Troubleshooting pound cake


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I recently made the pound cake recipe from Stella Parks, but there ended up being a few issues with the cake:
  1. Gummy streaks (crumb is also pretty dense overall, but I think that's how the recipe is formulated to be, especially reading Stella Parks' writeup and the picture on the recipe).
  2. Numerous medium-sized tunnels.
  3. The top was nicely domed out of the oven, but collapsed when cooling to create a final fairly flat top.
IMG_20200921_141103[1].jpg


Now of course, I didn't follow the recipe exactly so those issues are no doubt caused by the changes I made. Specifically, what I did differently was:
  1. I don't have a 1lb loaf pan (8.5x4.5 inch), so I baked in a nonstick 9x5 inch loaf pan instead.
  2. Scaled the recipe to 120% because of the larger pan - 9x5 is 117.6% larger in area than 8.5x4.5.
  3. Because I used a larger pan and it was nonstick, I baked at 325°F instead of the stated temperature of 375°F. Specifically, I was originally planning on baking at 350°F, but decided after the cake had been in the oven for 5 minutes to further decrease it to 325°C. Ended up baking for a total of 72 minutes, to an internal temperature of 202°F.
    1. I was basing it off of a previous recipe I tried (https://www.joyofbaking.com/PoundCake.html, based off of Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe), where tried baking it at 350°F and 325°F, and had better results at 325°F.
  4. Also used all butter, no coconut oil, but I doubt that had any effect.
Further details:
  • Mixed half AP flour (13% protein since Canada) and cake & pastry flour (8% protein) to approximate 10.5% protein flour.
  • Before starting, butter was at about 63°F and eggs were at 65°F.
  • Creamed for 5 minutes at medium speed (speed 4 on a KitchenAid Pro 600), and butter mixture was at 68°F.
  • After all the mixing was done, the batter was at 66°F (recipe said should be around 65°F).
  • Sifted flour beforehand, and followed recipe for adding it in: alternated with sour cream on lowest speed (Stir speed on the KitchenAid), and mixed only until incorporated.
I did some research into what could've caused the issue, and here's some of the information I found:

From Paula Figoni's How Baking Works:
"High-ratio liquid shortening cakes are characterized by high ratios, or baker’s percentages, of liquid and sugar to the amount of fl our. They are formulated to be mixed in a single step that whips large amounts of tiny air bubbles into the batter. While generally considered to be foolproof, things can go wrong if the oven temperature is off.
When the oven temperature is low, for example, a cake’s structure sets later than it should. In the meantime, the batter slowly warms and as it does, it thins out. Air bubbles can rise easily through the thin batter to the surface of the cake, while starch in the fl our can sink to the bottom. If the oven temperature is quite low, the baked cake will have a thick rubbery layer of gelatinized starch along the bottom and a low volume overall. Or it could have a series of thin tunnels running from bottom to top, tunnels that follow the trail of escaping bubbles."

" There are many reasons why high-ratio cake batter can be too thin, which can lead to collapse, tunneling, or the formation of a gummy layer on the bottom of the cake. If your formula is reliable and has the proper fl our (usually cake fl our) and the right amount of fat and sugar, check that the batter is being mixed correctly and that the oven temperature is not too low. If there is too little mixing, fl our and other driers will not properly hydrate and thicken. If the oven temperature is too low, the batter will remain thin for too long before structure sets. Baking is a balancing act, not just of tougheners and tenderizers, but of mixing and baking rates and times."


The Figoni text also states how tunneling in quick breads are caused by a different issue: overmixing causing overdevelopment of gluten. However, since the pound cake recipe is pretty high in sugar and fats, I figured it might be closer to a high-ratio cake formula than a quick bread. For reference, here are quick baker's %s for the recipe:

100% flour
66% butter
116% sugar
70% eggs
66% sour cream

I also found this article from King Arthur: https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/blog/2014/07/15/how-to-prevent-dense-gluey-streaks-in-your-cake
It basically says overcreaming the butter and overmixing after adding flour causes the exact issues I experienced.

From reading those sources and other sources on the internet, I feel like the likely culprits are either a) too low temperature or b) improper mixing. However, I feel that I followed the proper mixing guidelines fairly well, so I can't think of what I should've changed. In regards to the temperature, even with baking at the lowered temperature, I found it wasn't baking evenly. For reference, after 70 minutes of baking, there was still a visibly undercooked section in the middle (in the crack that develops) where it registered 195°F, but parts of the cake that were closer to the edges were at around 208°F. I feel that if I used a higher temperature, it'd bake even more unevenly, causing the edges to be way overbaked and too dry.
 
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Overcreamed—way overcreamed. You need to beat on medium speed with paddle attachment. One of of things we do is turn the mixer up to high because we are impatient. And I am guilty of that too. But just like in whipping egg whites, low and slow and and gradual increase in speed, that is how to cream butter as well. Stella Parks loves to slam the mixer up to high when creaming—and that is not a good when you are mixing at home. It’s one thing when you have a 10 lb block of butter that you are creaming in a hobart, quite another when you have a stick of butter in a home mixer.

