I get certain questions over and again here at Gretchen’s Bakery and when that happens, I usually turn those questions into a blog post!
So keep asking!
You would be surprised how many people can benefit from a question or problem you may think only YOU are having!
When answering “How to know if you have over whipped your eggs” I found it was way easier to explain it with visuals, so you can actually SEE the over whipping versus a perfect meringue and the results you can expect from each.
Oh yeah, we are talking specifically in meringues here with egg whites.
But think about all the recipes that have egg whites folded in!
Perhaps this is redundant for some of you, but this is my favorite blog post!
I just really want you guys to learn How to Know When Your Cakes are baked!
But just in case it is a repeat for you~ I’ve included some extreme club dancing Jell-O in this new video below so you may want to check that out just for fun!
Excerpt from UNTIL IT’S DONE:
I do understand that question, and the need to have it answered precisely and exactly. I understand this question, because I too asked this very same question in my first semester of Baking 101 at the Culinary Institute of America way back when……
The one thing that was drilled into our heads, quite possibly more than anything else during my time at culinary school, was that in baking the 2 factors that play THE MOST into everything you do, is TIME and TEMPERATURE.
Whether it is the temperature in the oven, the temperature in the room, the temperature of the ingredients that went into the mix. THESE ALL PLAY INTO THE ANSWER OF HOW LONG IT BAKES. How long did it mix, how long does it bake due to these other factors?
So for me to give you guys an EXACT time and temperature with every single cupcake pan, cake pan, loaf pan?
Impossible……..how deep did you fill your batter?
How cold was your butter and your eggs?
How old is your oven and is it calibrated properly? Did you preheat it?
Where do you live in the world?
The scenarios are ENDLESS.
So I guess I would have to say that this is my LEAST favorite question because it tells me you have NO IDEA what to look for in a properly baked product. (((That just plain upsets me, not like upsets me in an angry way, but in a sad way because I want us all to look at a cake baking in the oven and KNOW it has a couple more minutes, or it should come out NOW! That to me is a peaceful world. I know I am shallow! ))))
I have learned so much in my many years experience working as both the Pastry Chef leading a crew, as well as a pastry cook inside of a kitchen crew, being led by head chef.
I have learned to value each persons understanding of things as well as their confusion.
I am thrilled when someone has a EUREKA!! moment, as nothing gives me greater satisfaction than when I know a person has just had a breakthrough on a certain subject that until that moment had been just a grey area.
I also find myself going to great lengths to help others who are still lost in that grey fog to find their way out. I understand that each person’s thought process can be just a bit different than the next person, and that not all people learn the same way.
It pains me when I think I am explaining something so very clearly and I get that “deer in headlights” looking back at me. I then rack my brain to try to cover the material from a different angle to shed light on whatever is at hand. I pride myself on being “a pretty good teacher”.
The intention of this article today is to clarify why my answer to the question “How long does it bake?” is often a very short and very abrupt, “Until it is DONE!”
I cannot stress this enough. LEARN TIME AND TEMPERATURE and don’t rely on exacts.
Of course if it is your first time baking this certain recipe, I get it, you MUST know approximately how long it will take in the oven, me too!
If I have never mixed something before in my life, how could I possibly know when it is finished?
So I always give approximate times in my recipes, but I will be the happiest person on Earth if you learn the “Eye for done-ness”.
This means that if the timer rings at 25 minutes because I said, approximately 25 minutes…..You don’t pull it straight out of the oven and then the middle collapses and I get a nasty email saying my recipes don’t work!
But this takes practice and well, what better way to practice a craft but with cake recipes! Yumm!
WARNING: Mistakes May Taste Delicious!
I will love nothing more than if you all could understand that when a cake is fully baked and not OVERBAKED, it has a certain springy-ness to it.
No fingerprint stays indented, but it springs back light a fluffy as if to say! “YES! I am PERFECT!”
Not only is this tip useful for those who have trouble with getting their buttercream back to a smooth spreadable (non-broken!) Buttercream after it’s been in the refrigerator; but this is also helpful for those who get a broken buttercream upon mixing the First Time!!
Several reasons can cause a buttercream to break, but the most common one is due to temperature.
If you are trying to remix your buttercream straight out of the refrigerator chances are you are going to have a broken, curdled mess in your bowl.
As many of you may already know I am in the habit of freezing cake layers.
So many questions arise once folks realize this is what I am doing, so I will answer all of them here.
Why do you freeze the layers? Frozen layers are much easier to work with. You will also experience less crumbs in the final icing. There is a lesser chance of breaking the layers as you build. You can also prep your work days in advance by baking the cake layers ahead of time.
Just how frozen does the cake need to be?The more frozen your freezer freezes things, the better. Some freezers don’t work as well as others, not to mention if you are in and out of it often, the freezer itself will never stay as frozen as it should, causing defrosting and frosting of the items inside; which is why you will sometimes have ice crystals formed inside your wrapped frozen item.
How long can I freeze the cake? I try not to do it for more than a week, however I do list on my recipes that most cakes can be frozen for up to 2 months, however as I addressed in the video this is not an ideal practice. It is more a guideline for leftover cake layers in an over-production situation.
Do I have to freeze the cake? No of course not.
Does it compromise taste or texture on comparison to a freshly baked cake? In my opinion, No. However taste is a very personal experience so I will leave this up to you to decide. I mentioned in the video below that I do not practice freezing cakes at length (more than a week for special orders and projects) and anything longer than 3 weeks would definitely compromise taste, texture, yes.
If I am torting the cake, do I do it before freezing or after? I have done it both ways, but I find that slicing cakes AFTER freezing and just upon building the layer cake is best. Thaw it slightly before slicing though so you don’t slice through your hand! By slicing cakes before freezing, you are creating more surface area that would be exposed to the elements.
Do I thaw the cake layers before assembling? No, cake layers thaw out very quickly and in order to reap the benefit of freezing them in the first place, you want to work with them while they are still semi frozen.
When do I add the simple syrup? Always upon building the cake, never before freezing. You don;t want to create ice crystals inside the cake which will then make the cake soggy upon thawing.