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Mary Berry answers your cookery questions

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Mary Berry Mary Berry | 17:13 UK time, Friday, 3 September 2010

Thanks for all your baking questions on the Q&A messageboard. I hope the answers below help! Do watch The Great British Bake Off next Tuesday evening.

Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry in Great British Bake Off


I would like to know why it is important not to over-mix when making muffins. I have only made a few attempts because I am always so disappointed with the results.

It's best to make a fairly moist mixture and only mix until all the ingredients are combined and of a smooth consistency. Over-mixing gives a poor rise and a dense texture.

Can you give details of your recipe for lemon curd tart?

I do not have a recipe for lemon curd tart, but here's my lemon tart.

I'd like to know what you would bake for afternoon tea or high tea?

I would serve a selection of cakes, scones and small sandwiches for afternoon tea. High tea is usually served between 5pm and 6pm, replacing an evening meal - it is more substantial.

What Christmas cake recipe do you use at home please? I usually bake mine late September, so will need to decide which recipe to use this year.

Here's my Christmas cake recipe. Making your Christmas cake in September is perfect, as too fresh a cake crumbles when cut.

I have recently started making my own shortcrust pastry, using my food processor, plain flour and 50/50 lard and butter, plus enough chilled water to bind together. The pastry turns out ok, and I chill it for 20 minutes before rolling it out, but when I roll it out it keeps cracking round the edges, and I have to patch it up as best as I can. What am I doing wrong?

Try adding either a little more water or one large egg to every 175g flour, instead of water.

I have been pretty well taught to make cakes and am good at it. I have to be... I enjoy eating them too much! I want to ask you to give some advice about the other end of the spectrum - what would be a cake-making challenge?

I would try either a genoese sponge or sachertorte. They're both technically tricky to do.

Do you have 'the best' chocolate cake recipe, please and could you also suggest a suitable filling/icing? I'd be much obliged - and so would my family!

Here is my very best chocolate cake recipe with ganache icing.

I always use the all-in-one method and an electric beater for sponges. A couple of times recently I have heard about overbeating sponge mixtures - a new one on me. What happens if one overbeats, and how do you know when to stop? Also, on the rare occasions when I do use the creaming method, generally for Christmas cake, does it really matter if the mixture curdles? I have had uncurdled and curdled mixes - when I got bored and put the rest of the eggs in too quickly - and there really does not seem to be a difference to the end result.

If you overbeat in an all-in-one method cake the result will be a close textured sponge and won't rise as much. In the case of a fruit cake - whether one made by the creaming method or the all-in-one method - curdling or overbeating doesn't matter so much because of the density of the fruit.

I love baking but my attempts at sponge cakes always come out looking too flat. My mum's are always perfect. We have even attempted doing the same recipe next to each other - my mum's came out great, mine did not! Am I whisking or beating too much? Or am I doing something else wrong?

Watch me making a Victoria sandwich carefully and study closely what your mother does. If you're making flat cakes, it generally means you're overbeating.

Baking expert Mary Berry is appearing on BBC Two's The Great British Bake Off.
Get more inspiration for cake-making with Get Baking. Mary has also written about how to make great cakes for a cake stall. She was interviewed about judging The Great British Bake Off for the BBC TV blog.

Listen to Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood answer baking questions on Women's Hour on Radio 4. Get all the recipes from The Great British Bake Off.



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