Cakes in a Box
I bake cakes for you. Sometimes, I write.

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Bad habits (and how to change them! Or at least tolerate them!)

It is February! How are YOUR New Year’s Goals going? Because mine feel like they’ve been brought to a standstill. 

Because that’s what happens. And that’s totally fine. The new year gears up and by February, I’m knee-deep in work and social obligations and other crap. But sometimes it’s hard to convince myself that this is normal, and that goals take time to achieve. Or maybe I should just make simpler, more achievable goals.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about bad habits, having read about how it takes rewiring how your brain thinks about a specific behaviour before you can actually change said behaviour. You have to identify it, understand what causes the behaviour, set reasonable goals around how to change it, and most importantly, be patient with yourself. And though there are a number of articles that suggest it only takes 21 days to “fix” a bad habit, this number was based on a study done in 1960. Lol. 

Another study, conducted in 2009, more accurately and fairly suggests that it can vary greatly when it comes to “how long,” because obvvvvvviously. How you deal with a bad habit depends on you, what that habit is, and so many other variables. Anyway. The short of the long of it is that I still haven’t baked more, I haven’t started on any video content, I haven’t done more cake research, and I still forget to eat sometimes.

Now, all of these things can be chalked up to laziness. Which then got me to thinking about more specific baking bad habits. I’ve been baking a long time, so it’s only natural that I’ve developed some, but so many of these can be detrimental to the outcome of your cake. Baking is science!

To help you become a better baker, I’m going to tell you all the dumb things I do, which has, on more than one occasion, messed up a cake real bad.

1. Not reading your recipes in full before baking

No matter how confident you are about knowing your recipe by heart, just give it a read before you go any further. Just give it a glance. A scan. A quick looksie. Just do it. And by a glance, a scan, a quick looksie, really read the ingredients and the order in which they should be added. Because no matter how confident you are, you might forget something. In fact, I guarantee that you will forget something. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But rest assured, your cake won’t turn out one day because maybe you forgot an egg. Or baking powder. Both of which has happened to me. 

2. Scooping out flour with your measuring cup instead of spooning flour into your measuring cup 

Okay, honestly, I didn’t really believe this one when I first read that you are supposed to spoon flour into your measuring cup somewhere long ago. But then I noticed that I was getting really inconsistent results, especially with one of my chocolate cake recipes. So I tried scooping flour into my measuring cup (and then levelling the flour, of course, because I’m not a heathen), and like magic, my cake layers were more consistent.

To really up my own ante, I started measuring all of my stuff on a digital scale. No, I’m not doing this every single time, but I know I should. At least I started doing it, though, right?

3. Not letting your fridge sit in the cake for long enough before crumb-coating

Oops. Guilty. It’s because I’m impatient, okay? And I just can’t wait long enough to see what the design I have in my head looks like IRL. 

So the dangers of not letting your crumb-coat chill for long enough: you’ll get crumbs in your buttercream. And the more you try to smooth it out, the more crumbs you’ll most likely drag into the final buttercream layer. Just be patient. Just let it sit in the fridge for longer than you think it’ll need, then a few more minutes after that. It’ll be easier to work with, too. 

4. Not letting your ganache cool for long enough before using it

Remember when I said baking is a science? Well, guess what happens when you add hot ganache onto a cold cake? That’s right: the buttercream will inevitably melt. 

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Let your ganache cool before you use it as a filling or a drip. Just plan ahead (which is hard, I know) and make it, and let it sit out. 

Drips, of course, are a little bit different, since you want them to… well, drip along the side of your cake. To see if your drip ganache is at the right temperature, just test it by pouring a little bit onto a plate or the side of a glass, and see if it trails the way you want it to. 

Anyway. Don’t ruin your buttercream and potentially your entire cake, like a dumb-dumb.

And yes, I probably have a bunch of other bad habits, but these are my most offensive ones. This is Joyce. These are her baking fails. Don’t be like Joyce.

Joyce Ng