Simple Syrup And Scratch Cakes

Decorating By JavaJunkieChrissy Updated 27 Aug 2016 , 10:20am by RobinYummCakes

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JavaJunkieChrissy Posted 10 Apr 2007 , 6:22pm
post #1 of 27

Hello everyone,

I have a question about scratch cakes and putting simple syrups on top of them.

First let me say that I am not trying to start anything here. I am honestly just trying to learn....I mean no harm with this question. Here goes...

If I make a scratch cake shouldn't it be moist without having to have simple syrup brushed on the top of it. I have always been a "from scratch" baker. Lately I've been trying some new cake recipes and they call for cake flour. I have been very dissapointed in the dryness of the cakes. I have been told that it's probably the recipe ( the latest was from Martha Stewart I think it was The Perfect White Cake) or that I may have baked it too long. I know that the temp. of the oven is accurate and I don't bake them too long. I always check them a few minutes early. I allow them to cool a little then remove them from the pans and cover them with a clean flour cloth.

So please educate me about the syrups and WHY they are needed. I am curious as to why the cake would not be moist without the addition of the syrup. Like I said I mean no harm by this question. I'm not trying to pick nor do I want to start anything. I'm just trying to learn icon_biggrin.gif

Thank in Advance,


26 replies
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mami2sweeties Posted 10 Apr 2007 , 6:39pm
post #2 of 27

I am no help because I have the same question. I am not a from scratch baker either. I thought that adding a simple syrup would make the cake soggy on the inside but it would help keep the moisture in to have a moist cake overall. For this reason, I stay away from scratch cakes. I do like the idea of it because you can stay away from perservatives but I want a scratch cake with the texture of a cake mix cake. I like the light and fluffy cake and not a heavy cake. I have never said tha out loud here before.

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Doug Posted 10 Apr 2007 , 6:52pm
post #3 of 27

ever watch Alton Brown's Good Eats???

he did an episode on cakes once and came to the conclusion that scratch cakes just aren't worth trouble given the superior quality of product a box mix makes --


because of all the modern "additives" the manufactures can use to ensure moistness, crumb, taste, etc., etc., etc.

these are not generally available to the home baker.


(tah dip)

simple syrup to the rescue.

it is BRUSHED onto the cake -- not poured -- which makes it easy to control the amount the cake soaks up (exception -- those brandied christmas fruit cakes -- pour it on, baby! as austin powers would say)

and simple syrups can be most any flavor you want so easy to match cake flavor or giving it fun variations.

simple syrup is nothing more than sugar dissolved in water. add flavoring for more fun.

most used (aka bar syrup) -- 1 cup water to 2 cups sugar (bring water to boil, add sugar, stir until dissolved)

can also make thinner by using more water.

add flavorings to tastes and daring

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JavaJunkieChrissy Posted 10 Apr 2007 , 6:57pm
post #4 of 27

So Doug are you saying that to add a simple syrup is to add flavor to a cake and not to add extra moisture? I'm a getting that correct?

Yes, I love Alton Brown...he's one of my favs on the Food Net. My DS#3 and I could sit and watch him all day. I love how he explains the "why" of things....that's how I like things explained to me....LOL!!

I'm looking forward to giving this syrup thing a try. I am very open to this. I'm just curious as to "why" it's done.....moisture OR flavor enhancing or both???

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Doug Posted 10 Apr 2007 , 7:03pm
post #5 of 27

plain simple syrup ONLY adds moisture

flavored simple syrup adds BOTH moisture and flavor.
(ex. lemon cake kicked up even more w/ lemon simple syrup)

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cake-angel Posted 10 Apr 2007 , 7:05pm
post #6 of 27

I was raised on scratch cakes and do not find them dry at all. In fact some of my more recent experiments have been quite moist but my husband was raised with box mixes and all scratch cakes seem dry to him. He also just doesn't really like cake. I haven't used simple syrups yet but I am about to try it on this black forest knock off I am trying to create! I have been told it will add moisture to the cake but it will also add flavor.

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JavaJunkieChrissy Posted 10 Apr 2007 , 7:07pm
post #7 of 27

O.K. I got that

shouldn't a scratch cake already be moist? I make the chocolate cake on the back of the Hersheys Cocoa's wonderfully moist and is by far my favorite scratch chocolate cake. When I tried a white cake that called for cake flour instead of the all purpose flour that I use in the Hersheys cake it was as dry as a desert! I blamed the cake flour...others said that it was probably my recipe. The one I tried was a Martha Stewart recipe.

