Cake making is not difficult but having an understanding of the
role ingredients and technique play in the quality of your finished cake
will help you to have consistent and excellent results every time.
Butter cakes consist of taking the most basic of ingredients butter,
sugar, eggs, flour, and a leavening agent (baking powder or baking soda)
and transforming them into a baked good with a wonderful taste and
There are three methods used in making butter cakes and the goal of each
method is to incorporate the maximum amount of air into the batter
(produces the volume and texture of the cake), to restrict the
development of gluten in the flour (provides tenderness, texture and
volume), and to have a uniform batter.
One Bowl, Quick or Blending Method
the three methods, the creaming method is the most common and
produces the lightest cake with the greatest volume. To
start, the butter should be unsalted, of good quality, and at room
temperature (65 - 70 degrees F) (18 - 21 degrees C). Butter that
has a high butterfat content produces more air bubbles and tends to
produce less curdling. The type of sugar used can vary by recipe from
regular granulated white sugar to superfine (castor) white sugar.
begin, place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and start beating
these two ingredients on low speed. The creaming of the
butter and sugar produces air bubbles in the fat created by the rubbing
of the sugar crystals against the fat. These holes will
get larger and multiply as you continue beating. Starting on
low speed and then gradually increasing the speed allows the air bubbles
to form and strengthen. Starting at too high a speed could
damage or break the fragile air bubbles which will cause the finished
cake to be heavy with a compact texture. The goal is to have
maximum aeration, that is, lots of air bubbles in the fat. A well
aerated batter means a cake with good volume and a soft crumb.
Beating time can range anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes so be sure to
follow your recipe.
different jobs in cake making. Butter provides flavor, tenderizes
the batter and provides volume. Sugar, on the other hand, helps to
tenderize the batter (slows down the gluten development in the flour)
but also sweetens the batter, moistens the batter which helps keep the
cake fresh, and helps with browning.
the point where the butter and sugar mixture is light and fluffy, room
temperature eggs are added. (The use of cold eggs will reduce the
volume of your finished cake. ) You may have noticed that
there may be curdling of the batter at this stage. This is
particularly so when the recipe is for a high-ratio cake (see below).
This is caused by the addition of more liquid (eggs) than the batter can
handle at one time. Once the flour has been added it will smooth
out the batter so don't worry. One solution is to add the eggs
to the batter more slowly as opposed to one egg at a time as most
recipes state. Lightly beating each egg first and then slowly
adding the egg down the side of the bowl as the mixer is running will help. If you see
curdling, stop adding the egg and beat the batter a little to smooth it
out before continuing the addition of more egg.
Eggs play a major role in cake making. Not only do they add needed
aeration to the batter, they also provide structure to the cake, help to
bind the ingredients together, keep the cake moist, add flavor, and
Once the eggs have been combined and you have a smooth batter,
flavorings, such as extracts are added. The flour is then sifted
with a leavening agent (baking powder/baking soda) and salt. This
is done not only to aerate the flour and remove any lumps, but to evenly
distribute the leavening agent and salt throughout the flour. If
the leavening agent is not evenly distributed throughout the cake
batter, holes in the baked cake can occur.
Baking powder's role is to enlarge the
bubbles created in the fat during the creaming of the fat and sugar.
flour mixture and room temperature liquid
(milk, water, etc.) are added alternately, beginning and ending with the
flour mixture to ensure a smooth and light batter. It is very
important not to overmix the batter at this point. Over mixing
will develop too much gluten in the flour and the result will be a tough
cake. Mix only to incorporate the ingredients. The first
addition of flour will be fully coated with the fat and does not form
gluten, so it is a good idea to add the largest amount of flour in the
first addition. When you add the liquid any uncoated flour will
combine with the liquid and form gluten. Continue adding the flour
and liquid alternately, making sure you mix on low speed just until
blended. This will enable enough gluten to develop to provide
structure but not enough to make a heavy and compact cake.
