Saturday 28 July 2012

My Top 10 Baking Tips

Perfection is lots of little things done well
- Point.

If you live in Australia and you're thinking you've heard that quotation recently, chances are you watched this year's Masterchef episode featuring Marco Pierre White. He said this to the contestants a number of times, and I guess it kind of stuck with me too...

In all of my work, I strive for perfection. A perfectionist at heart, I always feel there is room for improvement, and I have no qualms about admitting that. I believe it will result in a better end product - which is good for my business, and good for my customers!

So here are some little things that I have learnt along the way about baking (more specifically, baking cakes and cupcakes).. they may be simple, but they all add up in the end.

1. Choose quality ingredients... and choose them wisely.
Quality ingredients like premium butter and high quality chocolate make for superb baked goods, but let's not forget about the simple egg. They might all look the same, but they're not. Unfortunately, most eggs in Australia are produced by caged battery farm hens. So choose wisely, and choose free range eggs! I use only free range eggs in all of my baking. It's the humane choice, and many of my customers say the tastier one too!

2. The oven - always give your oven at least 20 minutes to preheat, and place the cake in the centre of the middle rack. The will help ensure even cooking.

3. Start with all of your ingredients at room temperature. Obviously this isn't an issue with the dry ingredients like flour and sugar, but you'll need to take out your eggs, milk and butter well in advance. Softened butter creams beautifully, and that combined with everything else at room temperature will ensure your ingredients blend together really smoothly. Plus, eggs used at room temperature will give your cake more 'lift'.

4. Adapting pan sizes. Do you get frustrated when a recipe calls for a square/round tin and you've only got the opposite? Don't be! There's a knack to figuring out the equivalence. If a recipe calls for an 8 inch square tin, you can use a 9 inch round tin instead (so for square to round, add an inch). And if a recipe calls for an 8 inch round you can use a 7 inch square tin instead (so for round to square, deduct an inch). This is given the pan sizes are of the same depth, of course.

5. Is it done yet? Don't entirely rely on the cooking times in the recipe you are following. Allow for variations from oven to oven, as well as slight variations in tin sizes, and so on. A rough way to check if your cake is cooked is to touch the top (with care of course - it's hot). If it springs back to the touch, chances are it's either done or very close to it. To be sure though, a skewer test is the best check. Poke a thin metal skewer into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean it's done.

6. Economise where possible. Why waste time and money where you needn't. Next time you finish a block of butter, fold up the wrapper and keep it in the fridge - they are ideal for greasing tins! And if a recipe calls for buttermilk, don't rush out and buy a carton - it's easy to make yourself! For 75ml buttermilk combine 10ml of white vinegar and 65ml whole milk in a small bowl and leave it for 5 minutes - voila :) Those are just a couple of my tips - but I'm sure you have a few up your own sleeve already!

7. Patience is golden. When you take a cake out of the oven. and it looks and smells divine.. put it on a rack, and give it at least  minutes before you turn it out. Hot cake is very unstable, and is far more likely to split, break and be ruined if you try and turn it out hot! And while we're on the topic of patience.. always wait for your cake to cool completely before icing it - especially if you're using cream cheese, whipped cream or buttercream. If it is even mildly warm, the icing will alas melt :(

8. To crust or not to crust. Ah, that is the question... Want a crust? Leave your cake to cool on the wire rack uncovered. Don't want one? Leave it too cool on the wire rack with a clean cotton tea towel draped over it. You'll be left with a softer top and sides, and (in my experience) a slightly moister cake!

9. Clean as you go. Booo - yes I know it's the boring part of baking, but it's necessary.. Just think - if you clean as you go, when you're all done you'll be able to sit down with a nice cuppa and a slice of whatever it is you've made without having to worry about a sink full of dirty dishes! The way I work is - as soon as the cake is in the oven I wash everything up and wipe the bench down. Then if I'm decorating the cake later my work area is ready. Also - I like to wash my cake tins as soon as I turn the cake out of them. They're much easier to wash when they're warm and before they crust up. Plus - then you can stick the tin back in the warm oven to dry upside down.

10. Short supplies - avoid last minute dashes to the shops with these tips. Get into the habit of keeping a carton of UHT whole milk in the cupboard. If you've run out of self-raising flour, don't panic. For each cup of plain flour, add two teaspoons of baking powder. Alternatively, you can add half a teaspoon of baking powder and half a teaspoon of bicarbonate soda. Finally, if you're all out of chocolate chips simply chop up come chocolate (this is now my preference!).

So there you have it... my top 10 baking tips in a single post! What are you tips and tricks when it comes to baking? I would love to hear yours, dear readers!

