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The basic ingredients of a cake are explained below :
The term flour generally refers to white flour or maida (not whole wheat flour or atta as it is called in India). The irony of it is ,that what tastes good and what is very easy to work with, is not what is best for you in the long run. Substituting flour for wholewheat flour, in the case of baking basic sponges, is also not a feasible option as you would then get a very stodgy instead of a light sponge. BUT ALL IS NOT LOST. THERE ARE MANY MANY TYPES OF CAKES WHERE IT IS POSSIBLE TO USE A WHOLEWHEAT FLOUR, BUT DEFINITELY NOT THE FULL MEASURE. I'LL EXPLAIN WHAT I MEAN, A RECIPE CALLING FOR 200 GRAMS OF FLOUR, MAY BE SUBSTITUTED WITH 100 GMS OF FLOUR AND 100 GRAMS OF WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR......................................FOR EXAMPLE A CARROT CAKE WOULD TASTE AS WELL WITH WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR.
Self raising flour is another option where the raising agent (i.e. the baking soda )is premixed into the flour. But a word of caution .......all cake recipes do not need self raising flour......as some may need more and some may need less of the raising agent. The reason is simple....many other ingredients in your cake may act as a raising agent, for example eggs, cream of tartar, etc.
This very important ingredient of baking needs to be understood to be used correctly. A cake may rise because either air or carbon dioxide or steam is introduced into the mixture to enable it to expand. For example during creaming or beating this is done by hand or by including a raising agent in the mixture. Baking powder is the most commonly used raising agent. Moisture, heat and the baking powder react together to produce carbon dioxide. During the baking process these bubbles enlarge and that is why the cake rises.....but the heat also has a drying effect and sets the mixture giving the cake its characteristic texture.
Eggs are very important to a cake as they help in the raising process in 2 ways. When eggs are whisked thousands of air bubbles are created which when added to the cake mixture get incorporated. Egg whites when whisked separately create more foam. Eggs also contain moisture which produces steam during baking. When the cake cools the egg yolk sets holding the trapped air in suspension.
Eggs at room temperature are best for baking.
Caster sugar (sugar ground to a powder in a mixie) should always be used for creaming and whisking methods as granulated sugar gives less volume and a more speckly appearance. Brown sugar whether dark or light give more flavour than white sugar. Demerara sugar has a coparser grain and its large crystals will not break down when mixed in a creaming or whisking method. It is only good for rubbed in mixtures. Demerara sugar is best for rich fruit cakes and gingerbreads.
Butter is the most common fat used....and the one which gives the best flavour. You may also use half butter and half oil. Always use the butter at room temperature for best results.
Lightly grease a cake tin or tray with melted fat and sprinkle a little flour over it for simple cakes. Rich fruit cakes need to be baked in a lined tin.
Always have the oven warm five minutes before baking. As soon as the cake mixture is poured into its baking dish it should go into the oven. The baking is best right in the middle of the oven.
To check if a cake is done......insert a wooden toothpick and check if it comes out clean. If not the cake needs more cooking.
Turn off the fire or switch when the cake is done and allow to cool for a few minutes before attempting to remove the cake from the tin. Alternatively if paper is to be removed then the cake should be placed upside down and the paper gently removed. Place another plate on top and turn over to get the right side up.