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Question regarding spices in cake


atcake
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I am in the process of making a new flavor, spiced mocha cake, kind of like a cappucino cake, using cinnamon and nutmeg, and when I took it out of the oven it smelled and tasted wonderful. About an hour later, after it was completely cooled, it still smelled and tasted good. About 2-3 hours later though, you could hardly pick up the spice flavor at all, let alone the chocolate.

My question is, how much do I need to overcompensate on the spices and cocoa powder (dutch process) to retain the flavor without having the mature cake taste too strong?

Thanks!

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One way to add a flavor is to use a spiced syrup brushed on the cake. You could steep some cinnamon sticks in a sugar syrup along with other spices (maybe use a bouquet garni bag if you are using bulky spices like star anise) or just mix the spices with the sugar before you boil it. If you might be diluting the syrup before applying it to the cake, you can make the syrup spicier than if you use it straight.

I would use an already good chocolate cake recipe and tweak it with spices than trying to re-engineer it; I'm sure if you posted the recipe people would be willing to offer suggestions but my initial inclination is to double the spice amounts you're currently using and see how that works.

Also, see what happens to this cake after you chill it overnight. You might be pleasantly surprised!

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Another way that might help is to mix the spices into the butter first. Fat is a great vessel for spreading flavor. If you are not melting the butter then maybe you could make a compound butter and then use it in the recipe as you normally would. If you are using melted butter then just add the spices to that and let it steep. I saw this technique used for adding unusual flavors to puff pastry.

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I just want to ask.....when you tasted the cake later, was it refrigerated at that point?

I always notice that cakes are NOT at their best as far as flavor and texture are concerned,

when they are cold. Room temp is always best.

I can't imagine why a cake would lose the essences of the spices as it sits.....! What a mystery.

I'd do what Jeanne suggested and brush the cake with some "amped up" syrup to make up for

the loss........

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Thanks. I don't know either :) The cake remained at room temperature and I only used about 1/2 tsp cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg. I'm thinking it just wasn't enough to hold the flavor. I didn't want to overshoot on the first try, so I'll at least double it for the next round.

Thanks for the help! I like the butter steeping idea too.

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When I use spices in my cake, for a 9oz/250gm butter recipe, I use about 1 tablespoon of spice (total).

And usually, after the cake cools down to room temperature or the day after, the taste and smell gets more pronounced *not* fade away.

Edited by JustKay (log)
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I agree that you did not use enough spice.

Compare the amount of spices that go into gingerbread, as an example, in which one wants the spice flavor to dominate.

In apple-spice cakes, they are balanced between the fruit and the spices as they are in pumpkin cake or bread, etc.

Use recipes similar to these as a take-off point for your experiments.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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My motto has always been if a little is good a lot is better. :laugh: Especially when it comes to cinnamon.

But seriously, I have a cinnamon & chocolate cake recipe here. The cayenne is spot on. You can go as high as 3/4 teaspoon without the fire alarm ringing.

However I actually use two generous tablespoons of the cinnamon. All modesty aside, I'd be embarassed to share the glowing reports I get on this cake. It's just a Texas sheet cake type fudgey cake. It comes out a real nice texture though.

If you are making mostly a spice cake with just enough chocolate for added spiceyness, then cut back a bit from two tablespoons. Ok think about any cinnamon roll--if you got a teaspoon of cinnamon in one bite that would not be a problem to your tastebuds.

I mean I'm a cinnamonaholic though. I love to eat two or three of those rip snorting strong Cinnamon Altoids at a time--take my breath away--literally--cahhhn't breathe!!!!!!! :raz:

But seriously you can ramp up the cinnamon and it's fine. Just keep the other spices balanced with it.

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Thanks for the input. I know, now that I wrote it down that it seemed silly. I only wanted a slight flavor of the cinnamon, but enough to be noticeable. I'll go higher and report back.

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I've found that the strength of spices depends a lot on how they're incorporated. Spices mixed dry into a batter don't give up nearly as much flavor as spices infused into oil.

When I started infusing cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and ginger into the butter of a pancake recipe, I had to cut the spice quantity in half to maintain the same strength of flavor.

Notes from the underbelly

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Ok, so I did another run on the cake today. I upped my cocoa powder to 1/2 cup sifted into my dry ingredients and then steeped 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg in 1/2 cup melted butter. I reheated the coffee and poured the spiced butter into it and added 2 TBS of Amoretti's Cappucino/Tiramisu compound (slightly more than the original batch), and 1TBS Kahlua to the hot liquid. Let that all set while sifting out the dry ingredients. Mixed it all together and baked.

