Since we had quite a bit of practice making cookies with my mother we felt confident that we would be known as the best little bakers in the world. We lined up almost all of the ingredients and worked together, following along with the Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from my mothers Better Homes and Gardens cook book.
The cookie batter was a bit on the soupy side and didn’t quite yield the 3 dozen little lumps of dough the recipe had promised us, but no matter, we knew what we were doing.
We spooned the pudding like stuff onto a cookie sheet and put it in the oven.
After the first batch came out of the oven we noticed the cookies didn’t puff up and get all golden brown in the oven. They kinda just ran all together and didn’t cook, or resemble a type of cookie we had ever eaten.
They were also very salty.
So we did what any other 9 year old girls would do. We checked the temperature of the oven and then re-read the recipe step by step.
We then came to the conclusion that we forgot to add the flour and realized that we used the flour measurement for the salt. Being the little optimistic problem solvers that we were, in a gallant (and in our minds practical) effot to save the last batch of cookies, we decided to fix the error and salvage the cookies by sprinkling some flour on top of each cookie.
We thought that would work.
Needless to say it didn’t and the cookies were a homemade disaster. I’m sure my mom was pissed that I wasted all of those ingredients but didn’t say so and instead calmly scolded us for using the oven when a grown up wasn’t home then quietly threw out the 12 or so “cookies” our custom recipe had produced.
Since my first attempt of baking without a parental supervision I have produced probably close to a hundred batches of cookies, muffins, brownies and cakes. I have gotten quite good over the years but of course I’ve learned by trial and error.
And I still make my mistakes. In fact, being as I’ve made more than a few dozen mistakes I thought I’d help out by sharing some of the most important lessons I’ve learned thus far.
Below are a few key things that every novice baker should know:
- Preheating the oven IS important
- Knowing the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon and a cup can make or break a recipe.
- If you forget to pretreat your pan with butter and flour that cake isn’t going to resemble a cake when you try to remove it from the pan.
- If you use an 8 inch round cake pan instead of a nine inch round cake pan the cake is un-doubtly going to over flow.*
- If your oven is too hot and you think it will just take less time to cook you are wrong.
- Egg shells are not a fun surprise ingredient. In anything. Ever.
- If a recipe calls for baking powder don’t think that using baking soda will be a good substitute.
- Follow your recipe exactly. Baking is a science and until you understand ratios don’t mess with them.
- Placement of the racks in the oven is an important but sometimes (in my case) over looked step
- If you really love baking and don’t give up you will be a good baker.
Even after baking for the past 23 years I still don’t consider my self an expert and again, let me stress to you that I still make my mistakes.
Case in point:
*If you use an 8 inch round cake pan instead of a nine inch round cake pan the cake is un-doubtly going to over flow.
Yes, this was learned on Friday… as in three days ago.
“Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life.”
In my defense, (of course I have a defense) I was tired after working all week and not thinking correctly AND feeling pressured to produce a lovely, yummy goodie because I promised Huz that I would make him a cake after hearing his choice word “CAKE” damn near a million times over the past two weeks.
I used a recipe from my new book BakeWise by Shirley O. Corriher, which I had received as a gift from the Huz shortly after pitching a hissy fit in the Barnes and Noble because I couldn’t justify spending $40 on a book for myself. He knew he’d get goodies out of it and maybe even a smile from me so he surprised me one day with the mother of all baking guides when I arrived home from work.
I planned on documenting the entire baking session for the purpose of the blog and took a lot of pictures through out the process.
Now, I did acknowledge that I was using the wrong sized pan and to make up for the size difference so I left a portion of the batter out of the pan and ate it all to make the recipe work.
The batter overflowed onto the stone I had under
the way smaller than I thought cake pan and from there spilled to the bottom of the oven.
And all I could do was watch.
I acted like any other 32 adult would as I raised my voice and carried on and on about my very best cake ever being destroyed.
But I let the sucker bake until it was done and in all of the chaos I forgot to take pictures of the evidence proving that I’m not all that wise when it comes to baking no matter what the book says.
But take my word for it, it was a mess.
A few minutes after the I pulled the too big for it’s own britches cake out of the oven Huz came in to see what all the ruckus was about. As he was consoling me he casually started to peel the overflowed cake off of the stone and eat it. Then he began to devour it so I joined in to see what all of the “mmms and ahh’s” where about. We ate a quarter of the cake even despite the fact that it was as hot as hell and looked nothing like a cake.
It was, by far, the BEST cake I’ve ever made.
Since we ate most of the cake in a matter of 5 minutes, at that point, there was no reason to make the icing. And since the cake was so flipping delicious I knew exactly what I was doing on Saturday. I was getting the right sized pan and making the best cake ever.
So the next morning after my Weight Watchers meeting I headed over to the HomeGoods and as luck would have it I got the ONLY Calphalon 9 inch round bake pan in the store.
I made way back home and started to re-create the best tasting thing that has ever came out of my oven.
Pour batter into oiled and floured pan. Drop pan onto counter from 4 inches up to knock air bubble out and place on baking stone in lower 1/3 of preheated oven.
Bake for 40 minutes (until center bounces back and toothpick inserted comes out clean.)
Let sit until cool enough to handle and then turn onto rack to cool completely.
Now, lets make some icing!
Slice fully cooled cake into 3 horizontal as even – as you can make them – layers.
Spread the first layer with about 1/4 inch of the icing, making it a bit more thicker at the edges. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup walnuts and add the second layer.
Repeat the layer.
Put the last lovely layer on and ice the top of cake, then the sides. Press the remaining walnut pieces into the sides.
Step back and wipe the drool off your chin.
Grab a big cup of milk, coffee or tea, a plate, a fork and a cake eating buddy.
And forget all about your diet, because you’ll want to eat another piece of this delectable cake when your finished devouring the first one.
If you are looking to add a wonderful book to your cooking/baking collection, are a beginner or advanced baker, want the full recipe for the cake I just wrote about or just want to learn some fantastic tips and DELICIOUS recipes, get this book:
It will be the best $40 that you have spent (or threw a hissy fit over) in a long time.