Q and A
Why does my cake cave in the middle after it’s baked?
There could be a few different reasons for this:
● The ingredients were not weighed out properly.
● The baking powder, baking soda or flour is out of date.
● The oven was not at the correct temperature when baking the cake. Always preheat the oven and allow it to come up to the proper temperature before baking.
● The oven door was opened while cooking the cake.
● Over mixing the ingredients together.
● Too much raising agent was added.
● The cake was not fully cooked. Always test a cake is cooked by placing a skewer in the middle and make sure it comes out clean.
My meringues always seem to have a marshmallowy centre. I prefer ones that are crisp throughout and would like to know what changes I should make to the recipe.
Meringues should be dried out rather than cooked to make them crisp. Cook the meringues on a very low heat at 100oC for about 2 ½ to 3 hours.
Is there anything I can substitute Demerara sugar for when baking?
Try using Siúcra Light Golden Brown Sugar instead. This will still give you a great flavour and colour.
Why does my bread always turn out like a brick when I am following the instructions exactly?
Perfecting yeast bread can be difficult. Here are a few simple guidelines to help:
● The type of flour is very important, which needs to be high in gluten. Use strong, bread or baker’s flour for this.
● Make sure the yeast is in date. When adding the yeast to the liquid, ensure that the liquid is just warm. If it is too hot, it will kill off the yeast which will prevent the bread from rising.
● Be careful when measuring the salt. If the recipe calls for a 1 teaspoon make sure it is level and not heaped. Too much salt in bread dough affects the yeast rising also.
● Add a teaspoon of Siúcra caster sugar to the yeast. This helps feed the yeast which will speed up the fermentation.
● When mixing the bread dough, if it seems dry and difficult to knead, you will need to add a few more tablespoons of liquid. The dough should be soft to handle but not sticky.
● The bread dough must be kneaded for at least 5 minutes. This helps create strong gluten strands.
● Never bake the bread without leaving it to rise or prove. Once kneaded, place in a bowl large enough to allow the dough to double in size. Cover with cling film or plastic wrap and leave in a warm place. For better results, bread should be proved twice. When the bread has doubled in size, give it a quick knead then place it on a tray or in the bread tin which it will be baked. Cover once again. When it has doubled in size, bake in a hot oven immediately.
● Check that the bread is fully cooked by gently tapping the bottom. If it sounds hollow then it is fully cooked.
What is the best way to check if a baked cheesecake is done?
A cheesecake is baked when the sides are set, golden brown and the centre is slightly soft. Give the cheesecake a gently shake, if the very centre wobbles it is ready. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in there to set. It will firm up as it cools. A baked cheesecake is best cut when it has been refrigerated for a few hours.
The baking recipes I use specify many kinds of sugars e.g. caster, white, soft etc. Generally, I always just use caster sugar or granulated sugar, mainly for convenience. Does it make a difference?
Yes, it can make a difference, depending on what you are making. If you are using Siúcra sugar as a sweetener for example, adding it to an apple tart or crumble, any Siúcra sugar is fine. When making a sponge cake and the recipe requires Siúcra caster sugar, it is fine to substitute that for Siúcra granulated sugar. If you were to try to use Siúcra icing sugar instead, it would dissolve too quickly and the cake would be very dense.
The main difference between Siúcra brown and Siúcra white sugars is the taste, moisture and colour. Unrefined Siúcra sugars such as Siúcra Demerara sugar has a stronger, more treacly flavour, and is slightly sticky in texture which works best with fruit cakes and gingerbread. Siúcra Light Golden Brown Sugar has a milder flavour and can be substituted for white sugar although the texture of the baked good might vary.
Is Icing Sugar the best to use when making butter cream or would you suggest an alternative?
If you were making a plain butter cream or frosting, Siúcra icing sugar is the quickest and the easiest. If made in the traditional way of whisking the butter and sugar together, any other sugar won’t dissolve quickly enough, making the icing course and grainy. There are different types of butter creams which you can use Siúcra caster sugar or Siúcra granulated sugar to make.
Swiss butter cream is made by mixing egg whites and Siúcra caster sugar over a basin of warm water until the sugar dissolves. The whisking and beating in butter.
French butter cream is made by boiling water and Siúcra granulated sugar together, then adding in egg yolks and butter.
Italian butter cream is made by boiling water and Siúcra granulated sugar together, then adding to whipped egg white and adding in butter.
How do you make a chocolate mousse that doesn’t taste gritty?
