kellie1996 Posted 19 Apr 2013 , 3:08am
post #1 of

I'm ready to give up, I think I've tried just about every vanilla cake recipe there is out there, but I can't seem to find that perfect one!? 

 

I've tried Billys, fromscratchsfs, and just about everything that pops up on google under 'perfect vanilla cake'. 

 

I DON'T UNDERSTAND, chocolate cupcakes just alway seem to turn out so much moister and softer, why can't I find the perfect vanilla cake recipe? 

 

I'm after something incredibly soft and moist (not at all dry). I'm positive I'm not over-baking/mixing, I'm using all ingredients at room temp, and can seem to master every flavour (strawberry, chocolate, coffee, etc.. turn out wonderfully) just not vanilla!

 

Some things that might be causing problems: I don't really want to have to use cake flour and I use buttermilk substitute (milk + vinegar) as I sell these and I don't want to have my 'go-to' recipe to contain really expensive ingredients.. 

 

If any of you could help, suggest recipes, share secrets, I would be so very grateful! 

38 replies
IAmPamCakes Posted 19 Apr 2013 , 3:21am
post #2 of

AI use milk & vinegar substitution often, and it shouldn't affect anything. Cake flour is quite necessary in some recipes, so unless you adapt the recipe to AP flour, it can cause problems. I think white/yellow cake is a problem for a lot of bakers. I'm all about the science of baking, so I'm trying to formulate my own recipe. We'll see how that plays out :) Recently, I have been working with Rose Levy Barenbaum's recipe and it's OK. Not exactly what I want, but the texture is closer than almost any other I've tried. I use simple syrup when assembling my cakes and that helps with the moisture level a lot. Wish I had more useful input, but I am finding my way through the white cake maze too.

liz at sugar Posted 19 Apr 2013 , 3:29am
post #3 of

Kellie - I really like FromScratchSF's vanilla cake.  What didn't you like about it?  I make it as directed, and it comes out perfectly.

 

As far as cost, buttermilk isn't any more expensive than whole milk, and cake flour isn't any more expensive in bulk.  And I think the recipe only calls for like 8.75 ounces of flour - even from a box of Softasilk from the grocery store you would still get almost 4 recipe's worth from a box.

 

You could always use the doctored WASC recipe, but it may come out more expensive than this scratch recipe, because you still have to add flour, sugar, sour cream, etc.

 

Liz

kellie1996 Posted 19 Apr 2013 , 3:30am
post #4 of

Thank you! I might give the cake flour a try, I've used the substitute with cornflour, although I hear it's not really the same thing. Should I just resort to packet mixes? Although I find these don't always produce the exact texture I'm after either.. 

kellie1996 Posted 19 Apr 2013 , 3:32am
post #5 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by liz at sugar View Post

Kellie - I really like FromScratchSF's vanilla cake.  What didn't you like about it?  I make it as directed, and it comes out perfectly.

 

As far as cost, buttermilk isn't any more expensive than whole milk, and cake flour isn't any more expensive in bulk.  And I think the recipe only calls for like 8.75 ounces of flour - even from a box of Softasilk from the grocery store you would still get almost 4 recipe's worth from a box.

 

You could always use the doctored WASC recipe, but it may come out more expensive than this scratch recipe, because you still have to add flour, sugar, sour cream, etc.

 

Liz

I should probably have another attempt at the fromscratch sf cake, My end result turned out curdled and was just difficult to scoop into the liners to begin with. I wanted to use whole eggs, do you? or do you make the yellow or white version?

liz at sugar Posted 19 Apr 2013 , 3:44am
post #6 of

My batter definately comes out pourable.  I have used the version with 3 whole eggs, which was very good, and lately I have been using the all egg white version.

 

I think the real success of this recipe is the reverse creaming method.  Do you think your batter was really curdled, or did you just have large chunks of butter remaining?  If your butter isn't at the perfect temp, it is hard to get mixed in properly.

 

Try it again and see what you think!

