Monday, October 31, 2011

Culinary IQ: Monday, Octobe 31, 2011; Cake Basics

Let them eat cake, many kinds!
Since the time I started baking in my mother’s kitchen back in Colorado cakes have been one of my favorite things to bake. There is just something magic about the transformation from batter to cake. Then the flexibility of what desserts can be made from the cake; whether it is the simplicity of macerated fruit with a slice of angel food cake or a beautifully decorated wedding cake. 
This week I will be discussing basic formulas of cakes and the methods most commonly used to make them.
The following are the basic cake formulas with the most common methods used in each formula:
  • High-fat or shortened cakes
    • Creaming method
    • Two-stage method
    • One-stage (liquid shortening) method
    • Flour-batter method
  • Low-fat or foam-type cakes
    • Sponge method
    • Angel food method
    • Chiffon method
There are three main goals when mixing cakes:
  • Combine all ingredients into a smooth, uniform batter
Two of the main ingredients in cakes, by nature are unmixable, water (also in milk and eggs) and fat. To achieve the goal of mixing the ingredients smoothly it is important to use the correct fat, have ingredients at room temperature, mix each step correctly, do not add liquids to quickly and add the proper amount of liquid.
  • To form and incorporate air cells in the batter.
Air cells in batters are important for texture and for leavening. A fine, smooth texture is the result of small, uniform air cells, Large or irregular air cells  result in a coarse texture. Proper ingredients, ingredient temperature as well as mixing are vital to creating the proper air cells. Example: Granulated sugar should always be used unless otherwise specified as powdered sugar is not strong enough to support air cell development.
  • To develop the proper texture in the finished product.
Both uniform mixing of ingredients and the formation of air cells are important to a cakes structure. Another factor of mixing that affects is gluten development. Gluten development is affected by the type of flour used (different types of flour contain varying amounts of protein or gluten). It is important to use the correct type of flour called for in the recipe. Under-mixing or over-mixing can also affect the development of gluten.
Adapted from Professional Baking: Fifth Edition by Wayne Gisslen; John Wiley and Sons, Publishers
Now that you know the basics of cake making I will start discussing the methods tomorrow and give you examples of cakes that use the methods.

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