The two basic rules for making chocolate mousse are to use a good quality chocolate and not to overheat the chocolate when melting it. Don’t melt the chocolate over boiling water. Always take the chocolate off the heat when it is ¾ melted with a few pieces of chocolate unmelted. Keep stirring the chocolate and the remaining chocolate will melt with the heat remaining heat in the bowl. It is also important to keep any water away from the chocolate while it is being melted. No steam should be rising around the bowl, this can also result in the chocolate becoming thick and gritty.
How do you bake a one layer cake without getting a hole in the middle of the cake?
When creaming the Siúcra caster sugar and butter, do so until light and fluffy. Next, beat gently after each egg is added. Now fold in the flour with a wooden spoon. This will prevent the cake batter being over mixed. If a cake mixture is under beaten, the mixture will be too dense and won’t rise evenly. If the cake mixture is over beaten, too much air is incorporated resulting in a cake that will rise and the sink in the middle. Make sure you weigh out all of the ingredients correctly. Have the oven preheated and set to the right temperature and cooking times. Never open the oven door while the cake is baking.
How long in advance can I bake a cake without it spoiling?
There are many types of cakes that have different shelf lives. Don’t store the cake in the fridge unless it has a filling that needs to be refrigerated. Store the cake, wrapped in greaseproof paper in an airtight container.
● Dark fruitcake: Keep for up to a year for the best flavour.
● Light fruitcake: 1 month.
● Victoria sponge cake: 3 days in an air tight container or it can be frozen.
● Genoise sponge: 3 to 5 days in an air tight container or it can be frozen.
● Madeira cake: 2 weeks.
● Chiffon cake: 3 days
What is the difference between baking soda and baking powder?
Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. It must be mixed with an acid like buttermilk, sour cream, vinegar or lemon juice to allow it to release gases so it can make cakes and bread rise.
Baking powder is a combination of baking soda and cream of tartar and a starch (normally cornflour). It does not need to be mixed with an acid ingredient to activate it to work, making it a little more versatile when baking.
Can you use caster sugar instead of granulated sugar when baking?
Yes you can use Siúcra caster sugar instead of Siúcra granulated sugar. As Siúcra caster sugar is finer, it will cream faster with butter and melt quicker than Siúcra granulated sugar.
What are some good baking ideas for apples?
To decide on what type of apple is best for baking first you must consider what you are going to use them for. If you want a sour apple for an apple crumble or pie cooking apples are best. They soften quickly and don’t hold their shape. For an apple tart, a mixture of cooking apples and granny smith apples are best. For a recipes like tart tatin or tart Normande where you want a slightly sweeter apple and one that holds its shape, choose a golden delicious variety.
What can I substitute baking powder for when making cupcakes?
Baking soda can be substituted once used with an acid ingredient like buttermilk. A new recipe will be required as you cannot just swap 1 teaspoon of baking powder for a teaspoon of baking soda.
How should you adjust the oven temperature when baking multiple items?
With a fan oven, the heat is evenly distributed throughout the oven so only bake multiple items that require the same heat and cooking time. Gas ovens or convection ovens the top shelf is hotter than the bottom. So place the dish that requires more heat on the top shelf. You might also need to rotate the baked goods by swapping them around on to different shelves. If it is a cake being cooked, make sure the cake is ¾ cooked before doing so to prevent it from collapsing.
Can I add an ingredient to cookie batter that will ensure soft baked cookies?
Use Siúcra rich dark brown sugar instead of Siúcra caster sugar. Another tip is to roll the cookie dough into balls and don’t flatten them on to a baking tray, this will help keep a chewy centre. You can also cook them for a few minutes less to ensure a soft texture. Another useful trick is to add a slice of fresh bread into the cookie jar as the cookies will absorb the moisture from the bread keeping the soft and chewy.
How can I keep the sides of my pound cakes from getting too brown while the middle and top are continuing to bake?
Place a piece of brown paper or newspaper around the outside of the tin and tie with string.
Can you freeze homemade jam recipes and if so, for how long?
Jam has a long shelf life because of the high sugar content in it. However it can be frozen for up to three months. When freezing jam ensure it is in a sterilised plastic container with a tight fitting lid. It is not recommended to freeze it in a glass jar as could crack and break in the freezer.
What is a quick and easy recipe for making scones?
The quickest way to make scones is in a food processor. Please see recipe below.
