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cake help
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climbeyalex



Joined: 22 Nov 2005
Posts: 92

PostPosted: Sat May 19, 2007 4:33 pm    Post subject: cake help Reply with quote

I need help with cakes. No matter how I try, they always turn out rather solid, crumbly, quite dense, sometimes dry and nothing like the nice light spongy ones I get in the shops. Or see on TV. Or see in books. And they tend to have these weird tastes to them. Sometimes it's rather eggy, sometimes it's a bit...chalky. I follow the recipes to a t I swear. Or see on TV. Or see in books. Anyone has any ideas? Because I've hit my high school chemistry books and still, no help. I'm beginning to eyeball those cake stabiliser things they sell in the bake shops.
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Last edited by climbeyalex on Mon Feb 07, 2011 12:30 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Erin



Joined: 18 Oct 2004
Posts: 1654
Location: Within view of Elliot Bay, The Olympics and every ship in the Sound

PostPosted: Sat May 19, 2007 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I'm not quite sure what you're doing wrong, but I have a great recipe that may you. I used to be a terrible baker and cakes were the worst. I found this recipe in Organic Style magazine and it changed my world. This recipe is so simple and a little different. I think that's why it worked for me. I didn't include a frosting recipe, because I usually dust it with cocoa or a light glaze.

Simple Chocolate Cake
Serves 8

8 TBS butter
3 TBS cocoa
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350F. Melt butter, along with the cocoa and water over low heat. Remove from heat ,cool, then whisk in buttermilk, egg and vanilla.
Sift dry ingredients together into a bowl, then add cocoa mixture and whisk together. Pour into a greased and floured 9inch round cake pan. Bake until the center is springy, about 30 minutes.
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sweetbabyjames



Joined: 05 May 2006
Posts: 357

PostPosted: Sat May 19, 2007 6:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's hard to say what the odd flavors might be...as for the texture, is it possible you're overworking the batter? If so, try being as light-handed as you possibly can. I don't sift my flour, but I always whisk the dry ingredients thoroughly (about 60 seconds) before adding any wet ingredients by lightly "tossing" the flour mixture upward like a salad. Hopefully this will eliminate any baking powder, salt or spice lumps (maybe the sourse of odd flavors?) and also incorporate some extra air into the mix.

Then, when adding the wet stuff, just be extra careful not to overmix. Work gently, folding only until you no longer see anything dry, but don't worry about wet lumps. Once it's all wet, let it be.

Maybe this is already quite familiar to you, but heavy-handed mixing is the most common problem I've seen among beginners and old-timers alike (my mother's biscuits are like bricks, bless her. I have to resist the urge to tell her to step away from the dough!)

Hope this helps...let us know how you do!
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gingerpale



Joined: 23 Jan 2006
Posts: 1324

PostPosted: Sat May 19, 2007 6:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Be sure your oven is baking at the temperature you think it is-- check with an oven thermometer, or two! And of course (though I don't practice what I preach, and am sometimes sorry) you should weigh, not measure, flour.
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kjgibson



Joined: 15 Nov 2006
Posts: 35
Location: El Granada, CA

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2007 5:59 pm    Post subject: Re: cake help Reply with quote

In addition to all the other good advice, be sure to cream the butter & sugar enough. Use room temperature butter and get lots of air in it.
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Griffin



Joined: 09 Jun 2006
Posts: 932
Location: England

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2007 6:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for that Erin... I'm definitely going to try that one. It has two things I like about it... it's simple and it involves chocolate! What's not to like?! Very Happy
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2007 7:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Check your flour. There are more kinds of flour than you may be aware of and the wrong one makes a big difference. I wonder if you're using a self-rising flour that already has leaveners and then adding more. Too much baking powder or baking soda can result in a "soapy" flavor. Bread flour would make the texture tough from all the additional proteins and, possibly, gluten formation. Most recipes are written for all-purpose flour. Cake flour would also do fine but is harder to find these days. Cake flour unlike self-rising does not contain leaveners but is super fine and may include some corn starch that wouldn't be a prob.

The second thing that could effect the flavor is water. If you don't have good tasting water use bottled. And third would be salt. Use table or sea salt unless kosher is called for. They don't measure the same so you'll get a different result and a different flavor using kosher unless it's called for.

Finally, if the flavor is otherwise OK and it's too dry, all is not lost. Make a simple sugar (equal parts of sugar and water) add any flavor that you like (Grand Marnier, Navan, Kahlua) OR get one of those bottled syrups typically used for boosting your coffee price to over $3 and dribble or brush it over the cake to moisten and flavor it. Let it soak in and then carry on with filling, glaze, etc.

The tip above about making sure your butter and sugar are well creamed is an excellent one. Also make sure your eggs are fully combined. Many recipe specify adding them one at a time and combining well before adding the next. Always remember to beat everything EXCEPT the flour until very light and airy and fully dissolved. Once the flour goes in mix gently and only as much as necessary to combine. Over working flour can develop gluten which is excellent in bread and deadly in cake.
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charlsy



Joined: 08 Aug 2006
Posts: 136
Location: France, Bordeaux

PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2007 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have you tried putting a small dish with water in the oven ? It does make for moister cakes !
Anyway you can try this very basic yoghurt cake. No weighting, no measuring ! Easy as pie is the term I think !

1 tub of yoghurt
2 tubs of sugar
3 eggs
3 tubs of flour
1 tub of oil or melted butter (I personaly favour the butter, it gives a nicer taste and texture)
half a pack of baking powder

Start your oven, thermostat 7.

