Welcome back to my recipe test series! I started this series back in 2018 because I know that many of you are equally passionate about learning this how is and Why to bake. Here I show you all of my baking mistakes before I find a record success.
Today is the latest post on testing recipes No. 11. 😉
In order to preserve the ingredients (and not being able to find some), I haven’t tested so many recipes in the past 2 months. Everything you see in this post comes from winter. We’ll mainly focus on all of my yellow cake recipe flops because there were … many. Before I started working on yellow cake, I worked on many others, including my Guinness Cupcakes. I also review this recipe test process in this post!
The yellow cake pictured above was a recipe success! Before that there was the following:
And 6 others fail. Let me guide you through every cake I made before I got to perfection. For me, a perfect yellow cake is buttery, moist, rich and – of course – yellow. I did it that way:
- Test cake 1: I took my yellow sheet cake and baked it into a 2-layer cake. This was the easiest way, but it was more than flat, like two yellow pancakes. (This actually inspired me to revise THIS recipe and add baking soda to the cake batter while reducing the baking soda. See # 3, # 4 and # 5 below. For more information on this recipe update, please see yellow sheet cake post.)
- Test cake 2: I have changed direction. I took my zebra cake recipe and left out the chocolate batter. It was delicious, but it wasn’t a real yellow cake. It was like a thick vanilla cake.
- Test cake 3: I went back to my yellow sheet cake. I added baking soda for extra buoyancy. This is the cake shown above. There was far too much sourdough so the cake rose very high, browned at the top and then emptied when it came out of the oven.
- Test cake 4: Using a yellow sheet cake as a basis, I reduced the baking powder from # 3 (by too much) and also reduced the baking powder. Still a bit heavy and reminded me of corn bread. More on that next.
- Test cake 5: Frustrated at this point, but determined. I added a little more baking soda and kept the baking soda the same (and these are the perfect amounts you’ll see in yellow sheet cake and yellow cake – yellow sheet cake has a * touch * more baking soda for a little more buoyancy), toggle flour and milk and exchange sour cream for 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk. I use buttermilk in my vanilla cake and love it. It was delicious, but not a perfect yellow cake. I’m getting closer!
- Test cake 6: I reduced the buttermilk and added a few egg yolks to give us a truer, richer yellow cake taste and color. Still a bit tight.
- Test cake 7: I took a hint from the red velvet cake and whipped the egg whites separately before carefully folding it into the batter. I also added a bit of tartar so that the protein * really * maintains this raised structure. It was perfect.
- Again: I tested it again to make sure I did it right. All edible recipe tests are actually still in my freezer!
Why does my cake taste like corn bread?
I often run into this problem when I try cake recipes. Cakes can take on the texture (and even the taste) of cornbread if the ingredients are mixed. Also pay close attention to your mixing methods and the type of ingredients used. Here are all my tips to prevent your cakes from tasting like corn bread:
- Measure your baking ingredients correctly. This involves spooning and leveling (or weighing) your flour. Shake your baking powder and stir your baking powder before measuring. Use dry measuring cups for dry ingredients and liquid measuring cups for liquid ingredients. For more information, a video and more information, see How to measure your baking ingredients correctly.
- Use cake flour if a recipe requires it. It makes a big difference. If you use all-purpose flour in a cake recipe that requires cake flour, you may get a cake that tastes of bread. Though I have a helpful DIY replacement for homemade cake flour – for absolutely BEST results, use real cake flour.
- Make sure your baking soda and baking soda are fresh. I find that both lose strength after only 3 months and definitely after 6 months. For more information, as well as information on how to test their effectiveness, see Baking powder versus baking powder.
- Buy the right ingredients. Use baking soda marked as aluminum-free. Use unbleached flour and, if you can find it, unbleached cake flour. (I like King Arthur’s unbleached, unenriched cake flour.) Use large eggs if a recipe requires it. Use only egg white or egg yolk only if a recipe requires it.
- Don’t cut down on sugar in a cake recipe. Reducing sugar obviously changes the taste of the cake, but also the ratio of dry to wet ingredients in the cake batter. Similarly, the butter has less substance to cream in (if the cake recipe is creaming in), which means less air is incorporated into the butter and less air into the cake batter. Tight.
- Do not mix the cake batter. If a cake recipe requires creaming butter and sugar together, you can easily apply these two ingredients for a few minutes. After adding the eggs, pay attention to the time you mix. Just mix until your damp ingredients come together. And when you mix the wet and dry ingredients together, be extra careful. Just mix until all the ingredients come together. Whisk gently as necessary to remove large clumps. Handle the cake batter carefully, otherwise the air will be deflated.
- For more information about troubleshooting, see Preventing a Dry or Dense Cake.
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With my Guinness cupcakes, I haven’t tried so much to perfect them, but I’ve had similar problems. Lack of taste, too dense taste, etc. This is how my process worked:
- Test Cupcakes 1: I started using my chocolate cupcakes as a basic recipe, using reduced Guinness (like my Guinness brownies) to replace the buttermilk. The cupcakes were nothing to write home about.
- Test Cupcakes 2: I added sour cream for moisture, but then the cupcakes were weighed down and still missing … something.
- Test Cupcakes 3: Then I added more all-purpose flour and a little espresso powder for the taste and switched to just brown sugar (instead of white granulated and brown sugar). The cupcakes were a little tastier but quite dry. I felt like I had to switch baking soda and baking soda to baking soda because we now only use brown sugar (acid), cocoa powder (acid), beer (acid) and sour cream (acid). Do you remember baking powder versus baking powder? See cupcake at the bottom left. Arched in the middle because the leaven was a little absent. There weren’t enough wet ingredients either.
- Test Cupcakes 4: I added * a hint * more oil (1 tablespoon), left out the baking soda and added 1/4 additional teaspoon of baking soda.
- Test Cupcakes 5: Tested again. See cupcake at the bottom right. Perfect!
Worth all prescription tests. Many of you tried them on St. Patrick’s Day!
And come soon! A new variant of my homemade glazed donuts. I can’t wait to share them in a few weeks! What is your favorite donut taste?
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