Frequently Asked Questions
Some more information for members is available HERE (click).
General + Ingredients
Red Velvet Cake
A: You find more information about this in the forum HERE (click).
A: Vanilla sugar is flavored sugar. If you can’t find it in your country, use a few drops of vanilla essence or vanilla extract as a substitute.
A: If the area of your pan differs greatly, you will need to change the amounts of all ingredients as described in the forum here (click).
It’s possible that you need to increase the baking time by a few minutes. That depends on the cake and it’s shape. There is no general rule.
For example, if you bake a sponge sheet (Swiss roll) on a larger baking tin, you won’t need to adapt the baking time. However, if you bake a “higher” cake with more volume, you may need to increase the baking time a little.
It requires some experimentation. Just observe the cake closely during baking…
A: Yes, that’s no problem.
Use the same amount (weight) of gelatine. Dissolve the powder in a little cold water. Use five parts of water for one part of gelatine.
For example, if the recipe asks for 10 g gelatine, dissole the powder in 50 g water.
If only the number of gelatine leafs, but not their weight is mentioned in my recipe, follow this formula to get the correct weight:
weight in grams = (number of gelatine leafs) * 1.7
weight in ounces = (number of gelatine leafs) * 0.06
A: Sponge cakes (like génoise) are supposed to be light and fluffy, not moist.
If you wish to make your sponge cakes more moist, though, brush them wish sugar syrup when you assemble the cake. You can mix the sugar syrup with fruit juice to add flavor. If you want (and like it), you can also add a little alcohol like Kirschwasser or Grand Marnier.
A: Yes. you can freeze red velvet cake, sponge cake, Swiss roll sheet, and genoise. Make sure that you carefully wrap the cake in plastic wrap, so that it doesn’t turn dry.
A: Don’t try piping out decorations with heavy cream whipped to stiff peaks. That won’t work.
Instead, only whip the cream to soft peak stage. Then, it is softer (obviously) and it is A LOT easier to coat cakes with this whipped cream or pipe out little decorations.
That’s the whole trick… no secret piping techniques required.
A: Buttercream can be stored in the freezer for about three weeks.
So, If you want to store it for some days, freeze it. Putting it in the fridge is not enough (because it contains egg).
A: Let the frozen buttercream warm until it is soft. Then, whisk it on a double boiler for a short(!) moment until the consistency is creamy like the original buttercream.
Be careful, though. If you heat it too much/too long, it will turn liquid.
A: The difference is that the buttercream with egg yolk is a bit richer in taste and it is more yellow.
For the cupcakes, I needed a neutral buttercream so that I can easily color it with food coloring. That’s easier with buttercream made with egg whites. The resulting buttercream is almost white.
A: Kirschwasser is a schnapps made from cherries (“Kirsche” is German for cherry).
If you don’t have Kirschwasser, you can use a normal cherry brandy, instead.
If you don’t like alcohol, you can just make the cake without this ingredient… however, it will no longer be a real Black Forest Cake.
A: Always use unsalted butter.
A: It’s also called “gold leaf” and it’s real gold hammered to extremely thin sheets. When you buy or order it (online or in specialty shops), make sure you get food-grade gold leaf.
A: You can use any white vinegar. I use white wine vinegar. You could also use apple vinegar, white balsamico…
A: I recommend to store these kinds of cakes (with butter cream, whipped cream, ganache, etc.) in the fridge. Also, for the checkered cake it will be more stable when the buttercream is cold.
A: I understand your concern about the egg white.
Here in Germany (and certainly in many other countries as well), there are very high standards in food hygiene and food control. For example, the danger of salmonellae in eggs is extremely low for eggs that you buy in the supermarket. The danger increases, when (after buying them at the supermarket) eggs are not stored propperly.
You can do two things to be on the safe(r) side…
(1) Prepare the meringue (for the buttercream) as described in the cake guide. There, I add hot sugar syrup (120°C) to the egg white, so there is a hot component in the mixture, as well.
(2) To be 100% sure, you could use pasteurized eggs. You can buy pasteurized egg white in special stores (usually in large quantities), or you could do it yourself as described here (click).
A: Here’s how I do it…
1. Lift the front side of the cake with a (palette) knife.
2. Push your hand under the cake.
3. Lift the cake (on your hand) and trasnfer it to the serving plate.
4. Now, perform steps 2. and 1. in reverse…
5. Transfer complete.
A: Pour the tempered chocolate that you do not need onto a sheet of aluminum foil (or baking paper) and let it fully solidify (over night). If the tempered chocolate already turned solid in the bowl, melt it on a double boiler and then pour it onto the aluminum foil.
The result is a large (or small) disk of solid couverture. Return it to the bag (or box) with your unused couverture.
Next time you temper chocolate, you can use this “couverture disk” just like normal couverture.
A: If you use that for your icing, it will become rather hard and taste horrible.
Couverture is a chocolate that contains no other fats than cocoa butter.
That does NOT mean that it’s 100% cocoa, though.
There are other (important) ingredients in couverture beside cocoa.
What I usually do is I buy large quantities of 50% and 70% cocoa couverture (Callebaut).
Then, when using, I blend both to get the desired cocoa content (any value between 50% and 70% is possible).
