A mini baking experiment looking at the differences between the creaming-in and all-in-one methods of making sponges.
To bake using the all-in-one-method or not to bake using the all-in-one-method, that is the question.
I have to admit that I have always baked my Victoria sponges using the creaming in method. Always. Ever since baking my first batch of cupcakes whilst stood on a chair at the work bench as a young child with my mum, the creaming in method has always been the way to go. I clearly recall our home economics teacher at secondary school demonstrating how to make some basic Victoria Sandwich cupcakes using the traditional method with a little explanation as to why we treated each ingredient in a set way. Beating the softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Adding the eggs slowly and beating in. Gently folding in the flour. It worked and I stuck with the process.
However, for some years now I have seen top celebratory chefs using the all-in-one-method! "NO!", I would shout at the TV screen. Do tell me I'm not the only person who shouts at the TV over things they're passionate about! For those who aren't familiar with the all-in-one method, as implied by the name, all the ingredients are simply put into the mixing bowl together and briefly mixed together. There's no adding the egg gradually and no folding in the flour gently. Even the queen of baking herself, Mary Berry, often demonstrates her GBBO Masterclass recipes using the all-in-one-method! Surely it must work if Mary Berry herself regularly uses this apparently quick and no fuss method of baking. So a couple of weeks ago I set about conducting one of my mini side-by-side baking experiments to look at how effective the all-in-one method is compared to the traditional creaming-in method when making a sponge.
So how did I go about it? I made two batches of Victoria Sponge cupcakes, one was made with the traditional creaming in method and the other utilising the all-in-one-method. The ingredients were identical in both batches, in terms of weight, quality of ingredients and temperature. As the all-in-one method requires limited beating it was important to ensure the butter was ultra soft (in both batches) as over working the mixture could have resulted in the batter becoming tough due to the gluten being activated in the flour. Once a batter was made, it was weighed into the paper cases thus ensuring each cupcake was the same size. Different patterned paper cases were used for the two batches, preventing them from being muddled up. Both batches of cupcakes were baked at the same temperature, on the same oven shelf and for the same amount of time. Once the first batch was out of the oven, the second batch was made which prevented that sponge from sitting around and potentially spoiling whilst the first batch baked.
And the results. Well to start with, the cupcakes using the all-in-one method were certainly noticeably quicker to rustle up, requiring very little beating and no real specific technique. Visually, the cupcakes using the all-in-one method seemed to rise a little more than those made with the traditional method which is quite remarkable given the limited beating they received. This said, they did dome a little during the bake, thankfully this wasn't too severe so as to interfere with the water icing that I used to simply decorate them with .
As for the eat, seven people, including myself, 'volunteered' their services in testing the cupcakes. Only I knew which cupcake was which, so my taste testers sampled them blind, so to speak. Four of the seven preferred the traditional creaming in method, including myself. Two preferred the all-in-one-method. One person found no difference between the two batches. Although there wasn't a vast difference between the two batches in terms of the eat, I found that the buns made with the creaming-in-method was ever so slightly lighter. Our retired chef neighbour also commented the same. This said, I was pleasantly surprised by how light the all-in-one cupcakes were despite the limited beating given to the mixture.
Given the great results and similarity to the traditional method, I shall certainly be less sniffy about the all-in-method and will definitely be using it again especially when time is at a premium.
Which is your preferred method of making sponges, the all-in-one or the creaming-in-method?
So let's get to it and bake!
Victoria Sponge Cupcakes decorated with a Water Icing and Toasted Coconut. Yum
Time: hands on time 20 minutes; plus 20 minutes bake time; cooling time
Freezable: Yes, undecorated
You will need:Electric Hand Held Beater
Spatula or large Metal Spoon
Muffin size Paper Cases
Muffin Baking Tray
For the sponge mixture90g Unsalted Butter, softened
45g Golden Caster Sugar
45g Caster Sugar
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
90g SR Flour, sieved
1 - 2 tbsp milk
For the Water Icing and toasted coconut70g Icing Sugar
1 - 2 handful of Desiccated Coconut
How to make them:1. Pre-heat the oven to 190c / Fan 170c / Gas 5. Place the muffin cases into the muffin tray.
2. Make the sponge. Use either the creaming-in-method OR the all-in-one method.
Creaming-in-Method: Place the softened butter and sugar into a good sized bowl and beat together with a wooden spoon or electric beaters until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the milk. Sieve the flour into the mixture. Using a spatula or large metal spoon fold this in gently.
All-in-One Method: Place the eggs into the bowl & lightly whip to break them up. Add the very soft butter, sugar, milk and flour. Use the beaters to blend the ingredients together. Avoid over mixing.
3. Fill the muffin cases. Using a teaspoon, fill the cases with the batter mixture. You're aiming for them to be half to two-thirds full. You may decide to weigh each muffin to ensure equal sizes. Each cupcake will weigh about 57g - 58g.
4. Bake. Place the muffin tray in the centre of the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. You may need to rotate the tray after 15 minutes of baking. Once baked, remove from the oven and place on a cooling tray.
5. Toast the coconut. Place the frying pan over a medium heat on the hob (no oil required). Add 1-2 handfuls of the desiccated coconut. Spread it out into an even layer. Use a wooden spoon to regularly move the coconut around to avoid it burning. Once the coconut is a lovely golden colour tip into a bowl and se aside to cool.
6. Mix the water icing. Place the icing sugar into a small bowl. Add a teaspoon of water and mix together. Add drips of water until a thick but spreadable paste is achieved.
7. Decorate the cupcakes. Place a teaspoonful of the icing onto a cupcake. Use the back of the teaspoon to gently spread the water icing over the top of the cupcake. Holding the cupcake around its sides, tip it upside down and gently dip the iced face into the toasted desiccated coconut. Set aside to allow the water icing to firm up. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes.