This half term has been taken up with children (as it should be). I haven’t been able to work much on my website and blog but when the children have gone to their beds I have stayed up and started writing some articles. I can’t wait for the school term to start again and then my routine will return. For my blog today, I have chosen the article which has had me thinking whilst doing other household chores.

Why the ingredients are used in a recipe ? This is often a question I ask myself when I am baking something. Especially when I want to alter a recipe and change the ingredient for something else which I hope will either do the same job or not affect the recipe at all.

The main four ingredients in a cake recipe are flour, sugar, fat and egg. To this other ingredients are added such as spices, cocoa, coffee, caramel and chocolate.

The flour usually contains gluten, unless it is gluten free. The gluten is very elastic and helps to form the structure of the sponge cake. I always use self raising flour unless I run out and have to use plain flour with baking powder added. Self raising flour already contains the raising agent and I don’t add any extra when making my cakes with the all-in-one method. The gluten stretches and helps to form the basic shape of the final cake. There are many types of flour, all of which have different gluten content.

Sugar is used for sweetness but it has other uses too so cannot be completely omitted from recipes. The sugar molecules which form the grains of sugar combine with the water in the cake mix to form strong bonds which keep the texture of the sponge soft and springy. They are also needed for the gluten to perform its task. The sugar absorbs the moisture, so too much sugar and the sponge will be dry and firmer than you want. If the sugar is cut down then the liquid in the mix may have to be reduced too. There has to be enough liquid in the mix for the sugar and flour to work to their full potential.

The egg supplies the liquid for the recipe, however, I always replace some of the egg with milk, one to save money, and two, I feel the moisture of the cake is improved. If the consistency of the mixture is not correct, i.e, falls of a wooden spoon with one shake, then the overall texture of the cake is incorrect and the final cake will be dry and heavy.

The fat use in the mixture is important too. I use soft spread which is soft enough to cream from the fridge and I feel gives a pleasant flavour. I feel butter can actually be tasted in the final cake so tend not to use it. I do use butter in other recipes but not when I am making cakes. I tend to use the all-in-one method for my cakes. It is definitely the easiest and quickest method by far.

These are the basic ingredients used in cakes which can be altered slightly but really should be present to produce a soft, spongy, airy, well risen and pleasant tasting cake.