Anna x

Sunday 22 July 2012

This week in review

Phew! At last a day to put my feet up and spend some time with my family :) It's been a very busy week. I completed a fantastic training course, made a few small cakes and have been busy with business admin stuff. Ahhhh admin, the boring yet necessary part of my new business. Anyway, here are  few snaps for you all...

First, my 'Little Bee Cake'...

And then this Ninjago cake for a young Lego ninja loving client client...

Finally, here are the results from my training course at Handi's Cakes this week. I created this double barrel, two tier cake with a beautiful pearl lustre finish and sugar magnolias. I love love love making sugar flowers... I may have found a new vice!

The original plan was to add some piping detail to the bottom tier, but once I had applied the lustre finish I felt it already looked so elegant that it really did not need it in addition to the flowers. As you can see in the picture below, when the light hits the finish it looks so pretty (and even prettier by night!). This cake makes me want to get married again - such a classy look!

That's all from me for now...

If you haven't already liked my business page and you'd like to follow what I'm up to, here is the link:

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone :)

Anna x

Tuesday 17 July 2012

A quick update

Hello, dear readers!

Just a quick update from me to let you all know what I have been up to.

I have been busy at work getting organised for my business, Anna Trivedi Cakes. I have sorted my logo out and I am so so pleased with it, but there is still so much more to do. At any rate, here it is... It simply had to include the ladybirds ;)

I have been getting quite a few orders which is very exciting! The latest was this cute Winnie the Pooh inspired first birthday cake for a little boy in my mother's group. I absolutely love bunting on children's birthday cakes. No, actually, I love bunting on just about anything!! Anyway, I love the way the colours in the bunting ties the design together. I also ensured some of the bunting triangles came away from the cake a little to give the effect of them blowing in the breeze rather than having a cookie-cutter effect. I think it's details like these that can really lift a cake.

And last but not least (The Emperor is about to wake from his afternoon nap and I must rush I'm afraid), I have learnt of a fantastic opportunity for all you baking enthusiasts here in Australia. I recently received an email from a casting director for Channel 9. Here's the brief:

Are you a keen amateur baker? Are you passionate about your hobby? Can you turn out a fantastic cake, tart or loaf of bread? Are you ready to put your skills to the ultimate test?

The Nine Network is making an exciting prime time series called "The Great Australian Bake Off" and we are looking for amateur bakers from across the country to take part. During the series, our bakers will be put to a series of tasks where one lucky participant will be crowned Australia’s best amateur baker!

However long you’ve been baking for, we’d love to hear from you! Apply now!

Will update you all again soon! Take care for now


Saturday 7 July 2012

Ballerina Bear Cake

I have been busy at work this week experimenting with cake flavours and rather than letting the cakes go to waste, I have been using them to practise some new designs and figurines. My favourite of the week is this cute six inch Ballerina Bear cake. Next time I make this design I think I'll incorporate a little tulle tutu to turn her into a true prima ballerina bear!

And to turn girly into ueber-girly, I opted for some very feminine and fragrant flavours for the cake. This was a cardamom-spiced butter cake brushed with a rosewater sugar syrup, then layered and covered in saffron infused white chocolate ganache. Cutting into the cake smelled like heaven, and it tasted as pretty as it smelled!

I aim to offer a great range of flavours in my cakes - from the classic to the modern. May no flavour be left unturned in pursuit of cakely perfection! With my 300 plus followers out there, who better to ask about cake than you!

So tell me, dear readers, what sort of flavours would you like to enjoy in a cake at a special celebration? I look forward to reading your replies :)

Anna x

PS - If you like what you see here, why not follow me on Facebook?

Monday 2 July 2012

Anna Trivedi Cakes

Hi everyone,

It's been a while since my last update - tut, tut, tut! Well I have been quite busy between one thing and another. Looking after The Emperor keeps me busy on one hand, but I have also been hard at work at starting my own cake business! Yes, I have decided to get a bit more serious about making cakes. I thought it was about time I stop talking about doing it and actually DO it!

Here are some pictures of my recent work...

I called this beautiful giraffe 'Sophie' after The Emperor's much-loved (and chewed) teething toy. Sophie was made complete with beautiful lashes and a cheeky tongue! This was a cake I made as part of some of my recent training at Planet Cake in Balmain, and was donated to the Ronald McDonald House in Randwick. The kids were thrilled to bits to enjoy such a fun chocolate cake for dessert :)

I've also been making some birthday cakes for children in my mothers' group recently. This drum cake was for a little boy of Swedish heritage, so it was befitting that blue and yellow be included in the design.

And another first birthday cake. This one based on the popular children's book 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar'. I read this book to The Emperor every night before he goes to sleep so I am very familiar with the story. Making all the little food figurines in reference to the book was a lot of fun.

That's all from me for now, but hopefully it will not be too long before I update again with more cake shots!

Anna x
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