You cannot apply anything about high ratio cake to this cake. High ratio is very specific to commercial baking and it requires 1) commercial grade high ratio shortening for baking; 2) commercial high ratio cake flour. High ratio does not apply with butter; with retail shortening; with retail flour. The ingredients and mixing method are so different, so they will produce a completely different result.

The reverse creaming method that the Joy of Baking uses in the recipe is actually based on commercial high ratio cake mixing. Rose Beranbaum Levy made it popular with home bakers when she introduced the method in her cake book, The Cake Bible in the late 1990’s. But in truth, it doesn’t work without the proper commercial grade ingredients. And the reverse mixing method for home bakers in fact produces a denser, heavier crumb—the opposite of what it produces with commercial ingredients.

A drop of 50 degrees is pretty significant. I would have just dropped the oven temp by 25 degrees.

There are so many possible causes to large holes and tunneling:

  • Undermixed or Overmixed Batter
  • Wrong Type or Low Grade of Shortening
  • Improper Blending of Leavening
  • Incorrect Creaming Temperature (not same as overmixing)
    • Batter temperature should be 68°F-72°F (20°C-22°C).
  • Flour too strong
  • Batter too stiff
  • Mixer speed too high (creaming and/or mixing batter)
  • Insufficient or too much sugar
  • Egg to flour ratio too high
  • Batter Curdled
    • liquid and eggs were added too fast and not emulsified
  • Eggs too cold
    • eggs should be 64°F-68°F (18°C-20°C)
You can scratch things like temperature of batter and incorrect creaming temperature off the list. The flour that Parks’ uses is Gold Medal. That flour is bleached, so that will make a big difference in how it absorbs liquid, and ultimately the texture and structure of the cake. With the 13% high protein Canadian AP flour, I would have gone with a 25% - 75% or even a 20%-80% AP to pastry flour. At 13% protein the AP flour is a bread flour really.

I really think it was overcreaming. Even though your temperature was correct, the speed of the mixer might have been too high. I start on low, whip the butter a few seconds, then add the sugar(s), leavening, & salt. Then cream on #4 for a minute, then turn it up to #6. I rarely go above #6 on my KitchenAid, which is med-high. I scrape midway through. I usually cream 2 mins; scrape bottom and sides, then cream 2.5 minutes. It really the look of the butter I am going for, so it’s usually done in about 4.5 mins, somethings even a bit less.

I’ve used a bit of coconut oil solid in a few cake recipes in the past, creamed as Parks does here and not had any problems. So I don’t think the coconut oil is the cause.
 
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Overcreamed—way overcreamed. You need to beat on medium speed with paddle attachment. One of of things we do is turn the mixer up to high because we are impatient. And I am guilty of that too. But just like in whipping egg whites, low and slow and and gradual increase in speed, that is how to cream butter as well. Stella Parks loves to slam the mixer up to high when creaming—and that is not a good when you are mixing at home. It’s one thing when you have a 10 lb block of butter that you are creaming in a hobart, quite another when you have a stick of butter in a home mixer.

You cannot apply anything about high ratio cake to this cake. High ratio is very specific to commercial baking and it requires 1) commercial grade high ratio shortening for baking; 2) commercial high ratio cake flour. High ratio does not apply with butter; with retail shortening; with retail flour. The ingredients and mixing method are so different, so they will produce a completely different result.

The reverse creaming method that the Joy of Baking uses in the recipe is actually based on commercial high ratio cake mixing. Rose Beranbaum Levy made it popular with home bakers when she introduced the method in her cake book, The Cake Bible in the late 1990’s. But in truth, it doesn’t work without the proper commercial grade ingredients. And the reverse mixing method for home bakers in fact produces a denser, heavier crumb—the opposite of what it produces with commercial ingredients.

A drop of 50 degrees is pretty significant. I would have just dropped the oven temp by 25 degrees.

There are so many possible causes to large holes and tunneling:

  • Undermixed or Overmixed Batter
  • Wrong Type or Low Grade of Shortening
  • Improper Blending of Leavening
  • Incorrect Creaming Temperature (not same as overmixing)
    • Batter temperature should be 68°F-72°F (20°C-22°C).
  • Flour too strong
  • Batter too stiff
  • Mixer speed too high (creaming and/or mixing batter)
  • Insufficient or too much sugar
  • Egg to flour ratio too high
  • Batter Curdled
    • liquid and eggs were added too fast and not emulsified
  • Eggs too cold
    • eggs should be 64°F-68°F (18°C-20°C)
You can scratch things like temperature of batter and incorrect creaming temperature off the list. The flour that Parks’ uses is Gold Medal. That flour is bleached, so that will make a big difference in how it absorbs liquid, and ultimately the texture and structure of the cake. With the 13% high protein Canadian AP flour, I would have gone with a 25% - 75% or even a 20%-80% AP to pastry flour. At 13% protein the AP flour is a bread flour really.

