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Lily Vanilli's Baking Tips

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The artisan baker’s new book vows to demystify the art of baking. We asked Stylist readers to help put it to the test

“Whhhhy? Why?” you ask, crestfallen as you pull your sunken Genoese sponge out of the oven. The law of the baking gods can be cruel, even for the most seasoned cooks, which is why we were delighted when we heard about lily Vanilli’s new book.

Stylist has watched Lily’s career soar: following her rise from market trader (selling beautifully designed cupcakes in East London) to one of the most soughtafter artisan bakers of her generation with a bakery, catering business and two books to her name. Thanks to The Great British Bake Off we’ve noticed the world’s gone a bit pie and cake crazy – not always with the best results. So we asked Lily to solve your biggest in-the kitchen problems. Bye bye soggy sponge !

Is all that step-by-step creaming of ingredients really necessary? Lynda

The end result will be quite different if you blitz it in a processor but often you get a decent enough cake. The steps ensure a lighter sponge and an even rise.

My brownies bubble like sludge every time I make a batch. Help! Jaime

Bubbling shouldn’t be a problem – but the ‘sludge’ bit sounds scarier! Check your oven temperature, and if you’re using a raising agent, try reducing the amount. I use a mix of 1/3 self-raising flour to 2/3 plain flour.

I’ve tried baked cheesecake and unbaked cheesecake, but they always seem to turn out like a flan or very dense. How can I make one that’s really light and creamy? Sarah

Try adding 100ml of sour cream to the recipe as the last ingredient, beating it in on a very low speed. I’ve also found that results vary greatly depending on the cream cheese you use, as some have a much higher water content. your best bet is to try using mascarpone.

Why do some recipes call for self-raising flour, and others plain flour with baking powder? Lucy

Baking powder allows you to have more control over the cake. To substitute for self-raising flour use 1tsp of baking powder per 120g of plain flour. Whisk together before adding to a batter.

My carrot cake is always a disaster. How can I make it lighter and avoid the greasiness? Jen

Beat the eggs and sugar together until they’re very light and fluffy. Add the oil, then use ground almonds or hazelnuts to help hold the liquid.

Lily Vanilli’s Sweet Tooth is out 6 September (£20, Canongate Books)

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