Dry Cake Nightmares !!

Baking By cakes_rule Updated 11 Oct 2009 , 8:00pm by majka_ze

cakes_rule Posted 5 Oct 2009 , 12:58pm
post #1 of 21

Hey guys, anyone please help me with my scratch cakes !! Whenever i make scratch cakes they turn out dry. what am i doing wrong? i've made thousands of box cakes and they're fine. i feel the box cakes are too sweet.. so i try to make scratch cakes with less sweetness. that's the only change i make in the recipes. if the recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar.. i put in 1.5 cups. could this be the reason for my dry cakes?? Please help !

20 replies
majka_ze Posted 5 Oct 2009 , 1:24pm
post #2 of 21

Yes, this can be the reason.

Box cakes are more moist than scratch cakes by itself. Scratch cakes are not dry, but the additives in box mixes make it more moist, usually.

Sugar binds some moisture in the scratch cake. If you give less sugar, it can end dry - you reduce the amount by about 1/4 and this is going to be noticeable.

What you can try is to trick this out. Do you use cake flour or all-purpose? Even when using cake flour, you can get finer crumb and seemingly moister cake by giving about 2 tablespoons flour less per cup and instead 2 tablespoons cornstarch instead. As we don't have a cake flour here, only all purpose, I sometimes go up to 50:50 mix of all purpose and cornstarch (or even potato starch, both give better texture in cake).

Another possibility is to add some oil in the batter.

As I don't know your recipe, I cannot say what will work. A scratch cake recipe is a delicate affair.

Your probably best bet for a good, moist scratch cake recipe is one with buttermilk in it - I find this types of cake are "more resistant" to small variations in the recipe.

Write me your scratch cake recipe and I can try to tweak it some. But if we do it this way, you need to remember that my ingredients are going to be different from yours.

Did you try the original recipe? I mean with the amount of sugar it should have? Was it still dry? If yes, the problem is with the recipe itself or with your baking method.

surfergirl67 Posted 5 Oct 2009 , 1:35pm
post #3 of 21

I have the same problem. It seems no matter what I do, the cake comes out hard and dry.

majka_ze Posted 5 Oct 2009 , 1:48pm
post #4 of 21
Originally Posted by surfergirl67

I have the same problem. It seems no matter what I do, the cake comes out hard and dry.

Surfergirl, hard and dry would for me mean the cake was over baked, baked on too high temperature or overmixed (hard to do by hand or hand mixer, possible in stand mixer).
Over baking doesn't always mean the cake is charcoal black, sometimes even a minute more can be the difference between good and dry cake.
What recipe do you use? Not only the ingredients, but the method too?
Edited bc the link wont attach:
Here is a good troubleshooting guide. www. baking 911 .com/cakes/problems.htm (copy without the spaces)

Mike1394 Posted 5 Oct 2009 , 1:50pm
post #5 of 21

The first thing is to understnad what roll your ingredients play. Sugar is a liquid, not a dry ingredient. If you going to limit the amount of sugar in a recipe, you need to replace some of that liquid.

There can be a few reasons why it turns out dry. PLEASE don't replace butter w/ oil YUCK. That will change the whole feel of the cake. Most cakes for poor turn out is bad technique.

Whip your butter for about a minute
Add sugar, cream the two together till WHITE, and fluffy
SLOWWWWWLY add eggs, I like to hand whip my eggs a tad first.

At this stage you will have a horrible gloppy mess, and call me all sorts of things LOLOL. You CAN NOT overmix anything at this point so there is no reason evrything can't be well blended together.

Now for the flour, dump it in. Mix for about 30-45 seconds. scrape bowl. Mix till it turns back to a nice smooth batter. This will take no longer than 1-1/2 minutes.

Poor, and bake.


elliespartycake Posted 5 Oct 2009 , 1:52pm
post #6 of 21

When I do a scratch cake, I brush each layer (after I tort and before I add filling) with moistening syrup. Moistening syrup is basicly a simple syrup made from equal parts water and sugar (add a bit of vanilla or other flavoring if you wish) boiled to make a syrup. This adds the extra moisture that some scratch cakes seem to lack. Works great for me. icon_razz.gif

majka_ze Posted 5 Oct 2009 , 2:00pm
post #7 of 21

elliespartycake, syrup helps but not all good scratch cakes should need it. Yes, there are some cakes which should be infused with syrup - they are meant to - and additionally it is good way to save a cake. But I feel that a scratch baker shouldn't do it automatically. Some of us do overuse it.

Please, don't take it personally. Do what works for you, the result is more important than my personal feeling about what should be done icon_smile.gif

matthewkyrankelly Posted 5 Oct 2009 , 2:26pm
post #8 of 21

Here is a primer on sugar. It will start to explain some of what you have going on. It helps explain why cake is cake and not bread.


