Why we love CAKE?
We love Cake for its fluffiness, its moisture, its height and flavor. A cake is a monumental airy, fluffy thing. Cake Science seems very complex at first but it’s mostly one thing: leavening factors! That’s what makes a cake growing in the oven and hold a shape. A cake becomes a cake as we know it, thanks to AIR and chemicals, for the most part.
Helping a Cake Rise!
We incorporate air bubbles into our eggs, getting them a volume 5X times the original size
When we “cream” butter at room temperature, we’re also incorporating air. Microscopic air bubbles form, those tiny bubbles boost the cake up inside the oven
Eggs yolks add fat. Egg whites, in the other hand, are 90% water and water become steam inside the oven, did y’a know steam can help expand your batter 110X times when inside the oven? Incredible fact, isn’t?
Old fashion Cakes, the first cakes used yeast as a leavener. Coming from single live organisms, yeast feeds on sugar, it loves warmth and its burp and farting help leaven a cake, I actually find that funny (no comments)
Rising through yeast is a process that takes time and mastery of specific conditions, otherwise one could easily spoil the living yeast
Trying to avoid yeast, chemical leaveners started to gain popularity. English and French gents and ladies got sick and tired of the sour taste of yeast (this was around XVIII Century in Europe)
First, the French Academy came up with something called Potash or Wood-Ash. Around 1790 Baking Soda appears changing forever the world of bakers and bakeries. Baking Soda reacts with acidic elements like Lemon Juice or other citric juices and this reaction creates bubbles that help rising a cake. Baking Powder came around 1800, as a way to avoid allergies to yeast. Invented in England, it incorporated Baking Soda and a very acidic powder found in old wine barrels (A kind of must, cream of tartar)
There are two types of Baking Powder commonly used, Single Acting and Double Acting: single acting just needs any liquid to react. Double Acting needs heat, and that’s all! All chemical leaveners we use help a cake rising fast and effectively and have been used for over 200 years already
Ingredients of a Classic Cake, why?
Baking Powder/Baking Soda + Lemon
Everyone wonders at some point what happens if one skips sugar in a cake recipe, or eggs, or butter, or flour. Every element in the cake recipe has a key importance. Get an idea:
Egg Yolks for example, emulsify your batter. Oil and water don’t mix, but thanks to the egg yolks you can obtain a homogeneous batter when you mix your ingredients. Egg yolks are very helpful for mouthfeel, texture, smoothness and richness in flavor
Egg Whites add moisture, there are composed of mainly water and this creates a steam that is vital to help a cake rise and have structure. Protein contained in the egg whites holds the water element of your cake, making it stretchy but not snappy. Who would have thought? haa
Flour holds it all together. Picture a cake in your head as compared to a skyscraper: flour to the cake is what cement/ concrete is to the building. Flour holds oils and sugar together.
There are 3 main types of Flour used for baking, Cake Flour, Bread Flour and AP Flour. Bread Flour has a higher content of protein, is a very “heavy” flour, and cake flour is the lightest
Water combined with flour gives elasticity to a cake. Although a cake needs stretchiness you don’t want a lot of gluten in your cake, that’s why Cake Flour is ideal in this case. Otherwise a cake would be too chewy. AP Flour can be used as well for cakes, has a balanced content of protein, in between Cake Flour and Bread Flour.
Butter helps with taste, mouthfeel, it creates a protective coat around the flour. Isolating flour from humidity, it literally coats the particles of flour
Sugar is very important in cakes, it adds the sweet flavor, but also helps with moisture levels in a cake. It attracts water and cuts gluten activation as well, especially if is creamed with butter. It brings tenderness, caramelizes and adds color
The Chemical leavening give a boost to you fluffy, moist, well-structured cake
What happens if you miss ingredients in your Cake?
A cake without Baking Powder / Baking Soda: It’s very dense, gummy, sticky, and it tastes sour, it feels like a sour block
A cake without the “creaming” method (if you just add melted fat butter): Is still okay, but it will taste like a cake from a box. It will lack the freshness and tenderness
A cake with half of the Sugar: It will feel eggy; it will be more a pancake than a cake
If you don’t try to incorporate air or leaven your cake: You’ll obtain more a Pound cake, it will taste a bit like meringue
Classical Birthday Cake Tips
Always cream your butter (room temp) and sugar together, until the mixture is very pale
Then add Egg whites fluffed in small portions
Add Egg Yolks one by one for extra emulsion
Use Buttermilk if you can, using the so called “3-2” method. Adding 1/3 of your dry ingredients followed by 1/3 of your buttermilk, keep repeating this process and finish with 1/3 of the dry ingredients
-Freshness of the eggs determines a lot in the rising a cake, the fresher the eggs the more a cake will rise
-An oven will never help you fix a problem with your recipe, anything that enters the oven is somehow “in the lap of the Gods”. Ovens are temperamental and the baker needs the recipes to be perfected before entering an oven. Never expect the oven “fixes” an odd shape or mistake.