agentdorkfish Posted 13 Jun 2010 , 3:31am
post #1 of

I keep trying to make cakes strictly from scratch, butter cakes in particular, but they keep coming out dry! What am I doing wrong?

34 replies
deMuralist Posted 13 Jun 2010 , 4:02am
post #2 of

I don't have this trouble, but, I have a book called "Cookwise" by Shirley O. Corriher. She is a food scientist. When ever I have a problem with something I am making I check out her book. She has a whole chapter on eggs and what they do in baking, and using egg whites vs. egg yolks. Then she goes into each ingredient and exactly what it does, she also details things like outside temperature and oven issues. If I were you I would check her book out of the library, I am sure it will help

p.s. I don't care for her recipes in general too heavy, but her advice and information has always been spot on. Good luck.

Lita829 Posted 13 Jun 2010 , 4:31am
post #3 of

By NO MEANS am I a food scientist or anything even close but I'll offer some advice that I have found from trial and error. I don't know which recipes you are using but you could try substituting sour cream or buttermilk for some or all of the liquid. Cakes with these items in them tend to turn out moist.

Perhaps you are over beating the cake. Also when you measure your flour, are you spooning the flour into the measuring cup or scooping? If you are scooping, you are actually packing the flour in the cup, thus adding more flour than the recipe calls for.

A little off topic but DeMuralist...I love your signature line. So true..so true. Empathy (not sympathy) is a trait that few possess.

No-goodLazyBum Posted 13 Jun 2010 , 5:19am
post #4 of

I'm no scientist either, but in my small experience a dry scratch cake has come from over-baking. If you are using cake flour it is the nature of that flour to have a drier texture. Most people compare the moistness of a scratch cake to a box mix but they are two different animals.

agentdorkfish Posted 13 Jun 2010 , 2:31pm
post #5 of

Thanks for the advice, everyone.

I spoon the flour into the measuring cups, and I normally don't use cake flour. I'm going to try using buttermilk next time I make a cake! I've made a buttermilk cake many years ago and it turned out great. I'

LindaF144a Posted 13 Jun 2010 , 2:36pm
post #6 of

Can you post exactly how make the cake?

It is a combination of ingredients and process that will make or break a cake. And if you can post the recipe too that will be helpful.

In my own experience there are a number of factors to a dry cake.

1. Not creaming the butter/sugar long enough in the beginning stage.
2. Overmixing the batter once you start incorporating the flour. Mix too long and you start that gluten process that leads to dry and tough cake.
3. Not having the right or correct amount of leavening. Now this depends on the cake. I used to take every cake recipe and correct the leavening as some of them are just overleavened. Cookwise (as the other poster stated) is a good book, as well as Bakewise, both by Shirley Corriher. Bakewise goes into this in further detail. BUT if you are making a chocolate cake with cocoa powder, more leaving is needed because leavening is also a tenderizer which leads to a moister cake. So now I don't adjust the leavening in a cake until I make it as written at least once.
4. Overbaking will lead to a dry cake. Rose Levenbraun (sp?) stated somewhere in one of her videos on Youtube that the sides of the cake should not come away from the sides until after the cake is out of the oven and cooling on the rack. If you pull the cake out of the oven and the sides have pulled away then you have overbaked it and the result will be a dry cake.
5. Not enough liquid in the cake. I tried one recipe three times and got dry results. I had written it down in weights so I kept referring to my written notes. On the third try I decided to make sure I had written down the amounts correctly. It turns out I had somehow not seen the 1 cup of liquid that was required for the mix. It made all the difference in the world.

Be careful when substituting out the liquid of sour cream or buttermilk for other liquids. It can be done, but you have to adjust other things in the recipe like fat and or more/less liquid to compensate. For example when substituting sour cream you have to add in 1/3 cup milk for each cup of sour cream. You can find this in Shirley Corriher's Bakewise. Believe it or not, but too much fat can also lead to a dry cake. It goes against conventional wisdom, but it is true.

Check out the current issue of Cake Central magazine. There is an article in there about eggs that also covers almost the same thing about how eggs effects the cake.

HTH

LindaF144a Posted 13 Jun 2010 , 2:37pm
post #7 of

One other thing I forgot.

You should try and get into the habit of weighing your ingredients. Otherwise you will be adding different amounts every time you make a cake. I did an experiment where I measured and then weighed every cup of flour I used. It turns out I was off by as much as one ounce per cup depending on how heavily a tossed the flour into the measuring cup. I now measure everything.

Also cake flour will make a lighter, less dry cake than AP flour.

agentdorkfish Posted 15 Jun 2010 , 1:21am
post #8 of

Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for all the advice! I'm going to keep trying. I'm tired of using boxed mixes. They taste good, and some people can jazz them up, but nothing beats a scratch cake. Love them.