The aroma was lovely. The whole kitchen smelled of cocoa and spices. The flavor was mild but noticeable when it came out of the oven and deepened slightly as it cooled. I let one sit on the counter and put one in the freezer. The one on the counter did deepen in flavor and the crumb was similar to a basic layer cake. The one in the freezer was pulled out and the crumb was nice and tight, almost like a pound cake. When you first bite into it, (it is still cold but not frozen) the flavor seems a little weaker, but as it moves through your mouth you can begin to pick up the subtle flavors. This is exactly the subtly that I was looking for. I'm going to let it come up to room temp and taste again. You can definitely taste all the flavors in the cake as they hit on different areas of the tongue.

We'll see how it matures overnight and it if doesn't go weak or strong, this is the recipe I'm going to work with.

Thanks for the help!

Edited by atcake (log)
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I've found that

1) incorporating spices during the creaming stage (or with any fat)

2) letting the cake age at room temperature for 2 days at room temperature or 1 week (in the refrigerator)

allows spice cakes to develop a mellow, but balanced flavor.

Be careful with heating the spices in fat because they will be heated again when the cake is baked. There is such a thing as overextraction of flavor.

I stick hard to these two rules (especially no. 2). If a client calls for a carrot cake, unless I have some already baked, I tell them no.

P.S. These rules also apply for cakes made with cocoa powder and beer.

P.P.S. JustKay has a good ratio there...depending on the spices, 1 T will work for 8-16 oz. of butter.

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2) letting the cake age at room temperature for 2 days at room temperature or 1 week (in the refrigerator)

Seriously, I mean seriously?

I stick hard to these two rules (especially no. 2). If a client calls for a carrot cake, unless I have some already baked, I tell them no.

P.S. These rules also apply for cakes made with cocoa powder and beer.

Really? I mean seriously seriously?

Age? Refrigerator?

That goes against everything I've ever learned or known about cakes, and storing them.

For me, if the cake doesn't get iced the same day it's baked, or the day after, then it goes

straight into the freezer, (well wrapped of course). Storing a cake (un-iced) in the refer just

stales it faster. :unsure:

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I find that cakes made with butter do not come back to room temperature as well as oil based cakes. So I avoid butter in a cake unless I can keep it out of the chill box. Or if I can heat it a bit in the microwave to loosen it up that works too sans icing of course. Otherwise they definitely are deemed dry when they come to room temp.

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2) letting the cake age at room temperature for 2 days at room temperature or 1 week (in the refrigerator)

Seriously, I mean seriously?

I stick hard to these two rules (especially no. 2). If a client calls for a carrot cake, unless I have some already baked, I tell them no.

P.S. These rules also apply for cakes made with cocoa powder and beer.

Really? I mean seriously seriously?

Age? Refrigerator?

That goes against everything I've ever learned or known about cakes, and storing them.

For me, if the cake doesn't get iced the same day it's baked, or the day after, then it goes

straight into the freezer, (well wrapped of course). Storing a cake (un-iced) in the refer just

stales it faster. :unsure:

All of my spice cakes are based on oil (I never noticed that until now). Actually, the only one that contains butter is my fruitcake, but that's also prepared and basted with a lacing syrup every week for 2 months so I guess that's why I've never had a problem with it.

The only reason that I brought up the refrigerator is that everyone isn't blessed with a cool environment in which to ice/store a cake. I bake and ice the same day, but sometimes, I need to refrigerate overnight. These cakes get a good dose of syrup that prevents them from getting dry and crumbly during their short duration in the refrigerator.

I think there are three reasons why cakes go stale in the refrigerator:

1) the recipe: butter hardens when chilled so, not surprisingly, chiffon cakes (and other sponge cakes) hold up better in the refrigerator than butter cakes. For this reason, I pair these cakes in my mousse tortes. The only cake that violates this rule is my chocolate cake which doesn't contain chocolate. Just butter--a lot of it--and that cake actually becomes more moist, chocolatey, and easier to handle after a couple days in the fridge. (During the summer months, refrigeration is a necessity as this cake is so moist that it can go sour quickly.) It also contains a lot of sugar to play off the bitterness of the cocoa powder--and that's a happy coincidence.