Liquids are used in butter cakes to dissolve the salt and sugar, to add
color and richness, and to not only moisten and therefore activate the
baking powder/baking soda in the batter, but to also create steam when
the cake batter placed in the oven so the cake will rise and reach its full volume.
one bowl or quick method produces a cake which is very moist,
dense, with a fine and velvety texture. As the name implies, this
method is faster and easier than the creaming method as the creaming
step of the butter and sugar is eliminated. All the dry
ingredients are first put into a mixing bowl and then soft butter and a
little liquid are added. This is thoroughly beaten together and
then the eggs, flavoring, and remaining liquid are added. Since
the liquid is added after the butter and flour are combined, it reduces
the gluten formation in the flour because the fat has had a chance to
coat all the flour before the toughening action from the liquid can take
place. This is why this method produces a melt-in-your-mouth cake
(less gluten is formed). However, using the one bowl method does
not produce a cake with as much volume as the creaming method.
This is because the butter tends to melt into the batter, so it doesn't
form as many air bubbles needed for maximum volume as in the
creaming method. The temperature of the ingredients plus the
mixing speed are very important with this method so be sure to follow
your recipe's instructions.
combination method is when whipped egg whites are added to the
creamed ingredients. This method gives additional volume and light
texture to your cake. Some recipes that call for the creaming
method can be changed to this method by simply separating the eggs,
beating the whites separately with a little of the recipe's sugar, and
then adding the whites to the finished batter.
With all three methods, once the batter is mixed it is then placed in
greased and floured pan(s) (sometimes lined with parchment paper).
The batter should fill approximately 1/2 to 2/3 of the cake pan(s) to
allow room for the batter to expand. See the
Pan Sizes page if you wish to change the
size of the pans called for in your recipe. If you have a problem
with over browning of the edges of your cake, you can place reusable
Bake-Even Strips (available at most cake supply stores) around the
outside of the cake pans. Make sure you take into account that
dark and/or dull colored pans absorb more heat than aluminum and/or
shiny pans and therefore the batter will bake faster. Lower the
oven temperature by 25 degrees F if using a glass pan to
prevent over browning.
affects both the
texture and look of the cake. How hot the oven temperature
determines how long it takes for the batter to set. The longer it
takes for the eggs, milk and flour to coagulate, the more time the air
cells in the batter have to grow larger and produce volume in the cake.
Too hot and the outer edges of the cake will set before the middle has a
chance to fully bake. This is why it is important to have an
accurate oven temperature. Having a free standing oven thermometer
in your oven will give you a proper reading on temperature as some ovens
are not calibrated properly.
oven should always be preheated about 15 minutes before placing the pans
in the oven. If baking more than one layer at a time, arrange the
cake pans so they are about 2 inches (5 cm) apart and 2 inches (5 cm)
from the sides of the oven. This ensures adequate air circulation
and promotes even baking. Do not open the oven door, especially
during the first 15 minutes of baking, as the oven temperature drops
about 25 degrees F every time the oven door is opened.
Butter cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center of the
cake comes out clean. Remove the baked cake from the oven and cool
on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before releasing.
There are formulas for butter cakes that professionals follow and
deviations from these formulas of about 20% can be supported. This
is why you have so many different recipes for one type of cake.
Some alterations in using eggs can be made. Egg whites and yolks
play different roles in cake making and changes in the balance of whites
and yolks will affect the baked cake. For example, in layer cakes
you can replace one whole egg with either 2 egg yolks or else 1 1/2 egg
whites to change the texture. Using yolks will produce a more
flavorful cake with a darker color, but a cake with less structure.
Using whites will produce a softer cake because egg whites do not firm
up as much as egg yolks when baked. Types of fats (butter,
margarine, shortening), sugars (regular, superfine or brown) and flours
(all-purpose or cake) used also affect the cake.
you have a recipe that is not working compare it to these
formulas to see if there may be a problem with the proportions of the ingredients
in the recipe. These formulas are from Shirley O. Corriher's
CookWise. This is an excellent book that not only has great
recipes but also explains the science of cooking and baking. For additional help check the
Troubleshooting Butter Cakes
regular butter cake:
- Weight of
sugar is equal or less than weight of flour
- Weight of eggs
is equal or greater than weight of fat
- Weight of
liquids (egg and milk) is equal to weight of flour
high ratio butter cake:
- Weight of
sugar is equal or greater than weight of flour
- Weight of eggs
is greater than weight of fat
- Weight of
liquid (egg and milk) is equal or greater than weight of sugar
Leavening: (This is a general
guideline as the other ingredients used in a recipe also affect the
amount of baking powder/baking soda used.)
1 - 1 1/4
teaspoons of baking powder for each cup of flour
teaspoon baking soda for each cup of flour