Imagine that you have made every cake recipe there is at least a dozen times. Honestly there's nothing new out there. You're so bored with baking but you love baking.
What do you do?
Create your own recipe.
How do you go about creating your own recipe?
Firstly, learn the rules and then break them.
In previous posts I've told you to follow the recipe, and that's true. the first time you make something you should follow the recipe as it's set out, but it's ok to make changes once you know what it's supposed to look like.
I have recreated and changed recipes all of my working life in the food industry. I was a New Product Development Technologist. I would get a request to create a new product based on a gap in the market.
The first thing I did was look at lots of similar recipes to the product I wanted to make.
Then I had to go away and make the product according to the recipes. Exactly as they appeared. A team of people would taste the options and decide whether any of them fit the product profile, or they would suggest changes. I then go and make up a recipe based on the things they liked and didn't like.
There was a lot of tooing and froing until they were happy.
But that's not the end of the story. This recipe is ok in the kitchen but it has to now work on an industrial scale. This recipe had to be scaled up from making 1 product to making thousands or even millions.
This isn't as straight forward as you think. Yes you use a calculator to work out the new quantities, but a factory doesn't have a pan on a stove to brown the meat or fry the onions.
I had to know how the equipment worked and how ingredients react with each other in larger quantities. I had to know what affect it would have if ingredients couldn't be added in the same order as when I made the one product in my kitchen.
I had to know the rules and then figure out a way to make them work in the factory.
Creating a new recipe at home is pretty much the same process.
I'm going to use the example of Manchester Tart. It was a staple pudding in schools when I was a kid. Practically everyone who lives in this area has had it at some point in there life (at least those of us who are a certain age).
Manchester tart is made up of sweet shortcrust pastry, a layer of raspberry jam, a layer of custard, topped with desiccated coconut and a cherry.
I was looking for a new recipe to add to my market menu. I'd made all of the usual suspects - Victoria sponge, Coffee & Walnut, Chocolate cake, but I wanted something that no-one else was selling. I didn't just suddenly think "I know, I'll make Manchester tart into a cake version". I talked to my customers, just random conversations, but Manchester Tart kept coming up when people were reminiscing about things they loved as a kid but you don't see it on the menu any more. Bingo!
I went to the usual sources for recipes : Google, Mary Berry, Delia, Nigella, but I couldn't find a recipe for Manchester Tart Cake. My cake had to contain all of the elements or flavours you get in a Manchester Tart, but be a cake. I am a cake maker not a tart maker, besides, my pastry is rubbish!
Where was the custard part going to come from?
It had to be something I could add to a basic cake batter and taste just like custard. It had to be the same colour too. I knew that I could replace some of the flour in the same way that you do for chocolate cake. The ingredient I used had to be something that wouldn't react with any of the other ingredients in such a way that it completely changes the outcome. Real custard was not an option because I wouldn't be able to keep it chilled whilst selling it. What's the next best way to make custard - Bird's Custard Powder! It's made from cornflour so it could be used to replace the flour that I was going to take out. It was the right flavour and the right colour.
I didn't know how much I should add. If I take too much flour out I will lose the raising agent properties of flour. If I didn't add enough I wouldn't get the flavour and appearance.
I used the recipe for chocolate cake to gauge the initial quantity. I didn't change any of the other ratios needed for a sponge cake and it worked! The resulting sponge smelled and tasted like custard, with the added bonus of being the same colour because of the colour already in the powder.
The next step was to give the cake the same layers as the tart.
The cake was replacing the pastry element. I could have just added a layer of raspberry jam, covered it with desiccated coconut and it would have given me what I was looking for. But I like things to look wow-tastic, not just ok. The other thing I could add was buttercream.
The buttercream had to give the same flavour and colour as the sponge otherwise it would look out of place. I took the standard buttercream recipe and added the same custard powder I had added to the sponge cake. Again I used the same quantities as for chocolate buttercream, and it worked. I had mix the custard powder with milk just like you do when you are making custard at home, to make sure it mixed into the buttercream evenly. the buttercream was just right.
The recipe I have given you is for the resulting Manchester Tart Cake I wanted. My customers loved it and loved telling me it tasted just how they remember Manchester Tart tasting.
The great thing about this cake was that I had something no-one else had. I had developed my own recipe using all of my knowledge about cake ingredients and design techniques.
I knew the rules but I changed them to fit what I wanted.
Sometimes things go wrong and that's ok, just eat the evidence and try again!