe to intensify a flavour you can add the amount the recipe asks for..who knows how much salt is in the salted butter already!
Q10. Is oil or butter better for baking?
A10. It depends on what you are baking and the texture you need. To me personally there is not much difference in texture (some people think oil makes a cake more moist). I see butter adding more to the other ingredince flavour, where oil (especially EVOO) brings in its own quite dominant flavour and can completely change the taste of a delicate cake. I tend to always opt for butter, unless I want the oil taste, also you can’t cream oil so buttercream would be impossible!
Q11. Are their any healthy substitutes I can do for my cake?
A11. Certainly, a common one is to replace some of the butter in a cake with applesauce. This also have the dual effect of not only being more healthy but making a cake more moist. I don’t recommend replacing all the butter though, I wouldn’t replace more than 1/2 of the recipes butter.
Q12. How do I keep whipped cream stable and fluffy?
A12. If you add a 1 tsn of corn-starch/corn flour (per cup of cream) this will help keep the cream set, similar to what cream of tartar does to stabilise eggwhites.
Q13. Why are my biscuits flat?
A13. If your biscuits always turn out flat a reason for this could be because the butter has melted too quickly. If you refrigerate the mix before baking for 1 hour or place the mix in the freezer for 20 minutes this will stop the rate at the biscuit speed when it is in the oven.
Q14. How do I get my biscuits extra crunchy?
A14. If you want your biscuits crunchy leave them on the bench after they have come out of the oven and cooled for at least 1 hour. If you place them in a container as soon as they have cooled they will remain chewy and soft.
Q15. Why does my cake always fall in the middle while baking?
A15. There are a few reasons why this has occurred; I suggest you check that the oven isn’t too low. If this is not the problem you make have too much batter in the tin or you may have moved the cake tin to many times while it was baking.
Q16. The top of my cake domes and have a big crack in the middle, help?
A16. Make sure your cake is in the centre of the oven, so the middle rack and not to a side. Also check that your oven is not too hot. When a cake cooks the outside cooks first, then the middle. If the temperature is too high the outside will cook to quickly and not rise enough while the middle keeps rising.
Q17. Help, my recipe calls for half and half. What is this?
A17. This is a mix of half cream and half milk. The easiest way to bake with this ingredient (as it’s not that common) is by substituting. This is super easy; if you need a cup all you need to do is measure out a cup of milk, take out 2 tbsn’s of milk and replace with 1 + 1/2 tbsn’s of butter. Mix together the butter melted with the milk and hey presto half and half equivalent. This works as half and half is all based on the fat % in the milk, by adding the butter you attain the required conversion.
Q18. How can I stop the fruit in my cake from sinking to the bottom?
A18. There are a few reasons this can happen. To stop this moving forward I recommend that you mix the fruit into the flour before you mix the flour into the wet mix to make the batter. You can also cut the fruit into smaller piece as they may be sinking due to the pieces being too heavy, especially if you over beat and the mix gets too watery. Lastly just double check the oven temperature, you don’t want the mix to melt too quickly as the fruit will not hold and sink.
Q19. Why are my cakes never fluffy?
A19. Humm, try not to over beat. You should mix until the batter is just combine otherwise you can mix out all those lovely air bubbles you whisked in at the start. This could toughen up your cake. You can also get a stiff cake if you don’t have enough liquid in the mix. Also check the dates on the baking powder and soda if they are past their used by date they will not work well and trust me it makes a massive difference! If these things don’t make a difference maybe it’s the actual recipe you are using? Or you are not beating the sugar and butter for enough time – the longer the better!
Q20. Why do I need to have eggs at room temperature?
A20. If you use cold eggs instead of room temperature the cake will take slightly longer to cook. A way to warm eggs if you forgot to take out of the fridge is to place boiling water into a bowl, tip into the sink and place the eggs under the bowl in the dome. To be honest there is really not that much difference between both, unless you need to whip the eggs where room temp seem to whip slightly better. Additionally there is no difference as to if you keep eggs in the fridge or in room temp.
Have a question I haven’t answered? Post a comment or send me an email and I’ll have it answered in a jiffy.