Though they don’t tell you this at school, when it comes to baking, it is all about the maths. Not only do you need to make sure you use the correct quantities of everything, but you also need to make sure you get your ratios right. Don’t panic, this doesn’t mean that cakes are out of reach for those of us that are numerically challenged, it really is as easy as 1, 2, 3!
If you’ve spent your time in lockdown trying to perfect your baking skills, here is how you can really master the basics with the ratios you need for making the very best cakes and other bakes!
When we talk about ratios, what mean is how to work out how much of each ingredient you need. For instance, 2:1 means one ingredient should be double the weight of another and 1:1 means the ingredients should be equal in weight.
Here’s some examples.
When making a Victoria Sponge (or any basic sponge cake really), all you need to know is that the ingredients are 1:1:1:1. Basically, all your ingredients should be the same weight. You can do this by weighing your eggs in their shells as a starting point, making a note of the weight and then make sure that you measure out the same amount of butter, sugar and flour. That way, even if you are substituting flour for a gluten free alternative or a lower calorie sugar option, you’ll still have the same ratios and therefore, the perfect number of ingredients to create a moist and tasty Victoria Sponge. It’s also helpful to know so if you’re creating something with what you have in the cupboard rather than following a recipe, you can still make something tasty.
Once you have your cake, you’re going to want to decorate it and you can use the same method when it comes to buttercream. This time you want 2:1 – 2 parts icing sugar to 1 part butter, so on a traditional 18cm round cake, use 400g icing sugar and 200g butter.
Now you’ve mastered the basics of sponge, let’s move on to some other treats.
Shortcrust pastry is an essential – once you can make a pastry you can create sweet and savoury treats without much bother. A basic shortcrust pastry is made up of flour and butter and for this, just make sure you have double the amount of flour to butter, so a ratio of 2:1.
Rub 2 parts plain flour into 1 part cold butter until it resembles breadcrumbs, then just add a few tablespoons of cold water to bring the mixture together to make dough and there you have it – pastry!
Now you know the ratio method you can make pretty much anything, even bread!
A basic loaf of bread needs just bread flour and water. Use 5 parts strong bread flour (with yeast) and add 3 parts water to bring it to a dough. That’s it, bread is as easy as 5:3!