I have only used boxed cake mix, and want to turn to scratch baking. I saw the wonderful thread below, which was very informative, but my question is this: do you have to add simple syrup to the cake to keep it moist? I just made a banana cake from scratch yesterday, wrapped it to tort and ice for today, and it seemed a lot tougher than a mix. Obviously, I didn't over beat (just until combined), alternating wet and dry ingredients, but first adding eggs, one at a time. Didn't over bake, either (skewer cake out just right). So is this just the nature of the beast and simple syrup is required? Must you always trim scratch cake to remove tougher outer layer? TIA for your responses. I really want to try to get away from the boxed mixes-just a personal choice.
Really it depends upon the recipe--most banana cake recipes will be a little denser than boxed mixes, but usually very moist. If you feel like its going to be dry after its baked add some syrup. I almost always add simple syrup with a complimentary liqueur added--more because I like a super moist cake, and I think it adds to the flavor. I also prefer cake that is denser than boxed mixes......so if you like light fluffy cake I may not be the best for that.
Scratch cakes do not require syrups for moisture. A box mix is a different animal than a scratch cake and can't really be compared. Box mixes generally have a lighter structure and are made with oil, which gives the impression of moistness.
Scratch cakes, particularly butter cakes, are denser and have a more substantial structure. In addition , they are generally made with butter, not oil, which can solidify when chilled, thus giving the impression of a drier mouth feel than the oil of a box mix. One way to address this is to quickly oven-warm the cake after bringing it to room temp.
I rarely use syrups. To me, they don't make a cake moist; they make a cake wet. Moisture comes from inside the structure of a cake. It can't be added later. Sure people will rave about how moist a syruped cake is. But an educated palate can tell the difference between a cake that is naturally moist and one that's been artificially moistened.
I say if your scratch cakes seem to be dry, find a different recipe or work on developing the recipe you have. Yes it's work, but that's all part of scratch baking. And don't expect to get the cake you get out of a box. it's a whole different animal.
Thanks so much for the replies. artscallion: If you bring your cakes to room temp to soften the butter in the cake, then heat it, I'm assuming you'd have to let it come to room temp again before you ice it, (it's probably staring me in the face, and I'll have a big DUH moment, so apologies ahead of time) so what is the purpose of that? I really want to put in the time and go scratch, so I appreciate the input.
Bringing the cake up to room temp from the fridge will not soften the butter in the same way as bringing it down to room temp from a warm temp will.
Have you ever frozen cookies? When you let them thaw to room temp, they are never as moist and fresh tasting. They are always firmer than when you first baked them. Popping them back in the oven for a minute, or microwaving them for a few seconds brings them back to life, almost to their freshly baked state. Even when they cool to room temp after warming, they remain softer and moister than thawing left them.
They taught us this in pastry school. I can't recall the science behind it. But it works.
Thanks so much artscallion.
I add syrup to sponge type cakes but never to butter cakes.