Baking with butter - FAQ

Western Star has been the star ingredient in family baking for generations of Australians.  Sometimes we all need to a little help in the kitchen, so we’ve gathered together most of the most frequently asked baking questions.

Forgotten to soften the butter for a cake?

Grate butter coarsely, spread onto baking paper and stand for 10 minutes before using or chop into 2cm cubes, microwave on 30% power in 10 second bursts until just softened.

Why did my cake crack on top?

This is probably because the oven temperature was too high, causing the cake to form a crust on top before it rises. As the cake cooks and rises internally, it bursts through the crust causing cracks.

Why do I need to use caster sugar when making cakes?

Cake recipes usually call for caster sugar because it has the perfect crystal size for producing light fluffy cakes. Ordinary A1 sugar or raw sugar crystals are too large and won’t dissolve well in the cake mixture, resulting in a spotty and crunchy cake crust. Icing sugar is too fine and will not hold any air in a creamed butter-sugar mixture. Sometimes for a rich caramel flavour, some of the caster sugar can be substituted for brown sugar.

Why did my cake peak on top?

There are a few things that can cause cakes to peak in the centre. If the cake recipe doesn’t contain enough liquid it will be low in volume but will peak in the centre. If the cake has been over mixed you will notice a peak, along with tunnel like holes inside the cake. It could also be that the oven temperature was too high, causing the outside of the cake to form a crust too quickly, as the mixture in the cake centre continues to cook and rise it bursts through the top of the cake.

Can I substitute some of the melted butter for milk or juice when baking?

Never alter the butter ratio when baking, baking is a science and when you alter the recipe you will get a very different result in both flavour and texture. Butter can’t be substituted for liquid ingredients. Depending on the recipe, you may end up with either a tough, dry cake or it may be soggy and dense.

Why should I preheat my oven?

Oven temperature is crucial when baking, as baking is a science! Having the oven at the right temperature when the cake goes in will ensure that the natural chemical reactions that occur during baking happen at the correct times to produce an even result. If a cold oven is used, a baked item will not rise at the rate it should causing cakes to have many faults, including:

  • heavy textured crumb

  • reduced volume

  • dry end result

  • sunken centre

  • sugary crusted cakes

What does it mean to “cream butter and sugar” and how do I do it?

Creaming butter and sugar is a method used to incorporate air into baked goods. There are a few key things to remember when creaming butter and sugar.

The butter must be soft, but not melting.

It’s always best to use caster sugar.

Use an electric mixer to beat butter until smooth, gradually add the sugar 2 tablespoons at a time waiting 30 seconds between additions. Continue beating for 7-10 minutes or until the mixture is a very pale, off-white colour and fluffy in texture. Rub a small amount of the mixture between your thumb and forefinger, if you feel large sugar crystals then continue beating, if they have dissolved then the mixture is ready and you can continue the recipe.

What is the secret to making fluffy white buttercream icing?

Always wondered why some buttercream icing is fluffy and soft and some are thick and dense? While the ratio of ingredients is key, the technique is also important. Ensure the butter is soft before starting and beat for at least 7-10 minutes in total until the mixture is as pale as double cream and fluffy. Don’t refrigerate the buttercream, as this will cause it to become hard and dense. Once your cake is iced it should keep unrefrigerated in a cool, dark place for 2-3 days.

How do I line a cake tin?

Smear the inside of the tin all over with Western Star Unsalted Butter.

Cut long strips of baking paper slightly taller than the height of the tin, fold 1cm up from the longest edge and snip along the edge at 1 cm intervals.

Press strips onto the sides of the tin like a collar, with the snipped edge on the bottom (this will help hold the collar down).

Trace the base of the tin onto a sheet of baking paper, cut out and press into the base of the tin.

How do I test a cake to see if it’s cooked?

First you will notice a cooked cake has slightly shrunken from the edge of the pan.

Touch the centre of the cake with your fingertip, it should be firm and slightly bounce back, if you finger mark remains then continue cooking.

Thirdly, if necessary, poke a skewer into the thickest part of the cake, slowly draw it out, if it is coated with uncooked mixture then continue cooking, if the skewer is clean your cake is cooked.