What size eggs should I use for baking?
….is a question that I’ve been asked quite a few times – and have since made sure I remember to include that detail in my recipes. I’ve used both medium and large eggs in my cakes. I used to think that larger eggs would make lighter cakes – which it can do for an 8″ cake, but as the cake sizes get bigger and the quantity of egg increases there’s a point when the cake will be ruined. You see the difference in egg sizes will produce different weights. And that’s where the problems start. So, substituting one large egg for a medium won’t make much of a difference but if your recipe calls for 8 medium eggs and you only have large it will be the equivalent of 10 medium eggs! Check out the sizes below.
All eggs are at risk of carrying salmonella bacteria inside their shells and that risk is dramatically reduced if shop bought eggs are stored in the fridge at 4ºC or below. For that reason never use damaged or cracked eggs. Discard them immediately. Eggs should be stored in the fridge until needed then they should be allowed to come to room temperature for an hour before baking. The reason for this is that eggs won’t whisk up if they’re cold – it’s due to the temperature of the air inside they egg whites. They need to be warm enough to easily expand. The whites of an egg is what gives a cake structure and with less air bubbles due to cold eggs you’ll have a less stable cake. Maybe that’s why cakes sink in the middle!?!
NB: How to tell if your eggs are stale
The easiest way to check the freshness of an egg is to place it in a glass of water. If it sinks it’s fresh. If it floats it’s not and bye bye egg.
A word about egg yolks
If egg whites are full of protein and add lightness to a cake it’s the yolk that keeps it moist. The yolk is the fat part of an egg and will prevent the protein whites from whisking – hence it’s essential to have absolutely no yolk in your whites when making meringues. It’s also why I add an extra egg yolk to gluten free cakes when they need extra moisture.
So, to answer to the original question “What size eggs do I use to bake with?”
The answer is always medium. A lot of the time a cake will need equal quantities of egg, sugar and flour as a base to start from. For a perfectly balanced cake weigh your eggs (once out of the shell) and then use exactly the same amount of the dry ingredients and see how your Victoria sponge improves!
I really hope that has been helpful. I have to say that when I was looking for facts about eggs I discovered this post on Chasing Delicious which is totally fantastic – as well as gorgeous to look at. Check it out if you want real depth and knowledge about eggs and baking.
FAQ: How to measure the volume of a cake tin?
How do I measure the volume of a cake tin?
This is one of those questions I get asked a lot…. or rather “How much ingredients do I need for my teddy bear / football shirt/ sphere size cake tin?” (please enter any obscure measurement or shape tin in here!) and I reply with the same answer each time…
“If you can measure the volume of water your cake tin can hold I can work it out for you”
The volume of a cake tin.
I use a formula that is calculated from the volume of a recipe and then I calculate up or down from there. The original cake is my base line. Mine is a 6″ Madeira cake for which the cake tin holds 1200ml of water. Once I know what the volume of the odd shaped tin is I can calculate the ingredients. I learnt how to do this from Ruth Clemens on The Pink Whisk. It’s very number-y. You can see how I learnt to do this on this post or check out Ruth’s post here. It took me a while to work it out – especially when the calculation said 1 ½ eggs. I mean how do you get half an egg? (Actually I know the answer to that. You weigh it and use half!)
I’ve been asked so many times that I thought I better show you how I measure the volume of a cake tin.
- The first step is to line your tin if it has a loose bottom. I use bin bags – the ones with no holes in!
- Then I add 1 litre at a time till I am 1-2cm from the top of the cake tin.
- Write it down or do a tally chart as you go so you don’t loose count. When in doubt go less water than more. I have found that less cake mix results in a taller, lighter cake.
- Tip out the water and check the volume against this chart below.
- If you need the steps on how to make the madeira cake have a look at this post which goes through it step by step.
It’s that simple.
FAQ: Do you have a 10″ Madeira cake recipe?
Yes I do, but boy do people seem to be having problems with it! It got to the point where I was starting to think there was something wrong with it. Readers were having cakes with soggy middles and deep dark crusts on the outside. There were massive domes and sunken middles. I was perplexed! So, I decided to double check the recipe. It came out perfectly. So here’s a post dedicated to exactly what I do to make my 10″ Madeira cake a success – literally step by step.
Double check the size of your tin.
