Food Repair Guide: Baking Part 2
If you are making a Swiss roll, then line the tin with greaseproof paper, but do ensure that you grease the paper well before pouring in the mixture. Try also to ensure that the oven shelf is level or all the mixture will run to one side. If it does, all is not lost, although it will be rather difficult to roll. When you turn the Swiss roll out, do so onto a tea cloth or piece of greaseproof paper that has been coated well with icing sugar. If not well sugared, the Swiss roll will stick to the cloth or paper and you will have a terrible time rolling it. If you have not greased the paper properly, you will also have a terrible time peeling it off, but patience will usually win the day. Do not worry if the roll is not entirely perfect. As long as you can keep about one third of it intact, that will do for theoutside and no one will see the inside. Dredge it thoroughly with sugar or icing sugar. Or, if it has really fallen apart, pre-slice it before serving so that no one can see.
Failed sponge cake
If, despite your best endeavours, your sponge cake, be it light or rich, is dry, crumbly, flat, lumpy or generally unappealing, do not throw it out. If you are desperate for a complete cake or dessert, cut the sponge into very thin layers, sprinkle each with a little liqueur if for a dessert, and layer very generously with filling so that the cake gets smothered. Then top or ice equally generously and no one will ever know. If you do not need the cake too urgently, keep it to make trifles, tipsy cakes or anything that needs a sponge base. Buried deep enough and soaked comprehensively enough, even the most revolting cake will become quite palatable. Alternatively, crumble it and use it as a topping. When toasted, the crumbs can be used as decoration for almost anything in need of disguise.
This does not apply only to plain sponges. Orange or lemon sponges would be a delicious base for any cream dessert, chocolate, coffee or even gingerbread can be used as a base for ‘a trifle with a difference’. Indeed, coffee and chocolate cake could be sliced into fingers, thoroughly dried out in the oven and sandwiched together with some butter icing as biscuits. Any of the above could be used as the base for a baked pudding, but remember that the cake will be sweeter than bread or rice so reduce the amount of sugar.
Failed fruit cakes
Failed fruit cakes are just as adaptable.
Rich fruit cakes often get old and dry out. Do not abandon them to the birds. Cut deep slits in the top of the cake and feed with a mixture of brandy and sherry, or, if you do not want to be too alcoholic, a fruit wine or good fruit cordial. The amount you give the cake will depend on how dry it is, but you can always cut it in half and test the middle.
The same principle can be applied to lighter fruit cakes although one needs to be more temperate. A large quantity of fruit will soak up the liquid and make the whole mixture moist but sponge will merely become soggy, so the greater the proportion of sponge to fruit the less liquid it should be given. It is usually better to ice the cake after it has been — to conceal the tell tale signs.
If a rich fruit cake really is dry beyond redemption, break it up in a bowl, add some suet and a goodly measure of liquor, leave it to soak for 24 hours, then squash it well into a bowl and steam it as a Christmas pudding. It will be a little crumbly and somewhat lighter than the standard, but many people prefer it that way!
The disaster-prone cook should steer clear of all but glace, butter and royalicing — fondants and their kind are for those with time and expertise to spare.
Glace icing is quick and simple but messy. It is not easy to get the proportion of icing sugar to liquid right to achieve `spreadability’ without `runability’.
Always put whatever you are going to ice on a rack so that the extra can run off without getting stuck in a thick frill round the bottom of the cake. Arm yourself with a pot of boiling water and several metal spatulas or flat knives to smooth out the lumps. Inevitably, the wretched stuff will never quite cover the top of the cake in the first run, and when you add the next bit, the first will have dried and the whole thing will go lumpy. Only practice is going to perfect your technique, but smoothing with a spatula dipped in boiling water does help.
Always be ready to decorate or disguise the top with something other than icing — even if only gold and silver balls. Grated chocolate is a good alternative.
Marbling the top, if it is reasonable, will distract the eye from any minor blemishes and is easy and impressive in itself. Run a little melted chocolate, or different coloured icing, in parallel lines across the top of the cake. Then, before it is dried, take a knife point and pull it across the cake top in straight lines at right angles to the first lines, thus pulling the lines into a feathered shape. Try it a couple of times on greaseproof paper before you launch into the cake.
If all fails and you make a complete mess of the icing, wait till it is dry, then scrape the whole lot off and start again.
Butter icing is the world’s easiest, but it is very rich. Many people prefer to use shortening as the fat base, which keeps it much lighter. The only hazard with butter icing is to get enough flavour into it. Like brandy butter (which is, of course, only a butter icing) nothing is nastier than a butter icing that tastes like sweetened butter. Therefore, taste after you have followed the recipe. If you have used a particularly strongly flavoured butter, you will need more chocolate, lemon or whatever you are using. Never try to spread it straight out of the fridge.
Royal icing is also simple, using egg white rather than water or syrup to moisten the icing sugar. Add a little lemon juice to counteract the sweetness and do not forget a drop or two of glycerine to prevent it hardening totally. If you do have a cake with unglycerined icing, you would be better advised to saw your way through it with a bread knife rather than to try and cut it, when it will shatter and ricochet all over the drawing room and Great Aunt Ethel. Royal icing can always be broken off and replaced with a new batch. Use a small amount of icing to experiment with the colour.