sjbeatty8 Posted 18 Feb 2010 , 3:07pm
post #1 of

I have been using doctored cake mixes for years and I love them.. The cake comes out so moist and yummy and people rave about it all the time. .... but I REALLY want to try a good fully from scratch recipe and all the ones I find just dont taste nearly as good. They are dry and crumbly or just too dense.

So im asking for help... PLease recommend your fully from scratch recipe that can easily be doctored to change the flavor. I tried searching recipes but I miss the old way they were arranged and now I cant see the ratings before going into each one. I just dont have time for that.

Thanks for your help...

24 replies
Larkin121 Posted 18 Feb 2010 , 3:32pm
post #2 of

If all the scratch recipes you have tried so far are dense or crumbly or not turning out well, the issue is probably in the technique.

Scratch baking is a science and most recipes are not written in depth enough to allow for success if you don't know the science behind it. For example, how long are you creaming the butter and sugar? How are you adding the eggs? How long are you mixing in the flour? Are your measurements exact? Are you using volume or weight? Are all your ingredients room temperature? And so forth.

I highly recommend a book on baking science before trying to find a perfect recipe. Try The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard (pastry chef for Wolfgang Puck). Her book is awesome, full of great recipes, but broken down into categories where she can teach one technique with one master recipe that then can be used to make a dozen other things with a few changes.

Also try I'm Just Here for More Food by Alton Brown. Not many recipes, but a LOT about the science.

I just recently got Bakewise by Shirley O. Corriher, which is also very in depth with quite a few recipes.

But I definitely recommend Sherry Yard's book first.

Once you have a good understanding of all the science and technique involved, you can figure out why a recipe is working or not working and i think you'll find that many more recipes turn out well.

A very simple example of how that knowledge is so powerful is why 10 people can bake a basic chocolate chip recipe and only 1 or 2 get great cookies - all the rest have some variation that is not so good... too pale, too thin, too puffy, underbaked, overbaked, tough, dry, etc. Same ingredients, different results! icon_smile.gif

prterrell Posted 18 Feb 2010 , 7:43pm
post #3 of

Scratch recipes aren't like box mix. You don't "doctor" them to change the flavor.

_Jamie_ Posted 18 Feb 2010 , 7:49pm
post #4 of

Larkin has some good suggestions up there. If you are going into this with the doctoring/box mix mentality, you are going to fail. Need to understand the science behind it.

Otherwise....the comments like yours of "too dry, crumbly, etc., etc keep circulating, when in fact, it's the result of an inexperienced scratch baker, not the recipe.

And all of us were inexperienced scratch bakers when we started out. icon_smile.gif

_Jamie_ Posted 18 Feb 2010 , 7:51pm
post #5 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by sjbeatty8

I just dont have time for that.




Not being mean, so please understand this is real, truthful, honest suggestions.


Make time. You don't rush scratch baking if you want perfect results. Investigate recipes. Buy some books. Search online. Find a recipe that looks yummy and try it. Who cares if it doesn't have good ratings?

Because maybe, just maybe.....they were rated by someone who didn't know what the heck they were doing. icon_cool.gif

Larkin121 Posted 18 Feb 2010 , 8:19pm
post #6 of

And re: doctoring. You can, sort of. Very carefully. icon_cool.gif

You can, for example, change the extracts, add lime/lemon/orange zest, add instant coffee grounds quite easily without changing the balance too much.

More advanced is messing with the liquids, like subbing fruit puree for part of the liquid, but when doing so you have to understand how the extra sugar and acid would change the balance of your recipe... otherwise it might fall, sink, not bake right, not rise, etc. I have just started playing around with this in the past few months and it takes some tweaking.

You do have to invest a lot of time to get scratch baking right... it's not a quick art to master, but then, what is?

MissSassyBuns Posted 18 Feb 2010 , 8:44pm
post #7 of

I just finished readin Shirley Corriher's Bakewise and it's amazing. So here's a second vote for that one.

I've also read The Art and Soul of Baking (at Sur la Table) and that had great tips. I'm going to start on Wayne Gisslen's Professional Baking book. Scratch baking takes patience, precision and passion. All the research I do creates a better and better cake/dessert.

confectionsofahousewife Posted 18 Feb 2010 , 9:06pm
post #8 of

Thanks for all the book recommendations! I have been contemplating a book behind the science of baking because I would really like to understand it more.