The last recipe I tried was this one: http://www.joyofbaking.com/WhiteCake.html

Lita829 Posted 16 Jun 2010 , 2:09am
post #9 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by agentdorkfish

Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for all the advice! I'm going to keep trying. I'm tired of using boxed mixes. They taste good, and some people can jazz them up, but nothing beats a scratch cake. Love them.

The last recipe I tried was this one: http://www.joyofbaking.com/WhiteCake.html




The cake could have been a little dry because the egg whites were beaten too much. The whites should only be beaten just until stiff peaks form and incorporated into the batter in 3rds, mixing until no streaks of white remain. If they are beaten too long, they can dry out which will yield a dry cake.

HTH

LindaF144a Posted 16 Jun 2010 , 1:24pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lita829

Quote:
Originally Posted by agentdorkfish

Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for all the advice! I'm going to keep trying. I'm tired of using boxed mixes. They taste good, and some people can jazz them up, but nothing beats a scratch cake. Love them.

The last recipe I tried was this one: http://www.joyofbaking.com/WhiteCake.html



The cake could have been a little dry because the egg whites were beaten too much. The whites should only be beaten just until stiff peaks form and incorporated into the batter in 3rds, mixing until no streaks of white remain. If they are beaten too long, they can dry out which will yield a dry cake.

HTH




And to add to this, there is definitely a difference in the way you fold in the eggs too. You basically cut down the middle, scoop the spatula under the batter and fold the batter of the eggs, and give the bowl a quarter of a turn at the same time. Otherwise you get a dry cake. Ask me how I know. icon_rolleyes.gif I think I remember seeing a video on Youtube about folding in batter. I'll see if I can find it and post it here later.

I did not know about the stiffness of the peaks in the egg whites. Can you describe further about just exactly how stiff. Do you want the peak to stand up on its own, or should it fall just a little bit. I gave up on these type of recipes because I did not like what I'll call rubbery texture. I made several batches testing it and came up with a different result every time. Because I couldn't get any kind of consistency, I just won't make any recipe that has this process. My problem could be how stiff I beat the egg whites. Thanks!

Lita829 Posted 16 Jun 2010 , 1:54pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaF144

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lita829

Quote:
Originally Posted by agentdorkfish

Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for all the advice! I'm going to keep trying. I'm tired of using boxed mixes. They taste good, and some people can jazz them up, but nothing beats a scratch cake. Love them.

The last recipe I tried was this one: http://www.joyofbaking.com/WhiteCake.html



The cake could have been a little dry because the egg whites were beaten too much. The whites should only be beaten just until stiff peaks form and incorporated into the batter in 3rds, mixing until no streaks of white remain. If they are beaten too long, they can dry out which will yield a dry cake.

HTH



And to add to this, there is definitely a difference in the way you fold in the eggs too. You basically cut down the middle, scoop the spatula under the batter and fold the batter of the eggs, and give the bowl a quarter of a turn at the same time. Otherwise you get a dry cake. Ask me how I know. icon_rolleyes.gif I think I remember seeing a video on Youtube about folding in batter. I'll see if I can find it and post it here later.

I did not know about the stiffness of the peaks in the egg whites. Can you describe further about just exactly how stiff. Do you want the peak to stand up on its own, or should it fall just a little bit. I gave up on these type of recipes because I did not like what I'll call rubbery texture. I made several batches testing it and came up with a different result every time. Because I couldn't get any kind of consistency, I just won't make any recipe that has this process. My problem could be how stiff I beat the egg whites. Thanks!




The egg whites should stand up straight when the beater is lifted but the whites should still have a slight sheen. If the peak of the whites fall over, then that is considered soft peak stage. What I do is when it reaches the soft peak stage, I check the whites every 15-30 seconds to make sure I don't overbeat.

HTH

I know that these cakes can definately be tricky. Don't give up.

LindaF144a Posted 16 Jun 2010 , 4:56pm

I found the youtube video for folding in batter. It is near the end.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rLQFfolobY

Thanks for your help on the egg whites. I guess I'll give it one more try. icon_rolleyes.gificon_wink.gificon_lol.gif

baking_girl Posted 16 Jun 2010 , 5:13pm

I love baking my cakes from scratch as well. The problem I have is when I put them in the fridge they dry out. They are always super moist when at room temp, and no matter how I store them in the fridge they always taste drier. Could it just be my recipe? Thanks for any advise!!

LindaF144a Posted 16 Jun 2010 , 5:31pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by baking_girl

I love baking my cakes from scratch as well. The problem I have is when I put them in the fridge they dry out. They are always super moist when at room temp, and no matter how I store them in the fridge they always taste drier. Could it just be my recipe? Thanks for any advise!!