I really think it was overcreaming. Even though your temperature was correct, the speed of the mixer might have been too high. I start on low, whip the butter a few seconds, then add the sugar(s), leavening, & salt. Then cream on #4 for a minute, then turn it up to #6. I rarely go above #6 on my KitchenAid, which is med-high. I scrape midway through. I usually cream 2 mins; scrape bottom and sides, then cream 2.5 minutes. It really the look of the butter I am going for, so it’s usually done in about 4.5 mins, somethings even a bit less.

I’ve used a bit of coconut oil solid in a few cake recipes in the past, creamed as Parks does here and not had any problems. So I don’t think the coconut oil is the cause.
Overcreaming does make sense, but I honestly thought I wasn't overdoing it by that much. I only went up to speed 4 on my KitchenAid, and stopped twice to scrape. Going by eye, the butter was still being whipped around the bowl in one solid chunk after 1.5 minutes rather than sticking to the sides and getting fluffed up, which I thought was a bit unusual. But next time for sure I'll know what to watch for and cream less.

About the baking temperature, I also figured that going an entire 50°F below the original recipe was kinda drastic. However, how would I solve the problem of overcooked dry edges? And to clarify it's not just the very outer crust that I temped at being well over 200°F before the middle was fully baked, but even the area like the center of the loaf, 1/4 of the way off from the ends. I was thinking of dropping by 25°F and using cake strips, but I'm not sure if that might still have too large of an effect on the structure. Or maybe the edges being overbaked is just inevitable with baking in a larger loaf pan?
 
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Overcreaming does make sense, but I honestly thought I wasn't overdoing it by that much. I only went up to speed 4 on my KitchenAid, and stopped twice to scrape. Going by eye, the butter was still being whipped around the bowl in one solid chunk after 1.5 minutes rather than sticking to the sides and getting fluffed up, which I thought was a bit unusual. But next time for sure I'll know what to watch for and cream less.

About the baking temperature, I also figured that going an entire 50°F below the original recipe was kinda drastic. However, how would I solve the problem of overcooked dry edges? And to clarify it's not just the very outer crust that I temped at being well over 200°F before the middle was fully baked, but even the area like the center of the loaf, 1/4 of the way off from the ends. I was thinking of dropping by 25°F and using cake strips, but I'm not sure if that might still have too large of an effect on the structure. Or maybe the edges being overbaked is just inevitable with baking in a larger loaf pan?

That’s very odd, #4 should not have over-creamed your butter at all. But those thick gooey lines and the large holes are telltale signs of over-creaming. Plus the deflating of the loaf when you took it out of the oven—over-creaming for sure. The finished temperature was good, so butter plasticity wasn’t an issue.

I don’t think using all butter or scaling up was the problem. Did you cut the butter into large chunks? I always cut my butter into even chunks, quarter the sticks, so the butter is in equal sizes pieces when I start. My OCD showing.

Cake batter will bake from the outside in to the center. That is just thermodynamics. But the metal will definitely make a difference. How the heat is conducted will determine how fast the batter bakes from the outside in. Parks I noticed uses the same brand of loaf pan I use: Chicago Metallic Commercial II UNCOATED. I swear by this line of bakeware.



Try Anna Olson’s recipe. She is Canadian, so her recipes are developed with your flour. And she uses a lot of dark metal pans. Her lemon loaf is made in a larger tin as well. She starts her bake at a very low 275°F, then increases to 325°F.

Lemon Pound Cake
Anna Olson


MAKES ONE 6-CUP (1.5 L) BUNDT CAKE
OR ONE 9-X-5-INCH (1.5 L) LOAF PAN


Cake:
  • 1 cup (250 mL) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) sugar
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) finely grated lemon zest
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) fine salt
Glaze:
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) lemon juice
  • ¾ cup (175 mL) icing sugar, sifted

  1. Using electric beaters or with a tabletop mixer, beat butter, sugar and zest until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together and add to butter mixture in two additions, mixing on low speed. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 325°F (140°C) and bake for another 50 to 60 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool for 30 minutes in the pan, then turn cake out to cool completely.
  2. For glaze, whisk lemon juice and icing sugar together until smooth and pour over cake. Let glaze set, then wrap and store at room temperature until ready to serve.
Cake freezes well for up to 3 months.


NOTE FOR AMERICAN BAKERS: DO NOT USE A MEASURING CUP FOR THIS RECIPE (OR ANY RECIPE) BECAUSE OF THE EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE IN VOLUME TO WEIGHT CONVERSION
  • Anna Olson uses 150g flour = 1 cup—that is a extraordinary amount of flour for 1 cup by American standards.o_O
  • 150g flour is 30g more flour than King Arthur Flour recipes and so many American recipes that are based on 120 g = 1 cup flour. :eek:
  • Stella Parks uses a mix of 120g = 1 cup flour for her newer own recipes
  • Stella Parks adds to the confusion by using 140g per = 1 cup flour for many of the original Serious Eats recipes. :oops:
  • Dorie Greenspan uses 136g flour = 1 cup flour.
  • Others like Smitten Kitchen use 130g = 1 cup flour
  • There is no way to accurately scoop or spoon 120g, 130g, 136g, 140g, or 150g in a measuring cup! You simply cannot figure out how to get these various weights of flour in a cup—that is why all these recipes written in cups set you up to fail.
  • These bakers make up whatever crap ”standards” they want, knowingly use a system that totally fails. The cost is real waste in YOUR money for ingredients and time.
  • But home bakers bear some responsibilities too—we have been telling you for years not to bake by volume, ever!!! A food scale is an affordable tool; anyone who plans to bake regularly should buy a scale.:confused:


