TamiAZ Posted 5 Jul 2011 , 4:54pm
post #1 of

Can you bake a scratch cake that is AS moist as a doctored box mix??? Be honest. I've made scratch cakes, which have not been dry, but are not as moist as box mixes. I know it's not because I've over baked them..It could be the recipe.

So, can scratch recipes ever be as moist as a box mix???

Thank you.

158 replies
AnotherCaker Posted 5 Jul 2011 , 5:03pm
post #2 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by TamiAZ

Can you bake a scratch cake that is AS moist as a doctored box mix??? Be honest. I've made scratch cakes, which have not been dry, but are not as moist as box mixes. I know it's not because I've over baked them..It could be the recipe.

So, can scratch recipes ever be as moist as a box mix???

Thank you.




I only bake from scratch, and I create wonderfully flavorful cakes. I think a lot of people are used to overly moist cake mixes, that are that way because of oil. Put oil in any recipe and it will be "moist" by most people's standards.Moist ain't my goal with baking from scratch; flavor and harmony with the fillings and frostings is what I'm after. That said, there are terrible scratch recipes out there, terrible bakers that ruin good recipes, and recipes that could use a little tweaking for whatever reason.

bakingpw Posted 5 Jul 2011 , 5:18pm
post #3 of

I bake from scratch and, yes you can bake amazingly moist cakes from scratch. I use only butter in my cakes and icings - no shortening. For me, it's a mouth-feel thing with shortening - I hate it. (I can walk into a bakery and tell by the smell if they are baking with shortening and artificial flavorings)

I personally find box mixes as they are without "doctoring" too artificial tasting. I have had some very good "doctored mixes" - just not my thing. However you bake, do it well and enjoy it!

AnotherCaker Posted 5 Jul 2011 , 5:20pm
post #4 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by bakingpw

(I can walk into a bakery and tell by the smell if they are baking with shortening and artificial flavorings)



So can I. But to each his own, I like eating some foods(not pastry or confection related) that most people would gag at.

charliecakes Posted 5 Jul 2011 , 5:20pm
post #5 of

Yes you can.. Most definitely. Get a good recipe and with the proper scratch baking techniques, it comes out wonderfully moist. As so many have said before.. scratch backing is all about a science..so many factors can alter the outcome of your cake just keep trying..trial and error .

scp1127 Posted 6 Jul 2011 , 7:03am
post #6 of

I can make a cake that is so moist it is not easy to cut, to a cake that is light and airy... all from scratch. I do both. But as previously posted, I look for balance among the components. And I can taste chemicals, even in cheap extracts. My 16 year old daughter is now a chemical detector too, along with Crisco, fake chocolate and caramel, box mixes, you name it, we can spot it. She has been going to quite a few sweet 16 parties and she analyzes everything from the fondant to the texture and reports back to me.

Annabakescakes Posted 6 Jul 2011 , 7:39am
post #7 of

I can totally taste artificial chocolate and caramel and other flavorings too. Rolo's gag me! My kids and husband eat them and all I taste is sugar and wax.

That being said, I have almost never had a scratch cake I like! I doctor mixes, but not in the "popular" method people use on here. I can't get wasc to raise and it is gummy, very heavy and tastes like crap. Every scratch cake I made tastes like paste or play dough. And I have eaten some that are HORRID! I had one for my birthday last year that tasted odd the first day, but it got better and better with age, and was so moist I could barely cut it!

I would love to bake from scratch, I know I could charge more if I did. I feel slightly guilty "cheating". If any of you scratch baker want to send me a sample of your "delicious" cakes with SMBC or IMBC, I will be sure to be honest and let you know what I think!

scp1127 Posted 6 Jul 2011 , 8:27am
post #8 of

Anna, I am convinced that there are many more awful scratch cakes out there than good ones. I have rarely had a scratch cake that I like. But I have some amazing ones. And my European buttercreams range from those made with exotic sugars to custard bases. They are so interesting. I think with scratch cakes done well, people don't ask what it is, they just devour it.

My mom had a stroke three weeks ago and I have been sending in cupcakes. Not the plain ones, but the more exotic. Not the ones I would think that would appeal to the majority. I put the name of the cupcakes on a card on the box so that they will know what they are eating, especially some with alcohol. The people were actually looking for me to tell me how much they enjoyed them. I just put them in their break room and said nothing except that they were compliments of my mom, but they found me. One nurse stopped me in the parking lot when she saw the wrap on the back window of my vehicle and asked if the cupcakes were mine.