Scones - makes 12
450g self-raising flour (sieved)
55g Siúcra caster sugar
115g butter - chilled and cut into cubes
2 large eggs
8-10 tablespoons of milk
Preheated oven 180oC/ gas 4
1. Place the self-raising flour, Siúcra caster sugar and butter in a food processor. Blitz for 30 seconds until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
2. Add in the eggs and milk and mix until soft dough is formed.
3. Turn out onto a floured surface and roll out the scone mix to a thickness of 1 ½ inches. Cut into 12 equal sized pieces.
4. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Brush the tops with some milk and place in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Bake until golden brown.
Tip: For an extra crunchy top, sprinkle scones with Siúcra Demerara sugar.
Can you use whole wheat flour for baking a cake instead of white flour? If so, how would you substitute?
Substituting white flour for wholemeal flour will make a difference to the cake texture and taste. A cake made with wholemeal flour will not rise as high. If you are making cakes, muffins or cookies you can use ½ wholemeal flour and ½ plain flour in the recipe. As the wholemeal flour is high in fibre it absorbs more moisture resulting in a drier, heavier texture. A little extra liquid should be added to the recipe to help avoid this.
Do I have to use a spring form pan for making a cheesecake?
Although a spring form tin makes it easier to remove a cheesecake, a regular tin can also be used. Line the bottom and side of the cake tin with baking paper or parchment paper. Once the cheesecake has been left in the fridge to set for a few hours, dip a knife in hot water. Run it around the tin and baking parchment. Place a large plate over the cheesecake to make sure it is completely covered, then flip it over. Gently tap the tin to help the cheesecake come out. Peel off the baking paper. Then place another large plate on top and flip it back over.
Are brown and white sugars interchangeable when baking?
Both sugars are interchangeable in most recipes. Siúcra light golden brown sugar and Siúcra rich dark brown sugar contain molasses which makes them moist. Baked goods will be lighter in colour when Siúcra caster sugar or Siúcra granulated sugar is used and a little darker with Siúcra light golden brown sugar and Siúcra rich dark brown sugar.
I would like to use fresh banana for a cake filling. Do you have any suggestions on how to stop the banana from turning black in colour?
Slicing the banana and covering them in fruit juice is the best way to prevent them from discolouration. Use lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit or pineapple juice. If you don’t want too strong a taste of juice, fill a small spray bottle with some juice and spritz over the banana slices.
What is the difference between light golden brown sugar and rich dark brown sugar?
Siúcra light golden brown sugar contains molasses giving it a light golden colour and a fudge flavour.
Siúcra rich dark brown sugar contains twice as much molasses making it sticker and has a more treacle like flavour.
If I make a tart or pie, are there some tips I can use for decorating or to pipe a whipped cream or cream cheese frosting around it?
There are lots of decorating tips, such as;
● Left over pastry can be rolled out and cut into shapes. Place on top of the tart or around the pie crust, then bake.
● Beat one egg yolk with a little water and brush all over the unbaked tart. This will give it a beautiful shine once cooked.
● Fit a piping bag or a freezer bag with a star nozzle and fill with either whipped cream or cream-cheese frosting. Pipe all around the rim of the pie. Grate some chocolate or place sliced fruit on top.
● For a professional finish, warm a few tablespoons of apricot jam in a saucepan. Pass through a sieve, and then use a pastry brush or small spoon to cover a thin layer all over the tart or pie. This will give a lovely glossy look.
Can I substitute white granulated sugar for light golden brown sugar?
Yes. Siúcra white granulated sugar can be used instead of Siúcra light golden brown sugar, although the taste and colour will be different. Try adding a tablespoon of treacle or golden syrup to the mixture when using Siúcra granulated sugar for a richer flavour.
How long after making your cake mix can it sit out before you need to bake it?
Cakes made with baking soda, genoise sponge cake, angle cake and chiffon cake need to be cooked immediately. If you don’t cook them straight away the cake won’t rise as high. If using baking powder in the recipe you have a little more time to cook it as most brands are double acting. This means they are activated with moisture first then with heat. Leave them for no longer then 20 -30 minutes before baking. Fruit cakes can be made a few days in advance before they need to be cooked. Fruit cakes don’t contain any raising agent and are meant to be rich and dense. Just keep in the fridge if not cooking the fruit cake straight away.
What can you do to a cake that is so moist that it is difficult to ice? Can you let it sit out and air dry for a while? Will anything help?
The fresher a cake is, the harder it is to ice. Cakes that are one or two days old are much easier to ice. Try putting the cake into the freezer for an hour, long enough to allow the outside of the cake to firm up. Spread a thin smooth layer of buttercream icing around the entire cake. This will seal in any cake crumbs and then apply the icing.
