As far as made-up holidays go, World Baking Day seems especially relevant given the coronavirus baking craze.
World Baking Day, which is Sunday, was created by the people behind the now-defunct website worldbakingday.com. The idea was to get people from around the world to pledge to bake something, perhaps for a loved one or a friend.
To get the tradition going again, we asked some of the country's top bakers to give a piece of advice to home bakers during this unique time.
Celebrity Chef Duff Goldman is best known for hosting "Ace of Cakes," "Buddy vs. Duff," and "Kids Baking Championship." His upcoming book, "Super Good Baking for Kids" will debut this September. He reminds us that preparation is key when it comes to good baking.
What to do, where to go and what to see
"Read the recipe all the way through. Baking has to be done in the right order at the right time and running out to the store in the middle of the process just isn’t conducive to good baking. Making sure you have all the ingredients, all the equipment, and the proper oven temperature makes baking MUCH easier."
Wedding cake designer Ron Ben-Israel is the executive chef and owner of his namesake bakery Ron Ben-Israel Cakes in New York City. You may recognize him from the Food Network show "Cake Wars." He shares his tips on what you can do when you don't have all of the right ingredients.
"A lot of items are not available on a regular basis right now. Improvise! I’ve been using non-dairy products with great success in my home-baked goods. Coconut cream and any plant-based milk work beautifully, and coconut oil is a delicious substitute for butter. I found out that if a recipe calls for sugar I could easily substitute it with honey. No sour cream? The above non-dairy substitute and few drops of vinegar would do. People have baked for thousands of years without having access to fancy ingredients, and so could we!"
Sophie LaMontagne & Katherine Berman
Sisters Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis Berman are the co-founders of Georgetown Cupcake and stars of the TLC reality show "DC Cupcakes." They shared their tip for baking light and fluffy cupcakes at home.
"Be sure to cream your butter (slightly softened) and sugar together long enough (at least 3-5 minutes) since this step creates the air pockets in your batter that will expand and rise in the oven. After you cream your butter and sugar, be very gentle with your batter – mix at low to medium speed for the rest of your recipe and only as much as needed to incorporate the rest of your ingredients. Over-mixing your batter will make your cupcakes dense and brick-like, but being gentle with your batter will ensure that your cupcakes and cakes are perfectly light and fluffy!"
Pastry chef Lisa Ludwinski is the author of "Sister Pie," as well as the owner and head baker of the bakery that inspired the book. Her advice is to take your time!
"Indulge in the extra time you have on your hands by fully following all timing guidelines in recipes. No need to skip ahead -- wait the full 24 hours for the cookie dough rest, chill your pie dough for 2 hours before rolling out, etc. Enjoy the results!"
Melissa Ben-Ishay is the president and CEO of Baked by Melissa, a New York City-based brand famous for its signature, bite-size cupcakes and treats. Her tip is to stop stressing and start baking.
"My advice would be to just do it! So many people see my Instagram stories and say they wish they could bake and they totally can! Just pick a recipe and follow it! If you don’t have an ingredient, use a substitute. If you’re not sure, Google it. Have confidence in yourself and it will be delicious."
Joanne Chang is the owner of Flour Bakery in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts. She received the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Baker in 2016. Her tip is for home bakers looking to take their baking to the next level.
"I would encourage all home bakers to use a kitchen scale! Measuring by weight is much more accurate than by volume- your baking will improve dramatically if you always weigh versus measure."
Zoe Nathan is the co-owner and head baker of Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe in Santa Monica, California. Her cookbook by the same name contains 115 recipes for bakers and all-day brunchers. Nathan and her husband also own and operate Milo + Olive, Sweet Rose Creamery and Rustic Canyon in Los Angeles, so she knows a thing or two about how to improve your recipes.
"I know this is going to offend a few cookbook writers (and, honestly, most bakers) but when following a recipe from most cookbooks, double the salt. It’ll make the recipe taste one million times better and will actually make your baked goods taste like something other than sugar. Baked goods need salt to bring out the sweetness from the sugar. In baking, salt should be used as a flavor enhancer and only occasionally and intentionally as a flavor. We only use kosher salt to bake and cook with, and fleur de sel to finish, because the rougher-cut larger granules really make your food sparkle. Please buy both, they are game-changers."
Artisan Baker Ken Forkish is the James Beard Award-winning author behind “Flour Water Salt Yeast." While everyone is getting on the sourdough bandwagon, Forkish suggests you try your hand at pizza. His latest cookbook, called "The Elements of Pizza," is all about making world-class pies at home.
"The reality of pizza is that you can easily make better pizza at home than you can buy at any of the best independently owned, quality focused pizzerias in the country. Plus it’s a great, interactive family activity, too."
