Become a better baker

Curdled your cake batter? Sick of soggy bottoms? Fix common baking mishaps with our expert tips and fail-safe guide to becoming a better baker.

  1. Can I rescue curdled cake batter?

    Curdling can happen if you use eggs that are too cold, as this can stop the fats from emulsifying. Adding the dry ingredients will fix it, and the end result shouldn't be affected. Don't be tempted to beat the eggs more to try to fix it, as this will result in a tough sponge. Use a spatula to fold in the flour in a cutting motion and prevent air getting knocked out, like in this delicious Victoria sponge cake.

  2. How do I add citrus flavour to bakes without unbalancing the batter?

    Add zest. A fine grater will give uniform pieces and is quick and easy to use – give it a go in these zesty lemon cupcakes. If your recipe uses milk, you can replace some of it with juice.

  3. My free-form bread always rises unevenly. What can I do?

    You need to help the dough develop a taut skin. Smooth the top and sides, then bring your hands together underneath to tuck the dough under itself. Give it a go with this green veggie bread, or, alternatively, you can use a loaf tin to give a great shape, as with this plaited wholemeal spelt loaf.

  4. My recipe uses self-raising flour but I’ve only got plain – will it work?

    Yes, but you’ll need to add extra raising agent. Use 1 tsp baking powder per 75g flour.

  5. My biscuits always stick to the tray and break – why?

    You might be leaving them on the tray too long. Transfer biscuits to a wire rack as soon as they've firmed up enough to handle, and make sure you're using a nonstick tray, which has a double nonstick layer to prevent sticking. Have a go with one of our great biscuit recipes.

  6. My pastry has a soggy bottom! Why?

    Either the pastry is undercooked or the filling is too wet. Make sure your pastry isn't too thin, and blind-bake it before adding the filling. A fluted cake tin can help ensure you get an even bake and crisp pastry, like with this lemon tart recipe.

  7. Why does my pastry crumble as I roll it?

    Too much flour will stop the pastry holding together, so don't sprinkle the surface too liberally. Turning the pastry between each roll will help. A wooden rolling pin is comfortable to hold and allows you to retain your grip. Why not learn how to make shortcrust pastry with our helpful step-by-step.

  8. My cake sunk! What went wrong?

    You probably took it out of the oven too soon. Always check it's cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre of the cake; if it comes out clean, it's ready to take out. If not, pop it back in for a further 5 mins. Too much raising agent can also make the cake rise too much, then crack or collapse. Master the perfect rise with this simple, classic chocolate cake recipe.

  9. How do I know if I’ve whisked my meringue mix enough?

    It should have formed stiff, glossy peaks, and you could even turn the bowl upside down without it falling out. A metal whisk works best, as the metal creates more resistance, whipping the egg whites more effectively. Before you start, make sure your bowl is clean and free from grease, and don't get any egg yolk in the mix. Watch out useful video on how to make the best meringues!

  10. Why won’t my bread rise?

    Check your yeast is in date. If it is, make sure you're not adding too much salt, and that the water is tepid, not hot. To get the water temperature right, measure out three-quarters of the total with cold water in a 0.5ltr measuring jug, then make up the rest with boiling water. Check out our simple guide to learn how to make the ultimate loaf of bread.