How to fix your baking blunders

My Food Bag’s dessert guru Jessie ‘Juneberry’ shares how you can bounce back to transform your baking from faux pas to fabulous.

Baking is a fine science. Unlike cooking, where you can fix things as you go, getting a small temperature or measurement wrong can give you a drastically different result.    

Sometimes you’ve poured your heart and soul into your baking, only to pull it out of the oven and see it collapse before your eyes. The good news is, all is not lost. Let’s break down some very common mistakes and learn what can be done to salvage them (and what to do so it doesn’t happen next time!).

Baking blunder #1: My icing looks grainy or split

  • There are a few reasons this could happen, but when it comes to icing, the temperature of your butter is key. It needs to be room temperature, to the point where you can push your thumb into it and leave an indent. Butter that’s too cold won’t get beautiful and creamy, which may leave your icing looking grainy.
  • If you’re using liquid food colouring, this adds liquid to the mixture, which can cause your icing to look split. Where possible, using a gel food colouring will prevent this from happening. It can also be more cost effective as you only need a tiny amount and they last a long time. It’s a win-win.
  • If in doubt, beat it! Your icing, of course. The longer you whip icing, the fluffier and more beautiful it becomes. Keep beating and watching the texture until you achieve your desired look, adding more icing sugar or milk to make it just right.

Baking blunder #2: My cookies didn’t turn out the way I like

Everybody likes their cookies different – some chewy, some crispy, some cakey. There are too many cookie variables to get into in just one post, so let’s touch on how to achieve each desired result.

  • If you like a cookie with a chewy centre, pop your cookie dough in the fridge (covered) for at least one hour before baking. This will help the dough to retain its shape in the oven for the first few minutes of cooking, so the middle still stays soft after cooking.
  • If you like your cookies crispy, look for a recipe with high butter content – usually melted butter. This is what helps to create those beautifully crispy edges. Also, by preheating your baking tray in the oven before baking your cookies, you will get a nice crispy cookie base.
  • If you like cakey cookies – you will want to look for a recipe that uses flour, baking soda and eggs. This will create a good rise in your cookies and give you that light texture when you bite into them. Perfection.

Baking blunder #3: My cake was a complete fail

Depending on what went wrong, there may be something you can do to turn it around. Here are some ideas…

  • If your cake rose too much in the middle, use a tea towel to press down on the top while the cake is still warm, creating an even flat layer.
  • If your cake sunk in the middle, cover it up with decorations, icing, fruit – you name it. Or, if you’re icing it, just flip it upside down.
  • If your cake is too dense, it’s likely that it’s been over-beaten. When a recipe says “until just combined”, make sure not to beat it any further or it will lose its lightness.
  • If your cake is too dry, you may have overcooked it. It’s a good idea to check your cake often towards the end of its cook time (every 5-10 minutes) if it’s your first time cooking the recipe. If it is overcooked, you can cut the layer in half and brush it with things like jam or simple syrup to inject some moisture back into it.

General tips to always get the best out of your baking

  • Always weigh your ingredients. The number of grams in your cup measure can change each time you scoop a cup of flour. This is why most professional bakers will always work in grams so they know their recipes will be fail-safe every time.
  • Follow the recipe. It sounds straight-forward, but if a recipe tells you to do something in a very specific way, this is the way the recipe has been tested and so will likely be the best way to achieve the desired results. Substitutions may sometimes seem straightforward (e.g. you may want to swap out canola oil for olive oil as that’s what you have at home) but the flavour of those things are very different and will have an effect on the end product.
  • Have patience. Baking takes time and cutting corners will have an effect on your end result. So, always grease and line your baking tins, preheat your oven and wait until it is actually hot before putting the baking in it. And always (and we mean always!) set a timer.

Meet the Chef

Jessie ‘Juneberry’

When she’s not being referred to as Juneberry, she’s also known as our dessert Queen or resident sweet tooth. Her favourite part of her role comes as no surprise with “being in charge of dessert! I have the biggest sweet tooth so am always finding ways to get in the kitchen and whip up a sweet treat.” However, Jessie’s favourite New Zealand produce reveals her true millennial colours by choosing avocado, especially when it’s smashed on a bagel – the perfect start to the weekend!

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