The Clandestine Cake Club's top baking tips

18 February 2016

The Clandestine Cake Club's Lynn Hill shares her top tips for better baking, including how to solve baking problems like cracked tops and sunken middles.

Don't get caught out

Always read a recipe in full before you start to bake to avoid being caught out by an unexpected step. Make sure you also know your oven and use the right tin.

Get the temperature right

Always preheat the oven at the required temperature, and invest in an oven thermometer.

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Mix your ingredients properly

Always sieve your flours and icing sugars, whatever the recipe says. This really does add air to your cake batters and butter creams and sieves out any nasty lumps and clumps that may still linger.

Beat your eggs before gently adding them to the cake batter, adding a little flour at the same time. This helps prevent curdling. You can fold in the remaining flour.

If brown sugar has become hard, zap briefly in the microwave. Just a few seconds should do it.

Don't waste batter

Silicone spatulas are great for scraping all the cake batter out of the bowl. Remember to leave some for licking later.

Make sure your cake doesn't stick to the tin

Grease and line your tins with cake release or melted butter and a very light dusting of flour. Shake off any excess flour. This will ensure your cake turns out easily from the tin.

Using baking parchment or cake tin liners are also useful.

If using a bundt tin, it's really important to grease and flour it well. Sieve the flour to avoid lumps sticking to the tin and spoiling the decoration. And make sure to knock off excess flour - again, so as not to leave lumps in the tin.

Get your cake into the oven quickly

Baking is a science, so get that cake into the oven quickly. Once the dry ingredients, such as baking powder, makes contact with liquids it starts to do its work and begins to rise. Make sure you don't put too much mixture in the tin, though.

Test your cake is cooked

Always test the centre of the cake with a skewer to ensure it’s baked. If the skewer comes out clean, it’s cooked. Sometimes pressing the cake gently is not enough. It could still be uncooked in the middle.

Don't be impatient

Never open the oven door to test your cake until it has cooked at least 3/4 of the way. Doing so could cause your cake to sink in the middle, and it will never rise back.

Prevent the top from burning

When making deep sided cakes, cover the top of the cake tin with a sheet of baking parchment. This will give you a more even bake and will help prevent the top becoming too ‘golden’ or burnt.

If the cake sticks to the tin...

If the cake ends up stuck to the tin, leaving broken-off bits, use frosting to glue these back on.

How to fix a sunken cake

If your cake sinks in the middle, all is not lost. Once cooked, take it out of the oven to cool completely, as per the recipe. Slice it horizontally down the centre. Cover the bottom layer with your favourite filling. Slap some cream on to the top layer and into the hollow, turn over and sandwich the bottom and top layers together. This becomes a hidden hollow cake.

How to hide a cracked top

If your cake cracks during baking, dust with icing sugar when it’s cooled.Cracks and icing sugar were made for each other.

How to fix a soggy cake

If the cake is soggy in the middle, use a tin the size of the offending centre, press down onto it and cut it out, and throw it away before decorating the cake. Everyone will think you used a ring-shaped tin.

How to fix an overcooked cake

If your cake is dry and overcooked use a skewer to poke some holes into the top and pour over a syrup or liqueur.

How to fix a hollow cake

If your cake has a hollow centre then make a feature of it and fill it with berries and cream.

How to fix a domed cake

If your cake has a domed top then slice off the raised part, turn the cake over onto the plate and decorate. No one will be any the wiser.

Icing tips

Avoid over-mixing cream-cheese frosting or it will become too loose.

Before frosting, put the cake in the freezer to firm it up and prevent crumbs sticking as you ice.

Freezing cakes

Plain sponge cakes will freeze nicely. Wrap them in baking parchment and a freezer bag, ready for any unexpected guests for afternoon tea. Leave to come to room temperature before sandwiching together with your favourite filling. Sometimes a dusting of icing sugar is all you need.

Wash tins carefully

Avoid using harsh washing up liquids when it comes to washing and soaking non-stick cake pans. Try and wash them in gentle liquids. Rinse and dry them straight away. Pop them in the remains of your cooling oven to dry completely.

Put your baking powder to good use

Baking powder is good for cleaning out cups and teapots. All you need is a few teaspoons of baking powder and some hot water. You will be mesmerised by the fizz.

Visit our baking recipe section for a delicious range of cakes, cupcakes, biscuits, brownies and more.

About the Clandestine Cake Club

The Clandestine Cake Club was founded by Lynn Hill in 2010. Members get together in secret locations for tea, cake and conversation, and if there isn't a club near you then you can start your own – it's a great way to make friends.Visit the Clandestine Cake Club website for more information.

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