The first thing I did was measure the volume of water my 10″ cake could take. Previously I found it could hold 4000ml but I decided to try it with a little less – 3700ml. The reason for this is that when I make a larger cake the more mix in the tin the heavier the cake is. When I use a little less mix the cake seems to rise more. This was the case with this cake. Just removing 300ml of cake ingredients to this cake made all the difference.
Line and wrap your cake tin and chill it out!
I have always lined my cake tins using silicon paper and vegetable oil – to make it stick to the sides. Oil gives the cake a much softer finish. I know some people like a crust and if that’s the case keep using butter to grease your tins.
Once lined I wrap the cake tin with a strip of silicon paper tied with natural string. You can read more about this here. As you can see from the top photo, I use the same paper over and over and it still works well.
A new trick I recently read about was to chill the cake tin once it is lined. This further stops the outside of the cake from baking too quickly. I left mine in the fridge for 30 minutes before I filled it with cake mix and baked it.
The 10″ Madeira cake recipe
- 235g butter at room temperature
- 235g margarine at room temperature
- 620g caster sugar
- 3 tsp vanilla essence
- 9 eggs large eggs at room temperature
- 700g plain flour sieved
- 5 tsp baking powder
- 150ml hot water
- 100ml water
- 100g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
How to make the 10″ Madeira cake.
- Pre-heat your oven to 180ºC (Fan oven160ºC) It’s really important to get the oven to the right temperature. The rising domes are usually caused by the oven being too hot. Sunken cakes are from when the oven temperature is too low – or the oven door is opened too early. My oven fluctuates (especially with cakes that are in the oven for a long time like this one!) so I tend to let it drop a little to 175ºC to allow for the differences during the bake. I still get a dome but I don’t mind. It means I can see how well the cake is baked and get to eat a bit too. Who doesn’t love off cuts? The biggest problems with baking this cake seem to come from using a fan oven. It just doesn’t bake as well. I tested the recipe out using my fan and the cake tasted completely different and was really heavy. My mum who has a gas oven always has the lightest, fluffiest Madeira cake known to man – I am very jealous! So if oyu can use a non fan oven do. If you can use gas – even better. One last word on temperatures is to invest in an Oven Thermometer . I trust mine way more than I trust the dial on my oven – which has lied to me from day one!
- Start teh cake mix by creaming the butter and margarine together. Make sure they are seamlessly blended before adding the sugar. Beat till it’s pale and fluffy. This will take at least 3-4 minutes. The whiter it looks the fluffier it is which makes a lighter cake.
- Very slowly add the eggs – a spoonful at a time. The slower you add the eggs the less chance there is of the mixture curdling. I have found that I have a much better mix if I use my very fast hand held whisk rather than my beloved Kitchenaid stand mixer. The hand held is much faster and whips it all up into a frenzy catching every last bit of cake mix whereas the stand mixer gets most of it most of the time. There’s no comparison. If the mixture does start curdling (separating and looking a bit yuck) add a spoonful of flour during mixing to stop it.
- Add the vanilla essence and mix again till it’s well incorporated.
- When it comes to adding the dry ingredients I tend to sieve the flour and baking powder into a separate bowl and have the hot water ready. Add the flour and water in three goes. This produces the fluffiest and most moist cake rather than adding all the flour then all the water. Fold them in gently and slowly. Fold until the flour is just incorporated. The less mixing and folding the more air bubbles you’ll have to make a light and fluffy cake.
- Pour the mixture into the cake tin. Using the back of a spoon spread the mix throughout the tin pushing it up the sides of the tin slightly leaving a well in the middle. I leave quite a deep well and still get a dome so be brave.
- I have been loosely covering my cakes as soon as they go into the oven with a piece of silicon paper with a hole in the middle. If I think the paper is going to touch the cake as it rises I grease it first. The hole is to allow the steam to escape. The paper keeps the cake more flat on top. I tend to remove the paper for the last 30 minutes so it can brown up.
- Bake for two hours in the centre of your oven. If you have the choice place your cake on a wire rack in the oven rather than a tray. A tray will stop the heat from circulating. I remove all the unused racks from the oven when I bake. Don’t be tempted to open the oven door for the first 30 minutes. It will make the cake sink.
- To test if your cake is fully baked insert a skewer into the centre of the cake – always the centre as this is the last area to bake. If it comes out clean without any cake mix residue it’s ready. If there is some moist mix on the end you need to pop it back in for a few minutes more. You can also press lightly on the top of the cake with a finger. If the cake bounces back instantly you know it’s done. If it takes more than 2-3 seconds then you know it needs more.