2) the sugar content: it's true that refrigeration hastens staling. However, you can counteract that effect by incorporating additional sweeteners to your recipe. (Sugar is hygroscopic and absorbs moisture). Be careful though, because if you go beyond a certain point (i.e. 100% of the weight of the flour), you will have to use an emulsified shortening which may require a different mixing method.

3) the type of flour--the higher the protein content of the flour, the more likely that the cake will go stale in the refrigerator. I've made the same cake recipe and substituted all-purpose for the cake flour, and while I couldn't detect a difference at room temperature, I noticed the cake was drier when I pulled it from the freezer.

The only exception to all of my experimentations is a plain butter cake. I've never found a recipe that stores well--even in the freezer--while retaining a pure butter flavor and moist tenderness. If I increase the sugar, I have to make other adjustments to the recipe and then I lose the taste of the butter. That's the only cake that I bake and ice to order. (Nope, I don't even keep any in the freezer.) Any leftover cake gets turned into cake crumbs.

Overall, oil-based cakes (and also sponge cakes) are fine in the refrigerator, even for a week. If you need to refrigerate a butter cake (for up to three days), because it contains a perishable filling, be sure to syrup the cake and bring it back to room temperature before serving. Try it sometime.

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I think there are three reasons why cakes go stale in the refrigerator:

1) the recipe: butter hardens when chilled so, not surprisingly, chiffon cakes (and other sponge cakes) hold up better in the refrigerator than butter cakes. For this reason, I pair these cakes in my mousse tortes. The only cake that violates this rule is my chocolate cake which doesn't contain chocolate. Just butter--a lot of it--and that cake actually becomes more moist, chocolatey, and easier to handle after a couple days in the fridge. (During the summer months, refrigeration is a necessity as this cake is so moist that it can go sour quickly.) It also contains a lot of sugar to play off the bitterness of the cocoa powder--and that's a happy coincidence.

2) the sugar content: it's true that refrigeration hastens staling. However, you can counteract that effect by incorporating additional sweeteners to your recipe. (Sugar is hygroscopic and absorbs moisture). Be careful though, because if you go beyond a certain point (i.e. 100% of the weight of the flour), you will have to use an emulsified shortening which may require a different mixing method.

3) the type of flour--the higher the protein content of the flour, the more likely that the cake will go stale in the refrigerator. I've made the same cake recipe and substituted all-purpose for the cake flour, and while I couldn't detect a difference at room temperature, I noticed the cake was drier when I pulled it from the freezer.

The only exception to all of my experimentations is a plain butter cake. I've never found a recipe that stores well--even in the freezer--while retaining a pure butter flavor and moist tenderness. If I increase the sugar, I have to make other adjustments to the recipe and then I lose the taste of the butter. That's the only cake that I bake and ice to order. (Nope, I don't even keep any in the freezer.) Any leftover cake gets turned into cake crumbs.

Overall, oil-based cakes (and also sponge cakes) are fine in the refrigerator, even for a week. If you need to refrigerate a butter cake (for up to three days), because it contains a perishable filling, be sure to syrup the cake and bring it back to room temperature before serving. Try it sometime.

As an educated professional, I'm very aware of all these facts.

When you have a small clientele and limit the orders you take, of course, being able to bake and ice to order is a wonderful luxury.

But when you do a relatively large volume of cakes in addition to pastries, pies and breads, then the freezer, simple syrup and lots of liquor become your best friends. :wink:

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Well, I tried the cake again this morning and much to my surprise, the flavor didn't change at all, just mellowed a little bit. It's as though it hit maturity about 4 hours after cooling and held steady. The crumb stayed nice and tight, and did not turn rubbery or anything. It stayed incredibly moist and the flavor was definitely there. Just wanted a little more than a suggestion of the spices and I definitely hit it there. You can taste all the flavors individually as you move the cake through your mouth.

It always surprises me to hear that cakes can sit for that long. I know a lot of types can last that long, but other than a fruit cake, I don't know that I'd want a cake that had been in the fridge or at room temp for that long. One thing I noticed too was, after icing the cake, you have a much shorter "shelf life" than uniced. There seems to be a chemical breakdown at the cake surface, where the icing meets the cake. Especially true of chocolate cake. Becomes almost a slime. I think that's more of the butter/oils breaking out of the icing, but it's still kind of gross looking. I've found this true with both scratch and doctored mixes.

Anyone care to elaborate on that?

Edited by atcake (log)
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My mileage is definitely different. I don't get this reaction between the buttercream and the cake's surface.

