Saucepots baking Q&A

On the lead up to The Great Irish Bake for Temple Street, Alice from Saucepots answered all your baking queries on Facebook to stop them from becoming 'burning' questions. Here are a few of the top tips that Alice shared on the day.

Saucepots Q&A

My cakes are not rising! I'm doing everything by the book. I have a fan oven and I lower temp by 20°C. Can you help?

Super common problem! There's a couple of things you should look at here. During baking (assuming you're making a classic Victorian sponge style cake), make sure you're properly creaming the butter and sugar. This is where we incorporate air — really important for a nice rise. When you're adding wet ingredients to dry (adding flour), mix by hand until it's just combined. Overmixing here will kill your cake! Lastly, make sure your baking powder and bicarbonate is in date - anything over 6 months old is too old!

I keep getting dips in my cakes when I make them. What am I doing wrong?

This can be caused by a few things. Either not enough or expired baking powder, or too much - so be careful when adding it in. Make sure you're using self-raising flour and not plain flour, and make sure you're properly creaming your butter and sugar. Creaming means beating until light & fluffy, not just until mixed! Then make sure you don't overmix when you add the flour. Mix by hand until it's just about combined. Good luck!

What is the best buttercream and cream frosting to make?

A classic buttercream is always best in my opinion, maybe lightly flavoured with a little vanilla or lemon. Once you have a solid base you can experiment with flavourings by adding some lemon, melted chocolate, or whatever you fancy! Just don't add too much liquid as this changes the texture of the icing. Balance it out with a little icing sugar if it's too loose. My real favourite icing though is meringue! I use this for my lemon meringue cupcakes - delicious! 

Any ideas of what I could make with my little Junior Infants. They are good on yeast bread and jam tarts.

Sounds like your Junior Infants are pretty accomplished! If they're up for a real challenge, this Magic Custard Cake is a really fun bake, and has that bit of dramatics that kids love.

Do you know how to make any dairy free muffins or buns?

If you're looking for dairy-free, bananas are your friend, big time! When you take out dairy, you need to make sure you're adding back in moisture, so that's eggs, bananas, and oil. 

Coconut oil is a great replacement for butter, and banana ad
ds moisture and sweetness (so you can cut down on sugar too!).

When I make soda bread or wholemeal banana bread it just won't cook in the middle no matter how long I cook it for. What am I doing wrong?

Are you using wholewheat flour? If you are, I would firstly try going half and half wholewheat to plain white flour. This will lighten up the dough a lot!

Secondly, make sure your baking powder is in date - this 
is what gives you rise! Very important!

Thirdly, are you scoring the dough before you bake it? Cut a cross into the dough, about 1/3 of the thickness of the dough deep - this will help the heat reach the middle of the dough. Hopefully this helps!

When making a 12" Victoria sponge cake recently the cake got burned on one side. The inside of the cake was fine. Should I turn the oven down (I baked it at 180C for 1hr and 20 mins) or should I cook it for less time at the same temperature?

One really easy way to stop this happening (for cake, bread, and pretty much anything, is cover the baking dish with tin foil at the start of baking, or halfway through if it's starting to look a little too dark. This works really well for me!

Otherwise, experiment a little with where you're placing your cake in the oven. The bottom of the oven is hottest, so make sure your cake is in the middle or near the top. Good luck!

When making macarons, mine always crack on the top. Am I over cooking them?

No.1 reason for cracks is air bubbles - are you giving the baking tray a good rap on the counter before you leave them to dry?

Also, are you leaving them to dry out and form a skin? These 2 steps are so important for macarons. 

So, just after baking, rap the baking tray HARD on the counter to pop any air bubbles in the mixture, and then give them a good half hour to dry before baking. You should be able to touch the tops of the macarons and they should be dry to the touch.

Bake low, and on the top rack of the oven. I bake mine at 150C, but you really have to experiment with your oven and see what suits best.

Also, to check when they're done, the shell shouldn't move - if you touch an undercooked Macaron, it will feel like the shell is wobbling on the feet - it should hold firm.

If they're stubborn, take a hair-dryer to them! Works a treat! Just don't hold it too close to the macarons. Hold it well above the tray.


You can learn more about the Great Irish Bake for Temple Street 2016 here


About Alice 


Alice is the recipe developer, cook, baker, and mastermind behind Saucepots.

She's a musician and music teacher by trade (classical guitar!).

She has been seriously baking & cooking since circa 2013, and it has quickly become one of her favourite things to do.