Bottom line.....why should I have to add any syrup when I make a scratch yellow or white cake when I don't have to add it to my chocolate cake.....educate me....PLEASE!!! LOL!!!! icon_cry.gif

Edited to add...I am use to only scratch baking. This is why this is blowing my mind. I know a moist cake when I taste it and believe me this one that I made was more like corn bread...LOL!! icon_lol.gif

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Doug Posted 10 Apr 2007 , 7:12pm
post #8 of 27

SO many factors affect the moistness of a cake.

if you think scratch IS moist then box mix will seem positively WET by comparison. that much at least seems to be all in what you grew up with.

yes, different kinds of flour have different moisture levels.

so do butters (which is why I use only one brand because it is so low in moisture and much more consistent batch to batch)

even the weather, as in humidity, can affect.

chocolate cake often has more oil in it -- so right way seems more "moist"

a lot of what we call "moist" is in part (sometimes a large part) due to the amount of oil/butter in the recipe.

no simple answer --- sorry.

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cake-angel Posted 10 Apr 2007 , 7:14pm
post #9 of 27

I have been told that the classic white cake II here on CC is the absolute best white cake by many people. I haven't had a chance to try it yet. I do find that white cakes seem to be a little drier than chocolate cakes - they also often have less sugar and fats than chocolate cakes do which might be part of the trouble. I have been told that if you can fnd a recipe containing sour cream, yogurt or buttermilk you should have a more moist cake. I think a lot of scratch baking is about finding the recipe that works best for you. With some experimenting and trying different recipes you should be able to find one that you like without needing simple syrup. I personally do not like Martha Stewart recipes. They just don't work for me. Sorry I am not more help.

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shanzah67 Posted 10 Apr 2007 , 7:16pm
post #10 of 27

I made a box cake the other day and it seemed a little on the dry side. So I tried a moistening syrup for the first time and it really made a difference in the cake. I could see where a flavoring would be a nice touch. Yummy!

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MariaLovesCakes Posted 10 Apr 2007 , 7:19pm
post #11 of 27

Well, lets see....

The thing about scratch cakes is that they are moist, not terribly but nice and tender, shortly after they are baked. As the hours pass by, the cake starts to dry up. That's why the cake syrup comes to play. To add back, and more, the moisture that is lost with the passing of the hours.

I have noticed though, that some cakes are dryier than others.

So, if you are going to eat a scratch cake a few hours after its baked, its fine. But the longer you wait, the more it dries out.

I hope this helps a bit.

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MikeRowesHunny Posted 10 Apr 2007 , 7:21pm
post #12 of 27

This always confuses me too! I have always scratched baked - and I have never ever added any kind of syrup to my cakes, whatever flavour (except for the infamous British fruit cake - which often receives at least 1 cup of brandy before baking, and at least another cup during the maturing period), - and everyone loves them, even the Americans raised on boxed mixes/bought cakes - so what gives?!

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tyty Posted 10 Apr 2007 , 7:26pm
post #13 of 27

I read here on CC that you could take your basic yellow or white cake and just add a heaping TBS of sour cream to make it moist.

I bake all cakes from scratch, that is what my customers like. The only time I use a simple syrup is when the cake will be kept in the fridge. The fridge seems to dry out cakes covered and filled in whipped cream.

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JavaJunkieChrissy Posted 11 Apr 2007 , 1:14am
post #14 of 27

O.K. this seems to be making alot of sence to me now.

I do use a good amount of oil in my scratch chocolate cake. In the white cake I made it was butter....but I don't remember how much.

I will definately be trying out some new scratch recipes. I really like to bake this way and maybe its more of a pride issue with me but....I hate the fact that I can go to the market and buy a box cake for 76cents and it's more moist then the white cake that I make from scratch..... icon_mad.gif I know it probably seems silly but I know that there must be a white cake and a basic yellow cake that will give me the moist results that I need and want.

Thanks for all of the help and I will be looking in the recipe if you have any more suggestions I'm all ears icon_biggrin.gif

TIA, Chrissy

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mami2sweeties Posted 11 Apr 2007 , 3:50am
post #15 of 27

I have also misunderstood in teh past about simple syrup. It is not supposed to be soaked on the cake. I have read from posts here that people put the syrup in a spray bottle and mist the cake. I can see that. If I did scratch bake, I hope I remember to spray in the syrup and not brush it on.

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MariaLovesCakes Posted 11 Apr 2007 , 10:17am
post #16 of 27

mammi2sweets: I brush my on. There are differente ways of doing it and spraying its another method of keeping the cake moist.

I guess it depends on what you learned.

I've seen it done this way also on TV by bakers.

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JanH Posted 11 Apr 2007 , 10:40am
post #17 of 27

Moist (scratch) cake recipe threads:

Also has more info on making/applying simple syrups.


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PistachioCranberry Posted 11 Apr 2007 , 10:45am
post #18 of 27

I would simply break down the moistness level like this...oil is liquid so it will not solidify while standing...butter has to be melted with heat to become liquified and once the heat leaves it becomes solid again same way with baking This is why some people add other ingredients to scratch cakes to keep them moist once cooled.

