Follow the latest goings on with our blog and find answers from the Hummingbird Bakers to your most frequently asked baking questions. Our FAQs are updated regularly, so keep checking back for updates!
Baking is an exact process and using the right equipment is essential. Even a slight deviation from the recipe amounts can make a difference to the final bake.
As a general rule, try to buy the best quality kitchen equipment you can afford as it will last longer and provide better economy per use. Using the correct tin or pie dish as specified by the recipe will help you to achieve better results in your baking.
Unfortunately we can’t answer individual queries via the blog. Baking has many variables and it takes practise. Even at our bakeries, it doesn’t always go perfectly, so don’t feel disheartened if it doesn’t work first time. Making the perfect cake or cupcake is both a science and a skill – it’s not easy being this tasty.
I don’t have an electric mixer. Can I still make your recipes?
It is very difficult indeed to make good cakes using only a spoon or whisk, unless you put in a lot of time and effort. For instance, we recommend that any creaming of butter and sugar in a batter recipe should be done for at least five minutes by an electric mixer – this is a lot of constant beating for the home baker to achieve and it will take considerably longer to reach the same stage of aeration. In order to get frostings smooth and whipped to perfection we’d say an electric mixer is essential. It’s not necessary to invest in an expensive freestanding mixer as a hand-held electric whisk will also do the job for a fraction of the cost.
What is a paddle attachment?
It’s my first go at using an electric mixer. Do you have any tips?
If you’re new to using an electric mixer, be careful not to overbeat. When the mixer is whirring away it can be very tempting to let it run but it is always important to follow the recipe guidelines when it comes to timing. Holding a damp tea towel around the bowl will prevent flour or icing sugar dust from rising if you’re mixing.
Can you recommend a mixer brand?
Different brands will have different features, functionality and style. We use enormous mixers in our bakeries which aren’t available to the home baker, so we can’t recommend anything other than choosing the best you can afford from a reputable brand.
What type of mixer should I use?
A freestanding electric mixer (also known as a stand mixer) will make preparing your recipe much easier, but a hand-held electric whisk will also do the job. Use a paddle attachment when advised by the recipe as this is the general attachment for cake mixing. Hand mixing is not recommended as it simply cannot promise the same results – it’s also a lot of extra work!
I don’t have the right baking tin. Can I use another tin?
We write our recipes with specific tin dimensions in mind and this affects the final outcome. For instance, we think that certain mixtures work better as ring cakes. Different tins create different variations when the cake is sliced and they also affect how the cake will be decorated and presented. Crucially, they also influence the cooking time. We really do recommend using the exact tins for your recipes as only then will you get the real deal! Given the lifespan of most tins, a quality product offers a great value investment as far as kitchen tools go. If you still wish to alter the recipe, it will be an experiment so be sure to fill the tin no more than two thirds full and to bake until a skewer comes out cleanly.
General tin guidelines:
Which type of pie dish shall I choose?
Getting the dimensions right according to the recipe is the most important thing. Whether you choose glass, ceramic or metal is down to your personal preference. We recommend a sloping sided American style pie dish. Ceramic and glass dishes can be easier to slice and serve from, but metal pie dishes are better at conducting heat and can help pastry bases to crisp up quicker.
How full should my baking tins be?
As a rule, we recommend you fill any tins to around two thirds full. This allows space for the sponge to expand and should help to prevent mixture from overflowing.
What happens if I use the wrong sized baking tin?
Overflowing mixture, uneven baking and sponges with uncooked middles can all be a sign that the tin size is incorrect.
Why is it important to use the right sized baking tin?
Ensure that you use the right sized tins as instructed by the recipe, as any deviations can lead to different results. Preparing your tin with the right greasing and lining as instructed will also help you to achieve the best finished look and avoid your cake crumbling or falling apart.
What can I do with leftover mixture?
If you have mixture leftover after filling your cases or tins, you can fill some extra cases. Don’t overload your cases or feel like you must use the mixture – our quantities are generous American-style portions! Different cases and different makes of tin will cause slight variations and may require less batter.
What depth of cake tins do you use?