When a cake bakes the outer edge bakes first (as it’s against the hot metal cake tin.) For this reason when the middle of your cake is baked the sides will shrink away from the cake tin. This is another good indicator that the cake is baked.
The sugar syrup
- To make the sugar syrup heat the water and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes then add the flavour and leave to cool. I make my sugar syrup as soon as the cake goes into the oven then I leave it .
- Once your cake is removed from the oven let it sit for 5-10 minutes then use a pastry brush to brush the sugar syrup over the entire cake. You only need to cover each area of the cake once and avoid soaking the cake or you will end up with a big soggy mess not a nice moist cake. Make sure you get the edges of the cake covered as they tend to dry out the most. Some people worry that the cake will be overly sweet by adding the sugar syrup but it actually seals the cake and stops it from baking once it’s out of the oven. Don’t feel you need to use the whole amount. You will have some left over.
- Leave the cake to cool for a further 10-20 minutes before turning your cake out onto a rack to cool completely.
I made this cake and decided not to cover it or cut it in half and fill with butter cream. One of my favorite ways to enjoy Madeira cake is by the slice with a lovely dollop of raspberry jam. I cut this one in half and froze one side while we ate the rest. This is a pretty big cake so it was a good test of how long it tasted good for. I always advise to have eaten a cake that has been decorated (and therefore sealed) within a week of baking. This cake sat on a plate in my kitchen loosely covered with a piece of silver foil for 10 days – slowly getting smaller and smaller. On the 10th day it was getting a bit stale but right up till then a spread of jam and it was great with a cup of tea!
Why Sugar syrup works
Another benefit to adding sugar syrup to a cake – which I hadn’t realised before is that it gives the cake crust a lovely sweet flavoured crunch. Not a hard crunch – just a gentle one. I actually looked forward to eating that part as much as I did the soft sponge. Nice surprise!
I think a lovely thin slice is perfect. Beau does not! After asking if she could have a slice this is what she cut and filled for herself! I could have made four servings from that giant slice. And before you ask- yes she ate the lot! Growing girl!
I hope this helps with some of your Madeira cake queries.
FAQ: How to use Sugar Syrup on Cakes?
Ahhh Sugar Syrup. My new and most amazing discovery! It’s the small things that seem to make the biggest difference in my baking. I hadn’t even heard of sugar syrup until I went to the Peggy Porschen sugar roses class last year. I mean I had heard of it but I just thought it was something people added to give a cake more taste – like with lemon cakes and the like, but no. I was wrong.
What sugar syrup does
One of the ladies at the sugar roses class had also been to one of the Peggy Porschen cake baking classes and she mentioned how sugar syrup had completely changed her cakes. They’re now super moist. The trick – as she told me, is to brush sugar syrup directly onto a warm cake once it comes out of the oven. This basically stops the cake from continuing to bake in it’s very hot tin once it’s removed from the oven – preventing it from drying out. The added water keeps the cake super moist.
So armed with this information I gave it a go and do you know what? It’s worked on every single cake I’ve made so far! Madeira cake, chocolate cake, Victoria sponge cake and even cupcakes – actually especially cupcakes!
I’ve tried out a few different recipes but the general rule of thumb is to use the same amount in grams of sugar as millilitres in water then add a dash of flavour. The following quantity is suitable for an 8″ cake. You will have some left over though. Don’t be tempted to use it all.
- 100g sugar – granulated/ caster/ golden – anything goes
- 100ml water
- ½ tsp vanilla essence / lemon juice / almond/ orange essence
- In a saucepan heat the water and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes then add the flavour and leave to cool. I make my sugar syrup when the cake goes into the oven.
- Once your cake is removed from the oven let it sit for 5 minutes then use a pastry brush to brush the sugar syrup over the entire cake. You only need to cover each area of the cake once and avoid soaking the cake or you will end up with a big soggy mess not a nice moist cake. Make sure you get the edges of the cake covered as they tend to dry out the most.
- Leave for a further 10 minutes before turning your cake out onto a rack to cool completely.
Top tip: I use a bristle brush as it is easier to control the sugar syrup than with a silicon one. It also stops you adding too much in one go.
Another sugar syrup tip.
