Problem one: My oven is ferocious – I’ve tried turning it down but my cakes still catch around the edge.

Jo's solution: You could try soaking an old tea towel, then wrap it around the cake tin and secure it with a safety pin. Stand the cake tin on a baking tray and stay in the kitchen whilst baking for safety reasons. This helps protect the tin from the heat giving you a much more even bake.


Problem two: My cake always sinks in the middle

Jo's solution: It sounds like you could be over-working the batter if you use a stand mixer. Or it might be because you've under-baked your cakes because your oven is running slowly. A simple way to solve this is to buy an oven thermometer.


Problem three: My cake recipe requires self-raising flour but I only have plain.

Jo's solution: You can convert it by using baking powder. Try 2 tsp baking powder per 150g of flour.

Problem four: I’ve over-mixed my cake batter

Jo's solution: I'd start again, as even if you do manage to rescue it, it will be heavy and not as nice.

Problem five: My cake is flat like a cushion

Jo's solution: It sounds like your self-raising flour or baking powder could be out of date, check the dates.

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Problem six: My sponge cake is uneven in height

Jo's solution: Try the teatowel trick again - the damp fabric swaddling the tin will encourage even heat distribution.


Problem seven: I find it hard to line a cake tin

Jo's solution: I use a cake release spray instead. You use it in place of greaseproof paper or baking parchment - you just need to brush the spray over the tin and the cake should come out easily.

Problem eight: My banana bread comes out of the oven standing tall – then it sinks as it cools

Jo's solution: It sounds like you’re using too much raising agent. If the recipe calls for a teaspoon, it should be level, not heaped.


Problem nine: My cupcakes always separate from the cases when cooking

Jo's solution: You're overworking the batter. Do you find the bottom of the cases oily? If so, you can add some dried rice into each of the muffin tin holes. This will absorb the oil and help the cases stay around the cakes.

Problem ten: My scones are hard

Jo's solution: Once you’ve added the wet ingredients to the dry ones, you activate the raising ingredient. From this point the more you work the dough the heavier the scone will become. I find patting the dough into an oblong and cutting the scones with a knife works better than using a cutter, as you won’t need to keep rerolling the dough to cut out the scones.

More from Jo Wheatley...

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Chocolate layer cake with passion fruit icing

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