"Food: Science, Art, Passion, Pleasure, Adventure & Exploration"

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Let's Eat Cake!

So I've started doing some research on different types of cake batters. I've made different types but I don't think I've taken time to really do any extended research into the different ways certain cake batters are made or how they came to be.

Food research can be so daunting and intimidating because I often ask myself, "Wow, with all of the never-ending information on food available, where do I start and how can I possibly learn so much?"

I want to learn as much as I can, but it's going to take patience, continued curiosity (certainly not a problem!), experience-gathering, and organization (definitely more of a challenge for autodidacts who create their guides and paths).

Anyway, as I mentioned, I decided to look more into cakes, lately.


I've been looking up info on these cake batter types going by what I already know and what's been expressed by shows, articles, reliable websites, and books:

Butter cake - traditional cake batter with a butter-based recipe (butter is the main ingredient and fat used). These are often made using the creaming method. The creaming method means a cake is made by first creaming together sugar and butter (wet ingredients) in a bowl (through beating or hard whisking) until it is well blended. After that, eggs are added in one at a time until each were blended in. Dry ingredients (flour mixes) are added in after.
What D'ya Know?: Sugar, although technically a dry ingredient, is considered a wet ingredient in some recipes that involve heat or water solubility because it melts, dissolves or caramelizes when heat is applied or if it is placed into or blended with a liquid.
Sponge cake - Sponge cakes belong to the foam cake family. Sponge cake recipes usually are made by beating the egg yolks and whites separately. True sponge cakes do not contain butter, oil or shortening in the batter.
What D'ya Know?: Foam cakes are cakes that contain very little fat content and more egg than other cake batters. These cakes are light and fluffy in texture due to the air that is beaten into the egg whites during the cake batter making process.

Chiffon cake - Chiffon cake is another type foam cake better with a similar texture to sponge cake. It uses oil as a fat rather than butter. The cake batter making process involves creaming together egg yolks and sugar, adding in oil and water and then folding in the usual dry ingredient flour mixture. Once that is done, the egg whites from the eggs that were used to take the yolks from, are used with cream of tartar to make a meringue. The whipping of the egg whites creates an airy meringue that will be added into the rest of the cake better, just before baking. This gives the cake it's light, fluffy texture, a mildly sweet flavor, a moist baked batter that preserves well in refrigeration, and a healthier (although less flavorful because butter gives rich flavor) content.

Meringue cake -Meringue cakes are usually composed of two layers of butter cake and topped with a crispy layer of baked meringue. The butter cake and the meringue are layered in the baking pan and are baked together so that the layers can blend. Meringue cakes are sometimes categorized as tortes, although many do not contain nut flours.

Angel food cake -Angel food cake is a foam cake, given its playful name because of its light texture. The sugar used in angel food cake batter is usually superfine (for a smoother cake texture) and the flour used is softer in wheat. This foam cake is a very light and airy cake mix in both flavor and texture. Many egg whites are used in this cake mix and are beaten until forming stiff rather than soft peaks. The meringue is carefully folded into the rest of the ingredients until it is incorporated rather than blended. Bundt cake or tube pans are preferred when baking most foam cakes, because it maintains the airiness of the cake while it is baking and the cake pans can be reversed while cooling the cake, so that the cake down not collapse into itself, thus losing the defining texture. If foam cakes are removed from the oven too quickly (before they have baked fully), the cake will lose some of its fluffiness. Angel food cake is best cut with serrated knives to maintain the fluffy texture, rather than compressing it.

Devil's food cake - This is a butter cake. It is an opposite play of angel food cake (light), although the cake is airier than traditional butter cakes. Devil's food cake is a chocolate cake but it is different from other chocolate cakes for several reasons. To give the cake it's airy texture, devil's food cake uses egg whites, rather than egg yolks or whole eggs. The batter often, traditionally, incorporates only cocoa powder for chocolate flavoring rather than melted chocolate. Some recipes put in both, but melted chocolate gives this usually light cake batter a denser and richer texture. Some people prefer the icing to be the richest flavor in the cake in terms of chocolate taste, so melted chocolate will be used in a buttercream-based icing. Devil's food cake also uses a higher amount of baking soda which increases the pH level in the batter. When baking, the extra baking soda reacts with the cocoa powder and gives it a reddish tint which gives the cake mix it's distinctive dark brown-reddish coloring.
What D'ya Know?: Baking soda is often used for recipes that have acidic ingredients. Baking soda helps to neutralize the acid in such recipes. Acidic ingredients are ingredients such as buttermilk, honey, agave nectar, molasses, fruit juices, sour cream, yogurts, cocoa powder, vinegar, and chocolate.
Red Velvet cake - Red velvet cake is a rich, dense and highly sweet butter or shortening-based cake that is known for it's rich and sometimes deep red coloring. The icings normally used to top red velvet cake are butter roux, cream cheese or plain buttercream icing. The red color traditionally came from the incorporation of boiled beets as a dye agent but today many recipes use red food coloring to achieve the same effect. The redness of the cake batter is further intensified from two other sources. First, buttermilk and vinegar are often used in red velvet cake. When these two ingredients interact with the trace of cocoa powder that is usually used in the cake batter, the red anthocyanin of the cocoa powder is revealed, giving of a red hue. Second, when baking soda is used in the batter, a deeper mahogany color will materialize in the batter. Red velvet cake is not really a chocolate cake but rather a cake that contains a small amount of cocoa powder.
What D'ya Know?: A roux icing is made using flour and a fat source (usually butter), similar to roux sauces used both as a thickening agent and flavoring for stews, soups, and meat dishes in savory French, Cajun, Caribbean, and Creole cuisine.
Sour cream cake - Sour cream cakes are butter cakes that are very moist and dense. The sour cream is used instead of milk, in a cake batter. Due the acidity of the sour cream, sour cream cakes require baking soda over baking powder to balance the increased pH level of the cake batter, while baking. This helps maintain a superior and proper texture of the cake mix.

Pudding cake -Pudding cakes can be butter or oil-based cakes, but pudding is used in the recipe for extra moistness and a smooth cake texture. Some pudding cakes incorporate the pudding into the batter and other cakes are traditional butter cakes that involve alternating layers of pudding between the butter cake layers.

Pound cake - Pound cakes are butter cakes and are known for their moist and dense textures. They are heavier in butter than traditional butter cakes. Southern varieties use sour cream and buttermilk in the recipe. The cake recipe was traditionally named a pound cake because the recipe called for a pound of 4 basic cake ingredients: sugar, flour, butter and eggs. Currently, any cake that uses the 1:1:1:1 ratio of sugar, flour, butter and eggs is called a pound cake.

Torte cakes - Torte cakes are cakes that traditionally use nut flours rather than wheat flours in the recipe.
What D'ya Know?: Nut flours are flours made from ground nuts. A popular nut flour used in a lot of pastries such as tortes, petits fours, and macarons, is almond flour. Some cuisines have started using coconut flour and rice flours. Both are used for gluten-free recipes for those with gluten allergies and intolerance.
Génoise - Génoise cakes are technically sponge cakes, however, they do not contain any leavening agents such as baking soda and baking powder (air which adds volume to the cake as it bakes, is maintained during mixing) and the recipe does not call for beating the egg whites and yolks separately as most sponge cakes do. Furthermore, the egg and sugar mixture is heated while being beaten to take the mixture to the ribbon stage for incorporating into the rest of the batter. Génoise cakes are usually drier than other cake batters, so they are often drenched in syrup or heavily layered in buttercream icings for moisture and extra flavor.

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