I never put my cupcakes in the fridge, ever.

One - they often don't last long enough to be put in the fridge.

Two - Refrigerating a cake dries it out, which probably happens faster with a cupcake seeing how it is smaller. The only time I would refrigerate a cupcake is if there was something perishable in the icing besides the butter. I have had that experience with a fresh raspberry puree I added to SMBC, and even then it took two days before it starting turning.

I had cupcakes that I had three days at home. I then sent them to work with my DD and they were wolfed down in no time flat. Everybody kept saying how nice and moist they were. So go figure.

So my advice is to stop putting them in the refrigerator. If you intend on keeping them a long time, freeze them as soon as they come out of the oven. That will lock in the moisture.

confectionsofahousewife Posted 16 Jun 2010 , 5:41pm

I don't really have any advice other than to read Shirley Corriher's Bakewise and to experiment with different recipes and techniques.

I just had to say that I love when Linda F gets going on baking chemistry!! icon_biggrin.gif

baking_girl Posted 16 Jun 2010 , 5:46pm

Thanks icon_smile.gif I have stopped using the fridge because I figured that was the problem, just wanted someones expect advise !! So, I made a cake last month with whip cream frosting. I frosted and decorated it just before delivery so I would not have to put it in the fridge. How long can a cake with whip cream sit out? (or even a cream cheese frosting) When I got the cake delivered they put it in the fridge for around 1.5 hrs, everyone said it was wonderful, but of course I could tell it was beginning to dry. I guess I need to remember that when I make a cake for someone to tell them to not refrigerate it!

LindaF144a Posted 16 Jun 2010 , 5:47pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by confectionsofahousewife

I don't really have any advice other than to read Shirley Corriher's Bakewise and to experiment with different recipes and techniques.

I just had to say that I love when Linda F gets going on baking chemistry!! icon_biggrin.gif




Oh no - do not encourage the perfectionist to come out in me!

I just found another good book on baking chemistry:
How Baking works

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_16?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=how+baking+works+by+paula+figoni+2nd+edition+2008&x=0&y=0&sprefix=How+baking+works

I just starting reading it and I have learned still more things about baking.

I told my DH that for someone who is not a professional baker or never plans on being one, I sure am spending a lot of my time on this when I could be doing other things. icon_biggrin.gif But it's fun to learn something new and have a place to share it too. Not to mention that is has greatly improved the stuff I bake. My family actually looks forward to my desserts now. But I still think they are never quite right. icon_rolleyes.gif Go figure!

LindaF144a Posted 16 Jun 2010 , 6:17pm

Whipped cream frosting is another story. Was it just whipped cream? I think I saw a recipe somewhere for a stabilized whip cream frosting that has geletin in it. If I can find it, I'll post it.

The only thing I can say about this is to take the cake out 30 minutes before serving. Perhaps what you tasted was not a dried out cake, but one that was served at the wrong temperature. I know our local grocer had a terrible time here with a chocolate cake they were marketing. I was told it was awful by two different friends, so I didn't even bother to get one. Then I noticed that they now have stickers on them that say cake is best served at room temperature. Of course, by then I was making my won cakes!

Cakelove says the same thing in his book too BTW. I'll check and see if he says anything about whipped cream frostings.

baking_girl Posted 16 Jun 2010 , 7:18pm

Cool, it actually was stabilized whipped cream. But the gelatin that's added to stabilize it wouldn't keep it from spoiling? I was thinking about it and I guess I'm just use to seeing cakes at the grocery stores or whatnot refrigerated! Thanks for your feedbackicon_smile.gif

confectionsofahousewife Posted 16 Jun 2010 , 11:51pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaF144


Oh no - do not encourage the perfectionist to come out in me!




Hahaha! I'm still waiting for you to come to my house and help me analyze and tweak my recipes! icon_biggrin.gif

Lita829 Posted 17 Jun 2010 , 12:31am
Quote:
Originally Posted by baking_girl

Cool, it actually was stabilized whipped cream. But the gelatin that's added to stabilize it wouldn't keep it from spoiling? I was thinking about it and I guess I'm just use to seeing cakes at the grocery stores or whatnot refrigerated! Thanks for your feedbackicon_smile.gif




Even though the whipped cream has gelatin to stabilize it, it will still need to be kept refrigerated. I agree with everything that LindaF said, especially about refrigerating cakes without frosting and cuppies. It will definately dry out your cake. If you need to decorate the next day, I'd freeze it overnight instead.

I also have that same book from Amazon, How Baking Works. Its great and really breaks down the science of baking. Unfortunately, I haven't finished reading it yet so I still have a lot to ingest icon_redface.gif

LindaF144a Posted 17 Jun 2010 , 1:21am
Quote:
Originally Posted by confectionsofahousewife

Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaF144


Oh no - do not encourage the perfectionist to come out in me!