 

Liz
 

kellie1996 Posted 19 Apr 2013 , 5:32am
post #7 of

I think it was definitely curdled, and when it started to rise in the oven, it looked still curdled and funny, I could tell it was a disaster before it had finished cooking, so I chucked it out. I may try it again though, do you think cake flour is essential to the reverse creaming method? I heard it doesn't work with AP

FlourPots Posted 19 Apr 2013 , 6:47am
post #8 of
Here's the vanilla cake recipe that's next on my list to try: http://www.threelittleblackbirds.com/2011/12/yellow-butter-vanilla-cake/
 
It sure sounds like a winner according to the baker who created it!
 
I found it so interesting that she loathes the smell and taste of things made with cake flour because that's exactly me, and I swear I thought I was the only one...
 
I've tried a few different brands, and even a really expensive, highly rated one from King Arthur Flour...but I'm done experimenting with it...no more cake flour for me.
yortma Posted 19 Apr 2013 , 1:02pm
post #9 of

My favorite yellow cake is Toba Garrett's moist yellow cake from her book The Well Decorated cake.  I tried many recipes before finding this one, and then looked no further.  I have only made it as written, with cake flour and full fat fresh buttermilk.  The best cakes are made with the best ingredients.  I have not tried it with the substitutions that you are hoping to use.  Hope that helps!

 

 

just for fun, I I did a rough estimate of the price difference for regular milk vs buttermilk, and regular vs cake flour.  These are very rough estimates off the top of my head, and my prices are local grocery, not discount or restaurant supply.  

 

Flour .50/lb

cake flour 2.00/lb

whole milk 1.00/qt

buttermilk 3.00/qt

 

 

the recipe uses 10 oz of cake flour,  which is .32 vs 1.25

1.25 cups buttermilk is .32 vs .94

 

overall difference is 1.55 more for the good stuff, all else being equal.  Good luck!

gemmal Posted 19 Apr 2013 , 2:08pm

Hi! I was having the same problems with the recipes and since I'm in the UK we don't get cake flour that's less than £3.50 a kilo which is ridiculous and I've given up looking at the protein content of all the plain and self raising flours in every supermarket. I use this one as a default now and everyone who's tried it says its perfect but that may be UK tastes, or people I know tastes.

 

http://www.exclusivelyfood.com.au/2009/11/butter-cake-recipe.html

 

Also, just as a note, instead of the sour cream I use double cream now because I noticed that the fat content of sour cream here is between 15% and 20% and it actually made a massive difference. Good luck!

Kathy107 Posted 19 Apr 2013 , 2:57pm

yortma, I recently tried Toba Garrett's yellow cake recipe.  It is delicious.  However, it is a little dry.  I am wondering if I add more milk will this help?  Thanks.

yortma Posted 20 Apr 2013 , 1:03am
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kathy107 View Post

yortma, I recently tried Toba Garrett's yellow cake recipe.  It is delicious.  However, it is a little dry.  I am wondering if I add more milk will this help?  Thanks.

 

 

Possibly, if you are using full fat buttermilk. If you used nonfat or low fat buttermilk, maybe just finding the full fat type will help.  It's what I have always used for this recipe.   I believe what usually adds moistness in general is not adding more liquid, but adding more fat such as heavy cream, sour cream or yogurt. Also, don't overmix at the end, and don't overbake!   I don't like dense cakes and really liked this one because it has great flavor, is not dense but is still moist. But it may not be the best for everybody!   The site below has a really nice explanation of cake chemistry.  

 

http://www.asliceofheavencakesclassroom.com/2012/03/making-moist-cakes-or-cupcakes.html

bakediva Posted 20 Apr 2013 , 2:19am

1. Look for an oil based recipe vs a butter based recipe.

2. Consider adding a cake enhancer like they sell at King Arthur Flour.

Bakingangel Posted 20 Apr 2013 , 2:23am
Quote:
Originally Posted by gemmal View Post

Hi! I was having the same problems with the recipes and since I'm in the UK we don't get cake flour that's less than £3.50 a kilo which is ridiculous and I've given up looking at the protein content of all the plain and self raising flours in every supermarket. I use this one as a default now and everyone who's tried it says its perfect but that may be UK tastes, or people I know tastes.

 

http://www.exclusivelyfood.com.au/2009/11/butter-cake-recipe.html

 

Also, just as a note, instead of the sour cream I use double cream now because I noticed that the fat content of sour cream here is between 15% and 20% and it actually made a massive difference. Good luck!