=======================================================================


Chicago Metallic Commercial II Uncoated are the BEST overall cake, loaf pans, and jelly roll pans. I don’t know if they are available outside the US. But maybe you can look for similar bakeware. The only other cake pan brand I use is Parrish Magic Line which has a cult like following among wedding and event cake bakers. Their square pans create the sharpest edges ever. The light metal doesn’t overbake. The loose bottom pan is a favorite with pastry chefs—Alice Medrich is a major fan of their loose bottom pans. They don’t have a website. You have to buy from speciality stores, or contact them directly for a catalog.

Fat Daddio brand is the WORST since it is anodized aluminum so conducts excessive heat. Nothing will ruin a cake faster than a Fat Daddio pan. I HATE them. They create a super dried out excessively brown crust every time. Sugar content of course will contribute to browning, but the metal is a major player.




 
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I have a commercial 5 page quick reference cake troubleshooting guide. I can’t seem to download it here.

The site shut down several years ago, so it’s no longer available online. A third party publishing company now it on there site. You can create a free account and download it for free. I would NOT pay to join this site, since it was always available for free from Progressive Bakers for years. I’ve had their troubleshooting guides for at least 8 or 9 years.

Progressive Baker had a couple of other troubleshooting guides. I know on bread. I can’t remember the other guides because it been so long. But you can search this database and see what they might have available.


 
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I really think it was overcreaming. Even though your temperature was correct, the speed of the mixer might have been too high. I start on low, whip the butter a few seconds, then add the sugar(s), leavening, & salt. Then cream on #4 for a minute, then turn it up to #6. I rarely go above #6 on my KitchenAid, which is med-high. I scrape midway through. I usually cream 2 mins; scrape bottom and sides, then cream 2.5 minutes. It really the look of the butter I am going for, so it’s usually done in about 4.5 mins, somethings even a bit less.
Always back to the basics questions for me. But I've been re-reading about basic cake mixing in the baking & pastry textbooks I have and researching recipes for basic cake bases. Something I've noticed regarding the creaming technique is that some sources instruct to beat just the butter, without the sugar, for a bit first before adding the sugar, like what you've said. As I understand it's to fluff up the butter before creaming with the sugar. What's the point of doing this vs. just beating the butter and sugar together at the start? And is this something you'd want to do for any recipe using the creaming mixing method, or just for some specific applications?
 
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Always back to the basics questions for me. But I've been re-reading about basic cake mixing in the baking & pastry textbooks I have and researching recipes for basic cake bases. Something I've noticed regarding the creaming technique is that some sources instruct to beat just the butter, without the sugar, for a bit first before adding the sugar, like what you've said. As I understand it's to fluff up the butter before creaming with the sugar. What's the point of doing this vs. just beating the butter and sugar together at the start? And is this something you'd want to do for any recipe using the creaming mixing method, or just for some specific applications?
Something to add: I've noticed in the textbooks, generally in the creaming method section for cookies and quick breads, the guideline is to just cream the butter and sugar together from the start, but for cake mixing they'll say to cream the butter by itself first before adding the sugar. So something to do with the formulation of cake batters (high proportion of sugar, eggs, and liquids?) that requires this extra step?

Doing all this reviewing and cross-referencing of baking resources may seem over the top, but I'm still picking up on some useful info! I've noticed that all the textbooks also stress frequently scraping down the bowl, e.g. after each addition of eggs in the creaming process. I knew that it was important to scrape down the bowl occasionally, but didn't know to do it that frequently. I'm guessing that that might've been a reason for my last failed cake, not homogenizing the batter thoroughly.
 
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Something to add: I've noticed in the textbooks, generally in the creaming method section for cookies and quick breads, the guideline is to just cream the butter and sugar together from the start, but for cake mixing they'll say to cream the butter by itself first before adding the sugar. So something to do with the formulation of cake batters (high proportion of sugar, eggs, and liquids?) that requires this extra step?

Doing all this reviewing and cross-referencing of baking resources may seem over the top, but I'm still picking up on some useful info! I've noticed that all the textbooks also stress frequently scraping down the bowl, e.g. after each addition of eggs in the creaming process. I knew that it was important to scrape down the bowl occasionally, but didn't know to do it that frequently. I'm guessing that that might've been a reason for my last failed cake, not homogenizing the batter thoroughly.

Beating the butter for a few seconds first softens the solid fat and allows the sugar to cut butter more easily and evenly.

Scraping the sides AND bottom of bowl is VERY important. Adding the eggs is the emulsion process.