How do I ensure a smooth finish using roll out?
● Knead the Siúcra roll out icing until it is smooth. This will stop it from cracking.
● Dust the surface with cornflour or Siúcra icing sugar.
● Roll out the Siúcra rollout icing with a rolling pin, don’t apply to much pressure.
● After it has been given about 3 rolls in one direction, turn the icing 90 degree angle, roll again and repeat. This will prevent the Siúcra rollout icing sticking and also ensure it in evenly rolled out. The Siúcra rollout icing should be rolled to 1/4 inch thick, any thinner it will tear.
● To check the Siúcra rollout icing is rolled out enough to cover the cake, start by measuring the cake with a piece of string. Then put the string over the Siúcra rollout icing.
● Brush the cake that has been already covered with marzipan with water or for a longer shelf life alcohol as this will help the Siúcra rollout icing to stick. If the cake has been covered with buttercream icing, keep it in the fridge until you are ready to cover it with the Siúcra rollout icing.
● Gently roll the Siúcra rollout icing onto the rolling pin, then carefully unroll it onto the cake.
● Using the palm of your hand, smooth the Siúcra rollout icing on the top of the cake first, then the sides. Cut off the excess icing around the sides of the cake with a pizza cutter or a sharp knife.
● With a circular motion use cake smoothers or the palm of your hands to rub all over the cake. If air bubbles appear prick them with a pin or cocktail stick, then smooth over them again.
When a recipe calls for pure vanilla extract, can I use imitation vanilla? Will it change the taste of the recipe?
Yes you can use imitation vanilla essence to replace vanilla extract in a recipe. Vanilla extract is made from real vanilla pods and can contain the little black bean seeds. Vanilla essence is an artificial flavour, tends to be paler in colour and is more watery. The flavour from the vanilla extract is more intense. When using vanilla essence instead use ½ a teaspoon more in the recipe.
What is the difference between Demerara sugar and rich dark brown sugar if they are both a brown sugar?
Siúcra Demerara brown sugar is a dry raw cane sugar that has course crystals. It is golden brown in colour with a natural caramel flavour.
Siúcra rich dark brown sugar has a soft moist texture and is dark in colour as it contains molasses. Molasses are the natural dark syrup which comes from sugar cane. It has an intense, treacle like flavour.
When making any baked crust tart, how do you get the baked crust out of the tart pan without breaking it up?
● It is important to use a tart tin or pan with a removable base.
● Before you line the tart with the pastry, make sure the tart tin is well greased.
● Once the tart is baked, allow to cool completely in the tin.
● Gently push the base of the tin up, to remove the baked pastry crust. An easy way to do this is to place the tart on top of a saucepan or cake tin that is slightly smaller than the tart.
My cakes rose beautifully in the oven, but have all sunk since taking them out of the fridge. What has happened?
The cakes might not be properly baked. Always preheat the oven to the correct temperature before cooking the cake. Insert a cocktail stick in the middle of the cake to check that it is fully baked. If the cocktail stick comes out clean the cake is ready. If there is some mixture on the cocktail stick the cake will need a little longer in the oven.
My loaf of bread has split down the middle. Is this to be expected?
There are a few reasons this could happen if it is yeast bread:
● Bread dough was not left long enough to double in size before baking.
● Cut small slashes on top of the bread before baking. As the bread increases in size when it’s baking the slashes allow the pressure to be released giving a nice even surface. If it is a quick bread that is cracked and split this is normal and to be expected.
Are there particular recipes that you should only use Demerara sugar for? And if so what would be a few example of these recipes.
Siúcra Demerara sugar is much coarser then most Siúcra brown sugars, which gives it a wonderful crunch as it takes longer to melt. It’s perfect for the following:
● Butterscotch sauce
● Sweet breads
Is there special preparation that should be done so that you have the correct consistency for royal icing?
Siúcra instant royal icing needs to be whisked on medium speed for at least 5-7 minutes to give a good consistency.
If you are piping it, make sure it is thick. It can be thinned out with a little extra water if you want to cover cookies or small cakes with it.
What are your top tips for professional looking icing on cupcakes using a piping bag?
● The consistency of the icing is very important. It should be light and fluffy which makes it easier to pipe.
● Use a nozzle when piping icing onto cupcakes.
● Fill the piping bag half way; this will make piping easier to control.
● Always pipe the icing around the edge of the cupcake first then work your way in.
● If you have never iced cupcakes before, practice your icing on a plate. The same icing can then be refilled into the piping bag to ice the cupcakes.