Balancing A Yellow Cake Recipe

Baking By Nigel1985 Updated 10 Mar 2016 , 2:22pm by -K8memphis

Nigel1985 Posted 8 Mar 2016 , 2:32am
post #1 of 13

Hi All -

Looking for some advice to balance this basic yellow cake recipe. Any ideas or see anything 'off'?

Also, thinking about subbing the all-purpose flour for cake flour. Any idea how to substitute by weight?

Yellow Cake

  • 227 g (1 cup) unsalted butter – room temperature
  • 400 g (2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk – room temperature
  • 10 oz (1 and 1/4 cups) whole milk – room temperature
  • 390 g (2 and 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


12 replies
-K8memphis Posted 8 Mar 2016 , 3:29am
post #2 of 13

balance? what is off? i mean i take it that you made it and don't like something -- what don't you !like?

idk -- i never had the patience to tweak a recipe that needs perfecting -- i mean when there are 50,000 viable yellow cake formulas out there -- but that's just me

Pastrybaglady Posted 8 Mar 2016 , 9:17am
post #3 of 13

I agree, what DON'T  you like about it? Maybe if you describe what you actually want someone could recommend a recipe. So many want "The best vanilla cake ever!" which doesn't really describe what they want.  There are sooo many recipes out there. Do you want light and fluffy with subtle flavor, rich and dense that screams vanilla, some combo of vanilla and almond...

Don't substitute the flours.  If you want to use cake flour find a recipe with cake flour in it.

Jeff_Arnett Posted 8 Mar 2016 , 6:40pm
post #4 of 13

I agree with the rest.  Now sure what you are meaning by "balancing" the cake. 

This is basically a variation on the old 1-2-3-4 cake recipe...though it generally calls for 3 cups AP flour.    It's not the greatest cake in the's tends to be on the dry side and you have to be careful not to over-bake it.

I use 125 grams per cup for measuring cake flour and it works great for me....

SensationalCakesAndMore Posted 10 Mar 2016 , 12:03am
post #5 of 13

Hi Nigel, seems many of us don't know about balancing cakes... that was me, before today! As it happens, I've been studying up on the science of baking, and I found a great discussion on balancing a cake. In "BakeWise" by Shirley O. Corriher, she includes a section on Baker's Formulas. In general, there are two different types of cakes:

 - "Lean", or "shortened" cakes, where the weight of the sugar is equal to or LESS than the weight of the flour, and

 - "High-ratio" cakes, where the weight of the sugar is equal to or GREATER than the weight of the flour.

They are balanced differently. Here are the formulas for lean cakes:

1. weight of sugar = or < weight of flour

2. weight of eggs = or > weight of fat

3. weight of liquid (including eggs) = weight of sugar

For high-ratio cakes:

1. weight of sugar = or > weight of flour

2. weight of eggs > weight of fat

3. weight of liquid (including eggs) = or > weight of sugar

Your recipe looks like a high-ratio cake. If we apply the formulas...

1. weight of sugar (400g) is GREATER THAN weight of flour (390g) - CHECK

2. weight of eggs (50g x 4 + 18g = 218g) is LESS THAN weight of fat (227g) - NOPE - should be GREATER THAN

3. weight of liquid (whole milk, 310g + 218g = 528g) is GREATER THAN weight of sugar - CHECK

The author explains that with more fat, the cake has to have enough structural ingredients (proteins) to set the cake or you'll end up with pudding. Some say that ideally the weight of the eggs should be 110% the weight of the fat. So, adding another egg would improve ratio #2 without violating either of the others.

So that's my 2 cents based on the math provided by the author I'm currently reading. I didn't know what "balancing" a cake meant until today; I think many bakers find a recipe that works and stick to it, but for those of us interested in understanding the recipes, I think this book is a great help. You can find it used on Amazon for a reasonable price. There is SO much more information - like why an "unbalanced" cake will work if you choose your pan carefully, for one - if you are interested in this, I suggest trying the book!

