If you're a fan of sweet treats you've probably heard of Jordan Rondel, or at least her superhero alter-ego, The Caker.
Rondel's Instagram is full of her mouth-watering creations and her cake-kits mean even those of us challenged in the kitchen can cobble together something delicious.
But if your cookies and cakes end up looking more like a garden feature than a delectable dessert, Rondel is here to help. She's put together some tips and tricks to help improve your dessert game, so you'll be sure to impress at your next dinner party.
The Caker's top dessert tips:
Use the best quality ingredients that you can get
This will undoubtedly affect your end product. When it comes to chocolate, I always use 72 percent cocoa solid Callebaut chocolate buttons, which are dairy-free, gently bitter and melt like a dream. Real Dutch-process cocoa powder is an entirely different product to regular cocoa powder. Free-range eggs go without saying. Most of my recipes call for ground almonds, which is an expensive ingredient, but it's so worth it and will greatly improve the flavour, texture and nutrition of your baking.
Invest in good quality equipment
Along with using high-quality ingredients, using good quality equipment will improve your baking. This is where the Kenwood kMix comes in - this stand mixer is, in my professional opinion, the best on the market. [Note: Rondel is a Kenwood ambassador]. Other pieces of equipment that I think are crucial for successful baking are sturdy silicone spatulas for folding and scraping down your mixing bowl (the flimsy kind are just a pain), a turntable and offset palette knives in different sizes to assist you in icing your cakes beautifully, and last but not least, a 'cake mover,' which is basically an oversized spatula to help you move cake layers with ease.
You can't overdo creaming your butter and sugar together, but never overmix your dry ingredients
Creaming butter and sugar properly is the key to light and fluffy cakes. In order to achieve this, your butter needs to be at room temperature (you should be able to spread it on soft bread) and you will get better results if you cream butter and sugar with a quality electric stand mixer. When it comes to combining dry ingredients, overmixing a batter which contains gluten will result in a tough crumb. Flour needs to be only just incorporated on low speed or even by hand. Milk and yoghurt should be folded through after dry ingredients have been mixed in to avoid lumps. Again, these need to be only just incorporated.
Get to know your oven
Some ovens are hotter than others. Some cook more from the top, bottom, left or right. Once you know your oven well, you can make sure you adjust its temperature as needed, bake for the right amount of time and rotate your baking as necessary. Ovens should always be set to fan bake so the temperature is as evenly distributed as possible.
Have fun with it
Baking is a science, there's no doubt about that, but being a self-taught baker has allowed me to find my own creativity with it and figure out how to push the rules and boundaries. Next time you plan on baking, I urge you to take a recipe and play with it a little. If it calls for apricots but they are not in season, try pears or apples; if you have a rosemary bush in your garden try adding some finely chopped rosemary leaves to your batter or dough; a sprinkle of black pepper works a treat with berries or rhubarb; swap out regular milk for creamy oat milk if you prefer; add a teaspoon of your favourite spice, a handful of chocolate chips or some roasted nuts if you think it'll work. Experiment and learn through trial and error - it makes baking even more fun.
RECIPE: Lamington Cake
The other day, I had an insatiable craving for a warmed chocolate lamington served with jam and cream, so I dreamed up this recipe and got straight into the kitchen. Needless to say, it hit the spot.
For the cake
- 150g (11⁄3 sticks) butter, softened
- 150g (5.3oz) caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 free-range eggs
- 80g (2.8oz) plain or spelt flour
- 80g (2.8oz) ground almonds
- 40g (1.4oz) fine desiccated coconut
- 2 tsp baking powder
- Pinch sea salt
- 1⁄2 cup whole milk
- 100g (3.5oz) dark chocolate buttons, 70 percent cocoa solids
- 150g (5.3oz) fresh or frozen raspberries
For the filling
- 4 tbsp good-quality raspberry jam
- For the topping
- 3⁄4 cup mascarpone 1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract
For the decorations
- Handful coconut chips, lightly toasted
- Handful dark chocolate chips, 70 percent cocoa solids, roughly chopped
- Handful fresh or freeze-dried raspberries
- Fresh flowers (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F on fan bake. Line two 22cm / 9" tins with baking paper.
- In the bowl of a Kitchen Machine, cream the butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy.
- Add the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time.
- In two parts, mix in the flour, ground almonds, coconut, baking powder and salt. Finally, add the milk. Stop your mixer once all the ingredients are combined, taking care not to overmix.
- By hand, stir through the dark chocolate buttons.
- Evenly divide the batter between the tins and spread out to the sides. Dot in the raspberries, pressing them down lightly.
- Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until golden in colour, springy to the touch, and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.
- Once the cakes are completely cool, spread a layer of jam onto one of the layers and place the second layer directly on top. Spread a neat layer of mascarpone onto the top of the cake and decorate with the toasted coconut, chopped chocolate, raspberries and fresh flowers, if using.
Serve at room temperature. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to three days.