I was not born into a household where home-made cakes were a normality. In all my years i know of only one instance when my mother baked a cake and that was for my first birthday, an event that i do not remember but cherish if only from old photographs. The idea of the story is that if you can not separate your Caster sugar from Icing sugar, that does not mean that you can not bake.
One of the things i have constantly struggled with is making curd based gravy called Yakhni, a regular in Kashmiri households. I have made it a couple of times at my house and regret to say that it never really turned out right for the first few attempts, enough to get me insanely disappointed. During one trip back home, my mother, who has made it flawlessly for years, told me that even her gravy sometimes falls apart. Its only natural.
So the worst thing that you can do to yourself is stop trying if the first attempt did not turn out as it was meant to be. Even the most efficient of cooks, make mistakes, and like everything else, there is always a reason behind them. And if they can not be corrected during the process, they can surely be avoided the next time around. Cooking is not always about perfection. It is about taking risks. So take a risk…make something you love.
Baking is not complicated, at least to begin with. There are only a few ingredients that go into making a basic cake. All you need to do is to take the recipe seriously and follow the steps as they are written. The difference between cooking on gas-top and baking is that while the flavours can be changed on a cooking pan, once a cake is put into the oven there is no going back.
Basic ingredients involved in baking –
All Purpose Flour – This is basically maida.
Eggs – Always keeps the eggs outside for at least 30-60 min to bring them to room temperature before using. Cold eggs from the refrigerator will curdle your batter and ruin the cake.
Butter – White butter (saltless). Always use butter at room temperature.
Baking powder – It is activated by moisture, so you must bake recipes immediately after mixing or most of the bubbles released will be wasted.
Baking powder is different from Baking soda which is pure Sodium bicarbonate.
Sugar – There are 3 types that are used:
Castor/Caster Sugar – This is basically very fine sugar, so that it dissolves almost instantly, making it easier to use in recipes.
Icing Sugar – Sugar ground to a powder and used to make cake-icing and whipping cream.
Brown Sugar – This sugar retains some of the molasses syrup, which imparts a characteristic flavor. Light brown sugar is used in baking and making butterscotch and glazes. The dark brown sugar makes it used for gingerbread, baked beans, and other full flavored foods.
Demerera sugar – It is a light brown sugar with large golden crystals, which are slightly sticky from the adhering molasses. It is often used in tea and coffee.
Parchment Paper – Butter paper to put on the pan so that the cake would not stick to it.
Vanilla – You can use Vanilla essence that is found in bottles. But it is not made from real vanilla but is synthesised chemically. If you can lay your hands on real Vanilla pods or vanilla extract, then nothing like it.
Oil – Use any flavourless cooking oil like sunflower oil.
Cocoa powder – Fine unsweetened chocolate powder used in brownies, chocolate cakes, cookies etc.
Cooking chocolate – Use dark chocolate for maximum flavour.
Pre-heat the oven – Heating the oven for 10 min before the baking actually begins so that the cake can start rising as soon a we keep it in.
Sift dry ingredients together – Flour, salt, baking powder, cocoa powder etc are mixed together. This also aerates the flour.
Creaming – Put the butter and sugar together in a bowl and whip them till they are light coloured. You can use an electric or hand mixer.
How to bake a cake?
Sift the dry ingredients together and keep separately.
Add eggs and vanilla to the creamed butter and mix well.
Put in the preheated oven for the required amount of time.
Remove the cake, cool it down and enjoy it with someone you love.