Amateur baker needs help baking amateur cake

Discussion in 'Cakes' started by burgertime, Jul 7, 2016.

  1. burgertime

    burgertime Member

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    I realize that the title of this is odd, so let me explain. I'm an amateur baker. So amateur, that excluding the 2 dozen loafs of bread I baked a decade ago, I've pretty much never baked anything that didn't come in a box with instructions on the side. Here's a preface of my situation:

    As a child, I can remember my father baking rolls. He loved baking, and was actually quite decent. He didn't like recipes, so he just made up his own using only common sense and his understanding of the core ingredients needed to make certain things. One thing he was always horrible at was baking cakes from scratch. They were always dense, crumby(literally), and he used weird ingredients. He jokingly(but I think proudly) called these creations not as a cake, but as a "Gateau Cake". These cakes would be double layer cakes (hope that's the right term - where there are essentially two cakes with icing in the middle), and they would always be smaller than a box/kit cake. He would always make Maple icing for some reason, and the cakes would always have raisins and nuts in them. I'm pretty sure he just threw in ingredients that he thought might be interesting. He's all done baking now though, and he hasn't baked a cake in a decade. Fast Forward --->>>

    Last year he turned 71, and I promised him a "Gateau Cake", except I made one from a recipe I found online. He exclaimed "This is not a legitimate Gateau Cake!". This Sunday is his 72nd birthday, and I'm determined to make him an authentic "Gateau Cake". I'm not going to bother searching for a recipe online, because that will only produce a typical cake. That's why I'm here. I need a recipe for an amateur cake. A cake that's not light and fluffy so much. I don't want it to be horrible or anything, but it can't seem like a result from a recipe. Yummy, and homemade, but not something that no one wants to eat. Make sense?(God I hope)

    I'd like to make whatever cake you think would be good, given my story and details - and it has to have Maple icing. I figure my project is as simple as taking a typical recipe, and just omitting one ingredient like baking powder or something like that, but I have no idea how the ingredients work with one another, and what made his cakes the way they were.

    Options?

    Thanks!
     
    burgertime, Jul 7, 2016
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  2. burgertime

    ChesterV Well-Known Member

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    OMG I love that story!!!

    Hell yeah you have to make a special cake like that!!!! That is super freekin awesome....to put it in the vernacular.


    Well, ok.....so as an amateur's amateur (so to speak), you understand the basics of cake ingredients, right? Flour, sugar, water, eggs, and oil. Now, depending on what TYPE of cake you want, will depend on exactly how much of each of the ingredients you will use.

    Now, having said that, it sounds like your father actually made a type of cake from the Middle Ages. Those cakes were dense, crumbly, and more bread like than modern cake like. They also would have nuts, seeds, berries, and/or other dried edible vegetation in them. Frostings and icings weren't really used until late in the 18th - 19th centuries.

    For the basics of understanding cake and it's chemical reactions, here are some basics--
    Eggs are a binding ingredient as well as a rising agent.
    Water or milk is the liquid that helps the other ingredients adhere to one another.
    Oils, butters, or other greasy substances that are used in modern cake recipes, are strictly for "moisture". When you have a REALLY moist cake, that moisture is the oil/grease that has saturated the flour to keep it from drying out. Oils/grease was not used in cakes from the middle ages, it is definitely a "modern thing".
    Sugar of course, is for taste. Originally used to keep some ingredients from being so bitter in the batter. Originally it was honey that was used, because sugar was very expensive, more so that gold during the middle ages.
    The different types of flour you can use will also depend on what type of cake you want. For example, there is a huge different between standard cake flour and buckwheat flour, or even rice flour. Buckwheat flour is used when you want a very heavy and substantial cake. It also has a very distinctive flavor. Hardly anyone uses buckwheat flour anymore for these reasons. Rice flour is not really great for making cakes, as it tends to be more "flat", so you have to incorporate more ingredients like baking powder, which help with rising the cake while baking.