 

Thanks for sharing this recipe.  It looks like it would be very moist, light and delicious.

katidurst Posted 20 Apr 2013 , 3:12am

AI feel you. Never posted before, but this was me yesterday. Just finished a cake with this recipe, and it seems to be what I was after. Tried 8 before this with no luck. I think the almond flavour is heavy, next time I'll swap the vanilla and almond flavour ratios. Not icing till tomorrow, and I've only tasted what I trimmed to level the cake, but the texture and moisture level seem to be what I've been looking for. Here's links to the same recipe from three perspectives, the original is from cooks illustrated. Uses just egg whites, though mixed in the batter and not whipped and folded in, and does call for cake flour. I've never made a cake with the ingredients added in this order before this, but it works!

http://www.canyoustayfordinner.com/2011/05/16/the-very-best-white-and-yellow-cakes/

http://iambaker.net/the-perfect-white-cake/

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/COOKS-ILLUSTRATED-WHITE-LAYER-CAKE-50017374

Hope it's helpful, if not - I wish you the best in your hunt. White cake has been eluding me for two years, and I'm so happy this one turned out as promised!

kellie1996 Posted 20 Apr 2013 , 4:34am
Quote:
Originally Posted by bakediva View Post

1. Look for an oil based recipe vs a butter based recipe.

2. Consider adding a cake enhancer like they sell at King Arthur Flour.

Anyone tried something like this? Is it like the chemicals they use in packet-mixes or something? 

 

Thank you so much for the suggestion!

FromScratchSF Posted 20 Apr 2013 , 5:12am

Hello!  Thank you for trying my recipe, and I'm sorry you are having problems - if the batter looked curdled then your butter was too warm.  It needs to be 68 degrees or slightly colder.  

 

Some words of love:  if you don't make the recipe as written, you can't get frustrated that it does not turn out as great as people say it is.  I'm sorry, but that is the harsh trust about baking scratch recipes.  You need to make the recipe exactly as written, at least for the first time, and make it to the letter before proclaiming it a failure to you.  Think about your scientific method here: you could have spent under $5 just buying a few readily-available ingredients, made the recipe exactly as written and had a success the first time out.  Instead you decided not to spent the extra few dollars initially in favor of trying how many different recipes?  Not following them to the letter, burned thru countless hours and money in ingredients - and are now completely frustrated because they didn't work.  You see?  

 

I go to really great lengths to explain why I use the ingredients I use, and I let you know when you can use substitutes and when you can't.  The recipe on my blog is written using cake flour, and I say on the blog post that you should only use cake flour.  No substitutions.

 

As for buttermilk, I also go into a lengthy explanation on why we use buttermilk.  If you don't have buttermilk use whole milk.  I admit, I need to write an update to that post addressing the insanity of people doing the vinegar+milk thing.  IT DOES NOT WORK.  Vinegar does not produce cultures.  Cultures are emulsifiers.  Emulsifiers are the good bits that we want in the cake.  What vinegar does do is kill your the leavening, kills the remaining emulsifiers in the sour cream, and jacks up the pH.  I know the internet says this works, but I assure you, it does not work as a replacement for buttermilk in a cake recipe that relies on the cultures in buttermilk as an emulsifying agent.

 

It's also possible you are looking for a unicorn.  Scratch cakes are not "moist".  "Moist" is a BS term used by the cake mix industry to explain the mouthfeel of the antifreeze they put in cake mix that helps prevent the clueless home cook from baking their frankencake into a brick.  A good scratch cake has a soft, delicate mouthfeel that isn't dry, but it isn't "moist" and never will be.  

 

You need to let scratch cakes mature from the oven.  It's strengthens when your hot cake is popped straight the freezer for a few hours to a few days (wrapped in plastic).  If you leave your scratch cake out of the pan on a cooling rack for hours (like you can with a box cake) it will totally dry your cake out.

 

There are lots of recipes out there - my final words of wisdom for you is to pick one that uses the ingredients you want to work with.

 

Best of luck,

 

Jen

kellie1996 Posted 20 Apr 2013 , 7:38am
Quote:
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF View Post

Hello!  Thank you for trying my recipe, and I'm sorry you are having problems - if the batter looked curdled then your butter was too warm.  It needs to be 68 degrees or slightly colder.  