This has just been another example that when people taste a great scratch cake, it is usually something that they haven't had before. The only way to bake from scratch is to really have a passion for it, because it takes time and a dedication to learn the process. But the thing I found while scratch baking is that one day, it clicks. The knowledge, the science, and the techniques all come together and creating becomes easy. And most cakes after that just keep getting better and better. If you keep pushing your personal best, you won't believe what you can create.

Anyone who wants to learn scratch baking can do so while using the box recipes. When you get one that is better than the box or doctored mix, replace it. After awhile, you will have a great group of scratch cakes. But in the mean time, you won't feel like you are selling a scratch cake that is not as good as the mix just for the sake of scratch baking.

Coral3 Posted 6 Jul 2011 , 11:32am
post #9 of

One of my pet hates in life is dry cake. I only bake from scratch...my cakes are always moist. I don't do box mixes - I wasn't raised on them and don't like the artificial flavour of them, or the 'ingredients' listed on the back of the box. I'm a cake snob, and don't care who knows it! icon_biggrin.gif But hey, you bake whatever YOU like & makes YOU happy. thumbs_up.gif

Of course there are people who make awful, dry, nasty scratch cakes - because scratch baking is both an art and a science. A scratch cake is only ever as good as a) the recipe used and b) the baker who made it.

SugarFiend Posted 6 Jul 2011 , 11:43am

I know what you mean about scratch cakes seeming not as moist. I do some scratch and some doctored box. One doctored box I still do is white, which adds no oil or butter at all, so I have to respectfully disagree with AnotherCaker about oil being the reason box seems moister.

After scrutinizing the ingredients listings on the box mixes, my theory about the moistness issue is the emulsfiers in the mix. Mixes have an elasticity to them that I haven't been able to duplicate with most scratch white cakes I've tried. So many times I've made a scratch pan of greasy crumbs or almost angelfood cake. Not dry, but not exactly what I'd call moist, either.

I wonder if the key is to properly emulsify the scratch batter. (Maybe?) I tried this kind of accidentally with scratch red velvet cupcakes recently, and the texture was MUCH better. I had to mix my wet ingredients forever to get the red blended in well. (It was an oil-based RV.) I'm thinking now that the beads of red just showed that they weren't emulsified yet. It wouldn't have been so obvious with a white batter.

Now if I can just figure out how to get my butter well-emulsified using the creaming method! Maybe I'll just let the mixer just run until I can't feel a single grain of sugar before I start adding other stuff next time, and see if it makes a difference. (I have a scratch recipe that's ALMOST there.)

I would so love to be free of box mixes forever. It would be so liberating! I make nearly everything else from scratch - other cakes, icings, fillings, cookies, yeast breads, pastries, caramel, cheesecakes, creme brulee, you name it - even scratch ladyfingers for tiramisu. Knowing you can be left alone in a kitchen with nothing but butter, eggs, flour, and sugar and come out with these things is a wonderful feeling! It bugs the heck out of me that I haven't been able to master a simple white cake.

<sigh>

To make a long story short, I totally get how scratch doesn't seem as moist.

pinkpiggie78 Posted 6 Jul 2011 , 11:55am

So is there some "magic" ratio (fat to flour, liquid to flour, etc) for a great, moist scratch recipe? Everyone talks about these amazing scratch cakes, but they are so hard to find. I make several scratch cakes and use doctored mixes, so I can bake from scratch. I just tried out a new recipe and the texture was more like a muffin than a cake.

Is there a good "baking for dummies" book that discusses scratch baking for those of us that don't have a culinary degree or several hours to try out several scratch recipes for one flavor cake?

GrandmaG Posted 6 Jul 2011 , 1:30pm

I'm not a vegan but I love vegan cakes! They are scratch made and are usually made with oil. They are always moist. I would also like to learn the science of baking cakes. It seems to be a butter vs oil question. I have made cakes using butter and they have turned out moist but they don't stay that way for very long. So when making a couple hundred cupcakes for an event I use oil recipes that will stay moist for a few days. I have to admit, though, that I do like the taste better when made with butter.

Annabakescakes Posted 6 Jul 2011 , 9:12pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by scp1127

............ And my European buttercreams range from those made with exotic sugars to custard bases. They are so interesting. I think with scratch cakes done well, people don't ask what it is, they just devour it......
How costly is that? Do you know roughly what it costs to do an 8" round 2 layer, iced, and with filling? I know that it costs alot more, but it sounds so nice!

.....Anyone who wants to learn scratch baking can do so while using the box recipes. When you get one that is better than the box or doctored mix, replace it. After awhile, you will have a great group of scratch cakes. But in the mean time, you won't feel like you are selling a scratch cake that is not as good as the mix just for the sake of scratch baking.
I have been thinking of doing that, but I don't have a lot of time, and I am still trying to pay myself back fo my separate kitchen in my garage! I don't want to waste a ton of ingredients.