Cake batter is an emulsion, a fat suspended in water phase. The egg contains up to 80% water. So it’s important the fat is scraped up from the sides and bottom so all of it is blended into the egg.

On of the biggest mistakes made in cake making is failure to emulsify the fat and egg.
 
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Beating the butter for a few seconds first softens the solid fat and allows the sugar to cut butter more easily and evenly.

Scraping the sides AND bottom of bowl is VERY important. Adding the eggs is the emulsion process.

Cake batter is an emulsion, a fat suspended in water phase. The egg contains up to 80% water. So it’s important the fat is scraped up from the sides and bottom so all of it is blended into the egg.

On of the biggest mistakes made in cake making is failure to emulsify the fat and egg.
Are there any times when it wouldn't be beneficial or it would be even harmful to beat the butter first before adding sugar? I've also seen some recipes call for beating the butter for up to 2-3 minutes before sugar is added, which seems like quite a long time.

In the process of reading and studying all this, emulsions have been a big part of the topic. I've also read a lot about emulsions when reading about ganaches - and let me tell you that topic is a complete black hole! I was simply just curious as to what the "best" or most reliable method was for making ganache, and I never knew there were so many ways people used. It seems that every possible way to mix together chocolate + cream is the preferred method for some person.

From what I've gathered, even in that seemingly simple emulsion of just chocolate and cream, the practical science behind the best techniques for forming the emulsion, preventing it from breaking, and fixing it aren't completely well understood. It's interesting that such a "basic" food science concept important to pastry & baking isn't understood well enough to develop consensus among chefs for the best techniques to use.
 
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Are there any times when it wouldn't be beneficial or it would be even harmful to beat the butter first before adding sugar? I've also seen some recipes call for beating the butter for up to 2-3 minutes before sugar is added, which seems like quite a long time.

In the process of reading and studying all this, emulsions have been a big part of the topic. I've also read a lot about emulsions when reading about ganaches - and let me tell you that topic is a complete black hole! I was simply just curious as to what the "best" or most reliable method was for making ganache, and I never knew there were so many ways people used. It seems that every possible way to mix together chocolate + cream is the preferred method for some person.

From what I've gathered, even in that seemingly simple emulsion of just chocolate and cream, the practical science behind the best techniques for forming the emulsion, preventing it from breaking, and fixing it aren't completely well understood. It's interesting that such a "basic" food science concept important to pastry & baking isn't understood well enough to develop consensus among chefs for the best techniques to use.

The temperature of the butter is key. Most people start with butter that is too warm—that “room temperature“ butter just leads to breaking it.

Temperature is key with ganache as well. The cocoa butter melts and has to be suspended in the cream. If the mixture is too cold it won’t emulsify. Add the cream in increments to keep the mixture between 95°F - 104° (35°C - 40°C).
 
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The temperature of the butter is key. Most people start with butter that is too warm—that “room temperature“ butter just leads to breaking it.

Temperature is key with ganache as well. The cocoa butter melts and has to be suspended in the cream. If the mixture is too cold it won’t emulsify. Add the cream in increments to keep the mixture between 95°F - 104° (35°C - 40°C).
Ah knowing the ideal temperature range for ganache is helpful. Have you seen the technique used by Valrhona that they call "perfecting the emulsion"? Basically, they add the cream in increments to barely-melted chocolate, which causes it to go through multiple stages, including where it'll look broken. But by the time all the cream is added the mixture should be smooth again and they "perfect" the emulsion by finishing with an immersion blender. I thought it was interesting since it's a lot more complicated than the classic technique of just pouring the hot cream in, waiting a minute, then emulsifying either by stirring in circles from center outwards or with an immersion blender. They have a couple videos explaining the technique:

But back on topic towards cake mixing. I made another pound cake recently using this recipe. I had a couple questions I was hoping to clear up with you.

1) This will sound super basic, but what does "light and fluffy" actually look like? The recipe says the butter should reach that after about 5 minutes of mixing on medium. It was developed with advice from Stella Parks, and all of Stella's recipes in general instruct creaming 60°F or 65°F butter for 5 minutes to reach "light and fluffy". I personally started with 63°F butter, and creamed at speed 4 on my KitchenAid (gradually increased to this speed over 45 seconds, and stopping a couple times to scrape down the bowl) for 7.5 minutes to reach the consistency below. My mixture still seemed denser and darker than pictures of "light and fluffy" I see online despite mixing for longer than called for, but maybe the colour can be explained by including the vanilla extract in this stage. For reference the butter temperature at this point was 68°F.

IMG_20201122_141831[1].jpg
IMG_20201122_141843[1].jpg


2) What does a curdled batter look like when you add the eggs? In my case, my eggs were at 66°F, and I added them very slowly in 5 total additions, scraping the bowl between each addition. The batter wasn't entirely smooth and there were small lumps, but I'm not sure if that's just normal. The temperature was 66°F after all the eggs were added.

IMG_20201122_142916[1].jpg


And finally for reference here's a picture of the interior crumb of the finished cake. Does it show any signs of improper mixing?

