Practice Makes Perfect

by Jeanne on June 5, 2012

Hey folks: I’ve been getting a lot of the same or similar questions from folks, so I thought I would address them in a post in addition to individual replies.

It is celebration season. That means weddings, graduations, and mother’s and father’s days. And many of you are baking celebratory cakes for these things. And I applaud you for that!

But. Many of you are writing to me and asking how to make sure the cake recipe you are making will work on the big day. My answer: practice that recipe before the event. No amount of advice from me is going to substitute for good, old-fashioned experience.

When I was baking wedding cakes for people (I only did this for a short time because it was too stressful for me) I always made a few practice cakes to make sure everything was working correctly before I made the actual cake for the big day. I would never make a wedding cake without making at least one or two practice cakes before the actual wedding. I would have been mortified if I got to the big day and the cake didn’t work for some reason.

I know the ingredients are expensive. And I know it takes time. But you owe it to yourself and to your recipients to make the best darn cake you can and that means doing at least one test run. I know you will have a lot of cake leftover–but that’s not horrible, right?  Your friends, family members, mail deliverer, whoever, will be delighted to be the recipients of practice cake.  There are no sweeter (heh) words to d’Ahub’s ears than “recipe testing day.”

Also, you want to practice on an actual cake. One of my readers practiced on cookies instead of the cake recipe and then wrote to me to say that s/he was worried that the wedding cake would be flat like the cookies. People, people. If you are making cake, then practice on that cake recipe. If you are making cookies, then practice on the cookie recipe.

This rule also works for your everyday baking.  If you have never made something before, and it doesn’t work out the first time–don’t despair.  Do it again (and again) until it does work out.  This is especially true of things that are a bit tricky or that require a bit of experience to do well, like pie crust.

Remember: practicing makes you a better baker. And better bakers make for a sweeter world. Happy baking!

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharon June 6, 2012 at 3:50 am

I have been struggling with gluten free baking recently. Nothing rises very well, the texture is heavy, etc, etc… It has been frustrating as I have been baking since I was a kid. But you know I had to learn to be a good wheat based baker. After making just ok french sticks last night, it suddenly struck me, I need to be baking more. Everyone at work loves treats! Thanks for such a timely post. The universe really does line up.

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admin June 7, 2012 at 8:57 am

Sharon: Oh shoot–so sorry baking hasn’t been going well. Are you using my recipes or other recipes? Also–yes, practice does make all the difference, doesn’t it? I have been baking gluten-free for 12 years and I still need to practice!

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Kendra June 5, 2012 at 8:36 pm

This is soo true thx for the reminder. I am a gluten free ( and dairy free and soy free) cook due to my kiddos allergies and intolerances. I had Neer successfully baked a loaf of glutne bread. Mt one attmept at yeasted baking was dinner rolls and they came out tough. I didn;t now why so I never baked with yeast again. I now know I over worked the dough.But to suddenlydiscover I had to learn a whole new way of baking and if I wanted edible bread i had to do it myself???? Well practice practice and practice. And thanks to your excellent tips unsights, instructions and recipes I can bake gluten free!!!I refer people to your website all the time. Thank you again

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admin June 7, 2012 at 8:58 am

Kendra: Thank you so much for the kind words! And yes, gluten-free baking is a whole new world sometimes. Sigh. It takes a bit of time to get used to. I still practice a lot!!

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nicole June 5, 2012 at 11:39 am

Agree absolutely. When I first started baking wedding cakes I did about 3 tests (maybe more) of recipe and flavor combinations … as I’ve done more I’ve gotten more confident, but only through practice! It definitely helps lessen the anxiety if you have solid experience behind you to lean against!

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admin June 7, 2012 at 8:59 am

Nicole: Yes! You are so right. I think anxiety is the source of a lot of people’s baking failures. People get so anxious that they don’t follow directions and they sabotage their own work. I always tell people to relax and practice–and things will be OK!

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Sallie June 5, 2012 at 8:26 am

This is so very true!!!! Been working on g/f desserts for a restaurant and have practiced many, many times before delivery. Thank you for the wise reminder…

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admin June 5, 2012 at 11:20 am

Sallie: I know, right? And you’re welcome!

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