I Need Baking Help

Baking By kristiemarie Updated 28 Jun 2011 , 6:10pm by Keciak

kristiemarie Posted 21 Jun 2011 , 2:06pm
post #1 of 16

I will start off by saying that this is a very information heavy request so if you can, please help....even if it's one tiny little thing!

My husband and I had a very good conversation the other day about my opening business. He said it's great that I can decorate. It's great that I can make cute figures and royal icing tiaras. But so can a lot of other people. And some are doing it better than me. So what I need, is a specialty.

I'd like to specialize in healthy and "free" cakes. I know that sounds weird considering it's a cake. But already I bake without oil so that's a start. I doctor a box and I want to do it scratch so that I can really account for my ingredients and really get specialized (gluten free, egg free, dairy free...)

I'll be honest in saying I have no idea where to start because I can't bake. I'll say it again, loud and (not really) proud. I can't bake. I know the basics about levening agents but not the stuff that makes or breaks a cake.

So please help me!

Here are a few questions/concerns:

1- Should I be measuring with weight or by volume? Does it effect the way a cake turns out due to humidity or altitude?

2- I've heard lots about dry in first, wet in first, warm ingredients, cold ingredients....how do i know what to do? Should you *always* do dry (or wet) first? *Always* do warm ingredients versus cold?

3- I need a good vegan recipe. And pointers on how to make it taste good.

4- I also need a dairy free and egg free cake. One of each and/or both. And pointers on how to make it taste good.

5- Dairy free buttercream (is there a chocolate version??) that isn't greasy.

6- The big one: Gluten free cake and frosting. This seems very daunting.

7- Is there a lower sugar recipe (for diabetics) that actually tastes good?

8- ANY information you have as a baking scientist (cuz let's face it, that's what you are!) that will help me narrow down the long list of recipes to a handful I can try.

Many of you ladies are very successful with these things and I'd love for you to offer up some of your wisdom to help a newbie like me.

In return, I will start a thread to keep you posted on how my progress is going with each recipe/suggestion so that your wisdom can help other like me.

Thanks in advance!!!1

15 replies
leah_s Posted 21 Jun 2011 , 2:33pm
post #2 of 16

I'll take a couple of these.


definitely measure by weight. ALL professional recipes use weights. Actually pros speak of "formulas" not recipes.

I've recently tiptoed into the world of gluten free. I picked up a box of gluten free flour, Gluten Free Pantry brand. It's a measure for measure substitute.

With gluten free however, you need to be really careful, in that some people are so sentsiitve that they would react to the flour in the air in your kitchen if you had previously made a "regular" cake.

Other than that, hit your local library, as there are tons of books on sugar free and gluten free baking.

Also PM Jason kraft on here as he runs a "free" baking biz.

pettmybunny Posted 21 Jun 2011 , 2:37pm
post #3 of 16

Here is a cake recipe that I found the other day (maybe a link from another CC post?), for a sugar free cake. It looks good. Another poster said it was dry, so they added sour cream to make it more moist.

I am allergic to dairy and eggs, and this is my go to vegan cake recipe...
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
whisk dry ingredients together in mixing bowl, then add wet
2 cups water
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup soy yogurt (can leave out the yogurt and just use 2/3 cup oil--which I reduced from the recipe which calls for 3/4 cup)
2 TBSP vinegar (I've used both white and cider, and don't notice a difference)
2 tsp vanilla

I have been working on an adaption for it as a yellow cake, by omitting the cocoa and increasing the flour by half a cup. It's ok, but the taste isn't quite right, so I'm tweaking the flavorings, and have been adding Lorann's princess flavoring in addition to the vanilla, and that makes it better.