HTH - Debsmiley.png

SensationalCakesAndMore Posted 10 Mar 2016 , 12:13am
post #6 of 13

One more thing - regarding your cake flour vs AP flour question... If you're going to sub AP flour for cake flour, measure it, remove 2T, and replace it with corn starch. That will reduce the gluten to make it closer to cake flour, although it's not the perfect or exact solution. The link below has a great discussion of subbing and the potential pitfalls/changes it can cause, with the recommendation to go out and buy the cake flour, LOL!

Nigel1985 Posted 10 Mar 2016 , 12:42am
post #7 of 13

Really appreciate all the feedback!

To be clear: I like the cake, but it is a little too dry and dense. So, not here looking for the "ultimate super mega ultra" cake but rather seeking feedback that Deb provided above. Sounds like I might need to add an extra egg yolk or two.

I am curious though, if my recipe follows the old 1-2-3-4 cake version, are there more 'modern' guidelines for a standard high-ratio yellow cake? Would whipping the egg whites separately and folding them in after incorporating the flour and milk help lighten it? Or is that not really advised? Just curious how others build a cake recipe.

Also, I used 57g as the weight of an egg. Is 50g more common?


Nigel1985 Posted 10 Mar 2016 , 12:47am
post #8 of 13

Thanks! If I was to update the recipe with cake flour (in weight) could I do the following?

1) Measure out 390g of all-purpose flour (per the recipe)

2) Remove 2 tablespoons per cup (in this case about 5 and 1/2 tablespoons)

3) Add in 2 tablespoons cornstarch per cup (in this case 5 and 1/2 tablespoons)

4) Measure the final weight as the "cake flour weight"

5) Use that amount of cake flour here on out

Or, is that just straight up blasphemy? 

-K8memphis Posted 10 Mar 2016 , 1:36am
post #9 of 13

the corn flour in the all purpose flour thing that's supposed to make 'cake flour' might give you a different texture but it also makes a vanilla cake taste like corn -- so just use cake flour

and it goes without saying that you can do any kind of tweaks and substitutions you want but without knowing what results you want to change it's impossible to assist --

however i'm sending you three vanilla cake recipes so you can broaden your horizons :) use only if you want to and i mean it's not because you're wearing me out :)

SensationalCakesAndMore Posted 10 Mar 2016 , 2:51am
post #10 of 13

Quote by @Nigel1985 on 2 hours ago

Also, I used 57g as the weight of an egg. Is 50g more common?

Regarding the egg weight - here's what the website I used provided:

Weight of One Large Egg:

In Shell = 57 grams

Without Shell = 50 grams

White Only = 30 grams

Yolk Only = 18 grams

Read more:

There are some fabulous suggestions in the book I mentioned above - the author recommends using whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks, to improve lightness and softness of texture, for example. It's a super easy read, highly recommend.

-K8memphis Posted 10 Mar 2016 , 9:10am
post #11 of 13

sensationalcakesandmore, i too love joyofbaking -- it's my go to reference

SensationalCakesAndMore Posted 10 Mar 2016 , 1:02pm
post #12 of 13

Good to know K8memphis - I just stumbled on them yesterday! grinning.png BTW if you are sharing vanilla cake recipes - would love to see what you have! I am in optimizing mode and it would be helpful to see your "tried and true" recipes. Why 3 - what distinguishes each? I am especially seeking one dense enough for carving - I have a great pound cake recipe, but am wondering if there's something "whiter", without having to play around with my pound cake recipe.

-K8memphis Posted 10 Mar 2016 , 2:22pm
post #13 of 13

oh sure -- you've got mail -- and i resent it to nigel too because i've forwarded it so much it was getting real slender -- anyhow -- those are great scratch recipes -- but i never sold those -- vanilla scratch cakes are not versatile enough --

for cakes purchased from me i used a doctored mix 

18 oz white duncan hines

1 cup each sugar, self-rising flour, and sour cream

3 egg whites

1 egg

1 1/3 cup water

some oil maybe 2 tablespoons to a quarter cup depending on my mood

flavoring-- almost always use vanilla

this goes in & out the fridge/freezer and slices & serves perfectly -- can sit out at room temp plated without staling kwim

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