Growing up, baking was one of my favourite things to do. While my family encouraged me to practise my interest, others found it quite odd. After all, baking in the 90’s wasn’t something most people did. If we wanted cake, there would be two options — the first would be a steamed cake that came in two flavours — chocolate or fruit. The other option entailed you buying a cake from a bakery that would be covered in whipped topping or margarine “buttercream”.
Of course things have changed today. In the last few years baking has become one of the country’s most popular past times. If you don’t agree, just check your Instagram. There are thousands of bakers online who are not only sharing pictures of their gorgeous baked goods, but they’re also selling them.
So if you don’t want to miss out on the chance to join your fellow Malaysians on this delicious movement, how about trying it out for yourself? Don’t be scared. There are rules that you can follow to ensure that your baked goods come out perfect — or at the very least, edible.
The first thing anyone should do when they decide to bake is to find a recipe. Now there are plenty of options online. Remember to choose the ones with the best reviews. The most important thing to do when you find the recipe is to follow it to a tee. I’ve been teaching Malaysians to bake for years and what I’ve discovered is that most of us don’t usually like following recipes; we prefer to agak-agak. However, a cake isn’t a curry. We can’t main tembak (just do anything) with the ingredients because it’s all about chemistry — everything has been measured precisely to ensure that the item rises, bakes and tastes just right.
This brings us to point number 2, which is measuring the ingredients. If you want to really learn how to bake, you’re going to need to learn how to measure your ingredients properly. There are two ways do this. The first is by using measuring cups and spoons while the second method involves a weighing scale.
We always use a weighing scale in cooking school; hence this is my preferred method. But don’t let others tell you that cup measurements don’t work — they do. You just need to make sure you buy a set of measuring cups and spoons and only stick to one set while baking. You can’t use a one cup measurement from one set and another ½ cup measurement from another set because they won’t add up to the same volume. This is because factories don’t make them all the same way.
Another thing to look out for is how you grease your pans. A lot of first time bakers buy non-stick pans and immediately assume that their cakes are not going to stick. This is completely untrue. Each cake has a different consistency and most cake batters will actually stick to their moulds. The only way to ensure that your cake comes out perfectly is to grease your pans and line it with parchment or baking paper.
Another important thing most novice bakers don’t do is preheat their ovens. You can’t bake anything in a cold oven. It’d take at least 20 — 30 minutes before your oven attains the right temperature. If you were to place uncooked batter in a cold oven, not only would your baking time be off, your cake too would not rise properly.
However, not all ovens are made equal. If you haven’t used yours before, it’s important to try something small in it first, such as cookies, just to see if it’s running a little too hot or too cold. Alternatively, another way of getting around this is by buying a cheap oven thermometer that will show you exactly how hot your oven is in relation to the temperature settings. Then you’d be able to gauge how long your bakes will actually take.
Finally, there’s one other rule to follow when it comes to baking — use real butter. Of course, this is only if your recipe calls for it. But most Malaysians end up using some form of margarine, assuming that it’s real butter. Butter is made only with milk, whereas margarine or other spreads are usually made with some sort of oil that has been processed. When you use margarine, the end result is actually little lacklustre, whereas butter ensures that it comes out rich and quite tasty.
Suffice to say, there are other rules when it comes to baking; however the ones I’ve listed here are the key ones I find most Malaysians struggle with. Don’t let all this scare you though; baking is fun. And these are just some rules you need to follow so it stays fun!
Here’s a recipe of my favourite cake to bake. Happy trying!
Orange Milk Cake with Orange Glaze recipe
2 ¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 large orange
150g icing Sugar
1 large orange
1.Preheat oven to 180°C
2.Butter and line loaf tin with parchment paper.
3.Zest orange skin. Leave the orange for later.
4.In a mixer, beat eggs, sugar and orange zest until pale and fluffy — 10 to 15 minutes.
5.In a pot, heat milk and butter until the butter dissolves, making sure the milk doesn’t boil.
6.In a bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder until fully combined.
7.Pour milk mixture into the egg mixture and beat until fully combined. Then add in flour mixture until fully combined.
8.Pour mixture into loaf tin and bake for 20 — 30 minutes, or until skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
9.Let cake cool completely before starting on orange glaze.
10.To make the orange glaze, squeeze orange juice into a cup. Pour the orange juice little by little into the icing sugar until you get a thick liquid consistency. Stop before it gets too runny.
11.Pour the glaze onto the cake and let it set.
Optional (Candied Orange Slices)
1.In a pot, boil two cups of sugar and two cups of water.
2.Slice oranges that have been zested to thin slices.
3.Place orange slices into the pot and simmer until the orange slices look translucent.
4.Remove slices from the syrup and let it dry on a cooling rack.
5.Place oranges onto the cake.