Book review Cakes

Book Review: How baking works … and what to do when it doesn’t by James Morton…and a giveaway!

Book Review: How baking works by James Morton

If I said “I have a book to review by James Morton” you might think who? But if I said “the sciency guy from the Great British Bake Off 2012”  you’d know instantly who I was talking about.

How Baking Works: …and what to do if it doesn’t  (Ebury press), is James’ second book (the first was Brilliant Bread) and it does exactly what it says on the tin – to the extent that I have been slowly reading “How baking works” cover to cover. I don’t think I’ve ever read a baking book like that before. I even wanted to take it on the train to read last week- but it’s a bit heavy and not to mention obsessive for that!


How baking works cook book by James Morton who likes to share the chemistry behind baking. It's a great book

The book starts off like most with a description of ingredients and techniques but the point of difference here is that James goes into the nitty gritty sciency background of what happens during baking, like when sugar and butter are combined (the sharp edges of the sugar cut through the molecules of the butter to create air pockets- in case you were wondering? That’s what gives your cake it’s rise). I find it all so interesting. I can’t remember all the tips so I’ve started writing myself a cheat sheet on my folded paper bookmark.

Some of the facts are a bit too sciency for me and go straight over my head but what I really like about this book is that before every recipe James explains what you should and shouldn’t do for that type of baking. There are step by step pictures with explanations on what to look for and what to avoid in some tricky sections and let’s face it we can all do with a bit of that kind of help from time to time.

There are plenty of recipes in each section of the book including – Cake, Sponge, Brownie, Muffin, Torte, Biscuit, Short, Sweet, Choux pastry Merringue and Macarons. It makes me all hungry just thinking about it.  As I read through the pages I want to bake everything! Crème Pt anyone? They talk about it on TGBBO all the time but I’ve never made it and I only now know how to and what the ingredients are?  I think it’s the way he talks when he writes. You feel like he’s sharing his best kept secrets with just you!

How Baking Works: is available through this affiliate link on Amazon

So, how would you like to win a copy of How Baking Works: …and what to do if it doesn’t?

Those lovely people over at Ebury Press have given me a copy to giveaway. All you have to do is leave a comment below answering the following question AND enter via the rafflecopter site (just click below to be taken straight through to the competition) A winner will be randomly selected on 21st July. Good luck!


What baking question would you have asked James to answer?

Click on the link below to enter

a Rafflecopter giveaway Terms & Conditions

This giveaway will close at 12:00 on 21 July 2015. Leaving a blog post comment is a mandatory entry option. This prize is offered by Ebury Press. I am hosting it on behalf of Ebury press. Please note, I am not responsible for posting the prize out or providing it. Ebury or their representative will send out the prize, the winner must provide their name, address once contacted. The winner will be selected at random from all correct entries received by the Rafflecopter widget. The winner will be notified within 3 days of the closing date. The prize is one copy of the ‘How Baking works’ book, no cash alternatives are available. This giveaway is open only to residents in mainland UK (excluding Northern Ireland and Scottish Highlands and Islands) and entrants must be over 18.

Disclaimer: The book in this post was sent to me by Ebury Press  (Thanks you guys I can’t get enough of it) All thoughts and opinions and entirely my own.


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  1. Dyan Hawthorne says:

    I would ask him the most basic, best advice for a newbie.

  2. valerie sobus says:

    i guess what has always fascinated/interested me in the past is the vast differences in chocolate chip cookies (or i guess cookies in general). there’s this picture i’ve seen floating around pinterest of like 10 diff. chocolate chip cookies and under each cookie it says what variable was changed like “only brown sugar” or “melted butter” etc. and i always thought it was crazy that so many minute changes can have such a big effect when baking something as simple as a cookie. i’d be interested to see if he touches on that in the book!

  3. I think I would ask the science of why, no matter how well I wrap the packet, light brown sugar always goes clumpy? My new method is place several marshmallows in the packet, wrap packet in clingfilm, place packet in food bag. It still clumps together as a big block, but at least now when you whack it with a rolling pin it actually separates….

    Either that, or why do eggs curdle sugar and butter? I’d be fascinated to know the science behind it. (and what curdling actually apparently does to your cake, cause I curdle cake mix *all* the time, and it usually comes out just fine.)

  4. I would ask James why macarons are so difficult and how to stop them going wrong.

  5. iain maciver says:

    how to make the perfect tablet

  6. Suzanne Drummond says:

    whats your fool proof cake that you always return back to baking

  7. How do you make the perfect choux bun everytime

  8. aaron broad says:

    What is the most important thing to focus on when baking?

  9. Apart from as in carrot cake how would you include other vegetables into (sweet) baking?

  10. ashleigh allan says:

    how to make perfect pastry

  11. Francesca says:

    I would ask him about baking techniques, including kneading, folding, over-mixing etc. how to know when you are doing it right-or-wrong? Thank you for the wonderful giveaway opportunity. Good luck everyone!

  12. Jo m welsh says:

    How to get a Victoria sponge a good size and not look flat

  13. How to make recipes work using gluten free all purpose flour which is what I use. Some work and some don’t at all. Should I be using a variety of flours?

