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Everything you ever wanted to know about simple sugar syrup for cakes and cupcakes, including how to make and flavour the syrup, why and when you should use it on your cakes and how to use it.
If youre a regular reader you may recall that a while back I wrote a short post with 5 tips to help keep your cakes moist. It was never really intended to be an important post on the blog, it was more of a quick filler post between a couple of bigger tutorial posts I was working on. But it turned out to be really popular people clearly want to know how to avoid a dry cake. And who can blame them? Despite my dislike of the m word, I too enjoy a nice moist cake.
After all, I like my humour dry and my cakes moist.
One of the tips I gave in that post was to use a simple syrup on your cake layers, and quite a few people asked me to elaborate on that. And as they say, go big or go home. So here is what Im not-so-humbly calling The Ultimate Guide to Sugar Syrup for Cakes.
Syrups of all kinds are used a lot on cakes in bakeries and patisseries, but many home bakers have never heard of them or have heard of them but still dont know how you actually go about making them or using them on a cake.
Using sugar syrup on cakes is far from a new or novel idea, pastry chefs have been doing it for years. Probably for as long as there have been pastry chefs. They do it both to help keep the cake moist, and to add extra flavour. And those are all great reasons why its also an excellent addition to any home bakers repertoire.
Theyre also very useful in cake decorating, both for keeping the cake moist while spending time decorating it (also super useful for keeping naked cakes from drying out!) but you can also use the syrup to adhere some cake decorations or to make fondant stick to ganache.
Im going to try and cover everything that you need to know about simple syrup for cakes in this post, but if theres one thing in particular that youre looking for, then heres a handy table of contents for you so you can skip to where you need to go.
Table of contents
Lets rip into it with a quick FAQ so you have all the info you need before we talk about flavours.
Sugar Syrup FAQ
HOW DO I MAKE SIMPLE SYRUP FOR CAKES?
Ive got the recipe card for you with all the details below, but making the syrup is really as simple as the name: equal parts water and sugar are boiled together to dissolve the sugar, and once its cooled to room temperature you can brush it on each layer of your cake as youre filling it. It is so easy and foolproof (as long as you dont burn yourself) to make that, *gasp!*, Im even giving youcup measurementsin the recipe.
WHY DO I NEED TO USE SUGAR SYRUP FOR CAKES?
Needis a strong word, but there are several reasons why you may want to add syrup to your cakes. You may have slightly over-baked your cake and had it end up a bit dry. In this case, the syrup will replace the lost moisture.
HOW MUCH SIMPLE SYRUP DO I USE ON A CAKE?
This really depends on the size of your cake layers, but lets say between one to three tablespoons per layer. Youre really just trying to moisten the top of the cake layer, and the syrup will soak in, moistening the whole layer as the cake sits.
WILL ADDING SUGAR SYRUP MAKE MY CAKE TOO SWEET?
I wont say that it doesnt add any sweetness to the cake, its made from sugar, after all. But no, it wont make your cake sickly. Its a thin layer of syrup, and the actual amount of sugar that will be added to each layer is pretty small.
DOES SYRUP MAKE CAKE SOGGY?
Only if you add too much. If youre concerned about this happening, then make sure youre only adding a thin layer of syrup, and check your first cake layer to make sure the syrup is soaking in fully before you add your icing and continuing to layer up your cake.
How Do I Put the Syrup on the Cake?
Youve got a few options here, and you can do whichever you find easiest. I generally just use a pastry brush to brush the syrup onto each layer as Im filling the cake.You could also use a spray bottle, and spray each layer. I show you both of those options in the video. Some people also like to put their syrup into a squeeze-y bottle like the kind used in cookie decorating. Whichever you choose, the rest of the process is the same.
Step One:Split your cake/s into multiple layers. Most of the cakes I make have four layers of cake and three layers of filling.
Step Two:Use your pastry brush, spray or squeeze bottle to apply your syrup. If the cake is already moist, then a thin layer of syrup should be sufficient you dont want your cake drowning in moisture. If your cake is on the drier side, then add a bit more. Youre really just aiming for the syrup to comfortably soak into the cake, dont add so much that it pools on the surface and cant soak in.
Step Three:Add a layer of your cake filling. Repeat until your cake is all layered up.
Check out the video to see how to apply the syrup with a brush or spray bottle, and it will also give you an idea of how much syrup to put on each layer.
Now that those questions are covered, lets have a look at the recipe, and then scroll down for ways to flavour this basic simple syrup.
Basic Syrup Recipe
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Sugar Syrup Recipe for Cakes
Yield: 2 cups
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
A basic sugar syrup recipe for moistening cakes. See the rest of the blog post below for over a dozen different ideas to flavour your syrup!
Combine sugar and water in a medium-sized saucepan. Place over medium-high heat, and stir until most of the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, and allow to boil for 2-3 minutes, until all of the sugar has dissolved. If there are a lot of sugar crystals on the side of the pan, brush them off with a pastry brush dipped in water. Allow the syrup to cool before using.