Is there a certain flour most scratch bakers use, or a certain method that is used? I was always taught to mix my wet separate from the dry, then mix them together. Is that correct for scratch cakes?

I have perfected my scratch pancakes, and wouldn't use Bisquick or whatever if my life depended it! They melt in your mouth and are so fluffy and amazing....Mmmm I need to get some syrup, I am having them tomorrow! Better than IHOP!

imagenthatnj Posted 6 Jul 2011 , 9:20pm

That's like "reverse creaming" Annabakescakes.

http://cakecentral.com/cake-decorating-ftopict-706229-.html&sid=eec08cb4ef9e249ffdecbfe1580a9b6b

I have a book called Sky High that uses this method a lot. It has a lot of yummy and easy cakes, all from scratch. She uses a lot of cake flour.

This guy is a good start:

http://www.joepastry.com/

(Baking basics on the left side)

And she bakes a lot from scratch, too. She's got directions and always answers questions.

http://sweetapolita.com/blog/

And there's a good book to read on baking that I like:

http://www.amazon.com/BakeWise-Successful-Baking-Magnificent-Recipes/dp/1416560785/ref=pd_sim_b_1

I'm sure scp1127 has more pointers about other good books.

cakestyles Posted 6 Jul 2011 , 10:31pm

A few very important things to remember when baking from scratch....

1) weigh your ingredients for the most accurate results.
(a cup of flour today may not = a cup of flour tomorrow, depending on the weather, or the method of putting that flour in the measuring cup) But, if you weigh it, than it's the same amount every single time.

2) Use only the highest quality ingredients available
i.e. full fat buttermilk/sourcream, europeon butters, REAL vanilla extract/paste, the finest chocolates available, etc. If you use Hershey's cocoa than you won't have the finest tasting chocolate cake, simple as that.

3) Follow the directions to a "t"
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I'm reading reviews of recipes and the reviewers are complaining that the recipe is inferior when in the next breath their writing about all of the substitutions they made from the original recipe.


Baking from scratch is not easy but it's not impossible. It's a learned skill, and it's understanding the science behind each and every ingredient that you are using. Once you grasp that understanding you'll be able to pick out good recipes just by looking at them.

But, I still believe the reason most of you say you've never eaten a great scratch cake is because the cakes you've eaten were not made properly.

A "too tough" texture or "corn muffin" texture can be the result of improper mixing, for example.

It takes time and patience to bake from scratch successfully, but it's not impossible.

It's very rewarding when you do achieve that level of excellence in scratch baking, because not everyone can do it. So don't give up!

So to answer your original question...Yes indeed scratch cakes can and are moist, light, flavorful and delicious!

GrandmaG Posted 6 Jul 2011 , 10:34pm

Good tips Cakestyles! I don't know if I've seen any brands of European butters. What kind do you use? What kind of chocolate do you like to use?

cakestyles Posted 6 Jul 2011 , 10:47pm

I use a few different brands of chocolate, depending on what I have available....Scharffen Berger, Valrhona or Callebaut.

The brand of Europeon butter I use is Plugra. The difference between this and say Land o Lakes butter is the water content. Europeon butters have a higher fat content.

GrandmaG Posted 6 Jul 2011 , 11:15pm

Wow! I just googled Plugra and it has a 87% butter fat content vs land o' lakes 37%. I see Trader Joe's sales it. I'll have to see if ours carries it. Thanks!

cakestyles Posted 6 Jul 2011 , 11:18pm

Oh you're so welcome. I hope you can find some near you, it really does make a difference in the finished product. It's a little more expensive than regular butter, but I think it's worth it.

Annabakescakes Posted 7 Jul 2011 , 1:27am
Quote:
Originally Posted by GrandmaG

Wow! I just googled Plugra and it has a 87% butter fat content vs land o' lakes 37%. I see Trader Joe's sales it. I'll have to see if ours carries it. Thanks!




I guess if it costs less than twice as much, it is a bargain!

GrandmaG Posted 7 Jul 2011 , 1:34am

So with all the extra fat in the butter will the cake be more moist?

cakestyles Posted 7 Jul 2011 , 2:09am

Nice job researching!

You mentioned Land O' Lakes ultra creamy...I've never seen that, have you?

The biggest noticeable difference that I found when I made the switch from regular butter to the Plugra, was the texture of my cakes.

They were definitely more tender and more "fluffy", for lack of a better word.