Hahaha! I'm still waiting for you to come to my house and help me analyze and tweak my recipes! icon_biggrin.gif




Yeah, and all that baking would lead to a lot of eating. It's a sacrifice, but it does have to get eaten. icon_lol.gif

I was thinking about what was said about whipped cream frosting that used to used at grocery stores and how they kept it out. I remember something about how it wasn't made with real cream, but something that was a whip cream but nondairy.

But I do remember before our local grocer stopped using it that they would tell us that you had to refrigerate it. Maybe it was just to be on the safe side. But you could try something called Bettercreme or Pastry Pride or something like that. There is a gal on here named Melvira who talks about it all the time. Maybe she'll chime in and tell us more about it. It might be that you can get the same flavor as a whip cream frosting using this and not have to worry about refrigeration too.

LindaF144a Posted 17 Jun 2010 , 1:22am

Lita829,
I forgot to mention the book. I'm on chapter 3 which starts to take about the different ways baked goods are mixed. I'm loving this book so far. How far along are you. Do you like it? I'm reading it with a highlighter. There is just so much to absorb in this book.

agentdorkfish Posted 17 Jun 2010 , 1:25am

I always refrigerate my cakes. I can't stand the idea of not doing it. A bit OCD... Would adding a box of pudding mix help with the dryness?

I think I messed up the recipe by folding too much.. maybe. I'll try again!

agentdorkfish Posted 17 Jun 2010 , 1:36am

By the way, do y'all know any awesome recipes that might be easier to make? Maybe I'm a rookie who is just in over her head! icon_lol.gif

Lita829 Posted 17 Jun 2010 , 1:51am
Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaF144

Lita829,
I forgot to mention the book. I'm on chapter 3 which starts to take about the different ways baked goods are mixed. I'm loving this book so far. How far along are you. Do you like it? I'm reading it with a highlighter. There is just so much to absorb in this book.




I've made it to chapter 4 but I haven't read it in a while so I'm gonna need to revisit it. I like the book, even though I think its more geared towards people in pastry school. I especially like the "homework" assignments at the end of each chapter. It really breaks down the science, which I also like, but the reading can get a little dry.

You're right...there is a ton to absorb...but all knowledge that we need to become better bakers icon_smile.gif

Lita829 Posted 17 Jun 2010 , 2:03am
Quote:
Originally Posted by agentdorkfish

By the way, do y'all know any awesome recipes that might be easier to make? Maybe I'm a rookie who is just in over her head! icon_lol.gif




Here is a link the the Yellow Cake Scratch-Off that several CCer's and I had last summer. There are tons of great recipes that range from simple to complex. Here you go.....

Well...I'm trying to give you the link but my computer is acting up. Anyhoo...there is a thread, started June 1 2009, entitled Yellow Cake Scratch-Off. I was the intitial poster, with the first post stating the rules and recipes. There is a Chocolate cake scratch-Off that started July 1, 2009, also. There are really good recipes there also but they are more complex than the yellow recipes. I do not recall who was the initial poster for chocolate cakes. Maybe you can do a search and find the threads. They are under the General Forum, I think icon_redface.gif .

HTH

confectionsofahousewife Posted 17 Jun 2010 , 12:29pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaF144


Yeah, and all that baking would lead to a lot of eating. It's a sacrifice, but it does have to get eaten. icon_lol.gif




Hey, we gotta take one for the team!

Lita, thanks for the info on those scratch baking threads. Here is the link for the yellow cake thread.
http://cakecentral.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=633981&postdays=0&postorder=asc&&start=0
Was there one recipe in particular that won? I haven't read through the results yet! I'm always looking for a better yellow cake recipe myself.

Lita829 Posted 17 Jun 2010 , 12:45pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by confectionsofahousewife

Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaF144


Yeah, and all that baking would lead to a lot of eating. It's a sacrifice, but it does have to get eaten. icon_lol.gif



Hey, we gotta take one for the team!

Lita, thanks for the info on those scratch baking threads. Here is the link for the yellow cake thread.
http://cakecentral.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=633981&postdays=0&postorder=asc&&start=0
Was there one recipe in particular that won? I haven't read through the results yet! I'm always looking for a better yellow cake recipe myself.




You're welcome! If memory serves me correctly, I think that Sylvia Weinstocks Classic Yellow Cake won.

confectionsofahousewife Posted 17 Jun 2010 , 4:25pm

Excellent. I have heard lots of mention lately of Sylvia Weinstock's recipes. I am going to have to try them for myself! Does she have a book or can I find them online?

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