Our cake tins are approximately 2 inches deep.
What size of loaf tin should I use?
We recommend standard 2lb loaf tins. Exact dimensions may vary depending on which brand you buy. These are available in most cookware shops or online.
Which brand of baking tins do you use in your bakeries?
We use tins imported from the USA as these work for us.
I don’t have a ring mould. Can I use another tin?
Our recipes are designed for tins of a specific dimension so it is important not to deviate from this if you want your cakes to turn out as intended. Any alternative tin choices will be an experiment for the braver bakers out there! Just remember to fill your tins two thirds full (or three quarters full if you are making muffins) to avoid overspill. Any excess mixture can be poured into muffin cases to create extra treats!
What brand of baking tins do you recommend?
We haven’t tested our recipes in any particular tin. Aside from ensuring the correct tin measurements, we don’t recommend our bakers use any special brand other than the best they can afford. Your choice of tin will be down to your personal preference and what works for one home baker might not work for another.
What should I look for when purchasing a baking tin?
Good quality tins should offer you better value for money as they will often last longer and provide more durable bakeware. Non-stick tins allow your cakes to be released much more easily and will also be easier to clean. However, always follow the recipe instructions to the letter and grease or line the tins as advised even if they are non-stick.
Can I convert your cupcakes into layer cakes/sheet cakes/giant cupcake cakes and vice versa?
Yes, this is possible. However, as we haven’t tested any tin dimensions other than our stated recipes we can’t give specific timings. Filling tins and cases two thirds full will help to prevent mixture from overflowing. Always bake until a skewer can be removed cleanly from the centre of the cake and press the top lightly – if it springs back, it is done.
Do you have a guide for general cake conversions?
We haven’t tested our recipes in different sized tins but as a general guide please see below:
When measuring out ingredients, always use precise measuring spoons and remember to use level quantities unless the recipe says otherwise.
Should I use digital or mechanical scales?
You can use both types but accurate digital scales are always preferable as they give precise figures to the last gram. Taking care when measuring is the most important thing – always place your scales on an even surface and zero them before weighing.
Can I convert the recipe to cups?
Convert to whichever measuring unit works best for you, but be sure to do so with accuracy. Any conversions will be at the discretion of the baker and inaccuracies can result in undesirable results. We don’t work in cup measurements, so we haven’t tested these conversions in our kitchens.
The recipe doesn’t look right. Are you sure these instructions are correct?
Quite simply, yes! This is the way we make them, it might not be what you are used to baking but our recipes are tried, tested multiples times and are correct as written.
I have the US edition of your first cookbook. Can I convert the temperatures?
Our second book has both Celsius and Fahrenheit in it, but by all means convert temperatures and measurements to suit your preference. Just make sure that they are accurate to ensure results are as intended.
Can I use a fan-assisted oven?
Fan-assisted ovens are generally more powerful than conventional ovens and can reduce cooking times. It is a good idea to turn the temperature down slightly (by around 10 per cent) according to your oven manufacturer’s instructions. As suggested before, an oven thermometer is your friend!
Can I use a gas oven?
Yes, any type of oven is fine to use so long as you check the temperature is correct for the recipe. An oven thermometer will help you to do this.
Are there any other temperature variables that can affect baking results?
Kitchens can be hot places and this can all cause slight differences in your baking results. Keeping your kitchen temperature ambient will help to prevent a baking meltdown, particularly when handling frostings and pastry.
What type of oven do you test your cakes in?
Our recipes are tested in a conventional oven. We haven’t tested our recipes in gas ovens or gas range ovens such as AGAs so recipe timings will only be rough guidelines for these. General feedback from our home bakers suggests that our recipes baked in gas ovens require a longer cooking time at a lower temperature.
How can I ensure my oven is at the right temperature?
An oven thermometer is a handy accessory when it comes to baking as ovens vary from kitchen to kitchen. This will enable you to test whether your oven temperature is correct for the recipe. If any of our home bakers are having problems with a recipe, this is one of the first checks to make.
I can only manage to get 9 cupcakes from the recipe in your first book. Why is this?
