Not just for CV19 survival, but also useful for school holiday shopping and rainy days. This is the Bakefulplay list of store cupboard essentials. This easy to find, affo
rdable bits will ensure you can make almost any bake with your little ones when in need of an entertaining activity.
1. Butter and oil
Personally, I choose to bake with organic butter. I like the richer taste it gives a sponge and the crust you get on the top of the cake. That said, Stork is cheaper and easier to mix by hand, so can be better for you and your littlies. Meanwhile, some cake recipes will be made with oil. These recipes are worth looking out for as they can often be made in one bowl and the cakes sometimes keep longer. So there’s always butter & Stork in my fridge and sunflower or vegetable oil in my cupboard. Why not try my super quick fairy buns as a starting bake?
You're going to need eggs for almost all baking activities, so always worth having a box in the fridge. Lots of people probably think eggs are eggs. But no. Eggs are the mighty superheroes of all baking. They’re a natural raising agent, so their size and quality is going to make a (literally) massive difference to your bakes. Get the right eggs and treat them nicely and you’ll never be disappointed with deflated sponges. Plus, smalls LOVE to crack them! . We are very lucky that in our village their are hundreds of people with hens, so we often have a plentiful supply of donated eggs from happy chickens, but when I buy eggs I like to buy organic. They do taste better and bake better in my opinion, but it’s really an animal welfare thing for me with all meat and dairy. Until relatively recently I wasn’t aware of the massive difference between free range and organic livestock in terms of welfare and made a permanent switch. That said, everyone has their own views and of course budgets for these things. The most important thing to know for baking is the bigger the better. The bigger the egg, the more eggs, the more rise. So no matter which eggs you’re buying, buy large.
Sounds simple, but this aisle in the old supermarkado can be baffling. I’m not getting into the chemical make up of flour. I’m no expert on this, but from experience I do know that the quality of your flour does make a difference to the quality of your bake. It’s all to do with proteins. The higher the protein the more gluten. So in strong bread flour you get higher numbers of proteins which is what turns the dough stringy and doughy. Obviously for cake baking you don’t want this so much. Most normal plain flour has a lower protein count & some super fine brands have the lowest to give the lightest cakes. BUT, in all this you have to remember that you are baking with toddlers & children. Whilst honed, their cake palate is pretty much satisfied by the mere mention of the stuff &they are not going to notice the lightness of your sponge compared to another. So I tend to have a two stocks of flour. The ‘posh stock’ which is finer, branded & organic for baking occasion cakes for others or for when my kiddy baking is being eaten by others - a birthday for example. For weekly baking I simply buy as much as I can as cheap as I can without compromising too much on quality as we go through so much of it. My current favourite is a 1.5kg bag (80p) from @morrisonswhich gives great results.
White caster sugar is something we usually have in our cupboards, but I choose to keep golden caster sugar in the cupboard. It is an absolute game changer when used in cakes and biscuits. Particularly good in relatively simple bakes like a Victoria Sponge or vanilla biscuits. Golden caster sugar is processed to keep more molasses, hence its colour and quite buttery / honeyed taste. This gives a really nice depth to your bakes. It’s definitely worth having a jar of this in your cupboard alongside the go to standard white.
Soft brown sugar is also good to have in. It's the perfect thing for cookies. A mixture of this and the regular caster is what gives a cookie it’s much desired chewy middle. There are lots of different types of brown sugar. The darker the sugar, the more molasses. However, there’s no need to fill your shelves with umpteen bags of different kinds. For most day to day baking with smalls a bag of soft light brown sugar will do for anything requiring brown sugar. Darker sugars may not be to your little ones’ taste anyway. This is deliciously sweet without being too treacly.
5. Bicarbonate of soda and Baking Powder
Most bakes have baking powder in unless you're using self raising flour which has it mixed in already. Bicarb is handy to have in for the most flavoursome bakes like gingerbread along with some fruit cakes. It’s a raising agent that works by releasing carbon dioxide which expands the mixture. It’s an alkali and is activated by acid, so bakes using bicarb will usually fall for buttermilk or yoghurt too. When the bake is in the oven the carbon dioxide is replaced with air, leaving a light and delicious bake. It keeps for ages in an airtight container, so it’s definitely worth having some in the cupboard.
