My boyfriend is sat laughing at me from across the room as I write this, “you cry almost every time you bake a cake, you cannot write about avoiding breakdowns!” A slight over exaggeration on his part I might add, I do not cry over every cake, just the odd one – “IT’S ART OKAY.”
Baking, whilst therapeutic and a great distraction from modern day stresses, can sometimes tip you over the edge. Ingredients can be expensive and there’s often some tool you don’t have for one single recipe you desperately want to make so you sacrifice your weekly food shop allowance and then the whole thing is a massive flop. You’re now faced with a bombsite for a kitchen, a gaping hole in your Instagram feed where said cake was supposed to feature (the worst) and oh yeah, no food for the week.
I realise I’m sounding slightly dramatic here, but after speaking to some fellow foodies at a recent blogger event I was relieved to discover I am not the only one this happens to. Food friends are great by the way for emotional, cake related support because no one else is going to know or care about the cooking process of a meringue.
As its the start of a new year and a time when you’re generally supposed to rid yourself of bad energy and all that, it seemed appropriate to write this post with help from some of my favourite bloggers who absolutely slay the baking game. I’ve called upon Jane’s Patisserie, Becky’s Biscuit Bases, John Holland aka Baker on Board and Amy’s Bakes to help me pull together the ten best tips to prevent a bake-down. So come at me fondant icing, I am so (almost) ready for you.
Baking a cake and keeping your cool – top ten tips:
- Make sure you have the required amount of ingredients, plus more in case of any accidents
- Check ‘Use By’ dates on all your ingredients if you’re using stuff in the back of your baking cupboard. Crazy as you forget that flour, baking powder etc have these but I once used off Icing Sugar and it was hideous
- If you didn’t listen to mine and Becky’s previous piece of advice about ingredients, never EVER send boyfriend out for stuff you don’t have. They are clueless and he will return with a tub of ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ when you asked for the real deal (true story)
- Read the recipe a couple of times before you start baking. It will mentally prepare you, especially if you’re baking something for the first time. This is something Mary Berry and John swear by so let’s not mess around!
- Pinterest and YouTube are your friends. If you’re making icing models or something that requires skill, it’s likely there are tutorials you can follow. This helped Jane with her epic Pancake cake
- If you’ve agreed to make something for someone and the design, cake flavour etc is totally new to you, do a test cake. Yes it incurs more cost but you will know what you’re doing and can learn from any mistakes
- Make what you can in advance. Sponge is great as you can do it the day before and refrigerate overnight before you need to use it. Perfect when your fondant icing (grrrr) is being difficult
- All of us cannot stress the importance of TIME. Do give yourself as much of it as possible, because you will never get a three tiered wedding cake done in just one day. Oh and sleep, you’d be surprised what can be achieved in the morning with a clear head
- Seems obvious but check everything is working, Amy’s oven once broke on the day of a baking competition and had to run to a friends to make a cake for the heat AND final round. Friends are great.
- If all isn’t going to plan and you feel a bit emosh, don’t listen to the person (most likely boyfriend) shouting ‘IT’S JUST A CAKE’. It is never just a cake but most things can be fixed, even if they don’t end up looking like you originally planned
Remember how heartbreaking it was when Val left the recent series of Bake Off? She had so much love for baking and I think that’s why I’ve stuck with it despite some set backs. Learn from each project you take on and remember the feeling you get once you’ve totally bossed something. We don’t often take the time to pat ourselves on the back and relish the compliments we receive (I think its a Brit thing) so we definitely should.
Happy baking guys!
Photo credit: Drake on cake