Hi everyone! Just wondering what's the difference in a cake that's baked with good quality flour such as King Arthur, vs. a cake baked with regular store-brand flour? One of my close friends bakes gourmet bread and puts such an emphasis on having good quality, fresh flour, she actually orders directly from King Arthur to ensure it's fresh. I'm wondering when it comes to cakes is it equally important? And how does it affect the taste and consistency of the final product?
In my humble opinion I think good flour is needed for all baking. To me it makes a great difference in the outcome of product. In fact I only use a patented flour and once I tried it I never have gone bak to anything else.
The store brands are the cast offs of the quality flours. They contain more of the harder parts of the wheat and their % of gluten is irregular, changing with every batch. The grain is also irregular, containing bigger chunks instead of a fine, even grain.
If you are trying to make a quality product, every time you sub a low quality product, your final product will suffer. This goes for eggs, vanilla, sugar, milk, heavy cream, sour cream, cream cheese, etc.
One sub will not have a significant effect, but a combination of always looking for the cheapest product will result in a poor product compared to one with good quality ingredients. The same goes for constantly increasing the quality of your products. After a quest for superior ingredients, your final product will be much finer than the original.
To determine which product is right for you, you need to do some serious research concerning where you want to be in the market. If you want a mainstream demographic, you will probably need some better ingredients and some that save you money so that your prices will be geared to the mass market. You will need to experiment to find which products pack the most punch and which don't. In my opinion, the flavorings and extracts bring the most to the table, followed by the dairy. If your quality of every product becomes too low, it may be better to stick with box mixes. If your market is upper income, that demographic appreciates that quest for finer ingredients and you can charge accordingly.
Store brand ingredients are often a lower quality so I don't use these in baking. But everyone has their own opinion about favorite brand name products. One of my clients wanted comparison testing of flours - King Arthur, Pillsbury, Gold Medal, Heckers, White Lily, store brand - using the same recipe but the different brands. Store brand flours consistently failed while all of the brand names baked up great products. My recommendation - use any reputable brand of flour, whichever one suits your preference.
I have noticed a difference in my cakes since switching ti King Arthur Flour. I used to grab store brand (I'm a hobby baker, so no need for bulk buying), thinking there wasn't too much of a difference. But the more and more I got into full scratch baking (everything, not just cake), the more studying I did. A few months ago King Arthur Flour did a couple of free baking demos locally, and I went to check it out. They are a wonderful company with a wonderful product. They gave out several door prizes including free flour, coupons, gift cards, etc... Though I started off using it for breads, I quickly started using it in cakes as well b/c of the quality difference in the breads I baked. You could just taste it. It's more refined in cakes, definitely not the dominant flavor, and not something my family would point out as they could tell with the bread, but it is there.
Thank you all so much for your helpful responses! Too bad I stocked up on Kroger brand flour when it was on clearance last week for $.99. Oh well, it was all-purpose so likely wont be using it as much anyway.
I'm still so new to baking (9 mos) so I don't think I should be limiting my market right now, but I do know when (and IF) I decide to become an actual business, I have more of an interest in bigger, fancy, special occasion-type cakes, so I agree with scp1127 that I need all quality ingredients. Definitely going to start using locally raised eggs and milk, those have such rich flavors!
I actually did a taste test between Kroger brand all-purpose flour and king Arthur flour...ate just the plain flour....king Arthur was so much sweeter!