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How to avoid baking fails in a hot kitchen

This week's Bake Off saw chocolate collars slump and showstoppers fail… Here's how to avoid their misery yourself

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How to avoid baking fails in a hot kitchen

This week's episode of Bake Off saw 11 keen home bakers lose their cool as scorching temperatures dissolved their chocolate showstopper creations to literal pieces. Many chocolate-collared cakes lost their detailing - and Terry's chocolate Eiffel Tower? Well, it didn't even make it to the judging table.

Everyone knows that soaring temperatures make fiddly baking even more difficult - even for the most skilled of pastry chefs. Chocolate, butter, cream and ganache - the cornerstones for almost every bake - all become very tricky to work with and can easily disintegrate, melt and curdle under pressure.

But just because something's tricky, it doesn't mean it's impossible. After all, we're not scared of a good baking challenge! In honour of last night's episode, and as we're expecting even MORE hot weather this September, we've compiled some of our top tips for keeping you and your bake cool under pressure. Scroll on to discover our coolest cake tips.

Take butter out of the fridge later

Butter melts quickly in the heat, and can quickly ruin a cake when it's too soft. Overly melted butter won't cream properly with sugar when making cake batter. It will also make a sloppy buttercream that will go everywhere in the heat, and you might end up losing a layer for a sandwich cake as it slips off elsewhere…

Take the butter out of the fridge just a few minutes before you need it, rather than an hour or so before. Check it by pressing it every minute or so with a finger to check how soft it is. That way, if it starts to go over, you can pop it back in the fridge for 10 minutes or so.

pastry and biscuits need to be baked quickly

Likewise, bakes that depend on butter for their delicate structure - like biscuits, cookies and pastry - need to go in the oven straight from the fridge so that the butter doesn't soften and slump before baking.

Make your bake BEFORE you preheat your oven. Once it's finished, stash the tray or tin in the fridge for half an hour and then pop your oven on. Once the oven's up to temperature, slide your bake straight in from the fridge. Baking while the butter's still hard will help the bakes to keep their shape, while baking with overly soft butter in the mix risks the batter or dough separating into a greasy, lumpy mess in the oven. Not so yummy!

Use your extractor fan

Your hob's extractor fan is good for many things. Not only does it remove airborne grease and food residue, smells, fumes and steam from your kitchen, it also helps to bring the temperature down in there too.

Pop your extractor fan on while you're baking to help cool down your kitchen - especially if you've got the oven on! 

timing is everything

Working with tricky ingredients like chocolate and buttercream in the midday heat is always going to make your life a lot harder than it needs to be…

Instead, try doing all of your baking in the early morning (before 10:30AM) or in the evening when the temperature starts to drop again. Foods and ingredients will be a lot easier to work with.

If you're baking for an event or party, choose something like a pavlova, cake or cheesecake that you can make the night before then keep somewhere cool until you need it. Something that needs to be made moments before eating, like melt-in-the-middle puddings or tricky chocolate work, aren't your friends in this heat!

Yeast will rise faster

Yeast works its magic best at 35°C - which means any yeast-risen cakes or breads will rise and prove faster in a hotter kitchen. To avoid over-proving your cake or loaf, resulting in a sunken finished bake, leave your dough to rise for half of the time the recipe says. After this passes, check on your dough every 10 to 15 minutes or so until it reaches the size your recipe states.

Choose no-bake desserts

If you're providing pud for a gathering on a particularly hot day - why not choose something that doesn't require you to switch your oven on? Simple!

No-bake cheesecakes, ice cream, tarts and trifles can all be made without the use of an oven then stored in the fridge or freezer until needed. What's more, a lovely, chilled dessert is just the ticket for cooling everyone down in the heat too!

Thinking about taking on a technical challenge yourself? Find everything you need for your scrummy showstopper online or pop into your local store.