Musings9 Posted 5 Oct 2009 , 2:36pm
post #9 of 21

Remember cooking is a science and whenever you decrease or increase an ingredient, you might not get the result you're looking for.

cakes_rule Posted 5 Oct 2009 , 7:14pm
post #10 of 21

Thanks alot guys for the responses. as u can see i'm desperate to solve this problem.

@ majka_ze; here is the recent recipe i've used is for Yellow cake recipe from the cook book 'better homes and gardens- New cook book".
ingr: 3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1tbsp B.P.
1.5cups milk
.5 cup margarine/butter
1.5tsp vanilla
2 eggs
in bowl combine flour, sugar, B.P. add milk, margarine, vanilla. beat with electric mixer on low speed till combined. beat on high speed for 2 min. add eggs and beat 2 min more. pour into 2 greased pans 9x1.5 inch round. bake in 375 oven for 25 to30 min.

changes i've made. sugar 1.5 cups. and poured the whole batter into one 9 inch round cake pan. it took mine around 60 min to get the center completely done. turned out very dry.. and tastes floury!

desperately need help to made less sweetened cakes from scratch!
appreciate any suggestions. Thanks.

majka_ze Posted 5 Oct 2009 , 8:10pm
post #11 of 21

I am more used to metric (gram) recipes, but here is my opinion - the recipe seems to be slightly off from beginning (barely enough liquids as it is). With your change (less sugar) you threw the proportions completely off. The method is an one bowl method. This will produce lower cake, but not a bad one. But in your recipe is again another shortcut, which could be too much.

Important is to have all ingredients at room temperature. If your butter and eggs are cold, grate the butter and leave it for about 30 min. out. For the same time, immerse the eggs in bowl with warm water. This is the quickest way to get them to room temperature.

You should combine the dry ingredients together, whisk them until blended. You only want to distribute the dry ingredients evenly, nothing more is needed here. Then add the milk and butter (or margarine, but butter works usually better) and mix slowly together. On medium speed, mix for 2 minutes. With a hand mixer, a minute more won't matter, a minute less will. Add one egg at time, beat for 30 seconds (or till the egg is completely incorporated. Repeat for other egg(s) - always one at time, half a minute or even slightly longer mixing.

I would use this recipe - looks much better for me - and has good step by step description and about the same flour/sugar ratio you want. Instead of 6 egg yolks you can use 3 whole eggs.

As for baking - here you have again a problem. The recipe is again set barely within the acceptable range - the oven temperature is much too high in my understanding (in the range for jelly rolls where you bake only thin layer of batter). I wouldn't bake it over 350 degrees for a cake. BUT - as soon as you bake higher cake than the recipe calls for - and you are doing it - you need to go with your baking temperature even lower - 325 degrees, or even 300 degrees. The cake will bake longer, but will be much more even. You should get baking time around 1 hour 15 min., perhaps even up to 1 hour 30 min., but I would start to check after 50 min.
- Open the oven, press LIGHTLY on the cake. It should give a little but spring back. Until the cake does this, you don't need to check with skewer.

Here are my tips for start: Take the recipe from my link, it looks better for me. Take butter instead of margarine. Have all ingredients at room temperature. If you can, bake it in two pans (or for a start to get hang of it, in a half sheet pan - I hope this is the pan ca. 12"x16" - this way you get the same height as the recipe intended). Bake even then at about 325 degrees - you get less problems. Baking half layers takes much less time. Again, start checking after 20 min. after this cake, but BE in the kitchen after 15 min. in case your oven runs hot and the cake will be finished sooner. Another tip from me - as soon as you can smell the cake baking is the time to check (unless you see that the batter is still liquid, because sometimes you smell baked batter drops on pan, in oven... But usually this works. Don't wait too long with the checking, but don't be to hasty. In the first half or 2/3 of the baking time it is important not to "disturb" the batter in pan and big temperature fluctuation can be a problem too.

Perhaps there will be some others who add their opinions, but I would start there.

Good luck to you and let me know if it gets better.

cakes_rule Posted 5 Oct 2009 , 8:26pm
post #12 of 21

hey majka_ze, thanks for your recipe, but could u give me one that uses all purpose flour? dont have cake flour in hand. thanks.

majka_ze Posted 5 Oct 2009 , 8:36pm
post #13 of 21

The easiest you can do is to substitute - per cup, give 2 tablespoon of cornstarch in the cup and fill the cup with all-purpose. Sift together - the substitutions usually call for 4 - 6 sifting, but you will mix all the dry ingredients together and it is not needed in this case.
You could use all-purpose only - but the crumb will be coarser. I don't think it would be idea for start - you need to learn now how the cake should look done "properly".

