Anyone who’s worked professional kitchen will tell you that there is a world of difference in the mindset of kitchen staff versus the bakery department. Although baker’s need to be artists to be creative, they also have to be scientists and very precise at that.  The Hummingbird Bakery is one of the most successful creative bakery chains in the UK –  see our review of their latest cookbook.

Here are some of their tips, combined with what we, at Wickedfood Cooking School, have learned over the years that we have been giving baking  classes, which we hope will help you to get the best results from your baking recipes:

  • Follow the recipes exactly as written! Baking is a chemical reaction, and so any experimentation with the recipe amounts can potentially cause a recipe to fail.
  • If you change an ingredient, a method, or an amount, no matter how small, then this will change the recipe from the way it was intended to turn out.
  • Some baking methods in The Hummingbird Bakery cookbooks may seem unconventional to experienced bakers, but the recipes will work if followed exactly.
  • Don’t rush when measuring out ingredients and following the cooking method.
  • Don’t worry if a batter looks runnier or thicker than you’re used to… trust it, it will bake as it’s supposed to!
  • Only use the correctly sized tin! If you put the whole batter amount into a tin that is too small, then the batter will overflow. Only ever fill the tin you have two‐thirds full.
  • If you’ve filled your tins/cases and you have leftover batter, make some extra cupcakes or muffins!
  • Fill cupcake cases 2/3 full! If you’re too stingy with filling them, they won’t rise nicely and they’ll overcook and be dry.
  • When creaming butter and sugar together, always make sure you do this until the mixture is light and fluffy, usually at least a good 5 minutes. Otherwise your cakes will NOT rise nicely!
  • Do the same for recipes that ask you to whisk together the eggs and sugar: this should result in a nice, light airy mixture, at least 5 minutes of electric whisking! Especially the cookies, otherwise they’ll be flat as pancakes.
  • After adding flour to a mixture, don’t overbeat as this will overwork the flour and make the cake dense. Simply beat or stir until the flour is just incorporated.
  • Get an oven thermometer that you can hook into your oven permanently. This ensures that your oven temperature is accurate and well calibrated. All ovens have hot and cool spots, get to know your oven well and use these spots creatively.
  • Ovens vary greatly, so use suggested cooking times as a rough guide. First bake to about 3/4 of the suggested cooking time, and then check every 5 minutes until finished. (Never open the oven for the first half of the baking time as this may cause the cake not to rise.)
  • Cakes, cupcakes and muffins are only ready when a skewer comes out clean when inserted, and they have pulled away slightly from the side of the tin. They are not automatically ready when the recommended time is up! If you take them out too soon, they will flop and sink deeply in the middle.
  • The more items baking at the same time, the longer the baking time might be.
  • Make sure that your baking powder and bicarbonate of soda have not passed their best before date.
  • Don’t substitute self‐raising flour for plain flour – this will affect the outcome of the recipe!
  • All recipes that ask for cream cheese must be made with Full Fat Cream Cheese. Other brands are too low in fat and will not work.
  • Finally: if your outcomes don’t look exactly like the pictures in the book, don’t worry! These were professionally styled. As long as your goodies taste good and your friends and family enjoy them, then you’ve succeeded!

Click here for some of our delicious cake, biscuit and desert recipes.

Wickedfood Cooking School runs cooking classes throughout the year at its purpose-built Johannesburg cooking studio. Cookery classes are run in the mornings and evenings 7 days a week (subject to a minimum of 12 people). The venue is also popular for corporate events and private functions – teambuilding cooking classes, birthdays, kitchen teas, and dinner parties with a difference.

Our cooking lessons are hands-on, where every person gets to participate in the preparation of the dishes. They are also a lot of fun where you not only learn new skills, but get to meet people with similar interests. For corporate groups and team building cooking classes these events are a novel way of creating staff interaction or entertaining clients.