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20 ways to botch your baking

Cara Brink's lemon meringue cupcakes

Cara Brink’s lemon meringue cupcakes

Baking is elegant chemistry. Precisely measured molecules of flour, egg, butter and sugar need to meet each other at just the right temperature and time to rise to the occasion. The baking balance is delicate: you can’t merely add another pinch of this or splash of that as you can with cooking. And once you’ve stirred in the baking powder, there’s no going back. While we’re experts at eating here at Eat Out, we may not always be on the (b)right side of the baking sheet. Burned tarts, heavy cakes and rock-hard scones have appeared in our kitchens; we won’t lie. To liven up this chemistry lesson, we’ve compiled our top 20 list of sure-fire ways to botch your baking.

1. Don’t preheat your oven

Don’t wait patiently for your oven to heat up thoroughly and evenly – oh no. Just pop the cake batter inside while the light is still on. Heck, do it before you even turn that dial. Baking bungle guaranteed.

2. Put your oven on grill (with therma-fan, if possible)

While I’m on the topic, baking in an evenly heated oven is for sissies. Put it under the grill and watch your cake become bone-dry and cracked on top and remain raw underneath. Fool-proof failure every time.

3. Don’t measure your ingredients carefully

Just scoop flour right out of the bag, gauge your butter’s weight by sight and add haphazard glugs of powders and liquids at will. (The nerd’s way of measuring flour is to spoon it into a dry measuring cup, then sweep off the excess with a knife. Boring!)

James Martin's sticky toffee pudding

James Martin’s sticky toffee pudding

4. Substitute the wrong ingredients

A friend of mine once made banana loaf with a cup of salt instead of sugar. “But all white crystals look the same!” he cried in his defence. (Let’s hope he never gets arrested.) Use all-purpose flour instead of cake-flour for chewy, ciabatta-like cakes, and add extra baking powder to self-raising flour for something really over the top.

5. Add hot melted butter to your eggs

Scrambled egg cake, anyone?

6. Use icy eggs

Whip up chilled egg whites for a dense, heavy cake. (The easy way out is to place your refrigerated eggs in a bowl of warm water for 15 minutes to get them to room temperature before you begin. You could do this while your oven heats up, if you want to be a total geek.)

7. Use old ingredients

That ancient bicarb sachet rolled up in the back of your cupboard, chocolate laced with white bloom, and aged eggs that sink when placed in water? Ideal ingredients for your personal baking disaster.

8. Use food colouring instead of real flavours

Depress your guests with beetroot-less red velvet cupcakes that dye your guts scarlet and chocolate cake that’s simply disappointingly brown.

Sarah Graham's red velvet cake pops

Sarah Graham’s red velvet cake pops

9. Overbeat your batter

Extra beating is guaranteed to make your cake tough and rubbery. And we know how popular that is.

10. Knead your butter pastry

For rock-hard, flat and greasy cheese puffs. Yum!

11. Eat half the raw batter

This is a proven tactic here at Eat Out HQ, especially when it comes to chocolate-chip cookies.

12. Don’t grease the pan

Nothing says failure like eating cake out of the pan with a fork because you can’t get it out any other way. (On second thought, I could live with that.)

13. Repeatedly open the oven

Some bakers recommend that you rotate your cakes after 20 minutes to ensure an evenly cooked crust, but if you want your cakes to fall dismally, open the oven every few minutes – especially in the first half of the cooking time – and let all the heat escape.

14. Don’t blind-bake your pastry

Put your delicate goat’s cheese on top of your raw puff pastry and leave the whole lot in the oven for 45 mins. The pastry under the cheese will remain soggy and the cheese will be obliterated into a blackened mess.

Alida Ryder's peanut butter chocolate cake

Alida Ryder’s peanut butter chocolate cake

15. Melt chocolate over direct heat

Ruin your chocolate by placing it straight onto a hot pan to watch it catch and burn. (The dreary, safe way is to warm it slowly in a glass bowl held over a steaming pot of boiling water, without the water touching the bottom of the bowl. Ain’t nobody got time for that!)

16. Use a dirty bowl to whip up your eggs whites

This way they won’t fluff up at all, leaving them a separated, slimy mess that’s good for nothing. (Only dorks whisk eggs in absolutely pristine bowl.)

17. Store the icing uncovered in the fridge

For savoury-flavoured cake topping, leave your icing uncovered in the fridge alongside your half-onion and heel of green pepper.

18. Don’t wait for your cake to cool before icing it

I know it’s difficult to wait. Slather icing over the hot cake and watch it either sink in soggily or slide off to make a run for it.

Sue-Ann Allen and Ilse Fourie's lemon cupcakes

Sue-Ann Allen and Ilse Fourie’s lemon cupcakes

19. Make the icing as thick as the cake itself

It’s the gift that keeps on giving: inches of thick icing to wade through before making contact with any cake whatsoever.

20. Leave your finished product near small children (or members of the Eat Out team)

Because something like this will happen.

What are your tips for baking catastrophes? Let us know in the comments.  

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