Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.
Today: Our foremothers were on to something -- Alice explains why we should ditch our metal cake testers.
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I’ve always heard that our foremothers used broom straws to test cakes. I’m not old enough (or perhaps rural enough) to have actually seen this done, but I have always trusted that the straws used to test cakes were clean and had not yet been turned into a broom, or, if a straw was plucked from a working broom, it was the top end that was used for cake testing rather than the sweeping end.
Today, a wooden toothpick or skinny bamboo skewer (such as those used for making satay) is my cake tester of choice. Forget those metal things sold as “cake testers”. I would rather pluck a broom straw from (the clean end of) a working broom than use one of those.
Here’s why: Different types of cakes require different kinds of “doneness”. For some brownies and gooey chocolate tortes we might want the cake tester to come out with moist crumbs or a bit of thickened (not too runny) batter, for other cakes we may be looking for a clean dry tester or a moist-but-clean tester. Moisture shows, and batter and moist crumbs are more likely to cling to a straw or wooden tester. Metal testers are too slippery -- they don’t reveal as much of what is really going on inside the cake as a toothpick, or bamboo skewer, or (probably) a clean broom straw!
Alice's new book Seriously Bitter Sweet is a complete revision of her IACP award-winning Bittersweet, updated for the 54%, 61%, and 72% (and beyond) bars available today. It's packed with tricks, techniques, and answers to every chocolate question, plus 150 seriously delicious recipes -- both savory and sweet.
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).