Always read the recipe completely and make sure you have all the ingredients needed. More than any other style of cooking, baking is one that relies on precise measurements and exact temperatures. You can’t fling in another cup of flour or spoon of sugar because you feel like it; also you can’t do with less or replace items at the last minute, so if the recipe calls for 3 eggs you won’t be able to do with just 2. And check what quantity you’ll end up with, some recipes might produce 2 cakes when you actually want only one.
Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature. Eggs, butter and oil especially must be never mixed while cold.
Once everything is at room temperature, take out all the equipment that you need – cake tin/baking sheet/pie dish, mixing bowls, cake mixer, measuring cups and spoons, scale etc.
Measure all the ingredients carefully with the correct equipment BEFORE you start mixing everything. Dry ingredients should be measured with a measuring cup, wet ingredients with a measuring jar. Use measuring spoons for small quantities like baking powder or spices.
While measuring dry ingredients like flour, stir it around first and then dip your measuring cup into the jar or packet of flour. Pile the flour high and level off with a flat knife. Don’t shake the cup because this compacts the flour and you end up using more than the recipe calls for.
Measure the sugar out in the same way and keep aside. The sugar in India usually has much larger granules than the sugar abroad; this makes it really difficult to beat the sugar and butter together. The best way around this is to powder the sugar in a mixer before adding to the rest of the ingredients. If a recipe calls for caster sugar, powder the sugar and then measure out what you need.
Measure the butter using a weighing scale – there is no other foolproof method.
Once the ingredients have been measured, preheat the oven to the specified temperature.
Sift the dry ingredients several times before using. Sifting helps aerate the flour, baking powder etc. and makes cakes and cookies light and airy. Discard any lumps that remain or press them through the sieve to break them up.
Most cake recipes talk about creaming butter and sugar, just put the butter and sugar into a large bowl and then use an electric mixer to beat them together until it becomes a light, creamy, pale yellow mixture. This is when you normally add the eggs – add one at a time and keep beating till each one is fully incorporated into the mixture before adding the next one.
If the recipe asks you to fold something in, usually a lighter mixture like egg whites into heavier batter, use a spatula or metal spoon and gently draw a figure of eight in the mixture. Be careful not to do this too vigorously or you might knock the air out of the lighter mixture.
Praveen Kumar is the founder of Awesome Cuisine. He started Awesome Cuisine in 2008 to showcase the rich culinary heritage of India and also as a means to track his love for food. A Digital Marketer by profession and a foodie by passion, he has been involved in food ever since his school days.