As to the dairy free buttercream, I use soy butter in place of real butter. Earth Balance is a pretty good brand, but it is very yellow, and you'll get an off white color, not white-white. Not super noticeable, but it is a bit on the ivory side. I also use a cooked flour recipe (I posted yesterday in another thread)

In a saucepan, combine 1 cup milk (you can use rice, soy or almond-- Silk Pure Almond Vanilla works great) and 5 TBSP flour. Blend well, so there's no chunks, and cook until it is a paste. Place a piece of wax or parchment paper over the top (or it gets a skin), and let cool to room temperature.
In mixing bowl blend 1 stick butter (again, I use the earth balance), 1/2 cup crisco, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1 cup sugar. Blend the heck out of it, longer than you think is necessary. When flour paste is cooled, spoon it out (it will be super thick and sticky) into mixing bowl and again, blend the heck out of it. I read somewhere it should be 15 minutes. The frosting will get super smooth and creamy. If it tastes gritty, you didn't blend it enough, keep going! This isn't a sweet frosting, and it doesn't crust.

Hope this helps a little...

pettmybunny Posted 21 Jun 2011 , 2:42pm
post #4 of 16

After seeing Leah's post about the gluten free, it reminded me of something. One of my son's friends has Celiacs, and we have to be careful even of the pans we cook in for when he comes over. Aluminum only, because teflon and other non-stick coatings will absorb the gluten.

Also, watch for the cake release that you use, many of those have flour in them as well.

I have an allergy free cookbook (which has been misplaced by DH, when he was cleaning off the top of the coffee table), and it has several gluten free cake recipes in it. One recommendation from another Celiac sufferer's wife is that the best thing to do is blend the different gluten free flours that are available to get the best flavor.

kristiemarie Posted 21 Jun 2011 , 3:39pm
post #5 of 16

Thank you!! I am going to make sure to mention that my kitchen is NOT gluten/dairy free so if someone is super sensitive, they need to find a 100% gluten/dairy free bakery. The last thing I'd want is someone to have a reaction. So not worth a sale to compromise someone's health.

I just know that if I want to do this, I need to do something special. Offer something that isn't offered in 100 other bakerys within a 10 mile radius.

I think I will specialize in scratch/more healthy baking but will offer a gluten/dairy free alternative.

kristiemarie Posted 21 Jun 2011 , 3:51pm
post #6 of 16

I have the andonized Fat Daddio pans. Are those ok?

LindaF144a Posted 21 Jun 2011 , 6:45pm
post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by kristiemarie

Thank you!! I am going to make sure to mention that my kitchen is NOT gluten/dairy free so if someone is super sensitive, they need to find a 100% gluten/dairy free bakery. The last thing I'd want is someone to have a reaction. So not worth a sale to compromise someone's health.

I just know that if I want to do this, I need to do something special. Offer something that isn't offered in 100 other bakerys within a 10 mile radius.

I think I will specialize in scratch/more healthy baking but will offer a gluten/dairy free alternative.




Honestly, this makes no sense. You want to be successful in this business, right? Why set yourself up for failure then. Either you are a "free" business or you aren't. I have talked to a lot of people who are gulten intolerant. If there is any doubt, they just won't even try. You post that you can certify that you are 100% when you want to make it your specialty, you will definitely lose business.

IMO, in order to become a good gluten free, you have to become a good baker. Start baking from scratch with flour first, then move on. It took me a year of practice and research before I could product a scratch cake that I felt was worthy of selling. It's honorable that you are honest about your baking and decorating skills, but don't approach a business half halfheartedly. I don't think there is one scratch baker on here that will tell you they got great success right off the bat. It is all trial and error, mostly lost of error before you get to lots of great successes.

DreamofAngels Posted 21 Jun 2011 , 7:07pm
post #8 of 16

I agree with Linda it takes LOTS of practice. Read cookbooks, watch cooking shows, take classes, ask questions and practice. King Arthur Flour has a good blog and offers classes. Your local community college or culinary school may also offer classes. The website www.food.com has many "free" recipes that have been rated by others that have posted suggestions as well. Good luck and have FUN!

cakenovice2010 Posted 21 Jun 2011 , 7:12pm
post #9 of 16

I recently finished going to a "cake school" where I learned everything from scratch and it was a great investment. I would seriously consider investing some money in professional cooking classes even if it is just the basics. Most programs will also include their recipes for you icon_smile.gif

When it comes to being gluten free it is extremely important that there be no cross contamination. Many bakeries will say that they can bake a G-free cake but they cannot guarantee that it may have come into some sort of cross contamination at some point. To be 100% G-free or otherwise you must be certified and that takes some serious commitment and $$ to do so. Most celiacs have completely different pans, utensils etc... in their own homes to deal with their food if they have a severe allergy.