This will depend on the size of the case you use and the amount of batter you put into each one. Choose the size of the case you’d like to use and see how many you get, if you need to increase the recipe to get the desired amount then please do experiment.
There’s lots of cake still stuck to my cupcake cases. What’s wrong?
This is totally normal. Depending on the recipe you’re following, some can leave a relatively thick layer of crumbs stuck to the paper.
How full should my cupcake cases be?
We suggest cupcakes should be two thirds full and muffins three quarters full before baking.
I’ve found a cake case that’s a size between cupcake cases and muffin cases. Can I use that?
We recommend muffin cases for both our cupcake and muffin recipes. Our recipes are more generous than fairy cake case and cupcake case sizes.
My cases keep peeling away from the cakes. What is going wrong?
Different cases will give different results and some will peel. Excess moisture is the main reason for peeling cases. Some of our home bakers have tried baking their cakes for a little longer and their cases have stopped peeling. Excess moisture can often cause cases to stick so always allow cupcakes to cool completely before placing in any airtight containers as condensation can lead to cases peeling away from the sponges. If they keep peeling, try using a different brand of cases.
How can I prevent cupcake cases from sticking?
Depending on the brand of cases you choose, some can be difficult to peel off. Sometimes baking your cakes for slightly longer can help to release the cakes cleanly. Alternatively, try a different case manufacturer until you find one that works for you.
What brand of cupcake case should I use?
As there are so many brands, we cannot endorse individual brand – there are just too many to choose from! We recommend trying new cupcake case brands until you find one that you are happy with. Our cupcake cases are not available for retail purchase and are specially made for us.
Which size cupcake cases should I purchase?
We recommend that you use muffin cases, which are slightly more generous than cupcake cases. Cupcake cases, fairy cake cases and bun cases are all too small for our generous American style recipe sizes.
A cooling rack will help moisture in the form of steam to escape from your freshly baked cupcakes. In allowing air to circulate, your cakes won’t be so soggy and it may help if your cupcake cases have the tendency to peel away.
If you want to achieve the characteristic Hummingbird frosting swirl, a palette knife is essential. The type of palette knife you choose, whether straight or angled, will come down to your own preference. Our bakers use whatever feels easier to grip.
When making caramels or butterscotch, a sugar thermometer can help you to get the right depth of colour without burning.
Where can I purchase a food portioner from?
We measure out our cupcake mixture and frosting with metal food portioners (also called food scoops). Home bakers don’t need to worry so much about being quite so precise with their sizes, we use them because we make so many cupcakes every day and food portioners make it easier to keep our cupcakes all the same size.
Food portioners can be purchased from specialist cookware and catering suppliers and come in various measurements. We recommend a 50ml food portioner (approximately 1.7 oz) for portioning cupcake mixture and cupcake frosting. Use a level 50ml scoop for perfectly proportioned cupcakes!
What sized ice cream scoop/portioner do you recommend?
We recommend a 50ml ice cream scoop/portioner for our cupcakes and large Whoopie Pies. These are available from cookware shops and online retailers.
What is the benefit of using an ice cream scoop or portioner to divide up my mixture?
When we make our cupcakes and Whoopie Pies, we use a food portioner to ensure they are the same size.
Some of my cupcakes have moisture drops forming on them when I store them in an airtight container, is this to be expected?
Airtight containers prevent moisture from escaping and if your cupcakes cool down at all then moisture will be lost. This can form droplets inside the container and may make the cases peel away from the cakes. They will keep your sponges moist, but depending on the recipe, it might create too much moisture. Different varieties keep better than others, generally cream and meringue topped cupcakes won’t keep well and fruit cupcakes with a high moisture content can go soggy. High sugar, high fat content cakes will tend to keep better. We always recommend eating your cakes on the day for the best flavour and texture.
Can I store my cakes in an airtight container after baking?
Yes, it is best to keep cakes at room temperature in a suitable airtight container so that the sponge doesn’t go hard. However, allow cakes to cool fully before storing as moisture from the steam can cause them to go soggy or make the cases peel.