by Dr Johannah Soo, Lecturer, Natural Sciences and Science Education Academic Group
Baking is fun! It can even be therapeutic. However, I do know of some who seem to have problems baking a decent-looking cake. It really isn’t so tough, just follow these easy tips on baking:
1. Play with recipes
Some recipes can be very brief and assume certain level of skills. If you can’t figure out the recipe, look for a similar one on the Internet and do a comparison. Video instructions are easily available nowadays, and these tend to be more helpful. More importantly, understand the concepts of baking and get your portions right. A pound cake uses 1 part flour: 1 part eggs: 1 part fat: 1 part sugar. A muffin uses 2 parts flour: 2 parts liquid: 1 part eggs: 1 part fat. If you prefer a denser cake, use more liquid; or if you want a cake that is less sweet, cut back on the sugar.
2. Use good ingredients
High quality ingredients produce good cakes, so it pays to spend a little more on better grade foods. “Food service” grade butter has a weaker flavour to allow bakers greater control over the recipes. When a recipe calls for eggs, this usually refers to large eggs of about 60 g. The eggs sold in Singapore are about 55 g, so you may need to add one more egg if the recipe calls for a large quantity of eggs.
3. Get your numbers right
You’ll also need to know how much ingredients to prepare. American recipes tend to use the Imperial or U.S. measuring systems, while others are in the S.I. (metric) system. If you need to do some conversion, do it before getting your ingredients, so that you would have enough ingredients to start. For example, one block of butter in an American recipe is about 113 g, but butter sold in the Singapore supermarkets is typically 225-250 g per block. Some brands of unsalted butter are sold in 227 g blocks. If you are low on a particular ingredient, just scale the recipes proportionately.
4. No oven, no problem
Baking doesn’t always have to take place in an oven, and it is possible to whip up a delicious cake using a rice cooker, air fryer or microwave oven. Ultimately, it is the transfer of hot air in a convection oven that allows the cake to be baked. As long as you place your batter in a cooker with sufficient hot air circulation, you can bake your cake.
Dr Soo’s Goof-Proof Orange Butter Cupcakes
- 250 g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 250 g salted butter
- 170 g sugar
- 3 eggs
- Zest of 2 large oranges
- 100 ml fresh orange juice
- ½ teaspoon vanilla essence
- Preheat oven to 175 °C. Line muffin tin with paper cupcake cases. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder.
- Using a stand mixer on medium speed, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add orange zest, followed by eggs into the butter and sugar mixture, and continue to beat for 1 min. If the mixture curdles, just add 1 tablespoon of flour and continue mixing.
- On low speed, add flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with juice and essence.
- Switch mixer to medium speed and beat for 15 sec, until batter appears uniform. The batter should look thick and creamy.
- Pour batter into the cupcake cases until ⅔ full.
- Bake for about 20 min, or until it turns a dark-golden colour. Insert a skewer or toothpick into the middle of the cupcake and make sure it comes out clean.
- Let to rest in pan for 5 min then remove to cooling rack. Allow cake to completely cool before serving.
Addition of cocoa powder:
Remember the dry ingredients and wet ingredients must be proportionate. For example, if you add a tablespoon of cocoa powder, you need to remove a tablespoon of plain floor.
Addition of chocolate or nuts:
Add them to the batter just before baking. Give it a quick stir but do not over-mix. As chocolate sprinkles/rice melts very fast, you are inevitably increasing the proportion of wet ingredients in the recipe. This would produce a denser cake. Alternatively, increase the baking time by 5 min or until the cake is cooked thoroughly.