IMG_20201123_132814[1].jpg
 
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Ah knowing the ideal temperature range for ganache is helpful. Have you seen the technique used by Valrhona that they call "perfecting the emulsion"? Basically, they add the cream in increments to barely-melted chocolate, which causes it to go through multiple stages, including where it'll look broken. But by the time all the cream is added the mixture should be smooth again and they "perfect" the emulsion by finishing with an immersion blender. I thought it was interesting since it's a lot more complicated than the classic technique of just pouring the hot cream in, waiting a minute, then emulsifying either by stirring in circles from center outwards or with an immersion blender. They have a couple videos explaining the technique:

But back on topic towards cake mixing. I made another pound cake recently using this recipe. I had a couple questions I was hoping to clear up with you.

1) This will sound super basic, but what does "light and fluffy" actually look like? The recipe says the butter should reach that after about 5 minutes of mixing on medium. It was developed with advice from Stella Parks, and all of Stella's recipes in general instruct creaming 60°F or 65°F butter for 5 minutes to reach "light and fluffy". I personally started with 63°F butter, and creamed at speed 4 on my KitchenAid (gradually increased to this speed over 45 seconds, and stopping a couple times to scrape down the bowl) for 7.5 minutes to reach the consistency below. My mixture still seemed denser and darker than pictures of "light and fluffy" I see online despite mixing for longer than called for, but maybe the colour can be explained by including the vanilla extract in this stage. For reference the butter temperature at this point was 68°F.

View attachment 3411View attachment 3412

2) What does a curdled batter look like when you add the eggs? In my case, my eggs were at 66°F, and I added them very slowly in 5 total additions, scraping the bowl between each addition. The batter wasn't entirely smooth and there were small lumps, but I'm not sure if that's just normal. The temperature was 66°F after all the eggs were added.

View attachment 3414

And finally for reference here's a picture of the interior crumb of the finished cake. Does it show any signs of improper mixing?

View attachment 3415

@Cahoot, sorry for the delay in responding; I was really busy the past couple of days. I wanted to be sure I had the time to sit down so I could get a good look at the photos and read through your post.

You’re right, your butter looks heavy—and looking closely at the photo, I can see the sugar granules. That means its not beaten enough. So you are adding the egg too soon. But your finished temperature is good.

Scrape down the sides and the bowl once while creaming the butter and sugar. Start at 4, then move up 6. You need to go by the look of you butter as well at the temperature. Remember the cold egg will bring the temperature of the butter down again. I beat my egg a bit before adding to help it emulsify into the butter faster. That way I don’t over beat my butter.

Stella’s recipe is based on a bleached low protein flour around 10% - 10.5%. Your AP flour is 13% protein. Try using straight pastry flour. The Robin Hood Cake & Pastry flour should be about 10% protein, so more in line with what Stella uses, even though it is unbleached.

Overall you cake is looking better. I think your tin is still too large for the amount of batter. How far from the top of the tin is the cake rising? Maybe increase the recipe by 15% or so. Try dropping the oven temperature some to slow the browning. There is a slight gummy line near the top. But the crumb looks so much better!!!

A curdled batter will look separated, very grainy and loose. You will know it when you see it, the the fat not be incorporated into the batter.

Yes, I am familiar with valrhona’s ganache recipe. There’s is the method most often taught in better pastry courses since they will use valrhona chocolate. Valrhona uses different temperatures for tempering than other brands, so pastry chefs that use their chocolates then to use they methods as well. Valrhona is really good. But Americans have to develop a taste for some of their chocolates, so I only use it for those who I know appreciate it. But for white chocolate, I won’t use any other brand of white chocolate. IMO, there is no white chocolate that is edible other than valrhona.
 
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@Cahoot, sorry for the delay in responding; I was really busy the past couple of days. I wanted to be sure I had the time to sit down so I could get a good look at the photos and read through your post.

You’re right, your butter looks heavy—and looking closely at the photo, I can see the sugar granules. That means its not beaten enough. So you are adding the egg too soon. But your finished temperature is good.

Scrape down the sides and the bowl once while creaming the butter and sugar. Start at 4, then move up 6. You need to go by the look of you butter as well at the temperature. Remember the cold egg will bring the temperature of the butter down again. I beat my egg a bit before adding to help it emulsify into the butter faster. That way I don’t over beat my butter.

Stella’s recipe is based on a bleached low protein flour around 10% - 10.5%. Your AP flour is 13% protein. Try using straight pastry flour. The Robin Hood Cake & Pastry flour should be about 10% protein, so more in line with what Stella uses, even though it is unbleached.

Overall you cake is looking better. I think your tin is still too large for the amount of batter. How far from the top of the tin is the cake rising? Maybe increase the recipe by 15% or so. Try dropping the oven temperature some to slow the browning. There is a slight gummy line near the top. But the crumb looks so much better!!!

A curdled batter will look separated, very grainy and loose. You will know it when you see it, the the fat not be incorporated into the batter.