As for a scratch recipe, I really like this one for a standard white cake:
http://cakecentral.com/recipes/2165/a-better-white-scratch-cake
It is moist with a nice tender crumb.

I have doctored this cake both successfully and unsuccessfully. Other posters are right on. Subbing fruit purees and juices or whatever for other liquids can throw off the balance. Unfortunately, I don't quite understand all of the science behind it (which is odd, because I'm actually a scientist icon_confused.gif ).

Larkin121 Posted 18 Feb 2010 , 9:16pm
post #9 of

Confectionsofahousewife, I tried that recipe a few time and posted within the long thread regarding it... I liked it at first but soon found that it was kinda unpredictable and something was off.

I then used the ratios in Bakewise to see if it was a balanced recipe and it is waaaayyyyy off. I don't have it in front of me, but I remember that the ratio of fat to sugar and liquid to flour and so forth made no sense. This is why it is so temperamental.

MissSassyBuns Posted 18 Feb 2010 , 9:20pm

I don't recall exactly the ratios either, but I do remember that baking powder/soda to flour ratio is way off. It should be 1 tsp baking powder (which contains 1/4 tsp baking soda) to 1 cup of flour. This recipe has 7 tsps to 5 cups! WAY too much.

confectionsofahousewife Posted 18 Feb 2010 , 9:33pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Larkin121

Confectionsofahousewife, I tried that recipe a few time and posted within the long thread regarding it... I liked it at first but soon found that it was kinda unpredictable and something was off.

I then used the ratios in Bakewise to see if it was a balanced recipe and it is waaaayyyyy off. I don't have it in front of me, but I remember that the ratio of fat to sugar and liquid to flour and so forth made no sense. This is why it is so temperamental.




I thought it was just me and my lack of knowledge! I do find it to be tempermental as well. I always love the flavor, moistness, and texture as far as taste goes, but sometimes it seems nice and sturdy and other times it seems like it wants to fall apart (too moist). Have you tried tweaking it? I'd be interested in getting it to be more predictable but don't know where to start.
I was part of that long thread too!

Mike1394 Posted 18 Feb 2010 , 9:39pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by MissSassyBuns

I just finished readin Shirley Corriher's Bakewise and it's amazing. So here's a second vote for that one.

I've also read The Art and Soul of Baking (at Sur la Table) and that had great tips. I'm going to start on Wayne Gisslen's Professional Baking book. Scratch baking takes patience, precision and passion. All the research I do creates a better and better cake/dessert.




Gisslen has great recipes UNTIL he adds flour. LOLOL His cake recipes are crap. It seems like anything that has flour is horrible. His sauces, and mousses are wonderful.

Mike

MissSassyBuns Posted 18 Feb 2010 , 9:57pm

Mike ~ BOO! Really?? I was really looking forward to his book! Maybe I can check out if he used balanced recipes a la Shirley Corriher and improve on them. I think she mentions him a couple times in her book.

Speaking of Shirley's heroes...she mentions Maida Heatter who is AMAZING!!! I have 3 of her dessert books and whenever I need a go-to recipe I pull out my Miss Maida (as I think of her). I've never ever had a cake turn out poorly. I use her carrot cake recipe and get RAVE reviews EVERYtime.

Larkin121 Posted 18 Feb 2010 , 9:59pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by confectionsofahousewife

Quote:
Originally Posted by Larkin121

Confectionsofahousewife, I tried that recipe a few time and posted within the long thread regarding it... I liked it at first but soon found that it was kinda unpredictable and something was off.

I then used the ratios in Bakewise to see if it was a balanced recipe and it is waaaayyyyy off. I don't have it in front of me, but I remember that the ratio of fat to sugar and liquid to flour and so forth made no sense. This is why it is so temperamental.



I thought it was just me and my lack of knowledge! I do find it to be tempermental as well. I always love the flavor, moistness, and texture as far as taste goes, but sometimes it seems nice and sturdy and other times it seems like it wants to fall apart (too moist). Have you tried tweaking it? I'd be interested in getting it to be more predictable but don't know where to start.
I was part of that long thread too!




