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Tuesday 7 May 2013

Baking Mishaps and How to Salvage Them

We've all done it: the butter and sugar have been perfectly creamed, the batter is looking good, only for something to go horribly wrong.

Baking a cake is a bit like alchemy; the balance must be right in order for a cake to turn out as it's supposed to. Of course, this isn't to say that it will be perfect every time - no matter what you do, there will sometimes be a duff batch - so what do we do when a cake goes wrong?

1. Sponge is too dense 
Ahh, sponge cake. It's something that we're all likely to make at one point or another, and horror of horrors, it has come out of the oven with the texture of something you'd use to clean your car.
There are a few things you can do to salvage a heavy sponge. If you have made two, sandwich them together with lots of whipped cream and you'll still have a pretty impressive cake. Otherwise, use it for something else: cut it into fingers or strips and make a trifle instead, this Pina Colada one springs to mind.

2. Cake hasn't risen properly / has risen unevenly
Ovens are tricky things. One day, they'll cook at a perfectly even 180C / 350F / Gas Mark 4, the next, they're doing something different. If your cakes have risen too much in the middle and grown a sort of volcano, this is probably because the temperature is too high, resulting in uneven expansion. Next time, try lowering the temperature by 20 degrees, and cooking for slightly longer.

But what's to be done with 12 fairy cakes in the shape of a bullet-bra? Icing. It covers a multitude of sins. Cut a little inverted cone shape out of the uneven top and fill with frosting, in the same way as these White Chocolate and Pistachio Cream Cupcakes. More deliciousness, and no one will ever know...

3. Cake is too dry
The answer to this one is everyone's favourite solution: BOOZE. If your cake turns out to be dry and disappointing, soak it in a liqueur like amaretto, spiced rum or even St Germain, like in this Elderflower and Absinthe cake. The sooner you can do this the better, it'll soak in all the more effectively if you prick the cake with a skewer and drizzle over the liqueur whilst still warm. If you're not a liqueur fan, you could use a cordial, or just some honey diluted with a splash of boiling water.

4. Biscuits fallen apart

Well this is a heartbreaking one. You've made a tray of beautiful biscuits, only for them to crumble the minute they come off the tray. This happened to me with a batch of florentines; I didn't grease my tray properly or line it with baking parchment like I was supposed to. For future reference, too little flour or too much sugar can make biscuits floppy, whereas the incorrect greasing method can leave them stuck to the tin like limpets. If they're almost intact, cover them in chocolate and you have cookies like these.
If they come away in a complete crumbly mess, then all is not lost: save the pieces (you could always freeze them) and use as a topping for yoghurt or ice cream, or mix them into butter and flour for a decadent crumble topping.

What are your creative solutions to baking mishaps? Tell us about your best baking disasters!


  1. A bad cake can always become cake and butter pudding (like bread and butter but with cake).

    1. Ooooh. We did a hot cross bun butter pudding at Easter:

  2. butter of course makes anything better...


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