Hi all. I am a SAHM who loves good cake and I'm trying to teach myself to make it so that I can one day sell my goods to be able to help my husband (monetarily) support our kids. I've been seriously trying for a year to perfect my baking skills. I've gone on this site many times when I've experienced problems (usually lack of moisture, tunneling). My problem now is because of our tighter budget, I can't continue to keep failing at this! I bet I've made the vanilla cupcakes by A PAstry Affair 15 times, each time trying to research what I could have done wrong and then I try again only to have it either happen again or something new crops up! i have tried my ingredients at different temps, not scooping my flour, baking in a different oven, carefully checking to make sure I take them out when they're done (tiny little bit of crumb on the toothpick). I love the flavor of these cupcakes and feel I have made them perfect just one time but all the other times friends and family have told me they weren't moist enough. A couple times they came out bready or rubbery. Sometimes they tunnel. I like a dense cake and know some people don't so Ive been told by some that it was too dense buy I took those comments as personal preference. Please help! Am I just doomed in the baking dept if I can't even perfect vanilla cake? I've checked that my baking powderand soda are in date. I don't have a sifter so I whisk the heck out of the dry ingredients before I add them. When combining the dry ingredients, I try to mix until just incorporated in my KitchenAid...literally the bare minimum it seems to me.
Hoping someone can shed some light before I have to give up. :(
Thank you for your time,
Oh, and I've researched the creaming process. I cream the butter alone fora few min (and put it in before it's too warm...I cut it in small cubes after it's set out for 30 min or so and then put it in mixer and cream. Then I add sugar and cream for maybe 4 min.
First, even if you perfect your cupcake recipe, it doesn't mean you will have a profitable business that will help your family. Putting up a business, even a home based one, takes a lot of money and time. Do you know if you're allowed to have a food business at your home?
Second, read a baking textbook. Either buy or borrow from your library. Know the reason behind the process and ingredients.
Third, how reliable are those people who taste your cupcakes? Scratch made cakes are different than cakes from a box or grocery cakes in terms of texture, 'moistness' etc.
you need a different recipe that one clearly isn't working for you -- i'll send you a couple
To be honest vanilla is the hardest cake to get right and people will have different preferences as to density, texture and flavor, but you are right to perfect this before you try and establish a business. If you have so little success with this recipe why keep using it? There are tons of recipes out there and quite a few blogs that contrast and compare them. To save on ingredients try scaling down the recipes as you experiment. From what you're describing it does sound like you are overmixing and possibly the temperature of your ingredients isn't right. You might want to look into FromscratchSF's recipe. You have to buy it but she gives you weights of measurements and mixing times down to the second. A recipe could not be more clear. She also uses that base recipe and gives you ways to make many other flavors of cake. You will find many resources on this site, use the search and good luck!
Hi cakewitch, thanks for your response. Yes, I know starting a baking business will be a grind.. I know it won't happen overnight. I'm pretty good with marketing and PR (that was my background before we had our daughters). But I'll admit that when we decided to work toward this, it was only because I am one of those people who dreams at night about reeeally good cake. And I truly wanted to learn how to make it. I am trying to balance being willing to put in the hard work (which I am) with having the money to buy the ingredients to keep perfecting what I make. Our long-term plan has been for me to use our monthly budget money to buy the ingredients to perfect the recipes over time and then, once I've offered taste testings to everyone we know as well as people we don't, and the results are good, we will take part of that year's tax money to get the home business going (we have Cottage Laws here in OK) then if we can make that profitable, move on to a mobile cupcake unit on down the road.
I have researched on the computer the reasons for the different ingredients in cakes, brownies, etc but have never read a textbook front to back. I have 2 little ones, 4 months and 2 1/2 years, so I've kind of been taking in my research in spurts when I can. That is something I can do if you think it will help.
I've kind of qualified some of my testers in the past by having a tasting and making one batch of scratch cake and then one batch of the same flavor from a box. If they chose the box mix, I kind of filed them in my head as maybe not the right testers for me. Maybe that was wrong? But I do know what you mean about scratch cakes being a different consistency. I like them so much better. And to me, box cakes tend to have a chemical-y taste. Not to offend anyone who uses box mix. I just don't like them as much as some of the scratch cakes I've tasted. My absolute favorite cupcake in the world is from a cupcake shop in Tulsa. It's dense and moist and I know they don't use a mix.
Again, thanks for your response. Just feeling a bit defeated, sleep-deprived and not to mention bloated from tasting too much cake and icing yesterday to no avail. :)
jen -- and for what it's worth you will need to offer more than just cupcakes to make it -- i'm sure you already know that -- just saying -- i know you're focused on this one big hurdle -- oh and you haven't been refrigerating/freezing any of these baked cakes that have been made with butter in the batter have you?
Thank you so much, k8memphis. I really appreciate it.
And thank you, pastrybaglady. I should have stated this before but I have tried many other vanilla recipes, too. The one at Pastry Affair the first time I made it, had the density level I loved and it seemed moist enough for me, plus I liked the taste. It uses two Tbsp of vanilla extract (I changed it up a little by subbing in 1 Tbsp of vanilla paste for the extract) . Of course, every subsequent time I've made it, there was always some issue...so maybe I will just need to move on. I guess it felt like I would be going backwards to find all those things in a cake recipe and then try something completely new. I have just kept trying to perfect it. As far as cutting down the recipes, I have been afraid to do that for fear that they wouldn't translate well and then all that money would be wasted since I might not get an accurate read on how the recipe would be. I will look into the recipe you mentioned. Thanks again for your help!
I know attempting this on a budget is not ideal. I bake only on Sundays and each time is like a one-shot deal until the next weekend.
k8memphis, haha Yes I will be moving on from the cupcakes before we start. ;) I have dabbled with fudge, brownies, candies and whole cakes. My mother-in-law makes amazing pies and I will eventually learn those with her help. I feel like I've become fixated on the cupcakes since I love eating them and feel they will be a big part of the business. For me, I feel like cake is the hardest thing to get absolutely right so I've been determined to master it first.
Oh, and for the most part I never refrigerate them or freeze them. I did try it a couple times. I had read on cakecentral that some bakers always wrap their cakes really well and then freeze for a day or so and it helps the moisture level. I tried it with a couple cupcakes and didn't see any improvement in mine. My favorite place in Tulsa does say you can freeze theirs and I have and it made them even more wonderful... I know they use some butter but just don't know how much.
For cutting down a recipe I divide by the number of eggs - if recipe calls for two I divide everything in half, if three, by thirds... there is also baker's math, a percentage formula based on the flour to scale up or down. You would have to search that as it's a little more complicated.
Thank you, that will definitely help! As long as it will still yield true results...that will be a lifesaver.
Oops, that's "Baker's Percentage".
Thanks, mark78. I have gotten recipes from google and pinterest, etc. As far as a cookbook, I don't mind investing in one but again, it's a crap shoot whether or not I will like those cake recipes or could even make them work (if there's something I'm doing to ruin these cakes!). k8memphis sent me some recipes I'm going to try and I may look into buying the recipe mentioned above if I can't make those work.
Start with well reviewed recipes. Scale them down as mentioned by number of eggs. If you can't do the math, use a site that will do it for you like food.com or allrecipes. Invest in a scale, sifter, and oven thermometer. Must haves for scratch bakers. Also keep a notebook for recording recipes, methods, times, temps, etc and record results.