They rose higher and didn't deflate at all when I took them out of the oven.

gatorcake Posted 7 Jul 2011 , 2:33am
Quote:
Originally Posted by cakestyles



3) Follow the directions to a "t"
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I'm reading reviews of recipes and the reviewers are complaining that the recipe is inferior when in the next breath their writing about all of the substitutions they made from the original recipe.




thumbs_up.gif

I will add frankly I do not know what folks mean when are looking for an "amazingly moist" or "super moist" recipe. If folks ask me are my scratch cakes moist? I answer yes (and no one has ever said they are dry). If they ask are they "amazingly moist"? I simply have no idea how to respond as I have absolutely no idea what they are looking for. I look for recipes that are tender, flavorful, have a uniform crumb, and have good mouthfeel (which dry cakes don't).

Annabakescakes Posted 7 Jul 2011 , 3:00am
Quote:
Originally Posted by cakestyles



3) Follow the directions to a "t"
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I'm reading reviews of recipes and the reviewers are complaining that the recipe is inferior when in the next breath their writing about all of the substitutions they made from the original recipe.





I see this all the time! It is the dumbest thing I have ever heard of! "This was flat and dry and weird. I didn't have butter, flour, vanilla and I am a vegan so I used soy margarine, sprouted wheat bread crumbs, and vanilla weight gainer. It was too thick so added some almond and substituted tofu for the egg." icon_eek.gificon_confused.gif Gee I can't believe it wasn't good!

scp1127 Posted 7 Jul 2011 , 3:42am

I have some very moist cakes. I know exactly what someone is looking for in a very moist cake. They are nothing like box mixes that have that coated-looking crumb. But I can't define in a few sentences, how I get them moist. Every single cake I develop is very different from the next. I don't have a few cakes and then change the flavor. Every great scratch baker will say the same thing... you must dedicate the time to learn, and then understand the process well enough to manipulate the recipes and make them your own.

I haven't used the higher fat butters in cakes, but I did have an experience with cookies. Our Dutch Market sells an Amish butter with a higher fat content. The taste was not that different from LOL, but the fat content was too high for the cookies to absorb. Since my cookie and cake recipes are already developed, I am not changing them.

I don't use butter to up the moisture. It is a blend of several things in each recipe as well as the techniques.

saffronica Posted 7 Jul 2011 , 4:16am

I know what you mean about the bad reviews! I once looked up aTres Leches recipe on the Food Network's website (I think it was Emeril's). One of the reviewers gave it five stars and raved about it...but then said they substituted a yellow cake mix for the scratch cake and Cool Whip for the whipped cream topping. The only part of the recipe they followed was to mix three kinds of milk together and pour it over the cake!

FromScratchSF Posted 7 Jul 2011 , 4:28am

overbaking kills the cake - being able to tell when your cake is done or knowing when your cake needs 3 minutes more or 8 minutes more is just as important of a skill to learn as mixing or adjusting recipes.

Annabakescakes Posted 7 Jul 2011 , 5:27am

Okay, seriously, how would one taste one of these amazing scratch cakes? Can I order a tasting cake and have it mailed? I don't care what it looks like when it gets here, I'll lick it off the wrapper! lol! I would like to pursue the scratch baking if it is as good or better than a box, and I am a fast learner. I bake from a box because I have never liked scratch cakes, but I would like to be a little more upscale. I have a hard time trying recipes over and over when I have never had a good one. I tried several pancake recipes before I found one and perfected it, because I knew it existed. I do not actually know if this amazing scratch cake exists! I also am getting more and more customers with allergies, I would like to offer cakes that even the people most sensitive to artificial ingredients can eat.

scp1127 Posted 7 Jul 2011 , 5:45am

I agree FromScratch. You need to know which will continue to bake out of the oven, which will colapse if it is a few minutes undercooked, and which need, and which can come out with moist crumbs. I've started to rely on the smell and touch method over the toothpick method. Trial and error plus experience. And always use an independent thermometer!!!

FromScratchSF Posted 7 Jul 2011 , 5:54am
Quote:
Originally Posted by Annabakescakes

Okay, seriously, how would one taste one of these amazing scratch cakes? Can I order a tasting cake and have it mailed? I don't care what it looks like when it gets here, I'll lick it off the wrapper! lol! I would like to pursue the scratch baking if it is as good or better than a box, and I am a fast learner. I bake from a box because I have never liked scratch cakes, but I would like to be a little more upscale. I have a hard time trying recipes over and over when I have never had a good one. I tried several pancake recipes before I found one and perfected it, because I knew it existed. I do not actually know if this amazing scratch cake exists! I also am getting more and more customers with allergies, I would like to offer cakes that even the people most sensitive to artificial ingredients can eat.




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