Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Baking science - cakes


Recommended Posts

First - I love the new boards!

After literally months of testing cakes, reading about them, etc., I have decided to ask you (the experts) about the science of cakes. (I have checked out cooking for engineers - great site!) In my reading, I saw something mentioning that cake mixes use high-ratio shortening, therefore allowing the cakes to hold more sugar, thus more moisture. It was also mentioned that using this type of shortening would require a different mixing method, but I've not discovered that yet.

I also would like to know the scientific theory behind what makes a fine, tender crumb vs. a spongy one, etc. I've come to determine that the only way I'm going to get the cake I want is to experiment, but I don't want to spend a fortune trying to find that one special recipe. So how exactly does one achieve that fine crumb, and would using a high-ratio shortening really make that much of a difference? What is the mystery behind that perfect cake?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You may like the descriptions in The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum; it's not a comprehensive cross reference regarding how which fats perform in cake recipes because virtually all of them rely on butter as the main fat; there are a few with oil, and one with mayonnaise but for the most part it's a good reference to have.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

High-ratio cakes use a slightly different method than a traditional creaming method. Usually, the dry ingredients are sifted together and then the dry ingredients are combined with the fat (usually a high-ratio shortening formulated for this type of cake as you noted to hold more sugar and moisture in the mix). Slowly, the hydrating ingredients are added. According to Michel Suas from "Advanced Bread and Pastry: A Professional Approach": "Checking mixing time and scraping down the bowl are critical concerns for mixing high-ratio cakes. Mixing occurs at different speeds and must be monitored by time for quality control and consistency." He recommends a three stage addition of the liquid ingredients.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would recommend getting hold of Shirley Corriher's book, Bakewise. She describes the difference between the various methods of mixing, and gives the same recipe but with 3 versions, each using a different method (including hi ratio) and explains how the result is different. I used to use the high ratio method a lot, as it is quicker and less steps than creaming. However, recently I have gone back to the creaming method as I prefer the texture of cakes made this way. Hi ratio cakes are denser, with a soft tender crumb. You can achieve tender crumb with creamed cakes too but it takes a bit more care.

"I'll just die if I don't get this recipe."
Link to comment
Share on other sites

not to add another volume to the pile, but How Baking Works by Paula Figoni (I have both, second edition larger format than the first) is a great book for this; she even explains and has exercises for seeing the difference between fats in cake batters. In it, I learned that commercial bakeries have something to turn to called liquid hi-ratio emulsifying shortening -- a pourable, opaque/cloudy shortening that makes it possible to mix a finely grained, moist cake in one step. Fascinating and instructional.

Also for tenderness, the reason hi-ratio cakes are called that is the quantity of sugar (by weight) is equal to or exceeds the flour; sugar tenderizes by absorbing water, thus minimizing gluten development; in a hi-ratio cake, the sugar is mixed with the flour so that when it is wet it (the flour) won't produce too gluten. For the most part, creaming the butter and sugar makes a cake light by incorporating air (sugar's crystalline shape and butter's plasticity hang on to maximum air). Lightness and tenderness are seemingly opposite, but mixing method and how/where you employ the sugar matter a lot. hth!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


  • Similar Content

    • By ShylahSinger
      Hello! I'm fairly new to this site so I don't know if my search was weak. I'm trying to find a way to make Mandarin orange puree at home, but I couldn't find anything even similar in the forum. I am a home cook, but I have been making chocolate bonbons and other confections for over 4 years (intermitantly). It is too expensive for me to purchase this online- not because of the price of the puree, but the cost of shipping makes it prohibative. The recipes I've seen online are all differant and don't seem to be what I need. 
      I would love any help with this! I look forward to hearing and learning from those who have much, much more experience than me. Thanks!
    • By Darienne
      In hopes of sleeping better, etc, etc, I have currently given up gluten, dairy and now sugar.  The gluten and dairy pose no problems...the sugar does.  I am not happy using mannitol or erythritol or any of those artificial sweeteners...they give me severe digestive problems.   But I can tolerate stevia very nicely.  The only problem is that there doesn't seem to be much sweetened with this ingredient.
      I do have a carob/coconut oil/peanut butter/stevia candy of sorts.  I don't really like it all that much, but it does work.  That's about it.
      Has anyone any recipes for desserts using stevia?  Thanks.
    • By Janet Taylor
      Ever since Todd talked making cupcakes I have been cupcake crazy. Although, I am not a cake maker but more of a pie person.
      My first dessert that I love that I make is my Coconut Cream Pie w/heavy whipped cream. I don't use low fat anything and probably angioplasties is necessary after this baby.
      My second is Peach Cobbler w/rich vanilla ice cream. I never met a cobbler that I didn't like, but peach is my favorite.
      I don't make these often because I wouldn't be able to get through the front door if I did.
      How about yours?
    • By amyneill
      Hi all!! 
      I work at an amazing little New Zealand Style ice cream shop in the beautiful Denver Colorado. I was hoping to get a little help on the subject of adding fruit into ice cream after extracting it and ensuring that, when the ice cream is frozen, the fruity bits don't turn into rock hard shards. I am planning on doing a cherry chocolate ice cream and I was going to soak some dried cherries that we're no longer using for something else. I was planning on using some brandy and a ton of sugar, but I was really hoping someone had a tried and true method they could send my way so that I KNOW that the fruit will be luscious as it's frozen. If you have a certain sugar ratio. I know there is the brix test, but to be honest it's been many years since pastry school and I am very rusty. Would love to hear from some of my fellow sugar-heads. 
      Thank you!
    • By MightyD
      cakes, cookies, pies, that makes you smile!!!!
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...