Another time I saw sugar syrup being used was at the Squires Kitchen cake show. During her workshop Helen Mansey brushed her cake (which was baked the day before) with sugar syrup when she was stacking the layers. She added a light coating of syrup to the top of each cake using a pastry brush in exactly the same way as described above before she covered each cake layer with chocolate ganache. I’ve never seen that done before but she said that it keeps the cake moist as she bakes a cake on a Monday and decorates it ready for delivery on Friday/Saturday. She said the cake would still be okay to eat a week after the wedding. I’m not sure cake would last that long in my house but it’s good to know.
So, do you use sugar syrup? What flavours do you use? I’d love to know. Just leave a comment below and share your tried and tested recipes with the whole baking gang.
One of the questions I seem to have been asked a lot recently is
“How long can I keep a Madeira cake for?”
The official answer is 1 week in an airtight container and 3 months when frozen.
How long I keep it for.
PHASE ONE: When I have a cake to make for a Saturday party I bake on Wednesday (usually at night once the kids are in bed- so late!) and as soon as it is completely cold I wrap it in cling film. I don’t put it in a tin as it tends to sweat and the outside edge gets sticky – yuck! I leave it on the kitchen work surface. Avoid storing your cake in the fridge. It does something to the butter in the cake mix and makes it go all hard.
PHASE TWO: On Thursday I cut the cake in half and add the buttercream and jam filling shape and give it a crumb coating. Then I cover it in sugarpaste. Once it’s completely covered in sugarpaste it is essentially sealed and airtight. The buttercream coating keeps it moist and the sugarpaste seals it in.
PHASE THREE: If it’s a simple cake I can finish the decorating on Thursday (unlikely). If it’s a more complicated cake design I will finish it off on Friday and won’t go to bed till it is completely done. That is sometimes VERY, VERY late – or should I say very early in the morning. Of course this is because I work full time and can’t do cake decorating with little sticky fingers swiping as much sugarpaste into their mouths as possible! So I do it all in the evenings once the wrigglers are in bed. If I had the day time to do my cake decorating I would bake on Thursday and decorate on Friday.
What about once it’s been cut?
Really if the cake was baked on Wednesday and cut on Saturday it should be eaten within 2-3 days, but it’s like bread. The slice that is left in the open (ie isn’t covered in sugarpate and buttercream) goes a bit stale. Cut that off and what’s underneath is still fresh and tasty.
My mum always makes a huge rectangular cake – whatever the celebration. Way more than we can eat at one party. The left over cake gets cut up into huge chunks (teh equivalent to a 6″ square cake) for each family. Once eating it at home we slice it into slim pices to make it last the whole week and it’s still good at the end of that week…… if it lasts that long.
Freezing Madeira cake
If you want to freeze Madeira cake you can. Once it is completely cold wrap it in two layers of cling film and freeze for up to three months. It will take about an hour to defrost on a wire cooling rack. Never cover a cake that isn’t completely defrosted with buttercream or marzipan or sugarpaste. You will end up with a sticky gooey mess!
Can I freeze a decorated cake?
Yep, you can. But the icing/ sugarpaste will become tacky once it’s defrosted so only do this once you have celebrated your occasion and you are freezing left overs. It will still taste as good as new it just might not look so pretty.
Hope that helps
Frequently Asked Questions: How to stop your cake baking too quickly on the outside
Just look at this beautiful 10″ Madeira cake. If you follow me on my CakesBakesAndCookies.com Facebook page you’ll have seen this cake already. I made it back in November and had a little play with baking a cake that didn’t finish baking on the outside before it was ready on the inside. And the trick is so simple!
It’s great news!
Well, not news as much as newspaper. I simply took three sheets of newspaper*, overlapped each sheet and folded them over three times. I then wrapped the long length of newspaper around the tin and tied it with natural string (natural string is very important as some string is coated in plastic and that isn’t a good taste for cake!) I tied it securely and then baked the cake as normal for the same amount of time. The result was amazing. A really light outer edge. Not over baked. Just super scrummy!
Since originally writing this post I was asked whether newspaper ink is toxic. I didn’t think it was but wanted to double check so I spoke with a printing press engineer who said that he thought it would be okay but to be on the safe side you should only use ‘food standard quality’ paper around your baking tins. So, newspaper isn’t such a great choice after all. Instead we should use greaseproof or baking paper folded a few times and then wrapped around your baking tin. Sorry for the confusion.
Give it a try and let me know how you get on. I guarantee it will improve the bake on any big cake.