I think it would happen if you weren't leveling the top of the baked cake and put the buttercream on the baked top crust (Margaret Braun does this will all her cakes, btw. Her recipes bake with a crispier top crust and she likes that textural element.) I notice that the top crust is sometimes sticking to the top of plastic wrap after an overnight stay in the cooler or after a day or two in the freezer so maybe that's what you're seeing?

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As an educated professional, I'm very aware of all these facts.

When you have a small clientele and limit the orders you take, of course, being able to bake and ice to order is a wonderful luxury.

But when you do a relatively large volume of cakes in addition to pastries, pies and breads, then the freezer, simple syrup and lots of liquor become your best friends. :wink:

Well, I use the syrup 90% of the time, even if the cake is baked and iced on the same day. I find that it adds another dimension of flavor (and is a great way to use spent vanilla beans). You really can't beat a strawberry shortcake (butter cake filled with custard and strawberries and iced with vanilla buttercream) that's been soaked with a Grand Marnier syrup. :biggrin:

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It always surprises me to hear that cakes can sit for that long.  I know a lot of types can last that long, but other than a fruit cake, I don't know that I'd want a cake that had been in the fridge or at room temp for that long.  One thing I noticed too was, after icing the cake, you have a much shorter "shelf life" than uniced.  There seems to be a chemical breakdown at the cake surface, where the icing meets the cake.  Especially true of chocolate cake.  Becomes almost a slime.  I think that's more of the butter/oils breaking out of the icing, but it's still kind of gross looking.  I've found this true with both scratch and doctored mixes.

Anyone care to elaborate on that?

I think that what you are seeing is the reaction between the icing and the "skin" on the cake. High ratio cakes (i.e. cake mixes and from-scratch formulas that use emulsified shortening) are notorious for developing that skin on the top of the cake that sticks to the plastic wrap and if not removed, will cause the filling to separate from the cake when it is sliced. I try to remove as much of it as possible by rubbing the top of the cake with the palm of my hand because it does prevent the cake from absorbing syrup, which you must know by now, that I like to use. :wink:

One thing that I've learned in baking butter cakes that will be chilled (e.g. for wedding cakes) is the importance of not overbaking. If the cake is dry going into the fridge, it won't be much better when it comes out. (Thaw at room temperature while the cake is still wrapped.) It's one of the rare occasions that I stand by the oven and wait for "the right time" to pull the cake and turn it out of the pan. Also, the shelf life of your cake will also depend on its thickness. (I get much better mileage out of 4-inch cakes than I do with sheets.)

Btw, you are definitely right about the shelf life of the cake being shortened once the cake is iced. That's why I never keep iced cakes on hand and I wait until the proverbial last minute to assemble everything.

Edited by PastryGuru (log)
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The top crust of a cake is another interesting cake subject that we have evolved onto from the spice thing that has been resolved. So when I bake a cake at home I get that yucky moist wet nasty mess on top for a swampy slimy 'crust'. Must be removed and is a nasty business that collects on your knife blade & tears up the cake. When I baked cake at work in a convection oven I had the loveliest sweetest carmeliest toothy crust that was a joy to slice off and a continuous temptation to resist.

So it kinda depnds on how you're baking it. And it's not just the difference from convection to straight oven either. There's so many variables in baking. One baker's never ever do is the next baker's I swear by this.

I bake and fill and freeze my cakes. For thawing, I remove all the wrapping immediately and brush off the frozen condensation because I don't want any possibly smelly freezer icicles melting into my stuff. My cakes do not need the random moisture. Then I ice and decorate -- all timed for delivery of being the freshest possible. I don't age my cakes meself.

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P.S. These rules also apply for cakes made with cocoa powder and beer.

Interesting. I imagine this would hold true for cookies and brownies that use cocoa?

I have a brownie recipe that has some cocoa in it in addition to the chocolate (it provides a bit of structure and added intensity, and lets me get away with less flour).

Right now I incorporate the cocoa at the end, with the flour. It just gets stirred into the batter right before baking.

Do you suppose I'd get more flavor out of it by incorporating it with the buttter and chocolate, in the beginning? Would there be any drawbacks to this (like losing the structural qualities of the cocoa)?

Right now I melt the butter, whisk in the sugar until it melts, then melt the chocolate into the butter/sugar mixture, all on direct heat. I'd be inclined to whisk the flour into the butter/sugar before melting the chocolate, but I'm open to suggestions.

Notes from the underbelly

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