Dominique Ansel, creator of the Cronut, just launched a cookbook titled, "Everyone Can Bake" in which he outlines the building blocks of baking -- how to make bases (tart shells, chocolate cake), fillings (ganaches, jams), and finishings (buttercreams, meringues, glazes).
"For pastry chefs, it's all about mastering the basic building blocks first - learning how to make that classic pastry cream, a simple vanilla sablé tart shell, a basic Italian meringue, for example. Once you've got these basics down, then you can start to get creative with flavors, infusing with fruits, herbs, nuts, chocolate, etc. and really make them suit your own tastes."
He shared his go-to chocolate cake recipe with us so you can try making it at home.
"When it comes to chocolate, I believe more is more: sandwich this decadent base with a filling of chocolate ganache, or top it with chocolate mousse and cover it with a chocolate glaze."
MAKES: One 8-inch (20 cm) cake (2 to 2 inches or 5 to 6.25 cm tall)
TIME: 1 hour 30 minutes
- 220 grams or 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 300 grams or 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 45 grams or 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
- 2 grams or 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 grams or 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 gram or 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 90 grams or 2 large eggs*
- 115 grams or 2/3 cup vegetable oil
- 225 grams or 1 cup whole milk
*If a recipe calls for eggs in grams and you don’t have a scale handy, remember the “30-20-10” rule. A large egg in the shell generally weighs about 60 grams: the white is 30 grams, the yolk is 20 grams, the shell is 10 grams. You can use those numbers to figure out how many eggs you’ll need.
- 8-inch (20 cm) round cake pan
Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter the bottom, sides, and edges of an 8-inch (20 cm) round cake pan. Pour in some flour* and shake it around until the pan is evenly coated, then tap out any excess flour.
* If you don’t plan on frosting your chocolate cake, use cocoa powder instead of flour to dust the pan. That way when you unmold the cake, you won’t see any spots of white flour on the surface.
2. Combine the dry ingredients: Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until combined.*
*You don’t need to sift the dry ingredients; whisking them gets rid of any lumps.
3. Combine the wet ingredients: Whisk together the eggs, vegetable oil, and milk in a medium bowl until combined.
4. Make the batter: Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in thirds, mixing with a spatula until combined after each addition. You should now have a velvety smooth chocolate batter. (If you spot any lumps, use a whisk to break them up, then mix the batter a bit more.)
5. Bake the cake: Pour the batter into the prepared pan until it reaches halfway up the sides. Level the surface with a spatula. Bake until the cake is set in the center, 45 to 50 minutes. It can be hard to tell if a chocolate cake is cooked through because of its dark color, and since oven temperatures can vary, you shouldn’t rely solely on your timer. There are three ways to check if it’s done:
- Jiggle it: The cake should wiggle a little in the middle. If it wiggles a lot, it’s not ready.
- Nudge it: Press the top gently; it should bounce back to your touch.
- Poke it: Stick a toothpick or paring knife into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done.
6. Cool and unmold the cake: Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. While the cake is still warm, place a large plate over it, then tip the plate and pan together; the cake should easily slide out of the pan onto the plate.*
* To make sure the cake unmolds cleanly and easily from the pan, remember three things:
- Always properly butter the pan and dust it with flour (or cocoa powder) before adding the batter.
- Let the cake cool for a bit once it’s out of the oven, but don’t wait until it has cooled completely to turn it out of the pan—it’s best to unmold it while it’s still a bit warm so it doesn’t stick to the pan.
- If the cake does stick, run a paring knife along the side of the pan to help coax
The cake is best enjoyed the same day it’s baked, but can be wrapped tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days. For longer storage, wrap it tightly with plastic wrap, place in an airtight container, and freeze for up to 3 weeks. To use a frozen cake, remove it from the airtight container and transfer it to the refrigerator (still in the plastic wrap) to thaw for at least 3 hours or up to overnight, until the cake is soft again.
Excerpt from EVERYONE CAN BAKE by Dominique Ansel.Copyright © 2020 by Dominique Ansel. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc, NY.
To make home baking even easier, Sprinkles Cupcakes is launching a line of cupcake kits. They're available for pre-order now for pick-up and delivery starting Monday, May 18th.
Bake-Your-Own, or BYO-TO-GO as they're calling it, will contain their signature mix and recipe, frosting, spatulas and an assortment of decorations and sprinkles. The kit will be available to order online, by app or phone and costs $35.
Kits will be available at all locations including Los Angeles, San Diego, Palo Alto, DC, Lake Buena Vista, Chicago, New York City, and Dallas.
Print onto cardstock (or onto paper then stick onto cardstock), color, then attach to wooden toothpicks or skewers and place on your cakes.