The Science Behind The Cupcake

Baking By GuiltyPleasures Updated 28 Jul 2011 , 6:39am by zespri

GuiltyPleasures Posted 25 Jul 2011 , 4:34am
post #1 of 20

I am looking for some help. I LOVE the results of the WASC cake (both taste and texture). However I am baffled because when I have tried to use this same batter for cupcakes the result is a much lighter cupcake than what the cake produces. icon_confused.gif I am really looking for the same great taste but just slightly heavier or more dense.

I was thinking that perhaps if I changed the recipe to 1/2 cup oil and 1 cup water that might help to make them more dense? Or perhaps if I mixed everything by hand thereby decreasing the amount of air in the batter? Any suggestions of a way to tinker with this recipe from those who understand the science behind the cupcake would be greatly appreciated!

19 replies
microunique Posted 25 Jul 2011 , 4:57am
post #2 of 20

Really baking cupcakes is a science as well as an art. There are some basic rules for making cup cakes, that are the sugar must be equal or less than the flour in weight. The eggs and milk or liquids must be as equal to the flour and the fat must be equal to the eggs. It is the simple science behind the cup cakes.

amaryllis756 Posted 25 Jul 2011 , 9:32am
post #3 of 20

Does that mean when you add fruit, the water in the fruit has to be taken into consideration? Does the pH of the fruit also has to be taken into consideration too?

LindaF144a Posted 25 Jul 2011 , 12:27pm
post #4 of 20

Using a cake mix is hard to tinker with and get what you want. You can apply the "rules" as stated above, but you can't control what is already in the cake mix. I have never used a WASC cake. But I do know a fellow cake class student who did and had great results. Maybe you should post your WASC recipe here and then others can tell you where to tweak it.

Getting a denser cake boils down to the leavening, not the other stuff all the time. You might be able to substitute sour cream for the water and get a different result. Sour cream in any recipe will make it denser and moister at the same time. But it is the leavening that determines the lightness of a cupcake. More leavening and you get a lighter cupcakes, less leavening = less rising = denser cupcake. And seeing how the leavening is mixed into the cake mix already, it is hard to control.

Fruit in a WASC will affect things and as well as scratch. It depends on the fruit and the acidity level and the sugar level. You can't categorize all fruit into one category. IMO, you also can't bake with all fruit. I don't like the results personally. I would rather add strawberries as a filling rather than bake in is one example. They turn lighter in color and get mushy when baked.

GuiltyPleasures Posted 25 Jul 2011 , 5:24pm
post #5 of 20

Thank you for the responses so far. I was not aware of those rules so that is good info to have.

I am using the White Almond Sour Cream Cake recipe by Rebecca Sutterby. I will usually half the recipe for cupcakes (which is where I was suggesting the water and oil tinkering). I also will sub chocolate, lemon, etc.. Also, because I dont care about a true white for cupcakes I will use 3 whole eggs instead of 4 egg whites. So the recipe would look like this:

WASC Recipe 1/2 recipe
1 boxes white cake mix (or cake mix of choice)
1 cups all-purpose flour
1 cups granulated sugar
3/4 tsp salt

1 1/3 cups water
1/8 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp real vanilla
1 tsp almond extract (or complimentary extract of choice)
1 cup sour cream
3 large eggs

I adapted this to make gluten free cupcakes for a friend when she came to dinner last week. After researching gluten free stuff I used 1 cup of water, ½ cup oil with the cornstarch/xanthan gum/rice flour combo found here in CC in place of the regular flour. Because they were chocolate cupcakes I also added 3 tbsp cocoa powder and the results were REALLY good both flavor and consistency.

I have no idea why the cake on the WASC turns out perfect but the cupcakes are much lighter, it is after all the SAME batter. The same amount of leavening is used?!?!? I am so confused.

When I was reading up on gluten free cooking I did read that rice flour is more sticky. Perhaps if I tried using a rice flour in place of all purpose flour it would make it more dense by not allowing as much of a rise? Or would adding the additional cocoa in the chocolate version help solve the problem? Not that this provides much help in doing the white almondgrrr. I wish I were smarter than I am.

