The ingredients for cakes, as well as for puddings, should all be fresh and good, as well as free from damp; the lightness of many kinds depends entirely on that given to the eggs by whisking, and by the manner in which the whole is mixed. A small portion of carbonate of soda, which will not be in the slightest degree perceptible to the taste after the cake is baked, if thrown in just before the mixture is put into the oven, will ensure its rising well.
To guard against the bitterness so often imparted by yeast when it is used for cakes or biscuits, it should be sparingly added, and the sponge should be left twice the usual time to rise. This method will be found to answer equally with bread. For example: should a couple of spoonsful of yeast be ordered in a receipt, when it is bitter, use but one, and let it stand two hours instead of half the time: the fermentation, though slow, will be quite as perfect as if it were more quickly effected, and the cake or loaf thus made will not become dry by any means so soon as if a large portion of yeast were mixed with it.
All light cakes require a rather brisk oven to raise and set them; very large rich ones a well-sustained degree of heat sufficient to bake them through; and small sugar-cakes a very slow oven, to prevent their taking a deep colour before they are half done: gingerbread too should be gently baked, unless it be of the light thick kind. Meringues, macaroons, and ratafias, will bear a slight degree more of heat than these.
For sponge and savoy cakes the French butter their moulds thickly, and shake fine sugar in them until they are equally covered with it: the loose sugar must be turned out before they are used.
To ascertain whether a cake be done, thrust a knife into the centre, and should this come out clean draw it from the oven directly; but should the paste adhere to it, continue the baking. Several sheets of paper are placed usually under large plum-Cakes.
Modern Cake Mould.
For all large and very rich cakes the usual directions are, to beat the butter to a cream; but we find that they are quite as light, if not more so, when it is cut small and gently melted with just so much heat as will dissolve it, and no more. If it be shaken round in a saucepan previously warmed, and held near the fire for a short time, it will soon be liquefied, which is all that is required: it must on no account be hot when it is added to the other ingredients, to which it must be poured in small portions after they are all mixed, in the way which we have minutely described in the receipt for a Madeira cake, and that of the Sutherland puddings (Chapter XVIII (Baked Puddings).) To cream it, drain the water well from it, after it is cut, soften it a little before the fire should it be very hard, and then with the back of a large strong wooden spoon beat it until it resembles thick cream. When prepared thus, the sugar is added to it first, and then the other ingredients in succession.