Yes, I am familiar with valrhona’s ganache recipe. There’s is the method most often taught in better pastry courses since they will use valrhona chocolate. Valrhona uses different temperatures for tempering than other brands, so pastry chefs that use their chocolates then to use they methods as well. Valrhona is really good. But Americans have to develop a taste for some of their chocolates, so I only use it for those who I know appreciate it. But for white chocolate, I won’t use any other brand of white chocolate. IMO, there is no white chocolate that is edible other than valrhona.
I appreciate you taking the time to fully read through my post and type up your response!

I'll admit I don't have much experience at all actually with "light and fluffy" in the creaming process. For most of the past few months I've mainly been concentrating on things like pies, tarts, pate a choux, and puff pastry. The only time I ever make things where I cream to light and fluffy are for drop cookies really, so I'm guessing it'll just require more experience to become familiar with the visual cues of when the butter is ready.

Going back to what one of my previous posts in this thread, do you think that the butter still not being at the proper stage despite the 7.5 minutes of creaming has to do with the fact that all the ingredients (butter, sugar, salt, leaveners, vanilla extract) were dumped into the bowl together? What I'm thinking is that maybe if I fluffed up the butter by itself first for 30 seconds or 1 minute, since as you said it softens the butter and allows the sugar to cut it better, it'll allow the butter to get to the proper consistency in the appropriate amount of time.

I do usually beat my eggs before adding them to recipes, since I usually weigh them out first into a separate container instead of cracking them straight into the mixing bowl anyway. Glad to know that's what you do too. Regarding the flour, for this recipe I do what I usually do, which is use a mix of 50% AP flour (the 13% protein) and 50% cake & pastry flour. I'll try increasing the ratio of the cake & pastry flour next time, or just use only it for the flour. I'm too lazy to check, but my bag says it's 8 or 9% protein. The product on their website is actually here, and the specification there is much more broad - 6.2-11%.

And you're right the amount of batter was fairly small for the size of the pan. Since I've a spreadsheet comparing pound cake recipes, I noticed that for the pan specified (9x5-inch), the weight of the batter (about 970g) was less than other recipes for the same sized pan. However I decided this time to follow the recipe as closely as possible so I didn't scale the recipe up for the pan. I can't remember how far from the top of the pan the final cake rose, but the batter itself only filled about half of the pan (the height of the pan is 2 3/4 inches).

I also did use a cake strip since my loaf pan is dark non-stick, but due to the fact that the loaf pan is angled, it didn't have complete contact with the sides so it likely wasn't as effective as it could've been. Since the top did brown fairly quickly though, I think decreasing the baking temperature could've still helped.

I also noticed the gummy layer near the top and should've commented on it in my post. I actually finished baking when the internal temperature in the very center of the loaf was only about 195°F, not 200°F. I took it out early since 1) it was already in the oven for a bit longer than the recipe called for, 2) I was in a hurry to get it out of the oven since I needed to get out of the house to run an errand, and 3) the areas closer to the edges of the pan were above 214°F already by that point, so I didn't want them to dry out too much and I figured I'd experiment to see how baking to slightly below 200°F would turn out. That gummy layer was only in the middle part of the loaf, so my guess is that it was purely due to being underbaked. As you suggested, decreasing the oven temperature would also help with preventing the edges from overbaking before the middle is fully baked too.

About the chocolate topic, I've also read good things specifically about Valrhona's white chocolate. There was an old thread on eGullet that I stumbled upon specifically discussing white chocolates, and the consensus seemed to be that people weren't a fan of Callebaut's white chocolates, but Cacao Barry's Zephyr line as well as Valrhona's Ivoire and Dulcey were the real deal. Unfortunately as still an amateur, Valrhona is too expensive for me to justify splurging on. I only just bought Callebaut's dark chocolates (their 811 and 70% cacao lines) recently since I was passing by Toronto and was able to stop at the Costco Business Center there - the 2.5kg (5.5lb) bags were only about $27 CAD each! And even Callebaut is the "fanciest" chocolate I've ever purchased - so I'll probably have to make do with grocery store white chocolate for now. It's still fine though since I'm still practicing and learning, I don't want to "waste" the good stuff yet.
 
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I appreciate you taking the time to fully read through my post and type up your response!

I'll admit I don't have much experience at all actually with "light and fluffy" in the creaming process. For most of the past few months I've mainly been concentrating on things like pies, tarts, pate a choux, and puff pastry. The only time I ever make things where I cream to light and fluffy are for drop cookies really, so I'm guessing it'll just require more experience to become familiar with the visual cues of when the butter is ready.

Going back to what one of my previous posts in this thread, do you think that the butter still not being at the proper stage despite the 7.5 minutes of creaming has to do with the fact that all the ingredients (butter, sugar, salt, leaveners, vanilla extract) were dumped into the bowl together? What I'm thinking is that maybe if I fluffed up the butter by itself first for 30 seconds or 1 minute, since as you said it softens the butter and allows the sugar to cut it better, it'll allow the butter to get to the proper consistency in the appropriate amount of time.

