Okay. I am just starting out with recipes and learning everything so this may sound silly but how do I know what ingredients are the best? From all of my investigating, I understand that using the best ingredients gives you the best cake/cupcake taste, texture, etc. Unfortunately, my cupcakes have been anything but. They have been either too dry or too moist, the density was off. It was as heavy as a rock. I don't know what I am doing wrong. I would like to bake cupcakes and sell them but I feel I should make them from scratch. Is this so? If it is then why can't I find some really good recipes that make a really good cupcake? I am assuming it is because of the ingredients but like I said, I am still trying to learn everything. I want this to succeed rather than fail. PLEASE HELP. Thank you
I know the feeling! I bake from scratch, because I try to avoid processed/chemically enhanced foods for health reasons. I'm impatient and I want to find the best recipe right away. I don't like trying recipe after recipe after recipe... But, it's really the only way to find a good one. Eventually you will come across one you really like.
As far as baking from scratch, if you want to, go for it! But many people probably wouldn't even know the difference if you went with a box or a doctored box mix. I think it's just personal preference of the baker.
I don't know what recipes you've tried but here are some to get you started. You'll have to google to find the recipes, I don't have them stored on my computer, but I can give you the names. Again, the ones you like are really personal preference.
The Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake (My Favorite!)
Billy's Vanilla Vanilla Cupcake (on Martha Stewart's website)
Mermaid Bakery has one I tried too
There's a chocolate cupcake on America's Test Kitchen that I really like. Not the dark chocolate one, but the one that's filled with ganache. The dark chocolate recipe was too dry for me. Sorry, don't know the exact name. I'm still trying to tweak this one to get a more "milk chocolate" flavor too.
Martha Stewart's one bowl chocolate cupcakes. These have a box mix taste and texture to me. I didn't love it, but it's very popular.
Strawberry: There's a Sprinkles recipe on the web that tastes amazing. Unfortunately it was super dense and heavy, so I didn't like it. I wish I could find one that had that taste but a lighter texture.
The best way to learn about ingredients and mixing technique (often the reason for one texture or another) is by reading about the science behind the ingredients and how they work together to create what you like. Then you can start with any recipe and manipulate it to be what you want. It's all about the balance between structure and what people perceive as tenderness. I highly recommend BakeWise by Shirley O'Corriher. If you are serious about creating a scratch cupcake that you like and selling it, it is worth your time to study up on the science. That is the best way to consistently produce what you would like to serve.
That said, there are a lot of reasons a cake recipe can go wrong. And not all cake recipes work for cupcakes. Without seeing a recipe, it's hard to say what the culprit is specifically. For moisture issues, it is most likely the ingredients and amount of liquid in the recipe, as well as baking time and temperature. For texture, mixing method makes a difference. Cake flour will also make a lighter texture than AP flour.
I started as a scratch-only baker years ago and then started using mixes as a base due to the time issue and because I had to bake around a husband, 3 kids and a job. Lately I've been getting back to doing more scratch cakes.
I found a collection of Civil War era recipes and I've been slowly making my way through them, tweaking and updating them, since there's no pan sizes, temperatures or baking times given. And when was the last time you saw a recipe that called for "drippings" ? I've found that the older recipes will give you a heavier, denser product that doesn't always work for cupcakes.
The only way to find recipes that work for you is to try them. This isn't a fast process. But if you know what you're doing, you don't have to spend a fortune on ingredients to have a fabulous tasting cake. It has never made sense to me to spend $50 on ingredients when $25 will produce a cake that people go nuts for. Spending money just to brag about how expensive a cake is to make IMO is not very smart. That being said, there are some ingredients that simply make the cake and they're not going to be cheap.
Bottom line - - it's going to take time and hard work and experience to get where you want to be. All of us here will help in any way we can. Good Luck.
Oh, I was also going to say that for flavor, I try to use the best vanilla (homemade or NM vanilla bean paste) and butter (I use Kerrygold or Plugra). Also, for a chocolate cake, high quality cocoa and/or chocolate makes a difference. These won't affect the texture of the cake or the moisture level, though.
I must absolutely disagree with two above posts.
People can tell the difference between a great scratch cake and a doctored mix. They may think a doctored mix is scratch, but they have no problem identifying a perfectly executed fine scratch cake.
Finer ingredients most certainly produce a finer, more refined cake. This is fact. The problem comes when you don't know how to bake great scratch cakes and just throw in the fine ingredients hoping it will fix the mediocre recipe or lack of experience in method.
The first thing to do is follow the other earlier advice and study the science. And there is no getting around the process of finding good recipes unless you intern under a master baker and they share all of their secrets.
When learning to bake from scratch, you will be happier making recipes with grocery store items and learn the method. After you get confident, you won't mind unloading $15.00 worth of chocolate in a cake. I have one cake I sell that is $89.00 for a 9 inch cake. I added up the ingredients and found that the grocery bill would be about $70.00 for a home baker. The ingredients are specialized and probably would not be used again and go to waste in a home situation. Of course I keep these exotic ingredients on hand but they are still pricey. This particular cake sells for $10.00 per slice in a fine Manhatten restaurant. That would be about $120.00 retail for the whole cake.
I hated chocolate cake until I started my bakery. I never made them because I didn't like them. When I started using fine chocolate, I found that the taste was great. I could appreciate the nuances of finer ingredients.
I make my own vanilla extract from specific beans and top shelf vodka. I was recently approached by a wholesaler to market this product nationally. It will have a very high price tag, but there is a segment of the market that will pay for fine ingredients and the products produced with those ingredients.
So, sorry, fine ingredients and the products produced with them have high demand in a niche market. If you choose that market as a goal for your skills and a business plan, you will be one of the lucky ones who has the market virtually to yourself, as most bakeries are at saturation fighting for the same mainstream market.
WOW! Thank you all so much. I actually learned quit a bit about finding recipes, practice makes perfect and definitely studying the science of baking. I will try all of your suggestions. Hopefully, something will happen soon. Already checked out a science of baking website. It's nice to know there are great people who are willing to help a stranger. Especially since I am sure that I will have other questions along the way.
Thanx so much again.