In this tutorial, I'll teach you not only how to fold in baking, but why it is so important to do it properly and not just "stir" or "mix" when a recipe calls for us to use the folding method.
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"Folding" in baking defined...
The "folding" technique actually gets it's name from...you guessed it...the action you perform when doing this technique properly of "folding" the batter over itself. This technique is used to incorporate a particular ingredient evenly into your batter. But in this case, the recipe author wants the mixing done in a more gentle manner than your typical "stirring" technique would allow.
The most common ingredients you fold into your batters are whipped egg whites and flour.
The most common types of batters you fold those ingredients into are anything that has been whipped and is holding a lot of air, or something that we want to be really careful not to over-mix.
Why "folding" instead of "stirring?"
The "cut, scrape, flip, and fold" action that is "folding" in a nutshell, allows us to fully and properly incorporate an ingredient into our batter, without deflating it's cloud-like texture any more than we have to.
There are endless recipes types that commonly use the folding technique. Some of the most common are sponges (like the sponge cake in our Strawberry Trifle), meringues, and even Belgian waffles made with whipped egg whites for an extra light and fluffy texture.
Equipment you'll need...
(Pssst…if you're ready to just get folding, get all the details in the recipe card below!)
- A big, wide, shallow bowl: this is the ideal shape of bowl for folding as deeper mixing bowls can make executing this technique properly a little tricky.
- A big spatula: the larger the surface area of your spatula, the better it will be for folding. It's helpful if it has a little flex to it as well.
The 4 steps of folding...
I like to break folding down into four simple actions that ultimately lead to a smooth fold and overall circular motion you'll repeat as many times as needed to blend in your ingredients. Those 4 stages actions are cut, scrape, flip, and of course, fold! So let's get to it...
- Cut: use your spatula to cut through the center of the batter like a knife.
- Scrape: flatten your spatula (parallel to your countertop) then scrape it up the bottom and side of the bowl to the top lip.
- Flip: start to flip the spatula over so the broad face towards the inside of the bowl becomes the bottom.
- Fold: while flipping, move your spatula back over top the center of the bowl, "folding" that batter you pulled up the side of the bowl, over the top of the mixture.
- Repeat: rotate your bowl a few inches and repeat until everything is thoroughly combined.
Let's watch the full video tutorial!
So that's the steps in a nutshell (I promise...it sounds more complicated then it is and you'll have the hang of it in no time)! But let's check out the video tutorial below to see it all in action...
*Expert Tips and Tricks* to help you fold like a pro...
What's the TOP TIP for perfecting the folding technique?
This one's easy - patience! Mixing by folding frequently takes longer than if you just stirred in that same ingredient. But that's what we have to do to produce the best final product. So even if you feel like it's taking a while for the ingredient to fully blend in, stay calm and fold on, and you will be rewarded!
What happens if I just stir in the ingredient instead?
While it will depend a little on your specific recipe, stirring instead of folding will lead to two likely outcomes. Firstly, your product will probably not rise as high, and secondly, you product's texture will likely be denser as well.
Do you have to fold with a spatula?
Technically no, but 99% of the time, a flat spatula with a little bend and large surface area will definitely be the way to go. On a very rare occasion, I will actually use a whisk fold technique, which follows exactly the same motion as a traditional spatula fold, but you just do it while holding a large whisk. This is something I often do when adding the flour into my Fudge Brownies, as it allows quick, thorough mixing, while preventing over-mixing of this very thick batter that needs a bit more oomph than a traditional spatula fold offers.
Recipes for practice...
A great recipe to start practicing your folding technique on is a sponge cake like you'll find in our Fresh Mint Strawberry Trifle recipe, so get to baking!
⭐ If you gave this recipe a try please give it a ⭐ rating and tag me on Instagram @mint.and.mallow.kitchen so I can see what you're baking up! ⭐
How to "Fold" in Baking
- A big, wide, shallow bowl
- A big spatula
- 1 batch of your batter
- ingredients to be folded in, fully prepped (melted, sifted, etc.)
- Cut: holding your spatula so its broad face is to the left and the right (it looks like a skinny line from the top), cut down into the middle of your batter to the bottom of the bowl, using the spatula almost like a knife.
- Scrape: turn your hand towards the bottom of the bowl and rotate the spatula so it's flat (under the batter), and laying on the bottom of the bowl essentially. Then scrape up the side of the bowl from the bottom to the top lip.
- Flip: start to flip the spatula over so the broad face on the inside of the bowl becomes the bottom.
- Fold: while flipping, move your spatula back over top the center of the bowl, so the flipping and re-center motions essentially "folds" that batter you pulled up the side of the bowl, over the top of the mixture.
- Repeat: rotate your bowl a few inches so your next pass is shifted over from your first, and repeat this process as many times as needed (making sure you scrape the bottom of the bowl well on each pass), until everything is thoroughly combined.