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hints and tips

OK. First things first: you don't have to belong to the Confederation of British Bakers in order to be able to make a cake. You'll need a few bits of equipment, a recipe, ingredients, and some enthusiasm.

Why bake? Because you can make something just how you want it. Cookies with milk or dark chocolate chips? Cake flavoured with orange, lemon or lime zest? Experim ent a bit. Play with your food. Share what you've baked. People rarely turn down anything that's freshly made. Something about the aroma of melted butter and sugar cuts through people's brains in a shortcut straight to "mmmmmm...."

Here are our hints and tips. Aimed at novices - these are little stupid mistakes you make and then kick yourself for. Hopefully by sharing where we have tripped up, you won't have to....

on ingredients

  • Don't use out of date raising agents or yeast - that's just asking for trouble. Your banana muffins will taste like soap.
  • Don't guess quantities, weigh them. If you want extra raisins in, put extra raisins in knowingly
  • Watch tsp and tbsp. At a glance they are easily confused, but the difference this makes to a batch of cinnamon cloud cookies is really quite noticeable...

when baking

  • Measure your baking tray or tin. If it's different to the one suggested in your recipe, think about this. You may be able to cook at a different temperature or for a different time (if it's a larger cake tin than you were supposed to use, the cake you make will be thinner and this will bake quicker, or you could knock the temperature down a bit and keep the baking time the same). We advise you stick to the recipe if you can. The pan of brownies that were burning on the edges and raw in the middle haunts us to this day. And please don't mention the Cinnamon Whirls.
  • If it says pre-heat the oven - pre heat the oven. It's amazing how many people will still offer to eat a burned chocolate cake, but I think it's better without that smoky aroma. Don't you?
  • Fan ovens will bake things quicker. Check early and often. Or we're back to the smoky aroma.

speak my language!

Millimetres, decilitres, cups, grams, ounces, Fahrenheit... sometimes it seems like a battle to make sense of an ingredients list, never mind a recipe.   Try the handy conversion chart on this page.

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