Q: What’s the best way to store the cream puffs / How long are they OK?
A: Filled cream puffs will be ok for one day (in the fridge) but not longer. Otherwise the puff shell will soak too much water and become soft.
To store them for longer, store the pastry cream and the puff shells separately(!) in the freezer.
Defrost the pastry cream in the microwave. Then, heat it up once (oven or microwave), whisk until the pastry cream has a nice consistency and let it cool down again.
Then, before serving, bake the puff shells for 10-15 Minuten at 150°C (300°F).
A: Head/neck: round tube with 4 or 5 mm (1/5 inch).
Body: 1 cm round tube (2/5 inch)
A: The baking time is 30+20 minutes. The 20 minutes are needed to dry the surface of the puff shells and make it more crunchy. Otherwise, it is too soft. The puff shells look well done after 30 minutes already… that’s normal.
When the bottoms of your puff shells are too dark, then it’s possible that your oven is too hot, i.e. the temperature inside is actually higher than intended. Every oven is different, so it may take a bit of experimentation before you find the perfect temperatures for your oven. Try a little lower temperatures (than written in my ebook) the next time.
A: I spray the puff shells with water. The puff shells will stop growing as soon as the surface turns dry (and crunchy). Therefore, when spraying the puff shells with water, it takes more time before they turn dry and they grow bigger in the oven.
A: Possible reasons for this are…
* You added too much egg to the dough –> use the exact amounts as listed in the recipe. Add the the egg little by little and mix well after each addition.
* The temperature in your oven is not high enough –> each oven is different and it’s possible that yours is on the “cold side”. When the temperature is too low, the cream puffs will not puff enough and be rather flat and not crispy. So, try increasing the temperature a little next time. Also, make sure your oven is pre-heated.
A: The main difference is the following:
In my recipe, the center is a chocolate ganache.
In a recipe that does not require a separate center, the liquid part is unbaked batter.
I think most people prefer eating melted ganache over eating unbaked batter (containing raw egg).
In my optinion, It really tastes better…
A: You can store the (baked) lava cakes in the freezer for several weeks. Then, on the day you wish to serve the cakes, let them warm to room temperature. Just before serving, put them in the microwave for a short moment to liquefy the ganache center.
The flavour will be best, though, when you serve the cake “fresh from the oven”.
A: The icing sugar is important for the texture of the macarons. If you reduce / replace it, the macarons will not turn out nice.
I strongly recommend you do not change the ingredients for the macarons.
You could, however, use a less sweet filling for the ganache / buttercream. Just add less sugar or use a dark ganache filling that is not so sweet.
A: When you keep the macarons in the fridge for one or two days, their flavor will become more intense and also the consistency changes a bit. It depends on personal taste, but most people enjoy these 1-2 days “old” macarons even more than the freshly baked ones.
You can store the macarons in the fridge for a few more days. Basically, it depends on the filling how long they will be OK.
A: When your macarons are too “hard” and there’s too much empty space inside, then it’s likely that you baked them too long.
Try a shorter baking time, next time. Also, it’s possible that you did not mix enough after adding the dry ingredients (–> chewy).
Red Velvet Cake
A: Buttermilk is quite different from milk, so you would get different results if you use milk for the red velvet cake. Buttermilk contains less fat. The most significant difference is that buttermilk contains lactic acid bacteria cultures that give it a slightly sour taste.
If you can’t find buttermilk in your country, you can replace it with a mixture of milk and lemon juice. Use one tea spoon of lemon juice on 250 ml of milk. I never used the substitute, though…
A: The possible reasons for cracking sponge cake are…
* baked too long or too hot –> lower baking time and/or temperature just a little bit
* need more practice with rolling
* batter is not foamy enough –> beat the eggs more to get a fluffy and elastic(!) sponge cake
If done right, the sponge cake will be so fluffy, that it’s almost impossible to crack.
A: The reasons for mixing on a double boiler are:
* The sugar melts faster
* At around 35°C, the sugar combines nicely with the egg.
* Fresh egg does not have a uniform consistency (there are liquid parts and more dense parts).
The heat helps getting a uniform consistency quickly. That makes it easier to make a foamy batter.
You can do it without the double boiler, but the resulting sponge cake will be less fluffy.
A: If the texture of your sponge cake is too dense, then there are two possible reasons (given that you followed the recipe exactly):
1. You overmixed after adding the flour. The batter is less foamy and the resulting sponge cake is less fluffy.
2. You did not bake it enough. Then, the sponge cake is not “ready” when you remove it from the oven and will slightly “deflate”.
So, next time, take care not to overmix after adding the flour and maybe increase the baking time by one minutes.
A: If the sponge cake surface is still a bit wet, it will easily stick to the baking paper when you roll the cake.
One tip is to powder the baking paper (that you use for rolling the cake) with icing sugar. Then, the sponge cake will not stick that much to the paper. Again, powder the baking paper you use for rolling the cake, not the paper you use for baking.
A: No. You can, however, freeze the baked tart shells (without filling).The frozen tart shells will be OK for about two weeks. Wrap them in plastic wrap or put the tart thells in an airtight container when freezing. If you freeze the dough (unbaked), it won’t keep it’s “elasticity”. The texture of the resulting tarts would be different.