 

Some words of love:  if you don't make the recipe as written, you can't get frustrated that it does not turn out as great as people say it is.  I'm sorry, but that is the harsh trust about baking scratch recipes.  You need to make the recipe exactly as written, at least for the first time, and make it to the letter before proclaiming it a failure to you.  Think about your scientific method here: you could have spent under $5 just buying a few readily-available ingredients, made the recipe exactly as written and had a success the first time out.  Instead you decided not to spent the extra few dollars initially in favor of trying how many different recipes?  Not following them to the letter, burned thru countless hours and money in ingredients - and are now completely frustrated because they didn't work.  You see?  

 

I go to really great lengths to explain why I use the ingredients I use, and I let you know when you can use substitutes and when you can't.  The recipe on my blog is written using cake flour, and I say on the blog post that you should only use cake flour.  No substitutions.

 

As for buttermilk, I also go into a lengthy explanation on why we use buttermilk.  If you don't have buttermilk use whole milk.  I admit, I need to write an update to that post addressing the insanity of people doing the vinegar+milk thing.  IT DOES NOT WORK.  Vinegar does not produce cultures.  Cultures are emulsifiers.  Emulsifiers are the good bits that we want in the cake.  What vinegar does do is kill your the leavening, kills the remaining emulsifiers in the sour cream, and jacks up the pH.  I know the internet says this works, but I assure you, it does not work as a replacement for buttermilk in a cake recipe that relies on the cultures in buttermilk as an emulsifying agent.

 

It's also possible you are looking for a unicorn.  Scratch cakes are not "moist".  "Moist" is a BS term used by the cake mix industry to explain the mouthfeel of the antifreeze they put in cake mix that helps prevent the clueless home cook from baking their frankencake into a brick.  A good scratch cake has a soft, delicate mouthfeel that isn't dry, but it isn't "moist" and never will be.  

 

You need to let scratch cakes mature from the oven.  It's strengthens when your hot cake is popped straight the freezer for a few hours to a few days (wrapped in plastic).  If you leave your scratch cake out of the pan on a cooling rack for hours (like you can with a box cake) it will totally dry your cake out.

 

There are lots of recipes out there - my final words of wisdom for you is to pick one that uses the ingredients you want to work with.

 

Best of luck,

 

Jen

 

YOU HAVE BEEN SO HELPFUL I CANNOT THANK YOU ENOUGH! :)

kellie1996 Posted 20 Apr 2013 , 7:43am

Oh my and I just realised it was you! I'm thinking I'll try the recipe again.. I definitely did not do it right. 

 

Mistake 1- halving the recipe

Mistake 2- the butter was probably too warm like you said 

Mistake 3- attempting to use whole eggs instead of following your recipe

 

I just have another question, is shortening the same as 'copha' in Australia? I've always used it as shortening, but I want to be 100% sure. 

 

And would using 'lite' sour cream instead of full fat affect the moisture/fat content of the cake, making it dryer right? (My mum is always buying it so that is usually what we have on hand) 

 

and what do you think of the cooks illustrated recipe? I've heard good things about that one as well and was also on my list to attempt next.

 

Again, than you so much for your help! I cannot believe how long I've been using that silly old milk + vinegar trick! 

FromScratchSF Posted 20 Apr 2013 , 8:09am

LOL!

 

I'm not worldly at all so I have no idea what the brand in Australia is - I'm sure someone else can help.

 

The recipe should be fine halved or tripled, as long as you keep all your ratios correct.  Double check your math!

 

I've only made the CI recipe once.  I though it was OK, tasted a little hollow to me, like it was missing something, but it has great texture.  I obviously like mine better.

 

As for your sour cream, I always use full fat.  When they make stuff "lite" they replace the bits they take out with other bits and in the case of sour cream, it's gelatin and other filler ingredients that, yeah, on the label brings down the fat content, but isn't necessarily better for you.  