Use a clean pastry brush or small spray bottle to apply the syrup to each of your cake layers as you fill your cake.
Basic simple syrup can be stored for several months in an airtight container, jar or bottle in the refrigerator. Syrups that have fresh ingredients like fruit added to them won't keep as long, usually only a week or two.
I like to use caster sugar to make syrup as it dissolves faster, but regular granulated sugar will also work just fine. Golden or unrefined sugars are also great for syrup as they add a slight caramel flavour.
If applying your syrup with a pastry brush, it's a good idea to pour a small amount of syrup into another container or cup and dip your brush into that - this way you won't get crumbs in the rest of your syrup.
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© Natalie | Sweetness and Bite
Cuisine: American / Category: Baking Tips
Ways to Flavour Sugar Syrup for Cakes:
This is the bit where it starts to really get fun and creative. You can flavour the syrup in so many ways to compliment your cake. The options are endless, but I thought Id put together a bit of a list to give you some ideas. Most of the options start with the basic syrup recipe, but a few have extra tweaks.
Vanilla really is the ultimate flavour base for any dessert, and syrup for cakes is no exception. It will complement almost any cake flavour.
Youve got several options for getting vanilla flavour into your syrup. One option is to addvanilla extractto your cooled simple syrup. Another is to add vanilla paste. A teaspoon of either will do the trick. If you happen to have vanilla pods on hand you could use them instead, just split open one pod and add it to the syrup once the sugar has dissolved. Let it boil for a minute, then remove the pot from the heat and leave the syrup to cool with the pod in it.
You can even store leftover syrup with the vanilla bean still in it, just pour the whole lot into a bottle or jar with a lid. The flavour will continue to infuse.
Ahh, citrus. Fresh and (maybe hopefully) tart, there is nothing like a lovely lemon cake, or a bit of lime to add a little zing to your day. Youve got a couple of options here, you can add the grated zest to the syrup, or replace some of the water with freshly squeezed juice.
If you need a bit of pep in your step or your cake coffee syrup could be just the thing.
Its hard to go past the fresh flavour of peppermint with the rich smooth flavour of chocolate. You can make a simple peppermint flavoured syrup to use on your next chocolate cake by adding a few drops of peppermint flavouring oil or extract to your simple syrup. Youll have to taste it and check it is minty enough as peppermint oils and extract tend to vary in strength. You want it minty, not toothpaste-y.
Liqueur or Spirits
To give your cakes a kick, try spiking your syrup with a little alcohol. Im a huge fan ofAmaretto liqueur with chocolate cakeand Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) is fab with chocolate as well. Or try Cointreau syrup with a citrus flavoured cake, or Kahlua syrup with a coffee cake.
Fancy some honey in your syrup, sweetie?
This one is handy if youve baked a chocolate cake that hasnt turned out quite as chocolate-y as you would have liked. This chocolate syrup a nice rich ganache or chocolate buttercream, and youll have the chocolate overload cake of your dreams.
Ginger can be an acquired taste, but this ginger syrup will go fabulously with any spice-flavoured cake or even a rich, dark chocolate cake for all those dark choc + ginger lovers out there.
If I had my way, my body weight would be about 85% caramel. If you feel the same, try this caramel syrup on your next cake. It adds a nice rich flavour to almost any cake flavour.
Caramels extra buttery cousin. You know, that cousin youve always liked more than the other cousins. Becausebutter.
Fruit Flavoured Syrups
Yeah this is a pretty broad one because there are a million* different fruits in the world but you can adjust and adapt this in any way that you like, these are just some ideas for fruit flavoured cake syrups
Keep in mind that syrups with fresh or frozen fruit added to them generally dont keep for as long, I would say a week or two in the fridge, max.
*possibly a slight exaggeration for effect, I have not actually counted the number of fruits in the world.
There are few flavours as warming as a little chai spice on a cold day. Or a hot day, because chai is delicious anytime. You can make it with or without actual tea in it, depending on what youre using it for. Remember you can adjust the types and amounts of spices to suit your own tastes.
If the thought of chai syrup on a cake has you craving a cup of chai, my friend Elien has a homemade chai latte syrup recipe thatll be sure to keep your heart warm.
Another broad subject, but one worth discussing as there are so many different flavoured extracts available these days. Everything from fruit flavours to bubblegum and cotton candy, you can pretty much find an extract or oil to match any cake. I personally like theLorAnn rangeof flavouringsbut there are many different brands available.
Since flavouring extracts and oils vary in strength, youll need to add them to taste. The LorAnn flavours are super concentrated, so add them a drop or two at a time.
So there you have it, (hopefully) everything you ever wanted to know about sugar syrup for cakes (and maybe even some stuff you didnt know you wanted to know).
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