Ready for more tips and tricks to make your baked goods a success? (See Part 1 here)
Alrighty then, let’s go!
1. Cookies spread too much?
Most often, this is due to your butter being too soft when you cream the butter and sugar together. It can also be caused by using too little leavening (baking powder or baking soda) or leavening that is old/expired. One last cause that’s common is baking cookies on a hot cookie sheet. This usually happens when you bake one round of cookies, remove the cookies to a cooling rack, and put another round of cookies on the same pan to bake. If you are like me and don’t have the patience to wait for the cookie sheet to cool before you put another round of cookies on it, this will happen. The butter starts to melt and the cookie begins to spread before they begin to cook in the oven. Basically, your cookies melt a bit before they bake so they spread more.
2. When is the cake done?
Yes, you can use the “toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean” test, but I’ve also found other ways to check. First, lightly touch the middle of the cake. If it springs back to the touch, it’s probably done. Another way is to look for the edges beginning to pull away from the pan. Nine times out of ten, this is the method I use to see if my cakes are done. Be careful not to over bake if you’re using this method, though. You want to pull the cake out to cool when the cake is just pulling away from the edges, not when it’s shriveled and charred.
3. Using chocolate chips or other heavy ingredients in cakes/cupcakes/muffins:
If you just plop the chocolate chips into the batter and pour into your baking pan, the chocolate chips will sink to the bottom. You won’t get your pretty little chocolate chips throughout the final cake. The chocolate will look more like a crust at the bottom of the pan….not as pretty. To keep the chocolate chips suspended in the final cake, toss them in a little bit of flour before adding them to the batter. Not sure why this works, but it does.
4. Crumb-free frosting
Prep work time! To make sure that you get a crumb-free outer layer of frosting, especially when you’re sculpting cakes, you’ll need to do what’s called a crumb coat. What is this? A crumb coat is a very thin layer of somewhat watered down frosting that seals in crumbs. To do this: Set aside a little bit of buttercream in a small mixing bowl. Add a little water to the bowl until the buttercream is a consistency similar to ranch dressing. (How’s that for a visual? Spreading ranch on a cake. Yuck!) Spread a thin layer on the cake. Yes, it will look bad and it will be transparent. Allow the crumb coat to dry a bit before putting on your final layer of (usual consistency) buttercream. And voila! You won’t have to worry about crumbs in your pretty cake.
5. Fondant that doesn’t suck.
Are you one of the many, many people who says “I don’t like fondant. It tastes awful”? Well, you may have just tried a really awful tasting brand of fondant. Now let me preface what I’m about to say by stating that I like Wilton products for the most part because they’re great for the home baker. However, Wilton’s fondant tastes AWFUL!! So if you’ve only tried their brand, I beg you to try the good stuff before swearing off of fondant forever. I like to use Satin Ice and lately have also been using Duff Goldman’s “Duff” brand of fondant. Why? Because these are the two types I can buy in my area. Marshmallow fondant is also very yummy…I just don’t have the patience to make the stuff every time I make a fondant cake.
6. Getting fondant to stick:
You don’t need any special glue or extreme amounts of frosting every time you attach fondant to a cake. To put the fondant on the cake, you’ll need to put a thin layer of frosting on the cake prior to covering with fondant. To get fondant to stick to fondant, use water. For instance, say you want to make a zebra cake like this one. (or this one) You cut your zebra stripes out of black fondant, dip your finger in a little water, dab a tiny bit of water onto the back of the stripe, then stick the stripe to the cake. When water meets fondant, the fondant gets sticky. Think of it like pre-pasted wallpaper that has to have water as an activator.
C’mon. You know you have a baking question!! Comment and ask. I’ll answer them and write another “Insider Training” post. 🙂