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Baking Tips: The Secret of Sponge Success

Baking Tips: The Secret of Sponge Success

Although I have always loved cooking, I was never much of a baker until the birth of my daughter. Lily came 2 weeks early, almost the moment I finished my last piece of work before heading off on maternity leave so I never got to enjoy that lovely nesting and home making instinct that has so many heavily pregnant mums reaching for the baking tins.

But it seems Mother Nature did not want me to miss out, practically as soon as we came home from the maternity ward I went into baking overdrive and for weeks we were never without a lovely homemade cake to have with our tea.

The thing is, the cakes were really lovely and I was so thrilled that after years as a great cook but a so-so baker. I finally seemed to have cracked it. The cakes rose beautiful and the texture truly light and airy.

The secret I’ve discovered was the butter! In all my past attempts it had never been soft enough and I hadn’t creamed it for anywhere near long enough.

The house was warm anyway, having just brought a new baby home, and with a little more time on my hands I remembered to leave the butter out of the fridge the night before, so by the time I came to make the cake the butter was super soft and it seems to have made all the difference.

I use the creaming method and beat the butter and caster sugar together with a handheld mixer until it’s truly light and fluffy. In the past I think I’d taken light and fluffy to mean well combined and hadn’t done the job properly.

If you beat for long enough the mixture really does go a very pale colour (almost white), it seems to grown in volume (with the incorporation of all that air) and take son an almost mousse like consistency. There shouldn’t be a hint of gritty graininess of the un-dissolved sugar, which if I’m honest was often a feature of my historic, less successful cake baking attempts.

I’m sure that the seasoned bakers among you will say “well that’s obvious, no wonder it never worked before!”, but since my friends all consider me to be a great cook and I had never figured this out before, I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt in the hope that it will help other less experienced bakers.

So now I’ve finally cracked it, I’ve even gained enough confidence to create my own variations too, which I’ll post here in case any of you would like to try them.

After all when you discover how easy and cost effective it really is to make a beautiful homemade cake with organic ingredients, why would you ever want to eat a heavy sickly shop bought confection ever again? In the current economic climate that has a lot of us turning back towards simpler pleasures, what could be nicer than a cup of tea and a yummy slice of homemade cake?

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