You will get the same result (coarser crumb) in all cakes, but some can accommodate the switch from cake flour to all-purpose better than others.

cakes_rule Posted 5 Oct 2009 , 8:41pm
post #14 of 21

great ! will get back to u with my result. thanks a ton !

surfergirl67 Posted 8 Oct 2009 , 12:31pm
post #15 of 21
Originally Posted by majka_ze

Originally Posted by surfergirl67

I have the same problem. It seems no matter what I do, the cake comes out hard and dry.

Surfergirl, hard and dry would for me mean the cake was over baked, baked on too high temperature or overmixed (hard to do by hand or hand mixer, possible in stand mixer).
Over baking doesn't always mean the cake is charcoal black, sometimes even a minute more can be the difference between good and dry cake.
What recipe do you use? Not only the ingredients, but the method too?
Edited bc the link wont attach:
Here is a good troubleshooting guide. www. .com/cakes/problems.htm (copy without the spaces)

Thank you for answering. What is missing between the www. .com?

majka_ze Posted 8 Oct 2009 , 1:16pm
post #16 of 21

Missing was "baking" and "911" - written together without spaces. It is filtered out, not even tinyurl did help.

surfergirl67 Posted 9 Oct 2009 , 1:21pm
post #17 of 21
Originally Posted by majka_ze

Missing was "baking" and "911" - written together without spaces. It is filtered out, not even tinyurl did help.

Thank you! I also spoke with a woman yesterday at my local supply store and she gave me a few ideas to try. I'm baking again today, so I'll let you know how it goes! icon_smile.gif

cakes_rule Posted 11 Oct 2009 , 3:46am
post #18 of 21

hey majka_ze, thanks alot for the tips 1 i tried the cake today and it turned out perfect! still alittle too sweeet for me though. but not dry ! iam really happy. thank you very mcuh !!icon_smile.gif
BTW do u have any recipe that's less sweet? thanks a bunch !

majka_ze Posted 11 Oct 2009 , 9:30am
post #19 of 21

It is quite difficult to go much lower on sugar content. What you can try - replace about 1/4 cup of sugar with low fat dry milk. It should be doable up to 1/2 cup.
The more you change the recipe, the more careful you need to be when preparing and baking. Start slow and with small amount, write notes to your recipe and notice baking time and result. I would experiment with a halved recipe - and don't forget that you need to halve your substitutes too - meaning instead of 1/4 cup 2 tbsp only.

Much easier is to reduce overall sweetness of the finished cake - reduce amount of sugar in your icing.

Here is a recipe for a icing you can make almost without any sugar. Try a small batch to check if you like the taste - it is different than you are used to, but quite popular here. It can be halved, doubled without problems.

250 ml milk (1 cup)
2 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
50 g white 100% fat (about 3 1/2 tbsp)
PS - depends on your taste
250 g butter (1/2 pound)

In a saucepan, combine milk, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, white fat (best is grated or chopped up) and flour. On the stovetop, bring it to boil - you need to stir it because else the flour will set on the bottom and burn. It will thicken to a thick paste. Take it from the stove and let it completely cool. Mix the butter (as when creaming) and add the paste, a tablespoon or two at time, mixing well. Add powdered sugar according to your taste - it doesn't do much to the consistency, because of the high ratio of flour paste in it. It can be made almost sugar free.
This is a non-crusting buttercream. Should you want to use a crusting buttercream, use this only as a filling in your cake and use crusting buttercream for the icing.
It can be flavored as usual - very good is it coffee of cappuccino flavored - simply add instant coffee powder to your milk before you start to boil it. You can make chocolate one - instead of white fat, give about the same amount of chocolate (brown or white) to it. Or you could simply add cocoa powder to your milk, again at start.

My newest cake in the gallery was filled, iced and decorated with this buttercream - the icing layer is the "natural" color of this buttercream.

cakes_rule Posted 11 Oct 2009 , 7:48pm
post #20 of 21

HI majka_ze , thanks for the tips. i'll try out your recipe for icing soon. could u tell me what is "white 100% fat"?
i did try another icing recipe before which used flour.. but i ended up with grains of flour in the icing. i wonder what i did wrong.
anyway, thanks again.

majka_ze Posted 11 Oct 2009 , 8:00pm
post #21 of 21

I think you can use crisco - sorry, the fats and shortenings here are different. Most our shortenings are more like margarine or butter - about 80% fat content and buttery yellow.
The fat stabilizes the icing more than butter only. I would say you can use all crisco and don't need to add any other fat to your flour paste.

As for flour grains in icing - you need to cook it well and stir. Best is to combine flour in cold milk (or water, whatever your recipe says) and warming it up. You could give flour to boiling milk, but you could get clumps this way. If this happens, either run it in a blender or run it through fine strainer. But if you stir while it heats up and cooks (it doesn't need long, one or two minutes after it starts boiling), it shouldn't happen.

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