I read the G-Free diet by Elisabeth Hasselbeck and she explained the entire issue very clearly and I have recommended to so many people because of it's vast content. It was a fast read for me as well and I gained a lot of information. (At the time I was beginning to test for Celiac/Gluten Intolerance)

I learned so much from the courses I took about baking in general and they also had a section on allergy free baking that was super informative. I'm sure you have something close by that has something similar or somewhere you could travel to learn. Highly recommend it. Happy Baking icon_smile.gif

kristiemarie Posted 22 Jun 2011 , 1:40pm
post #10 of 16

Maybe you're all right. Maybe I am not ready to make the committment to scratch baking just yet. Maybe I'll see what's available in my area for classes and see if I even LIKE to scratch bake.

Thanks ladies! I know I can count on you all to bring me down to earth.

cbiscuit85 Posted 28 Jun 2011 , 12:38am
post #11 of 16

If you haven't done a lot of scratch baking before, I wouldn't recommend jumping right into allergen-free baking. It is more complicated than regular baking and the ingredients cost more $$, so I would practice scratch baking for awhile with just regular cakes so you don't waste a lot of money. Once you have that down, then do a LOT of research on various ingredients used in gluten free and other allergen free baking. The best tips and recipes I have found come from buying books on allergen-free baking. If you go to Amazon.com and type in allergy free baking you should find some good ones.

To get a non-greasy dairy-free buttercream I use Spectrum shortening which you can get at Whole foods.

playingwithsugar Posted 28 Jun 2011 , 1:07am
post #12 of 16

Take a look at the blogs and the King Arthur website. Blogs are great because they are already tried-n-true recipes. Most of the recipes on the KA website are available by both volume and weight.

Theresa icon_smile.gif

gatorcake Posted 28 Jun 2011 , 1:51am
post #13 of 16

[quote="LindaF144a"]

Quote:
Originally Posted by kristiemarie



IMO, in order to become a good gluten free, you have to become a good baker. Start baking from scratch with flour first, then move on. It took me a year of practice and research before I could product a scratch cake that I felt was worthy of selling. It's honorable that you are honest about your baking and decorating skills, but don't approach a business half halfheartedly. I don't think there is one scratch baker on here that will tell you they got great success right off the bat. It is all trial and error, mostly lost of error before you get to lots of great successes.




There is no need to reinvent the wheel. There are a number of books on the market that discuss the science of baking and the basic formulas of most basic flavors. In addition, there are groups that have done extensive testing on how to optimize recipes. Yes they are recipes and not formulas but those recipes can be converted to formulas.

There is nothing wrong in taking this knowledge and putting it to use. I only hobby but by relying on the wealth of knowledge produced by others it did not take me long to find scratch recipes/formulas that I would gladly sell. There are plenty of great scratch recipes you can begin from--no need to build a formula from the ground up. Kudos to those that want to devise their own formulas but its not a prerequisite to successful scratch baking,

There are different mixing strategies you should become familiar with. How various ingredients impact a cake. This would be important for discerning what kinds of replacements you would need to consider when substituting for problematic ingredients. You should become familiar with the most common baking errors and their causes--science of baking books are good here.

The one thing I would end with is scratch baking is not that daunting. Much of the battle is following the formula/recipe. It is not that hard to pick up many of the principles of scratch baking. Do a little reading and start trying some formulas/recipes.

paoli96 Posted 28 Jun 2011 , 2:28am
post #14 of 16

Thought I would jump in. . .I am gluten intolerant. At this point I can eat a tad bit gluten once in awhile but for about 1 1/2 years, if I had anything that had a bit of gluten in it or was made around gluten I was sick for about 7 days.