Again, any help in trying to figure this out would be greatly appreciated!

LindaF144a Posted 25 Jul 2011 , 5:44pm
post #6 of 20

Those rules only apply to scratch baking, not WASC. Also if you did GF baking and used s regular cake mix, it was not GF. A cake mix has flour in it. This is part of he reason why I have never understood the lure of a WASC recipe as you are adding all the stuff normally found in a cake mix except the oil and egg and all the chemicals.

GuiltyPleasures Posted 25 Jul 2011 , 6:07pm
post #7 of 20

I guess I was not clear, when I made the GF cupcakes I used the Betty Crocker GF cake mix so they were in fact GF. I did notice that when I made an 8 x 8 cake with the same GF batter that it did not rise as well so if doing a GF cake I would likely beat the egg whites to soft peaks and fold in to see if it gives it a little more umph. That got me thinking that changing the oil in the gluten/regular recipe may make a differance. Although perhaps if I just cut out some of the water it would do the same thing?

LindaF144a Posted 25 Jul 2011 , 7:56pm
post #8 of 20

I have nit had any experience with that cake mix. I did read the label ingredients and there are no chemicals. My advice is if you have never used it as directed on the box you should at least once to see what results you should be getting. Then you can tinker, if it is possible to do with GF.

zespri Posted 25 Jul 2011 , 7:57pm
post #9 of 20

That's really interesting, do you know WHY those rules work?

Quote:
Originally Posted by microunique

Really baking cupcakes is a science as well as an art. There are some basic rules for making cup cakes, that are the sugar must be equal or less than the flour in weight. The eggs and milk or liquids must be as equal to the flour and the fat must be equal to the eggs. It is the simple science behind the cup cakes.


GuiltyPleasures Posted 25 Jul 2011 , 8:38pm
post #10 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaF144a

I have nit had any experience with that cake mix. I did read the label ingredients and there are no chemicals. My advice is if you have never used it as directed on the box you should at least once to see what results you should be getting. Then you can tinker, if it is possible to do with GF.




Thanks Linda. I did try the original recipe on the box and was not real impressed. I then tried a Cake Mix Doctor version, which I was not real impressed with either. (Both of those to me still contained a gritty texture, which I have read is consistent with GF baking). I then tinkered with the ingredients to come up with the recipe that I did use. I have used the recipe for the regular WASC cake multiple times and am familar with the results. I figured I would start with the boxed version because investing in multiple flours for GF baking can be quite expensive when I don't normally do GF. The fact that there were no additives was a bonus.

Do you know why the airiness would be greater in the original WASC batter when I use it for cupcakes as opposed to when I bake it in a cake pan? At first I trhought I was just imagining a difference so I cooked them both at the same time and compared, and the cake was in fact more dense and the cupcake was more airy.

LindaF144a Posted 26 Jul 2011 , 12:56am
post #11 of 20

I have never made a WASC cake or cupcake, so I cannot take a guess on why they came out differently. I strictly bake from scratch because everytime I use a cake mix I mess it up. Leave it to me to take something fool proof and not get the right results. So I stick to scratch baking. At least I know what I am going to get out of the oven.

Harrisburgcupcakes Posted 26 Jul 2011 , 1:01am
post #12 of 20

I am fascinated by this topic, because of the cake vs. cupcake formulas. I have used cupcake recipes as cakes and vice versa without issues. I never knew there was a formula for one or the other.

LindaF144a Posted 26 Jul 2011 , 1:20am
post #13 of 20

Okay, let's not get confused about the "rules" posted here for the cupcakes. It is not cut in stone and can be changed. In fact if you look at the book Bakewise as well as Professional Baking there are two rules. One is for a "shortened" cake and the other is for a "hi-ratio" cake. Depending on what kind of flour you use, you CAN use the formulas for either cake.

Having said that I will say that it is also okay to bend some of the "rules". I do all the time, but my recipes are down to an art to get the results I want.

I also read in another book (the name escapes me right now) that while there are "guidelines" (not rules) in formulating a recipe it should be not be considered the only way to do it because it would stifle the opportunity to create a new type of cake.