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tyty Posted 11 Apr 2007 , 12:26pm
post #19 of 27

Has anyone tried Toba Garrett's spackle? I was curious about that. It really seems like it will keep the cake moist but how is the taste and texture, anyone know?

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2sweetcookies Posted 11 Apr 2007 , 1:35pm
post #20 of 27

I love the idea of making all scratch cakes but have not found a great recipe yet. but I have never tried the simple syrup. I use DH with a box of pudding and so far had everyone come back and say how good and moist the cake was. I have also tried the cake extender with the sour cream, I don't know if i'm the only one but I really didn't care for the taste but I'm not a sour cream fan anyway.

Can you use pudding in a scratch cake?

I had someone call for a wedding cake for September and although she has tried my cakes and loved it I really hate to give her a box cake for a wedding? I was wondering what all you profesionals use for cake?

Has anyone tried Collette Peters recipes???

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JavaJunkieChrissy Posted 11 Apr 2007 , 2:11pm
post #21 of 27

I am so glad that I've gotten this much input on this topic. I really appreciate all of the threads and I've been reading them as time allows.

I'm definately going to be doing some baking with scratch recipes this weekend if I have the time to do it....we are in the midst of making a family room and are knee deep in that project LOL! But, if I get up early enough I can bake...and I'm going to try a new recipe and see what happens. If I do this I'll come back and let everyone know the good, bad and the ugly of the entire situation!

See ya,


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Narie Posted 11 Apr 2007 , 4:06pm
post #22 of 27

I hate to be difficult, but I don't think box cakes are moist at all, just light and fluffy. Now I do agree that they don't get stale as quickly as a scratch cake. One thing that I do is wrap the layers in cling wrap as soon as they cool. That keeps the moisture in the cake while it settles, i.e. they are protected from air. Then when I frost the next day I don't unrap the layer until I am ready to level and frost. Again the frosting protects the cake from air which dries the cake. Concerning the shortening involved, I do prefer oil cakes to butter. At present I like Sara Molton's Classic White Cake on the, but I'm still looking for a oil based white cake.

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Naty Posted 11 Apr 2007 , 5:00pm
post #23 of 27

Here is my 2 cents worth........

The cakes I pour the syrup on are pound cake-like cakes. These are the Puertorican type cakes, also similar cakes are popular in Miami and Venezuela. These are very moist b/c of the syrup and they are somewhat heavy but melt in your mouth. They are very sweet compared to the American cake layers (depending on how much syrup you add).

I like the texture of the cake mixes b/c they are light and fluffy. I don't find them moist though. It's a different type of cake, you can brush on a little simple syrup but I would not add to much b/c of the type of cake it would make it mushy. These types of cakes (yellow or vanilla) wether from cake mix or scratch, at least to me, are not supposed to be moist, but light and fluffy. The only moist ones I've had have been chocolate ones. These are good layered with extra frosting.

It all depends on taste. I make a yellow cake from Gourmet Magazine (you can do a search for Yellow Cake Layers), and I find it very good and not dry. Not to the extend of extra moist like the ones I mentioned at the beginning.

If you have ever had the poundcake with the syrup, you'll know what I mean...sorry, but its hard to explain.

To sum this up, you can brush on the syrup to any type of cake but it depends on how much.


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katerpillrgrl Posted 11 Apr 2007 , 5:16pm
post #24 of 27
Originally Posted by 2sweetcookies

Has anyone tried recipes???

I have. I tried both her "snow white cake" and her "collette's chocolate cake" recipes. The snow white cake I can live without. I would probably use a doctored box for my white cakes instead , but the chocolate one is great. It is the only recipe I use for chocolate cakes now.

It is as they say though, the chocolate cake will dry out faster so I normally wrap it as it comes out of the oven.

I made WASC once and added (brushed on) a simple syrup but it did nothing for it except make it look ugly when cut (messy) and I didn't notice a moisture difference. It was my first time making WASC and I thought it was too sweet to begin with, although the density was great for the kind of cakes lots of us make. I won't be making WASC again soon unless I cut out that extra cup of sugar....

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RobinYummCakes Posted 27 Aug 2016 , 9:20am
post #25 of 27

To the OP,

I realize this thread is almost 10 years old (YIKES!), but I read somewhere recently that cakes made with butter tend to be confused with being dry, when in actuality it's the rough texture of the (cold or room temp) butter in the cake that causes this "dry" mouth feel.

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cakebaby2 Posted 27 Aug 2016 , 9:48am
post #26 of 27

They're all dead now Robin, poisoned by their box mixes and pretend flavourings or choked by their dry cakes. Bad day round here when a zombie thread catches the eye eh? lol x

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RobinYummCakes Posted 27 Aug 2016 , 10:20am
post #27 of 27

Haha! Actually I just was doing some research on scratch baking, butter vs. oil in recipes, and this thread came up. Hopefully that bit of info will help someone at some point.

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