 

My recipe has both sour cream and buttermilk - the sour cream adds fat and flavor, the buttermilk adds emulsifiers.  Buttermilk is preferred, Bulgarian is best because it has the most active cultures, but milk works OK if that's all you have.  But think about the science behind this - you want one ingredient to bring fat, one to bring emulsifiers, so you can just as easily replace the buttermilk for kifer (even more cultures then Bulgarian buttermilk) and swap the sour cream for prepared pudding (homemade, of course) or full fat yogurt.  Either will work as your fat/flavor element.  I've even had someone use creme fraisch in place of the sour cream and claimed it turned out amazing.  One of these days I'm going to get brave and try cream cheese or marscopone in place of the sour cream and see how that turns out.  I suspect it will give this a rich pound cake texture that in my head would be divine.

 

Anyway, for our purposes, the fat is where all the good stuff is and as you can tell, I <3 fat in my recipe.  

mcaulir Posted 20 Apr 2013 , 8:27am

Copha is solid at room temp, and is sold in a brick from the fridge section. From my reading, I believe that's very different to shortening.

kellie1996 Posted 20 Apr 2013 , 8:36am

Is it possible to get shortening in australia? It says 'vegetable shortening' on the packaging.. confused :(

AmandaZ2013 Posted 20 Apr 2013 , 9:18am

AYou can get Crisco (which I think is the same as shortening, I'm only a beginner and haven't baked with it), from cake decorating shops in Sydney.

BakingIrene Posted 22 Apr 2013 , 9:56pm

Your cake problem has four sources:

 

wrong kind of flour (need to use pastry flour if no sour cream or buttermilk or yogurt)

 

too much flour (it is supposed to be sifted before dry measuring) BETTER to use recipes by weight, lots of cakes at kingarthurflour.com with weight conversion

 

too much mixing (flour should be folded in by hand in 2 portions with liquid in between)

 

too much heat/baking time (start testing 9" layers after 20 minutes).

bakediva Posted 22 Apr 2013 , 11:01pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by kellie1996 View Post

Anyone tried something like this? Is it like the chemicals they use in packet-mixes or something? 

 

Thank you so much for the suggestion!

It's not chemicals but it's similar to what's used in boxed mixes.  It's an emulsifier made from rice starch and vegetable fatty acids. It's said to make cakes softer and moister.

yortma Posted 23 Apr 2013 , 12:04am

FromscratchSF's a better white cake is so awesome.  I really appreciate the explanation about the buttermilk.  I have always used the Bulgarian type buttermilk, but never knew the reason why it works so well. Would the recipe  work with all butter, if there is a question about the shortening?

Nubianisme Posted 23 Apr 2013 , 12:33am

Wow! Thanks bunches, I learned a lot from your message. icon_smile.gif

wildflowercakes Posted 23 Apr 2013 , 12:54am
Quote:
Originally Posted by liz at sugar View Post

Kellie - I really like FromScratchSF's vanilla cake.  What didn't you like about it?  I make it as directed, and it comes out perfectly.

 

As far as cost, buttermilk isn't any more expensive than whole milk, and cake flour isn't any more expensive in bulk.  And I think the recipe only calls for like 8.75 ounces of flour - even from a box of Softasilk from the grocery store you would still get almost 4 recipe's worth from a box.

 

You could always use the doctored WASC recipe, but it may come out more expensive than this scratch recipe, because you still have to add flour, sugar, sour cream, etc.

 

Liz

Yep, what she said. FromScratchSF, love her white cake recipe and directions from her blog. (Wished she do one on chocolate, HINT,HINT)

kellie1996 Posted 23 Apr 2013 , 5:46am

So I got the buttermilk and cake flour and gave 'billy's vanilla cake' another go, (I probably should have just attempted fromscratchsf's first, but I liked how Billy's used whole eggs. And I didn't see too much of an improvement in texture to be honest :( I'm not sure if this is a great recipe.. I've been disappointed by it before, I just want that super fluffy texture they're able to achieve in bakeries, although I'm aware I'm probably comparing myself with box mixes, ugh. Another question- my chocolate cake (I use mccall's and it's wonderful) is always so moist and turns out perfectly. If anything I have to worry about it being TOO moist and the liners peeling back. What is it that gives this quality to the chocolate cake? Is it the cocoa? I'd love to be able to achieve a similar result with vanilla cake! 

Kathy107 Posted 23 Apr 2013 , 5:38pm

AHi. Where can I find the McCall's chocolate cake recipe? Thanks.

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