  14. S Williams says:

    What spices go with which fruit

  15. I would ask James what his most vital piece of baking equipment is. Fingers crossed he doesn’t say a Magimix, and he says a pastry scraper or something else that isn’t going to cost a small fortune! I love him and his food on the Bake Off was fantastic, his book has been on my wishlist for too long! Wonderful giveaway. Rosie xx

  16. I’d ask what is the best way to make a cake that is not too dry but is moist and soft.

  17. I would like to ask what is the best way to get meringues to stiff peak

  18. laura banks says:

    why do my scones not rise as much

  19. leanne weir says:

    i would ask how bet to avoid a soggy bottom

  20. Sarah Griffiths says:

    Why are my souffles rubbish??!

  21. Sarah Cooper says:

    What’s the best way to get a swiss roll to stay in shape?

  22. Caroline H says:

    I bake and I’m no Mary Berry but I’m really not too bad at it. However, I desperately want to know how to make the perfect pancake. No matter what recipe or method I try I turn out something more like a batch of frisbees than light, fluffy, evenly coloured pancakes!

  23. Monica Gilbert says:

    How do you keep the edges of pie crusts from burning? I’ve been making pumpkin pies for around 30 years now and still can have that problem.

  24. I would like to understand about substituting different ingredients eg honey for sugar.

  25. Elizabeth Harbron says:

    I’m still searching for the perfect focaccia recipe so I’d love to know if James knows it!

  26. claire griffiths says:

    how do you stop the top of a pie burning but the middle not cooking

  27. I love baking bread, but I still can’t seem to judge how long to prove the dough for on the second rise – I’d ask for handy tips!

  28. Tracy Newton says:

    I would like to know more about gluten free baking. I just cannot stop my pastry from breaking up or cracking. I find it really difficult to roll out. I would love to make really think pastry for pies, sausage rolls and tarts.

  29. fozia Akhtar says:

    How can you ensure cakes don’t dip?

  30. In my shop there are two kinds of unsweetened cocoa powder. One has only 10% cocoa butter and is light brown, the other has 22% cocoa powder and is dark brown.
    Which one do you recommend for baking? Probably it depends on what you baking, does it?
    That’s the question, I would ask him.

  31. How does gluten free baking differ to normal?

    1. Stephanie Whitehouse says:

      Why my meringues are sometimes fine and sometimes flat

  32. Liam Bishop says:

    Why do my pies always have soggy bottoms!

  33. Megan Kinsey says:

    When you’re baking does it really matter if you just guess the amount of each ingredient or do you really have to measure everything precisely?

  34. Angela L White says:

    What do find difficult to make….

  35. i’d ask him what’s his recipe for perfect scones- I’m looking for a fool proof recipe myself!

  36. Joan Kubes says:

    I would ask for a perfect fool proof roll recipe.

  37. Andy Grange says:

    My oven seems to radiate its heat unevenly. How can I compensate for this when baking cookies etc?

  38. charlotte says:

    Tough – as know nothing. So want to know it all! will help me make better decisions when trying to substitute things or take a guess at what to do.

  39. How do I stop my cupcakes “doming” I’d like flat topped ones which are easy to ice

  40. Lucy Robinson says:

    I would ask what would be the essential staple foods that I should keep in my cupboards with which I could easily make a nice dessert

  41. gilliancollins78 says:

    what is better – self raising flour or plain flour with baking powder for basic sponges?

  42. Laura Anne Farnworth says:

    What were the first cakes ever eaten?

  43. Rich Tyler says:

    Is it worth making your own pastry?

  44. Donna Caldwell says:

    When I make flapjack I follow the recipe but they always seen to crumble and fall apart why is this ? And when mixing my sugar and butter together the mix always seem to have little lumps of butter why ?

  45. Do you get the best results with a gas or electric oven? I’m switching from gas to electric and hope it was the right decision!

  46. What basic ingredients does he keep in a cupboard to make a quick decision cake without it being too boring. When I need to make one quickly I never have the right ingredients to make the simplest of cakes, and end up having to go out and get more than I really needed.

  47. Ali (@alicomps) says:

    I would like to ask why sometimes, when I add yoghurt to my cake mixture, the cake comes out a bit rubbery and odd!

  48. Why does everything take me so much longer than the recipe says?

  49. Sarah Lee says:

    I would ask what’s the perfect recipe for flapjacks? Mine are either too hard or they end up falling apart!!

  50. Victoria Prince says:

    I *love* the sound of this book – as a very keen baker and a science lover it’s the ideal combination 🙂

    I would ask him how do I get an even rise all over my cakes, without parts of them being higher than others!

    1. EmmaMT from says:

      Great Question Victoria! Congratulations you’re the winner chosen at random via Rafflecopter. Look out for my email later today! Yaaaay!


      1. Victoria Prince says:

        Thank you so much 😀 Can’t wait to receive it and get reading!

  51. How to easily convert cups to grams.

  52. Claire Davies says:

    What is your favourite spice you like to use when making a cake?

  53. LEE HARDY says:

    How many eggs should I use in a giant cupcake mould as my sponge seems so dense & not soft.

  54. I would ask why my pastry always falls down inside the tin when I try to blind bake it – no matter how many ‘top tips’ I try to prevent it!

  55. Natalie Crossan says:

    Why don’t my cakes rise when I follow the recipes to a T?

  56. Chloe Ellis says:

    How to make perfect Soufflé

  57. Leanne Bell says:

    How can I stop fruit such as bananas going brown before cooking.

  58. I’d love to know no matter how hard I try, my biscuits are always hit and miss throughout the batch

Comments are closed.