    So if you want a heavier, thicker, more crumbly cake, you would use a flour that is less processed than other flours. In fact, you might even use a bread flour.....that would definitely make a heavy, thick, and crumbly cake. To give this cake its absolute best "crumble", you would use less oil/grease, or even none at all. You do need a binding ingredient like eggs, but if you want it more bread like, then you would use less egg than an normal cake recipe. And depending on how much batter you will be making, will depend on how many eggs you want to use.

    Have you ever had Panettone? It's an Italian holiday cake. It's more like a sweet bread with raisins in it though. It is thick and heavy, but not really crumbly. Of course you add a bit more flour, or put in less water in it, it would definitely get crumbly. This recipe also calls for yeast, but there are some cakes out there that do call for yeast in the mix.

    There are also very old fashioned cake recipes out there from the depression era, one of them being a very dense cake. I've used this recipe for cakes before that needed a lot of substance to them because they were cakes that were stacked or extremely large to hold a lot of decoration, without collapsing or caving in. I wish I had this recipe to give you, but I've lost it over the years.

    But basically, if you want a thick, dense, crumbly cake, you want to use less fluid. If you want it very crumbly and almost dry, you might not even use any kind of oil in it. If you want it a bit cakey, then you might use a bit of oil, your regular water/milk measurement and cut down on the eggs. It all really depends on how you want the cake to actually turn out. Of course if you put fruit in it, even if its dried fruit, that will give the cake some moisture also.

    You might experiment with a basic batter using a few different bowls, and make small amounts of batter in each....each bowl using a different variation. One bowl has less water/milk, another bowl has no oil/grease, another one has less or more egg, etc..... That way you can make some small cupcake size versions and see which one can best resemble what you are wanting. Then you can go from there.

    Now with that is all said, I hope it helps you out.
    Would like to know the final outcome of this, as well as have some pics, and what your father thinks of your gift!!!
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2016
    ChesterV, Jul 7, 2016
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  3. burgertime

    ChesterV Well-Known Member

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    Oh, and yes.....leaving out the baking powder from a regular cake batter will tend to make it flat and possibly dense, but not necessarily crumbly.
     
    ChesterV, Jul 7, 2016
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  4. burgertime

    Diane Lane Well-Known Member

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    @burgertime That is a great story, and I have to say, maple is a favorite flavor of mine, and the cakes sound yummy. I like various types of cakes, and I've had a few times when my cakes haven't risen as much, whether from not enough mixing, or someone slamming a door and the cake falling, and sometimes I prefer those cakes. They are moist, but denser than the typical raised cake.

    Chester has given you great advice, and perhaps Becky will check in as well, she always has a lot of great information and advice to share. I hope you share the process and perhaps a picture for us, it sounds like an interesting endeavor. Oh, and Happy Birthday to your Dad!
     
    Diane Lane, Jul 7, 2016
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  5. burgertime

    Becky Administrator

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    Becky, Jul 7, 2016
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  6. burgertime

    Finella Active Member

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    That's a cute story, you're so sweet to find a legitimate Gateau Cake. Lol. As I'm literally beginning to bake, I can't say anything. But people here are very lovely, so you will surely be helped. :)
     
    Finella, Jul 8, 2016
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  7. burgertime

    burgertime Member

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    Thank you all for such a warm welcome! Chester, this has been an eye-opening lesson you've given me! Any chance you've got a couple batter recipes that meet this description? I've learned a lot from your post, but not enough to make something up on my own. I figure, if I can get a decent batter recipe, I'll add my own flare and make it the gateau it deserves to be!

    I'll take your advice and bake a couple of small batches to test out. What do you bake at? 350? Then just do the fork test?
     
    burgertime, Jul 8, 2016
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  8. burgertime

    ChesterV Well-Known Member

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    Well, without knowing exactly what your father made, it will be difficult to find a recipe. I can look and see if I can find something that might work with what I have in my head.

    Yes, cakes are usually baked at 350 for electric ovens and maybe 325 for gas. I use a toothpicks myself, I've never used a fork.

    Let me do some searching online and see what I can find.
     