Mix the yoghurt with the sugar, then add the eggs. I use a wire whisk, some prefer the good old wooden spoon. To each his own ! You get a slightly grainy texture (from the sugar) that evens out when you mix in the eggs.
Add the flour and baking powder. You can mix them in a separate bowl, a fork works just fine. It airs the flour and spreads the baking powder evenly.
Add the oil or butter. Your batter should now be smooth. Don't overwork it !
Pour in the mould of your choice, round, square, cake mould, muffin moulds ! If using a big one, use parchment paper, you won't have to grease the mould. For muffins moulds, brush lightly with what remains of the oil/butter in your measuring tub !

Adapt the cooking time to the size : about 15 minutes for muffins, 25 to 40 for cakes. Check the colour ! When it gets golden, it's about done, it's time for the time honoured trick of stick-a-knife-in the-cake. If it comes out clean, it's done. From that moment on, if you leave your cake in the oven, it will get drier, then browner, then... well charcoal is what comes to my mind !

Take it out of the oven, let it cool a few minutes, then unmould on a cooling rack.

Now, my own very personal tips ! I add some vanilla sugar, decrease the amount of sugar to about 1 1/2 tub. For extra moistness, I add about 4 or 5 tablespoons of apple sauce. You wont feel the flavour but it does the trick, and the cake stays moist several days. If you don't eat it fast enough... Also I use about 3/4 of a tub of melted butter. Less sugar, less fat.

Then you can play : add chocolate chips, raisins, cocoa powder, candied fruits, make a half vanilla/half cocoa, substitute brown sugar for plain, or whatever takes your fancy, 1 tub of almond powder for flour, cream instead of butter. The possibilities are endless.

Respect the basic proportions of 1 yoghurt - 3 tubs of flour (or its substitute) - 3 eggs. Don't overwork the batter (the mix is ready in about 5 minutes!), don't overcook. And have fun !
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Raven



Joined: 07 Apr 2006
Posts: 46
Location: Vermont, USA

PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2007 1:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Intriguing recipe, Charlsy. For those of us on this side of the pond, could you please indicate the size of tub (8 oz, 16 oz, or whatever, even if it's in metrics--we can do the math) and also how much baking powder is in a "pack"? It would help, too, to know the chemical composition of the baking powder you are using. Different formulas work differently. Thanks!
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Nicki



Joined: 26 Jul 2006
Posts: 106
Location: England

PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2007 12:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would guess that the size of a tub doesn't really matter...it's the proportions/ratio of sugar to flour to butter etc...just as long as it fit's in the tin!

I'm rubbish at baking, but will definately give these a go:)
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Raven



Joined: 07 Apr 2006
Posts: 46
Location: Vermont, USA

PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2007 12:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Of course the proportions of most ingredients will work out regardless of the size of the tin, but the three eggs are a fixed quantity. It will make a big difference whether the eggs constitute relatively more of the batter, or relatively little of it. Hence my question. Charlsy?
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charlsy



Joined: 08 Aug 2006
Posts: 136
Location: France, Bordeaux

PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2007 4:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Raven, in answer to your questions, the standard yoghurt tub in France is 125 grams. I have tried that recipe with german yoghurt, 150 grs. The added 25 grs do not seem to make much difference regarding the proportion of eggs to the rest of ingredients. We have 3 sizes for eggs : small, medium, big. I always use medium size, about 60 grs. The bigger the egg, the older the hen, the lower the quality...

As for baking powder the standard packet here is 11 grs. I use half, so that makes about 5/6 grs. The cake rises just as well, and it eliminates that slightly acrid aftertaste you sometimes get from baking powder. As for its chemical composition, I think it's sodium bicarbonate but I'll check.

This is a very simple, and forgiving recipe, it easily accepts variations in ingredients, as long as you keep to the 1 yoghurt/3 eggs basis. I have done it by using almond paste (marzipan if you like) in place of the sugar, melted in and mixed with the yoghurt, and the result was really nice, with a slight almondy taste.

I hope that does answer your questions !
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gingerpale



Joined: 23 Jan 2006
Posts: 1324

PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2007 4:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yikes! Charlsy has stated
Quote:
The bigger the egg, the older the hen, the lower the quality..
I have never heard of this, just thought eggs (and hens) come in different sizes--like people!

Virtually ALL American recipes call for the big eggs.

Anybody out there know more about this?
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charlsy



Joined: 08 Aug 2006
Posts: 136
Location: France, Bordeaux

PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2007 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gingerpale, sorry if I scared you ! Since I hate saying something without being sure, I checked just now and found a document by a french consumer association. I had read that info in a book about eggs, but they may have been wrong ! So I give you the latest info I got, which is the exact opposite !!! I hope this time it's right...

They say that eggs tend to get smaller as the hens get older, so... Big eggs, young hens !!! I stand corrected.

Anyway, the standard size required for recipes in frencg cookbooks is the medium size ! So that medium size egg would come from a hen in the prime of her life. Of course there are size variations according to races. Maybe the american hens are bigger than the varieties we have in France. I give you our standard egg sizes :
small : less than 43 grams
medium : 53 to 63 grams
large : 63 to 73 grams
extra large : more than 63 grams

And an intriguing point : this association organized a testing to evaluate eggs. The result : the testers found no taste difference between caged-hen eggs and free-ranging-hen (industrial, semi-industrial or organic) eggs... I'm the first to be surprised by this !

Anyway, medium sized eggs for french recipes !!!
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Raven



Joined: 07 Apr 2006
Posts: 46
Location: Vermont, USA

PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2007 6:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Charlsy, thanks so much for your detailed response. Now I have the confidence to try your recipe, perhaps with some of the variations you suggest.

As for this intriguing fact:

charlsy wrote:

They say that eggs tend to get smaller as the hens get older, so... Big eggs, young hens !!!


I can't help thinking of the human corollary: Many eggs, young women!
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