Here are some of the Tips that I initially wrote to go on the packaging of the mixes and equipment in my Home Bargains range, and I’m also answering your questions here as they come in. I’ll add more Tips as they occur to me - do let me know if you have any useful ones of your own that we can share here, and send me any comments and questions you have too.
Q. Hi Jane, can you freeze the cakes and for how long? - Doris
A. Yes of course you can: any of the cakes made with my mixes will freeze well. Just let them get completely cold then wrap them tightly in several layers of baking paper and silver foil, label them and pop them in the freezer. I’d recommend not more than 3 months – they’ll be perfectly safe for another month or so after that, but won’t taste as fresh. You could even ice them before freezing (but not with roll out icing – only buttercream or frosting) but ideally I’d freeze them plain and ice them the day you want to eat them. Allow to thaw, unwrapped, at room temperature.
Love Jane x
Q. Hi Jane, please can you tell me how to make your pizza base from scratch? - Tracy
A. Click here to view the pizza recipe I promised Tracy. It’s worth using the right Italian ‘00’ flour if you can find it – I bought it in a nearby supermarket. And the olive oil gives this base a delicious authentic taste.
This is a very quick way to make two delicious pizzas. I love a thin, crispy base, so mine go straight in the oven and the whole procedure takes about 45 minutes, including preparing my toppings.
Q. Can you tell me how long chocolate frosting will last when put on cakes, as any butter cream on cakes? - Ann
A. The chocolate frosting itself will last perfectly well for a week or so, in or out of the fridge (I recommend covering the cake lightly with cling film or baking paper of course). If you keep it in the fridge it will inevitably crust over a little, but I quite like the texture of that! Either way, it lasts longer than a buttercream made at home with fresh butter, which is one of its advantages. Obviously, the freshness and tastiness of the cake itself will depend on what type it is, but a chocolate cake always lasts longer than a plain sponge - about a week or so. (Anything with fresh cream involved needs to be eaten on the day it’s made or one day later if it’s kept in the fridge).
Love Jane x
Q. I have bought a packet of your shortcrust mix. I am wanting to make a vegetable pie, how long will the pastry take to cook and at what heat? - Dennis
A. Yes, the shortcrust pastry mix is SO useful to keep in the cupboard for making quick pies and flans. It does depend on your particular recipe of course - if it’s a large pie with a filling that needs a long cooking time then you might want to start at a highish temperature (220C/200C fan) and turn the heat down once the pastry is looking golden so it doesn’t over-brown, leaving it to cook at around 180C/160F for as long as the relevant filling needs. In your case I’d go for 200C/180C fan (always pre-heat the oven for pastry things) and bake it for 25-30 minutes, assuming you’ve cooked your veg first.
Love Jane x
Q. I have just bought the carrot cake mix. Is is possible to make it into a tray bake instead of a cake? If so, what size tray would you recommend and how long would you cook it for? - Christine
A. I’m so pleased you’ve bought the carrot cake mix: it’s delicious and one of my favourites (the mixes are all made to my recipes by the same bakery that I’ve worked with for many years and they’re fantastic). And - yes, of course you can bake the cake in a tray bake tin - it depends on the size of course but if you were to use my Brownie tin for example, which is roughly the same measurement as the round one I suggest on the packet, then it will cook a little faster, as a square tin always holds more than a round one so the mix will spread out and be a bit shallower.
So…. I suggest using a 18-20cm square tray bake tin (or the rectangular equivalent) and taking 5-10 minutes off the baking time. Use the same temperature as on the packet but check the cake after about 20 minutes, and give it 5-10 minutes more as necessary. Hope that helps and let me know how you get on!
Love Jane x
Q. Just wanted to say how brilliant your products are. I love the cake mixes - superb results every time! The bakeware is sturdy and the cake liners help immensely. Have recently started using your online recipes which are great. Can I ask, how much cocoa powder would I need to add to the sponge mix to make it a chocolate cake please? - Helen
A. I did this just last week as I didn’t have a chocolate fudge cake mix in my cupboard (I highly recommend that, by the way, when you want a more luxurious chocolate cake). I removed about a tablespoon of the vanilla sponge mix and added a tablespoon of cocoa powder in its place. Then just proceed as usual, although you could add a tiny bit more water than as directed, as cocoa can be a little drying - either way you’ll find it turns out really well. (And to make it extra delicious, you could fill and top it with a tub of my ready made chocolate frosting). So very pleased you enjoy the mixes: I’m really proud of them! There are more in the pipeline, so keep an eye out..
Love Jane x