Personally I break every rule written above and get a delicious cake. So take those guidelines with a grain of salt. There are a lot of recipes out there that do not fit into those guidelines.

The best book available to explore this further is Bakewise by Shirley Corriher. She talks in length about it. If you can't buy the book, the check out your library system. Also here is a link to an article she wrote on the subject. As you will see it is slightly different than what the OP wrote. It just goes to prove there are different formulas for cake.

http://www.finecooking.com/articles/ratios-for-great-cakes.aspx

GuiltyPleasures Posted 26 Jul 2011 , 2:09am
post #14 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaF144a


The best book available to explore this further is Bakewise by Shirley Corriher. She talks in length about it. If you can't buy the book, the check out your library system. Also here is a link to an article she wrote on the subject. As you will see it is slightly different than what the OP wrote. It just goes to prove there are different formulas for cake.

http://www.finecooking.com/articles/ratios-for-great-cakes.aspx




That is very interesting. I am going to get the book and read it; thank you!

If any one else has any insight to why you would yield different results for cakes versus cupcakes while using the same batter I would be interested to hear about it.

zespri Posted 26 Jul 2011 , 2:13am
post #15 of 20

I'm no pro baker, but here's a theory. Maybe it would help if you dropped the temperature. When cooking two batches of cuppies, one at a higher temp, and one at a lower temp, the higher temp will produce domed, taller cupcakes. The heat makes them rise faster, which I assume means there is more air in them. Slow and low cooking produces flatter, not so tall cuppies, with less air in them. Just a theory!

GuiltyPleasures Posted 26 Jul 2011 , 12:58pm
post #16 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by zespri

I'm no pro baker, but here's a theory. Maybe it would help if you dropped the temperature. When cooking two batches of cuppies, one at a higher temp, and one at a lower temp, the higher temp will produce domed, taller cupcakes. The heat makes them rise faster, which I assume means there is more air in them. Slow and low cooking produces flatter, not so tall cuppies, with less air in them. Just a theory!




As I read this I had one of those "duh" moments. That makes sense. Before I change any of the ingredients I will kick the temp down to 325 and see what happens. Thank you!

zespri Posted 26 Jul 2011 , 8:08pm
post #17 of 20

oh yay, glad it made sense to you too icon_razz.gif Can you do me a favour and come back here and report if it made a difference? I'd be keen to know!


Quote:
Originally Posted by GuiltyPleasures

Quote:
Originally Posted by zespri

I'm no pro baker, but here's a theory. Maybe it would help if you dropped the temperature. When cooking two batches of cuppies, one at a higher temp, and one at a lower temp, the higher temp will produce domed, taller cupcakes. The heat makes them rise faster, which I assume means there is more air in them. Slow and low cooking produces flatter, not so tall cuppies, with less air in them. Just a theory!



As I read this I had one of those "duh" moments. That makes sense. Before I change any of the ingredients I will kick the temp down to 325 and see what happens. Thank you!


leah_s Posted 26 Jul 2011 , 8:44pm
post #18 of 20

The same logic applies to cakes. When posters come on here and complained that their cakes have high domes, the first thing we all answer is "turn the baking temp down."

Baked goods bake from eh outside in. With a high temp the outside sets quicker and as the leaveners continue working, they have to expand, so a dome forms.

With lower temps, the outside sets slower as the center is starting to set, therefore no dome forms.

GuiltyPleasures Posted 28 Jul 2011 , 6:30am
post #19 of 20

I cooked some at 350 and some at 325. I was able to tell a difference in the cupcakes. Neither of the batches had large domes but the batch that cooked at 325 turned out to be a more heavy/dense cupcake, which was what I was shooting for. Thank you for pointing out the obvious! icon_redface.gif

zespri Posted 28 Jul 2011 , 6:39am
post #20 of 20

oh yay! I'm glad it helped, and thanks for reporting back with your results icon_smile.gif



Quote:
Originally Posted by GuiltyPleasures

I cooked some at 350 and some at 325. I was able to tell a difference in the cupcakes. Neither of the batches had large domes but the batch that cooked at 325 turned out to be a more heavy/dense cupcake, which was what I was shooting for. Thank you for pointing out the obvious! icon_redface.gif


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