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      Tuck-Box's Top 5 Tips For Baking perfect Cakes

      1.Use the right kind of tins:

       

      I use 3x Alan Silverwood sandwich pans per cake tier, they're shallow and you divide the batter between the three meaning the cakes bake for a much shorter time and are therefore much lighter in texture. Yes they're expensive, but I do think there comes a time when you must have a good set of cake tins. They'll last you a life time. Think of it as an investment piece like the coat you once bought!

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      2. Use an electric beater: 

      Preferably a stand alone one like a Kenwood or kitchen aid- however an electric whisk will also do the trick if you don't bake that often. Do I have a preference for Kitchen Aid or Kenwood? I've had both in my life and I did find the Kenwood slightly better because it had a wider range of mixing speeds. Also it has a plastic bowl that can go straight in the microwave and is considerably cheaper then a kitchen Aid. So why do I have a Kitchen Aid now then? Simply because it comes in the most amazing colours and I wanted to the ice blue one since like- forever.

      3. Know your oven: 

      I've worked with a range of ovens, both commercial and domestic and they all had one thing in common: they're all different. Fan ovens have a reputation for being hotter but I don't know if thats true. Not in my case anyway. My best advice would be to locate it's 'hotspot' (where it tends to cook/burn quickest) - most likely at the back. Turn you cake round 2/3'rds into the suggested cooking time so it bakes and colours evenly. Oh and for gods sake do it quickly, it makes me anxious when the door is left open for too long.

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      4. Use bake even strips: 

      These are made by Wilton and are designed to be soaked in water before putting them round your tins. Yes they can be a bit of a faff but this post is about how to make the 'perfect' cake after all. I pop them into a bowl of water before I start preparing the ingredients and then rest another heavy bowl on top so they remain submerged. When I'm at the stage of adding the eggs bit by bit, I take a break to apply them to the tins. I find they make a real difference to how the cake rises. Instead of doming they make the cake rise all at one level. This has a couple of advantages. Firstly you don't then need to trim the cakes before sandwiching together (and anything to decrease the amount of work will always be a bonus to me). But secondly you don't waste cake. I know for a lot of you the cake is never wasted because it'll go straight in your mouths but when you make several cakes a day it can add up and you begin to loose your appetite. Oh and another thing- you don't get a tough crust round the edges!

      5. Freeze your cake: 

      No matter if I'm making the cake a day or a week before, I always freeze it. Why? Because not only does it reduce the stress, baking it at a time suited to your schedule, but it also makes it considerably moister and in my opinion, improves the flavour. I find the vanilla extract really has a chance to permeate the sponge much better. My preferred method is to wrap the cake tightly in clingfilm before its completely cool as that remaining bit of steam will do it wonders. Bung it straight in the freezer and it can stay in there until you need it. 

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      Vanilla sponge recipe

      This is my bog standard, do it in your sleep, basic sponge cake recipe. It’s the basis to many of my creations as its quick to make, sturdy enough to carve and lets face it- who doesn’t like a simple Victoria sponge??

      From these humble beginnings you can add a multitude of flavours. From lemon rind, to cocoa powder, caraway seeds to chocolate chips. Its like that LBD, dress it up or dress it down depending on the occasion. Ladle on the cream and scatter with seasonal fruits for a summer picnic, or torte it with alternate layers of dark and white chocolate ganache and take to a dinner party- Just experiment! If you’re not the adventures type however, stay tuned as I will be exploring these variations in further posts. 

      But hold on! Before you even pick up that spatula, you've first gotta read my previous blogpost: ‘top 5 tips for baking the perfect cake’. Read it already? Good. Then my only other advice would be to beat the butter and sugar together for as long as possible, until its fluffy as clouds. I’m talking at least 5 minutes on the highest setting of your mixer. It needs to be a completely different colour. And keep that speed going when it comes to adding the eggs. (although turn it down momentarily otherwise they’ll go everywhere!). This is the bases of a lovely light sponge. 

      Oh and finally- use the best quality vanilla extract (not essence) you can afford. Seriously, it makes all the difference.

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      Makes 1 x 8” Cake or 24 x cupcakes 

      INGREDIENTS:

      • 400g Salted butter (preferably at room temperature, if not zap it in the microwave till its about 10% runny)

      • 400g Caster Sugar

      • 8 x Large free range eggs

      • 400g Self raising flour

      • 3 tbsp good quality vanilla extract

      You will also need:

      • 3 x loose bottomed sandwich pans, you’ll find a link to them in my previous blog post/ 2 x 12 hole muffin tins

      • Greaseproof paper

      • Cake release spray/butter and flour for greasing

      • Bake even strips (optional)

      • Ice cream scoop if you’re making the cupcakes (optional)

      METHOD:

      • Preheat the oven to 180c, Gas Mark 4.

      • Grease and line your cake tins. To do this I spray the tin with cake release and line the bottom with a circle of greaseproof paper. It’s much quicker/less faff. If you don’t have the spray you can use regular butter and flour round the edges. Whatever you do, it’s important to still line the bottom. If you’re making cupcakes, pop the cases into your muffin tins. (definitely muffin tins, not fairy cake tins as they’re much shallower)

      • Beat the butter and sugar together on a high speed until pale and fluffy.

      • Crack your eggs into a separate bowl and add your vanilla extract. Whisk them with a fork until just combined.

      • Add your egg mixture, I do this by momentarily turning the mixer down to the lowest speed setting and pouring a couple of glugs in. Turn it back up to the highest speed setting and beat till incorporated. Do this bit by bit till all your egg mixture is gone. Don’t worry about over beating your mixture, you want it as whipped as possible. Put on your bake even strips if you’re using them at this point (details in previous post). Make sure to scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl with a spatula and beat again for a couple of minutes to ensure the batter mixes evenly. It doesn’t matter if your batter separates at this point, it’ll come together during the next stage.

      • Add your flour in two halves mixing on slow/medium speed after each time. Make sure you scrape down the sides regularly to ensure everything has mixed properly.

      • Mix until combined but no more.

      • For the sponge cake:

      • Divide your mixture equally into your three cake tins and use a spatula to spread the mixture all the way to the edges.

      • Place in the oven and give the Tina a turn after 16 minutes. Bake for approximately 22 minutes, if the sponge springs back when touched or you insert a sharp knife into the centre of each cake and they come out clean.

      • Once cooked, remove from the oven and place the tins on a wire rack. Allow to cool for a few minutes and then turn the cakes out. Once cooled, wrap in cling film and refrigerate/freeze until ready to use.

      • For the cupcakes:

      • Distribute your batter equally into your cupcake cases - an ice-cream scoop works best for this.

      • Place your cupcakes in the middle of your oven and bake for +/- 16 minutes, checking and rotating them after about 11.

      • The cupcakes are done when a sharp knife inserted into the centre of one comes out clean and they spring back when touched.

      • When the cupcakes are ready, remove them from the muffin tray immediately and leave to cool on a wire rack. If they aren’t removed from their tray quickly enough the cases will begin to peel away from the cupcakes.

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      Want to make your sponge in another size or add another flavour? Here's my trusty guide:

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