The royal wedding is just days away, and while there is plenty of buzz surrounding it, you better believe that we're most excited about the cake. Pastry chef Claire Ptak, who owns Violet Bakery in East London, has been hired to bake the royal cake (she's originally from California and trained at Chez Panisse, so we're totally rooting for her!).
While unfortunately we can't taste it ourselves, we've been dreaming about it by baking through the wonderful Violet Bakery Cookbook. In between recipes for buttery scones, tender cakes, and chewy cookies, there are a whole slew of great tips from Claire herself. We like to think if we take some of her sage advice, our baking might just — pardon the pun — royally improve.
1. Even English bakers start with this French phrase.
Mise en place is the French term for having all your ingredients prepped and ready to go before you start cooking. While it's a term generally used for savory cooking, Claire firmly believes it's just as important for baking.
She says not only will it save you time, but it will also make you a better baker because you'll be less confused and more organized. She suggests reading through an entire recipe twice and then measuring out all ingredients before you begin mixing them together.
2. It's worth investing in a kitchen scale.
Seeing as Violet Bakery is based in London, it's no surprise that Claire is pro-metric system. But weighing your ingredients instead of using cup measures isn't just a British thing — it also helps you be more exact. Baking is all about being precise, and weighing ingredients using a small digital kitchen scale will help you get there.
3. The oven is the secret to reviving day-old cookies.
Any cookie is a good one, in our opinion, but day-old cookies do tend to be a bit softer than freshly baked ones. That's because they've absorbed some of the moisture in the air. Claire suggests a quick fix: Put the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and warm them in the oven. The heat of the oven will help evaporate that moisture and make the cookies crisp again.
4. Bake a layer cake in a single deep pan to get more lift.
While most of us bake layer cakes in two cake pans and then stack the cakes on top of each other, Claire prefers to use just one extra-deep pan that's at least three inches deep — like this one. A deeper pan means you'll get more lift on the sides of the cake, which results in a loftier, more impressive cake. After baking the tall cake, she then cuts it into layers.
5. A food processor can fix lumpy buttercream.
Even if you're extra careful, it's all too easy to get lumps in buttercream frosting from butter that's a bit too cold or powdered sugar that isn't sifted or whisked well. If you do end up with lumps, Claire suggests breaking out your food processor. Blending the lumpy buttercream will quickly smooth it out. She then suggests putting it back in your mixer and beating it for a few extra minutes, as the food processor will blend the air out of it and you'll want to whip it back into it.
Get a recipe: How To Make Basic Buttercream Frosting