Good home-made cakes are always popular, and, although to the majority of women their preparation proves distinctly fascinating, success is not to be attained at once, nor yet without due obedience to certain principles and rules. The following directions, therefore, will be helpful, and save loss of time, temper, and ingredients.
The Principles and Rules of Cake Making
Air expands with heat, thus raising and lightening mixtures, therefore a hot oven is necessary.
Large cakes, if baked quickly, brown on the outside before being baked through, and small cakes baked slowly, lose their moisture through evaporation, and become dry and hard; therefore bake large cakes slowly and small cakes quickly.
Errors Which Spoil Cakes
Ingredients. Bad or damp flour, rancid butter, cheap, dirty, or dry fruit, doubtful eggs, inferior sugar.
Methods. Rubbing the butter into the flour badly, or creaming the butter and sugar together insufficiently.
Beating the eggs insufficiently.
Beating mixtures after adding the flour. Mixing the ingredients carelessly, so that they are not evenly distributed.
Baking large cakes too quickly and small cakes too slowly, so that they are either too dark or too pale in colour.
Neglecting to lay one or two layers of paper over the top of large cakes, to prevent their over-colouring.
Moving cakes before they are set, this causes them to sink, and sometimes form holes in the centre.
Banging the oven door during baking produces the same effects.
Not testing cakes with a skewer to ascertain if thoroughly baked.
Placing cakes when baked in such positions that the steam is unable to escape, with the result that it condenses inside the cake, and causes it to become heavy.
Temperature of the Oven Required for Baking Cakes
With a thermometer, 2900 Fahr. to 3200 Fahr.
Without a thermometer, put either a sheet of white paper or a little flour on the oven shelf.
If in about one minute it turns .black, it is too hot for everything.
If in about one minute it turns light brown, correct for small cakes.
If in about one minute it turns dark yellow, correct for large cakes.
If in about one minute it turns light yellow, correct for gingerbread and sponge cakes.
The oven should be ready to receive the cake directly it is mixed, more especially if baking-powder is used; therefore make sure the oven is heating while making the cake.
Sieve the flour as well as salt and baking-powder, if the latter is used. This process aerates the flour, and aids in lightening the mixture.
Line all cake-tins, except small ones, with a double band of greased paper coming three inches higher than the edge of the tin, and three rounds of buttered paper fitted into the bottom of the tin. This prevents the cake burning so easily.
If it is noticed that cakes burn underneath in any particular oven, place the cake-tin on a baking-sheet, in which there is an inch-thick layer of sand or coarse salt.
The best flour for cakes is a light variety, such as "Vienna," "pastry whites," ' Hungarian," or makes of a similar quality.
Rancid or inferior butter can be distinctly noticed in cakes; good beef dripping is better than bad butter.
Castor sugar is essential for light cakes, although good moist is sometimes used for plain ones.
Buy good fruit; cheap varieties will be small, dry, and dirty, and much of it, as well as time, will be wasted in the picking over and cleaning. Fruit is best washed, but then it must be thoroughly and slowly dried before it is used, because damp fruit means heavy cakes, and quick drying means sharp heat, which hardens the fruit.
To clean fruit quickly, put the currants or sultanas on a sieve or in a dry cloth with a little flour, and rub them well round. Then lift them out, a small handful at a time, and carefully remove any stalks still adhering to the fruit.
Mix in the flour as lightly as possible. Fold it in by turning the mixture over with a spoon - an iron one is best - cutting it through, lifting the underneath part up and over, until all is thoroughly mixed, but without quick stirring round and round, the object being to avoid breaking the bubbles of air already introduced into the mixture as little as possible.
Cakes containing fruit need a hot oven at first to set the mixture quickly - otherwise the fruit is liable to sink to the bottom of the tin - then the heat must be steadily decreased.
To find out if cakes are cooked sufficiently push a clean skewer right through the centre and note, when it is withdrawn, if it is bright and clean; if so, the cake is properly baked; if it looks dull and greasy, longer baking is necessary. Another test is to press the cake gently with the finger; if it feels spongy it is done.
After baking, take the cake out of the tin and place it on a wire sieve, or tilt it up against a plate until it is cool; this permits the steam to escape from the interior and thus keeps the cake light.
Rubbing the butter into the flour. This is the simplest method - i.e., rock cakes.
Creaming the butter with the sugar - i.e., rice buns.
Melting the butter and adding it warm - i.e., gingerbread.
Beating eggs alone with the sugar over hot water - i.e., sponge cake, Genoese cake.
This must be done with the tips of the fingers, as in making pastry. It must be done with a cool, light touch until the butter and flour resemble crumbs, and no lumps of the former are distinguishable.
This method gives lighter cakes than rubbing in the butter. If the butter is very cold, warm it, but without oiling it. Beat with a wooden spoon until soft, then add the sugar and beat again vigorously until the two resemble whipped cream in colour and consistency. As this is rather arm-aching work it is apt to be shirked, with the result that heavy - looking, yellowish - coloured streaks will be noticed through the cake when it is cut.
Care is needed not to overheat the butter, or its flavour will be ruined. It must be gently warmed, never allowed to bubble.
Beating Eggs and Sugar together
To do this, beat the eggs for a few minutes first, to give them bulk, then add the sugar; put the basin to stand over the top of a saucepan containing hot water, and whisk the mixture continuously until it is thick and ropy. The water must not be too hot, or the eggs will cook against the basin.