6. Vanilla Extract or Vanilla Bean Paste
Vanilla extract is great, but the bean paste is a step up (so it does come with a price tag) and there’s always some in my cupboard because it means that if I only have the basics of flour, sugar, eggs and milk I can still make biscuits and cake that taste amazing with this. 1tsp of bean paste will do you the same as one actual vanilla pod. Legend. However, your run of the mill vanilla extract will do you good too if it’s a friendlier price point for you.
7. Icing Sugar & Royal Icing Sugar
An obvious staple for any regular baker, but how do you get the best out of this surprisingly versatile ingredient? I’d say most novice bakers only ever use icing sugar to make basic water icing. Simply add water and stir to make a thin, pourable drizzle icing. This is fine on a lemon loaf cake when you don’t need a lot, but it can be a nightmare when trying to use it to ice cakes or biscuits with smalls. It’s too thin to get any definition and if you thicken it to a paste it overpowers any flavour in your bake with a sickly, pure sugar taste that takes forever to dry. For more satisfying and less messy decorating activities try using icing sugar differently. .
* Make royal icing and use as paint with brushes. See my biscuit decorating post for more details. If you buy a royal icing sugar mix you just add water, but it's pretty easy to make too and you can find out how on the highlights of my instagram account.
* Make a sugar glaze with milk, icing sugar, vanilla extract and a tiny pinch of salt to dip your biscuits in for a flavoursome, twinkly finish. Recipe on blog. Use the glaze like paint to add a design to cookies and then add sprinkles so they stick and make patterns or features. .
8. Cream Cheese
I feel about buttercream roughly the same way I feel about water icing. It generally adds very little to cake flavour, being overly sweet and tasting mostly of icing sugar no matter what flavourings you add. In the good old days before children I’d ice all my cakes with Swiss Meringue Butter Cream, the Queen of all frosting, but neither time nor budget allows for that very often these days. Enter cream cheese frosting. It’s not just for carrot cakes. Adding cream cheese to your icing just cuts through the sweetness of the icing sugar, helps it take on flavour and balances your bake for a more satisfying bite. And it couldn’t be easier to make, so I always make sure I’ve got a couple of pots of this stuff in the fridge. As a side note, treat yourself to the good stuff. Cheap cream cheese tends to have too much water in to make a really nice batch. Super quick recipe on the blog.
9. Cake Cases
They come in different sizes and different companies call them different things. What we now think of as a cupcake is usually baked in a muffin case. These are large, seep cases that will take a whole ice cream scoop of mixture. To be honest I’ve gone off this style of cake. It’s all icing and no substance and I rarely bake them now unless I need something for an occasion when aesthetic needs to be considered. Then there’s the gorgeous little fairy bun case, often referred to as a cake cup on bun case. This size of cake is just perfect for little ones. Not too overwhelming. A lovely little treat. There’s mini cases (too faffy for me, but dead cute) and even something called a ‘Buffin case.’ A middle ground hybrid between bun case and muffin. Whichever you prefer, it’s always wise to have a stock of these in the cupboard.
10. Spices and Golden Syrup
Ground cinnamon tops the list of must have spices in my cupboard. Mixed spice and ginger are get a lot of use at the moment too I also love nutmeg, but aways buy it whole and grate as I need it. Much nicer.
Golden Syrup has been around since the Victorian age. It’s a way to make use of the waste product from the refining of cane sugar and bloody tasty it is too. An employee of Tate & Lyle came up with the original notion, but you can now get own brand Golden syrup in all supermarkets. It’s either with the baking stuff or with the ice cream toppings. It’s bloody great on pancakes, but it’s also the secret ingredient in my super easy gingerbread men, my dad’s favourite syrup sponge and delicious golden biscuits. It tastes like sunshine and there’s always plenty in my cupboard. I splash out on the squeeze bottle so I don’t have to deal with the sticky tin! Utter luxury. 😂