I started figuring it using her ratios and percentages.... but it was on a day when I needed to have a cake done and I ran out of time, so I moved on. I'll have to revisit it one of these days. You can take the ratio given in the book and apply it, tweaking ingredients as you go. It takes some playing because this has to weigh more than that but less than this and liquid has to include the water percent in the butter as well as the eggs and the fat includes not just the butter but fat in the cream and so on. I'm guessing you might be good at that since science is your thing? Me, not so much. I mean, I love baking science, but I never much liked the story problems in high school science or math, lol! icon_biggrin.gif

"If you have 2 cups of flour, and 4 eggs, how much butter would need to be added to balance the fat and liquid equations?" sounds much like "If train A left the station at 3:30 and train B left the station at 3:35..." lol

Mike1394 Posted 18 Feb 2010 , 10:01pm

If your interested in his book go to the library to try it. Don't buy it.

If your looking for a professional teaching book get "On Baking" by Sarah Labensky.

Mike

pattycakesnj Posted 18 Feb 2010 , 10:17pm

I love scratch baking too, and while I am pretty good at it, I do have failures. I am going to check into these books, good thread, thanks

confectionsofahousewife Posted 19 Feb 2010 , 6:07pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Larkin121



"If you have 2 cups of flour, and 4 eggs, how much butter would need to be added to balance the fat and liquid equations?" sounds much like "If train A left the station at 3:30 and train B left the station at 3:35..." lol




It totally sounds like one of those train problems icon_lol.gif I like math but I'm a little at geometry than I am at algebra. You'd think the science of baking would be easy for me but I have trouble remembering what ingredient does what in a recipe, what cream butter with sugar does, and how the order of ingredients effects the recipe. Apparently they forgot to teach me the baking part in Organic Chemistry! That said, I haven't actually sat down with a book that goes into great detail and tried to learn. I just try and remember bits and pieces that I have read on here or seen on Alton Brown!
If you have any suggestions for tweaking the recipe let me know. I am going to be using it several times over the next week!

Lita829 Posted 19 Feb 2010 , 6:38pm

Even though I've been a scratch baker since I was 12 but I know that there is ALWAYS more to learn. I just recently bought 2 books to understand the science behind baking and they are both wonderful.

BAKING by James Peterson
How Baking Works by Paula Figoni

The How Baking Works book is set up like a text book with exercises to complete at the end of each chapter. BAKING is also an excellent book with all sorts of base recipes. They both have detailed explanations. I think that these books would make a good place to start.

Mike1394 Posted 19 Feb 2010 , 6:40pm

Lita is it safe to assume the recipes are in weights?

Mike

Lita829 Posted 20 Feb 2010 , 3:40am
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike1394

Lita is it safe to assume the recipes are in weights?

Mike




BAKING by James Peterson....no.
How Baking Works...yes.

I know that the most accurate method of baking is by weight. In defense of James Peterson's book, its very well written and easy to understand. The book covers everything from cakes to pies..to croissants...to tarts...to fillings...just about everything you can think of.

How Baking Works is also a good book in that it not only gives recipes and exercises but it gives the SCIENCE behind it. Its funny...I've been baking all theses years but I realize that I was pretty ignorant to how things really work.

Sorry for such lengthy answer....I know you didn't ask for such an detailed description. I sometimes get a little long winded when talking about baking icon_redface.gif

Mike1394 Posted 20 Feb 2010 , 11:42am

Lita that was a perfect answer THANK YOU. The reason I asked I don't do volume measuring. To me it's slow, and antiquated, and of course not very accurate.

Most of the time an author will have the recipes in weights, and the publisher will change it to volume. This is done to meet the American public.

Mike

Larkin121 Posted 21 Feb 2010 , 12:04am

Totally agree, I hate that most books are in volume. I much prefer weights, more accurate and faster. To that end, can you recommend any great recipe books that are in weights? I wonder if one were to search for books printed in Europe if you'd find more written that way.

noahsmummy Posted 21 Feb 2010 , 12:20am

http://CakeCentral.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&p=6720569#6720569

heres a link to a really good thread on this topic here on CC. its great. =) im a scratch baker too.. mostly because i find it cheaper.. and also i love that satisfaction of knowing you made the entire thign yourself. =)

Mike1394 Posted 21 Feb 2010 , 12:49am

Larkin, all of the books "that I've seen" for everywhere else, BUT the US are in weights. The issue being is the langauge. Pierre Herme's book is like over 200.00, and worth more LOL. The issue being it's in French.

Mike

JulieMN Posted 21 Feb 2010 , 2:01am

Thanks for the great information regarding books that can help to demystify the scratch baking process. Will have to get reading!

Quote by @%username% on %date%

%body%