As readers of this blog will know my kitchen prowess is slightly questionable but I AM improving – and I say that as the owner of the world’s largest collection of unused cookery books.
Over the years I’ve learned a trick or two though, largely through watching hundreds of TV cookery shows and being teased (shamed) into having a go by the Husband who assembles a meal with ease.
There’s also the fact that mothers are supposed to be excellent cooks with the ability to create dishes combining unique medicinal properties and maternal love.
So with my guilt-ometer reading maximum, I try my best.
Here are some of my best tips for creating a little bit of kitchen magic – or at least a decent sponge which I whipped up with Caitlin’s help over the weekend. Ieuan had ‘something urgent to do on Roblox’.
“And believe me, the best thing you can have in a kitchen is confidence. I really think that’s what separates good cooks from the mediocre ones” – Gordon Ramsey
You have to be willing to give it a go and make a bit of a mess. I’m always fascinated when a Great British Bake-Off contestant decides that a recipe isn’t working, chucks the whole thing out and starts again.
Most families don’t have the luxury of a BBC budget but persisting until you get the recipe right seems to be the trick!
Baking is a great way to spend time with your kids and it honestly doesn’t matter if the results are less than spectacular. It’s the time spent together that matters – plus you get help.
Caitlin and Ieuan (occasionally) love to help when I bake cakes and tray bakes. At 9 and 7 they are perfectly capable of helping to measure ingredients and mix them.
Keep your recipes simple
“Never eat more than you can lift” – Miss Piggy
Don’t overstretch yourself and stick to a recipe you know works. You can find loads of simple cake recipes online. Magazines such as Good Housekeeping are also a great source of kitchen inspiration with triple tested recipes and easy to follow instructions.
Buy the best equipment you can afford
“I can’t bake anything unless I have the right shaped tin” – Linda Hobbis
I use bakeware by Prestige and for this particular cake I used the 9″ round cake tin from their Inspire Range.
Made from heavy-gauge carbon steel these are weighty tins made to last. They also have Cushion Smart which is a non-stick cushioned surface that helps your cakes brown better and makes it a lot easier to get them out of the tin!
There’s also a 25-year guarantee – that’s an awful lot of cake baking.
You can pop them in the dishwasher but it’s better to hand wash to preserve the coating for as long as you can.
Again, the Internet is a marvellous source of kitchen cheats.
I’m sure you already know to melt butter in the microwave, as well as popping lemons and limes in there for a few seconds to help release their juice.
We might have cheated ever so slightly with our cake decoration (thank you M&S).
I can report that the cake tasted very nice and if you would like to try the recipe we used it is below.
250g (9oz) soft margarine or butter
250g (9oz) caster sugar
300g (10oz) self-raising flour
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp baking powder
This makes a 23 cm (9 inch) deep round cake.
Cream the margarine and sugar together until light and fluffy
Mix the eggs and milk in a separate bowl.
Add the mix to the cake a little at a time to avoid curdling.
Add the flour and baking powder together and gently fold in.
Line your tin with greaseproof paper covered with butter or use non-stick baking paper. Spoon in the mixture and level with a palette knife.
Bake in a pre-heated over at 160°C/320°F/gas mark 3 for 45 – 55 minutes.
For the Buttercream
100g unsalted butter
200g icing sugar
1 tsp Vanilla extract
Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth then add the milk and the vanilla extract.