Summer can be a challenging time for bakers and cake decorators with the hot weather making frostings, sugar fondant and lots of other ingredients prone to melt. We’ve got a few tips for you to bear in mind next time you’re baking in higher temperatures.
Butter is a key ingredient in cakes, cookies, doughs, frostings and more. You want it to be warm enough to work with but too much heat can turn it to liquid and make things incredibly oily.
The trick is to take fridge breaks and put doughs and frostings in the fridge for a few minutes when it starts to look like it’s getting a bit too warm. It’s far better to refrigerate these until they are too cold and allow to come up to temperature to use than have them too oily.
Butter in the packet keeps well frozen for several months, so for extra hot days you can give your butter a head start by keeping it in the freezer. This means that it will add a little time on the clock when it comes to weighing it out and chopping it into smaller pieces before it melts.
As buttercream frostings are butter based, keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to use and when they have enough softness returning to mix, use an electric hand mixer to whip until light and fluffy. Return to the fridge if the temperature is making it melt.
Cream cheese frosting can go runny in the heat and also can go runny if you over-whip it. It’s best to make sure your cream cheese is cold from the fridge before using and mix it up just when you need it. Less than five minutes will do it, you only need to whisk until it comes together with no lumps. Use immediately and place any cakes in the fridge once decorated if there is time to wait before serving. These can always be brought up to room temperature a little time before needed.
When frosting a cake, we do a crumb coating (a thin layer of frosting to seal in the crumbs) before covering in frosting to decorate. The cake goes in the fridge after this stage. Put it in the fridge for long enough for the sponge to retain the chill as well. This means it will be easier to work with when you apply the final layer of frosting. Refrigerate after covering with the final layer of frosting to keep it cool and this will prevent the layers from sliding in the heat.
Take this in and out of the fridge as required to keep it cool. It can go very sticky when overly hot. Use a light dusting of cornflour on hands and surfaces to make it less sticky. You can also knead a bit of Crisco or vegan butter substitute into the fondant if it is drying out too much.
Whether you are frosting your cupcakes with icing bags or piping on decorations and writing, be aware that if it goes too runny in the heat or from handling it won’t be as easy to work with. Refrigerate at intervals, but watch that it doesn’t go too firm as the frosting does need to move smoothly through the nozzle.
Some cakes are softer than others and this will make them less stable in high temperatures. Carrot Cake, for example, is very soft because of the grated carrot which ups the moisture levels. Gooey chocolate cakes and fruity cakes can also be soft sponges and crumble easily. Plainer sponges like vanilla and chocolate which don’t have other wet ingredients in them will hold up better if you’re baking in summer.
Chocolate, Cream, Custard, Berries and other Toppings
Store any heat sensitive items in the fridge when the weather is hot. Normally, you might keep your chocolate in the cupboard or keep berries on the side ready for use, but keeping them in the fridge will keep the firmness and freshness of the fruit and prevent chocolate from making a melty mess or developing a bloom. Make sure cream and custard are kept refrigerated and any cream-based desserts are well chilled in the fridge immediately after baking.
Be aware of the proximity of your oven and keep things out of direct sunlight and away from hot windows. Heat from the oven makes kitchens much hotter and can melt ingredients left too close.
Last but not least, eat your cakes without delay! Heat is no friend to bakes and it’s important to keep things stored either in the fridge or kept airtight in a cool dry place, if you can find one.