Here at Learn Cake Decorating Online we get lots of questions about just how to get perfect cakes.
This week resident expert Pam Doyle gives an answer to a very common and confusing area of baking.
“I’m having a hard time following recipes, I don’t understand measurements . I never learned how to measure liquids etc… I really would like to make the mud cake but I am afraid to try it since I don’t understand measurement”
Better Baking Basics – Measurements 101
Unlike other cooking methods where you can toss a bit of this or that in, without affecting the outcome too much – baking is a science with each of the ingredients used performing a function – each one balances out the other.
When you are baking, especially for cake decorating, you want to be able to replicate the results time after time – same results, every cake, every time.
Incorrect measuring is one of the most common causes of inconsistent results.
Let’s start with the EQUIPMENT
Cup measures – you require 2 different cup measures
1 for liquid – it will be glass or plastic and have the measures printed/embossed on the side in increments ( it can be ounces or mls)
It will almost always have a pouring spout.
It is important to place on a flat surface and read the measurement at eye level – bend down, do not lift up. This Pyrex Prepware 2-Cup Measuring Cup, Clear with Red Measurements is an excellent example
Another set of cup measures are required for dry ingredients – these are normally a straight sided set of cups ranging from ¼ cup to 1 cup. The difference between the liquid cup measure and these dry cup measures is that with the dry cup measures you are able to fill to the top and scrape across to get accurate measure – you would not be able to do that with the jug type.
We like these Joseph Joseph Nest Plus Measuring Cups
To fill – do not scoop into your product with the measure – this compacts the flour and you will get an inaccurate measure – often as much as 20% variation. Use a spoon to fill the cup, so it is overfilled, use a flat edge (back of a knife) to slide carefully across the top of the cup to remove excess. Do not tap it down.
Spoon measures – can be used for both dry and liquid ingredients. We like these Oxo Good Grips Measuring Spoons, Stainless Steel, 4-Pc
Level off dry ingredients with back of a knife as above. Liquid should be level with top of spoon measures
Larger grains such as sugar can be scooped and leveled as above. Brown sugar, because it is often moister, needs to be packed down with the back of a spoon and then levelled.
Always read your recipe – and FOLLOW the instructions. The recipe developer is telling you what to do to get the same results they did.
Some examples of this are…..
1 cup flour, sifted – means you measure 1 cup of flour and then sift it
1 cup sifted flour – means you sift the flour first and THEN measure it.
(It will make a difference – there will be LESS flour in the cup where you have sifted first – because of increased air surrounding the particles)
Now lets talk about the Weights & Measures Chart.
Here are a few pointers.
The first one LIQUIDS has 3 columns titled Metric/Cup/Imperial – if you read the chart across it will give you the equivalents –
eg. 250ml = 1 cup = 8-3/4 fl oz (fl oz – stands for Fluid Ounces)
Where there is a blank space it just means it is not an easy cup conversion – ie it will be less than ¼ cup or fall somewhere between others.
The 2nd one MASS/WEIGHTS is just the conversion from grams to ounces – or Metric to Imperial
The 3rd one is CUP CONVERSIONS for METRIC & IMPERIAL
It gives you the conversion weight of various ingredients in both grams and ounces – the reason the weights vary is the density of the ingredients – eg a cup of feathers will weigh less than a cup of lead pellets
Note – The weights and measures chart can be downloaded in the members area of our website