Tips on baking cakes

Tips om baka kakor

Prinsess cake based on a recipe by Edd Kimber

A country that attaches such importance to fika takes baking very seriously. They have certainly come up with some fantastic cakes such Prinsesstårta (Princess Cake) shown above as created for us by Edd Kimber.

Sju sorters kakor

When rationing was removed after the end of the second world war there was a boom in baking. In 1945 Swedes held a baking contest which resulted in over 8000 recipes being submitted, which was a lot in those days. The recipes were assembled in a book called Sju sorters kakor (Seven kinds of cakes/biscuits/cookies), which rapidly became a best seller.

The name came from the idea that to serve less than seven kinds of cakes or cookies was considered stingy and to serve more was considered to be showing-off. As with so many things in Sweden lagom rules: just right, neither too much, nor too little. The fact that they came up with seven being just right is a reflection of just how important cake baking and fika are in Sweden.

En tårtdelare

En tårtdelare (a cake divider)

Swedes tend to bake one large cake and cut it into two or three layers. They have a fancy contraption called a tårtdelare (cake divider) for slicing the cake horizontally. The one above retails at over £35 ($50)!

In the UK we tend to bake two or three thinner cakes in separate tins (pans) and join the layers together. The advantage of the British method is that you are less likely to end up with the cake sinking and you don't need a tårtdelare. The advantage of the Swedish approach is that you should end up with a softer lighter cake with less crust.

Why do cakes sink?

A cake straight out of the oven with a crack on the top

The cake shown above is likely to sink when it is taken out of the tin. There is already a crack developing on the top which often indicates uneven cooling, the first sign of a cake about to sink.

Cakes usually sink when the cake batter is not completely cooked; everyone’s oven is different so you need to find the optimum baking time for your oven. Also, towards the end of baking test the cake repeatedly by inserting a skewer into it and seeing if it comes out clean. Make sure you test in the centre and right down to the bottom of the cake. If a skewer inserted into the cake does not come out clean, then bake the cake for a little longer.  (You can buy a special cake thermometer which changes colour when the cake is cooked.)

Other things that can cause a cake to sink are:

• Over beating the cake mix (batter) and incorporating too much air – the air can then cause a collapse.
• Temperature of the oven is too high causing the cake to rise too rapidly. (Invest in an oven thermometer to check your oven temperature if you think this might be the problem.)
• Opening the door to check on the cakes before the cake mix (batter) is set can cause the cake to sink, as can closing the oven door too sharply in the early stages of baking.
• Placing the baked cakes to cool in a drafty place.
• Poor recipe; baking is a chemical reaction so the proportions have to be correct.

But generally most cakes sink because their outer edges were fully cooked, but the centre was not!

John Duxbury

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