I think that if you say you are gluten-free, your entire kitchen will need to always be gluten free.

That's a tough one!

Baker_Rose Posted 28 Jun 2011 , 5:35pm
post #15 of 16

To add to what others have listed here I'll also say that you may need to PROVE your items are "gluten-free" or "sugar-free" with (paid by you) laboratory tests. I worked for a caterer and we made "Sugar Free Pies" but only a few customers knew about them. We couldn't advertise because if we did we had to have a lab test to prove they were sugar free. They weren't really, because the crust (more than 50 pounds total weight) had a whole 8 Tablespoons of sugar in it. We didn't use different pie dough, just splenda instead of sugar in the filling.

This is really silly, knowing now what I know about diabetes. It isn't the sugar count in the product, but the carbohydrate count, meaning flour and starch. So it doesn't matter that you are making a sugar free product, it is still very high in carbs, which are sugar in your body and spike your blood sugar, calling for insulin.

In the long run, if you specialize in specialty diet items you not just have to become an expert in the baking and formulating of recipes for items that if made wrong make people sick, but in the actual disorder or disease itself. So you will REALLY need to know nutrition back and forward and specialty baking on top of that.

When you deal with allergies etc you will need to have a specialty kitchen, and if you want to be gluten free or vegan, then you will need to be GF & vegan. You really won't be able to cross contaminate your own facility. People with life threatening allergies are sometimes so sensitive that if your spatula touched peanut butter yesterday, then you made a nut free recipe today, they can still get sick AFTER everything was cleaned.

Also, do you live in an area that will support this? It will definitely cost more to you, and so it will to your customer as well. So you will need enough allergen free/vegan/specialty diet customers to support a business. Know your market.

We had a scary moment where I used to work. We baked brownies and froze them. The baker I was working with pulled a plain and a peanut butter brownie out to thaw before frosting. She was fine and remembered which was which, BUT then she put the same chocolate icing on both and right before sprinkling the peanut butter brownie with peanuts someone came in and asked her a question. She walked over to the wall with the orders and then came back and finished. However, she sprinkled the nuts on the WRONG brownie. About 2 hours later there was a huge noise in the dining room because a teenage girl, deathly allergic to peanuts took a bite of a PLAIN brownie, but it wasn't, it was the peanut butter one. She was hit with two or three epi-pens as her mother carried her to the car and raced to the local hospital (only three miles away). In the end she was okay, and even MORE surprising her mother did not come down on my employer. NOT how you want to start a day of back to school shopping. It reminds you that this kind of allergy is out there and in our business we also have to be aware.

I have been a baker for 40 years. I learned to read recipes when I was 5, and my Grandmother worked the oven for me. When I was a teenager I played with the ingredients of recipes, and invented several of my own, which I still use to this day. I honed my skills in baking competitions first at local fairs and then state level competitions. I ended up in Culinary School and working with some really great Chefs. But, it was my day in and day out experience with recipes, making other recipes, learning the science behind them and tweeking them to my own tastes that had given me the experience I have now, and the recipes I have now.

I became good at baking by doing it, over and over. I loved baking for the fair competitions because it put me under real pressure, plus I was able to try out new recipes BUT I didn't have to eat the whole cake/cookie etc. I could rate, taste and send it to the competition. If you have a local fair, then sign up and give it a try!! It's a great place to learn about scratch baking.

Tami icon_smile.gif

Keciak Posted 28 Jun 2011 , 6:10pm
post #16 of 16

If you want to learn about scratch baking and some of the science behind it, look into The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. It seems like an oxymoron to bake healthy cakes but when you have a health issue, it's nice to be able to still have a treat now and then and not get ill. I know that sugar is a big problem for me and I'm not diabetic. I really am getting a kick out of "art you can eat" and having fun but I don't have iron willpower and want to figure out how to make some treats for me sugar free without aspartame and saccharin. Wish you luck on the baking endeavors!

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