Kari Heron (When Hunger Strikes)
7 October 2011
A two-week baking class at Dima’s Kitchen was all one needed to emerge an angel in the kitchen
I have been covered in butter, sugar, flour and eggs for the past two weeks. Yes, I have been baking everyday on account of attending a two-week intensive ‘All About Cakes & Cupcakes’ course by blogger and instructor Dima Sharif of the blog Dima’s Kitchen. Here is how I got on…
I am handed my cool starter kit, and am thrilled to learn about Dima’s homemade mixed spice for baking. I fall asleep with my course manual on The Chef’s side of the bed. I am tired so I am out before he gets home. Baking is no joke!
We bake for the first time. We mix batter by hand to make sure that we know the basics. We discuss basic cakes and make a sponge. I take it home and eat Ľ. My first homework assignment is badly burnt. The hubby doesn’t even cut a slice. Dima cut the slice to critique the texture. I took this piece out of the bin to photograph. I have the oven from hell. Dima saves my baking confidence and encourages me to get an oven thermometer.
I take a trip to Tavola and stock up on baking things.
We make Dima’s Best Loved Carrot Cake and Cupcakes and Butter Cream Frosting. We also make marzipan decorations. Chef Lij will not stop chomping on the cake and my Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes. My friend Christine gives me rave reviews. I feel like a superstar.
We are initiated into egg white fluff. Meringue becomes our friend and we take on the difficult but totally worth it Angel Food Cake. We are now Divas in Dima’s Kitchen. I make a Chiffon Cake at home. I do not have the requisite tube pan so I use a 10-inch pan. It comes out well enough and we review it in class. I know how to improve it. I must get the pan this Saturday.
While we wait for our Syrup Cake to bake, we sit for tea and slice our darling Angel Food Cake, which we serve with Vanilla Whipped Cream and a Raspberry Coulis that we made. I bite into the cloudy foaminess. Cue angelic music. I announce, “I have died and gone to heaven.”
I have been having cake everyday. I eat cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This will not end well. Dima encourages us to give them away. I knock on neighbours’ doors and offer them cake. My homework is to come up with my own cake and frosting. I decide to re-visit the butter cake that I burned previously, hoping that my WMF oven thermometer will be my redeeming glory. It is. I get rave reviews for My Lemon Butter Cake with a Jamaican Rum Cream Frosting.
It’s the last day and I feel as proud of myself as I did after receiving my university degree. I did it! Dima has managed to get me to bake Angel Food Cake, Chiffon Cake, Chocolate Cake, Sponge Cake, Chocolate Genoise, Red Velvet Cupcakes, her Best Ever Carrot Cake, and a Banana Nut Roll. I have conquered the tricky Chocolate Ganache. I have also mastered frostings and layering and will indeed be baking birthday cakes from scratch for my unborn children. I have truly arrived. Mama will be proud.
Dima’s tips for successful baking:
1. Precise measurements: Baking is all about getting the ratios of ingredients right. If the ratios are wrong, nothing can save your cake. Therefore, follow the exact measurements in the recipe, using the proper graduating cups and spoons. Also, measure liquids with liquid measuring cups, not with the cups used for measuring dry ingredients.
2. A digital scale is life changing: there is no better way to get the exact amount of grams! You can confidently count on the results of a cake measured using a digital cake.
3. Follow the recipe to the letter: When the recipe instructs the use of folding technique, you have got to FOLD, not mix, stir, beat or cream. These are different techniques used in preparing batters, and each produces different results and final texture to the cake.
4. Always use large eggs, not small or medium. This makes all the difference to liquid ratios.
5. Be prepared, have your ingredients ready, and don’t forget to preheat your oven. Beating the eggs and the batter create volume, much needed for the fluffiness of the cake. Volume starts to gradually deflate as soon as we stop beating. Having worked so hard to achieve it, the last thing you want to do is lose it by leaving the cake on the countertop till the oven heats. Avoid that, by preheating the oven before you start.
6. Don’t tap, drop or shake your pans filled with batter. This disrupts the air bubbles, preventing the cake from rising properly.
7. Having got the right measurements, baking results are dictated by the heat in the oven. Some ovens might actually be internally hotter or cooler than the indicated temperature on the knob. In which case you heat the oven to 350°F, but the actual temperature of the oven is 380-400°F! Your cake will brown and even burn around the edges, while not cooking at the centre. Buy an oven thermometer, that is placed in the oven to tell its internal temperature. With the thermometer in the oven, heat the oven to 350°F, allowing time for the oven to actually be heated to that temperature. Check the temperature registered on the thermometer, if it is 350°F, then no worries. If it registers more or less, then adjust the choice of temperature of the knob accordingly.
8. If your cake is still browning too much on the side while the centre remains wet, cover the sides with foil paper, keeping the centre uncovered. This will protect it against over browning.
Classic Victoria Sandwich Cake
This is a classic cake — traditionally served
in afternoon teas.
· 3 eggs
· 175g butter, softened
· 175g castor sugar
· 175g self-raising flour
> ˝ tsp baking powder
· 1 tsp vanilla essence
· 2 cups fresh whipped cream
· Jam or Strawberry Coulis (optional)
· Fresh strawberries, halved for garnish
· Icing sugar for dusting (optional)
· Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and line two 8-inch or one 10-inch cake pan(s).
· In a large bowl, mix all cake ingredients on medium speed until all are well incorporated and the batter is smooth. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tins and level the tops with a spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Turn on a wire rack and cool completely before spreading with cream.
· Once your cake is completely cool, cut the cake into two layers. Place one layer on a serving dish. Spread jam, if using, on top, then spread a layer of fresh whipped cream, topped with strawberry halves. Place the second layer on top. Spread with Jam, a layer of cream and line the cake with the halved strawberries. You can dust all with icing sugar, if desired.
· Store this cake in the fridge, covered, for up to two days.
You can visit the Dima’s Kitchen blog (www.
dimaskitchen.blogspot.com) or her Gastronomy by Dima Facebook page to book any one of her diverse baking and cooking sessions.
· Kari is a Dubai-based journalist and photographer of the food blog chefandsteward.com. Follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/ChefandSteward and contact her at: