Podcaster, writer, and former 2019 Great British Bake Off contestant Michael Chakraverty has revealed his top tips to perfecting delicious treats, all in aid of supporting the Alzheimer’s Society Cupcake Day on Thursday, June 17.
Although last year saw a rise in baking, it also saw one of the worst years for people affected by dementia.
Not least of all because thousands faced an increase in symptoms and mental health decline caused by the pandemic and carers endured a lack of respite from their duties.
As an active Dementia Friends Champion, Michael, who has first-hand experience of having a family member living with dementia, knows just how much of a difference donations can make, and you can do your bit in a fun way by taking part in the Alzheimer’s Society Cupcake Day.
Using Michael’s tricks of the trade will mean anyone can get involved, whether you’re a piping queen or baking newbie.
You could organise a delivery “drop off” of goodies to your neighbours, host a driveway bake sale in your area or have a virtual “bake-off” with colleagues, friends, and family.
However you like to do it, you will be raising vital funds in support of people affected by dementia.
Michael’s baking top tips:
Cure to curdling
A really easy way to prevent curdling is to ensure that all your ingredients are the same temperature – this means that they’ll combine a lot more easily.
I tend to leave all the ingredients on a countertop overnight before baking in the morning so that I can be sure they’re at the right temperature.
Make sure you add your eggs one by one, beating them to combine fully before adding the next – and if it curdles, just add a little bit of flour which will bring it back together. And if all else fails, just don’t worry too much – it’ll probably sort itself out in the oven!
To achieve the perfect meringue don’t over-beat it! Start whisking lightly, or on a low speed, until bubbles form, before increasing the speed gradually.
Once you’ve got to the “soft peaks” stage (where the mixture is white and frothy, and when you remove the whisk it folds over onto itself but maintains its shape) you can add a dash of lemon juice or a pinch of cream of tartar to stabilise it, before whipping to stiff peaks. Always bake meringues low and slow!
Sugars can generally be substituted for one another – the main difference between light brown sugar and white sugars is that light brown sugar lends a caramel-like taste to the bake, and brown sugar can also make the bake’s crust a deeper/darker colour.
The one exception to this rule is icing sugar, which is in a league of its own – but if you happen to have a spice grinder handy, you can always whizz some white sugar down to a powder!
Baking or bicarbonate
With Baking Powder and Bicarbonate of Soda, you can’t substitute one for the other! Bicarbonate of soda (or in American recipes, baking soda), is an alkali – meaning that it needs to react with an acid within the recipe (lemon juice, vinegar, sour cream etc) – whereas baking powder contains both an alkali and an acid, which activates when mixed with other ingredients.
If you are really struggling and don’t have baking powder, I’d suggest adding a third of the amount of baking powder as bicarbonate of soda, and add a good pinch of cream of tartar. Then cross your fingers.
For simple but effective decorating, buy a piping bag! It looks a lot more intimidating than it is – and piped buttercream looks SO much more professional! If you’re really worried, a glace icing always looks good too (just mix icing sugar with a little water) with sprinkles on top!
You can replace fresh fruit with frozen. Frozen fruit actually retains its shape better within bakes.
It does lower the temperature of the bake slightly, though, so you may need to lengthen the baking time slightly. I always coat my frozen fruit with a bit of flour to prevent it sinking in the bake – the flour ‘grabs’ the mixture and holds the fruit in place!
Money raised will go towards Alzheimer’s Society’s vital support services, like its Dementia Connect support line. The society’s services have been used over 3.6 million times since March 2020 and have been a lifeline to thousands.
To sign up and find out more please visit the Alzheimer’s Society Cupcake Day website by clicking here.
For more from the “Friend” team, click here to read our blog.