    ChesterV, Jul 9, 2016
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  9. burgertime

    ChesterV Well-Known Member

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    Ok, well, I think you might have better luck with a pound cake recipe.

    If you over mix them and over bake them, they will usually turn out a bit hard, and a bit crumbly.
    Plus, the recipe can be altered in many different ways to make different styles of firm cake or pound cake. Plus, it tastes real good with fruit or nuts in it too! Flavors like maple also work well with pound cake.

    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/mamas-pound-cake-recipe.html


    Supposedly this recipe makes a firm cake. Cutting down on the water or switching it out for cream or milk might make the cake a bit stiffer and even crumbly, if over baked a bit.

    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/white-trillium-cake-50076751


    Hope that helps.
     
    ChesterV, Jul 9, 2016
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  10. burgertime

    Diane Lane Well-Known Member

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    I'd also recommend the small batches method of testing out a few different ones. I also use toothpicks, or sometimes wooden skewers, for products in deeper pans. I always have wooden skewers on hand for shish kebobs, and they seem to come in handy for many tasks. I'm looking forward to hearing about your adventure, and whether you find a cake that meets with your dad's approval. Good luck.
     
    Diane Lane, Jul 9, 2016
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  11. burgertime

    burgertime Member

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    I'll be whipping it up tonight! I'll be back here with the results. I'm sort on time (tomorrow<sunday> at lunch is when I need the cake). No time for testing - I'm going to live on the edge, and just take the Trillium cake recipe, modify it a bit according to recommendation and what I learned here, and cross my fingers.

    Back possibly later with a picture, but definitely tomorrow. Thanks for all of your input! OFF TO THE STORE!
     
    burgertime, Jul 9, 2016
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  12. burgertime

    Becky Administrator

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    How did it go?
     
    Becky, Jul 11, 2016
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  13. burgertime

    burgertime Member

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    Went perfectly! The cake was amazing and everyone loved it. I owe you all a detailed run down of everything including my description of that cake recipe (white trillium) and what it produced. It is however Monday, and I'm self employed, which makes Mondays that much worse. I'll try to jump back in here tonight with pictures and everything.
     
    burgertime, Jul 11, 2016
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  14. burgertime

    Becky Administrator

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    I'm very pleased to hear it! Good work :)
     
    Becky, Jul 12, 2016
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  15. burgertime

    Diane Lane Well-Known Member

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    It's great that the cake worked out and everyone loved it. I'm looking forward to hearing more, seeing the recipe and a picture or two. It sounds like a cake I would enjoy making/eating.
     
    Diane Lane, Jul 14, 2016
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  16. burgertime

    burgertime Member

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    OK, I found a few minutes to hide from my business!

    This recipe was amazing, and I will absolutely make it again. The majority of guests said it was "one of the best cakes" they'd ever had!

    I followed the recipe closely *except* the following four changes:
    1. Swapped out the Vanilla flavoring in favor of Maple for both cake and frosting
    2. Baked about 5 minutes longer and used the convection setting on my oven. Not sure if I actually over-baked because instead of using two 9" pans, I used (3) pans - a 9" 7" and 4" After 30 minutes, the toothpick was clean, but a sample revealed a slightly damp center, so back in it went.
    3. Added crushed Walnuts to the top (legit gateau cake must have nuts)
    4. Added raisins in between layers (again, to be legit, a gateau cake must have raisins)

    This cake was not crumbly at all, but it was definitely dense; not light and fluffy at all (right on target!) I finished it with a little flag which read "Le Gateau", and was saved by my dad as a memento.

    Thank you all SO much for your input. I have since forwarded this recipe to a family member of mine whom is an accomplished baker and very excited to make this cake.

    Here's the Album. I included a picture of my assistant chef "Les Washube Deu" which is actually a small cat.

    http://imgur.com/a/rTwaJ
     
    burgertime, Jul 14, 2016
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  17. burgertime

    Becky Administrator

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    Awesome work!! You must be so pleased, and your dad looks very happy :)

    So what's your next project?! :D
     
    Becky, Jul 15, 2016
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