I do usually beat my eggs before adding them to recipes, since I usually weigh them out first into a separate container instead of cracking them straight into the mixing bowl anyway. Glad to know that's what you do too. Regarding the flour, for this recipe I do what I usually do, which is use a mix of 50% AP flour (the 13% protein) and 50% cake & pastry flour. I'll try increasing the ratio of the cake & pastry flour next time, or just use only it for the flour. I'm too lazy to check, but my bag says it's 8 or 9% protein. The product on their website is actually here, and the specification there is much more broad - 6.2-11%.

And you're right the amount of batter was fairly small for the size of the pan. Since I've a spreadsheet comparing pound cake recipes, I noticed that for the pan specified (9x5-inch), the weight of the batter (about 970g) was less than other recipes for the same sized pan. However I decided this time to follow the recipe as closely as possible so I didn't scale the recipe up for the pan. I can't remember how far from the top of the pan the final cake rose, but the batter itself only filled about half of the pan (the height of the pan is 2 3/4 inches).

I also did use a cake strip since my loaf pan is dark non-stick, but due to the fact that the loaf pan is angled, it didn't have complete contact with the sides so it likely wasn't as effective as it could've been. Since the top did brown fairly quickly though, I think decreasing the baking temperature could've still helped.

I also noticed the gummy layer near the top and should've commented on it in my post. I actually finished baking when the internal temperature in the very center of the loaf was only about 195°F, not 200°F. I took it out early since 1) it was already in the oven for a bit longer than the recipe called for, 2) I was in a hurry to get it out of the oven since I needed to get out of the house to run an errand, and 3) the areas closer to the edges of the pan were above 214°F already by that point, so I didn't want them to dry out too much and I figured I'd experiment to see how baking to slightly below 200°F would turn out. That gummy layer was only in the middle part of the loaf, so my guess is that it was purely due to being underbaked. As you suggested, decreasing the oven temperature would also help with preventing the edges from overbaking before the middle is fully baked too.

About the chocolate topic, I've also read good things specifically about Valrhona's white chocolate. There was an old thread on eGullet that I stumbled upon specifically discussing white chocolates, and the consensus seemed to be that people weren't a fan of Callebaut's white chocolates, but Cacao Barry's Zephyr line as well as Valrhona's Ivoire and Dulcey were the real deal. Unfortunately as still an amateur, Valrhona is too expensive for me to justify splurging on. I only just bought Callebaut's dark chocolates (their 811 and 70% cacao lines) recently since I was passing by Toronto and was able to stop at the Costco Business Center there - the 2.5kg (5.5lb) bags were only about $27 CAD each! And even Callebaut is the "fanciest" chocolate I've ever purchased - so I'll probably have to make do with grocery store white chocolate for now. It's still fine though since I'm still practicing and learning, I don't want to "waste" the good stuff yet.

I think you are under creaming the butter for sure, based on the photos. Toss the butter in the mixer and whip it for about 45 seconds on 4; scrap; then add sugar, salt, and leavening and beat. Add the vanilla extract with the last egg since it is a liquid. It should change color and increase in volume when it is beaten properly.

The flours by Ardent Mills are actually not 6.2% - 11% protein. Rather, that range refers to the various types. The Velvet Hi Ratio Cake will be the low protein, about 6.2% - 8% at most. That is because of the variety of soft wheat, which is naturally lower in protein. If you look at the description the the Velvet Cake flour, it says it is a “top patent” flour. That means it is milled from the inner most part of the endosperm, so it that is the starchiest part of the wheat kennel. So that will reduce the protein level. And since it is a hi ratio cake flour, that mean it has the lowest extraction, meaning the most bran, germ, and outer endosperm removed. With an extraction rate of about 45% that will further reduce the protein. Lastly, it is bleached, so the protein in that is going to be 6.2%.

The Flaky Crust state it is unbleached flour. Since is is multiple purpose pastry and cookies, it will have a high extraction rate. So that flour is going to be around 11%.

The Cake and Pastry flour is a soft red winter wheat, which is lower in protein than a hard red winter wheat. Since it is labeled cake and pastry, it will have a lower extraction rate; not quite as low as the hi ratio cake flour, but certainly lower than the Flaky Crust multi purpose flour. This cake and pastry flour should be around 9% - 10%. This is the flour you should use for your cake. There is no reason to add 13% protein flour to your cakes.

If after adjusting the oven temperature your cake is still browning to fast on top, you can alway tent it with foil about 15 minutes into the bake.

Good baking ingredients are expensive/ Years ago I took macaron class. The pastry chef only used valrhona chocolate, but she mentioned Callebaut was good, but for white, only valrhona would do. We used white chocolate in that class for one of the flavors. The following week I purchased all Callebaut chocolate to make my macarons. I thought Callebaut is good chocolate, so their white chocolate cannot be that bad.o_O I will never buy any other brand of white chocolate again. I too, have heard Cocoa Barry’s Zephyr is suppose to be good, but I just haven’t bothered to try it.

I love Callebaut’s 811. It tempers beautifully. It’s a great dipping chocolate, It’s my go to for biscotti, chocolate chuck cookies, glazes, you name it. I buy it in 5kg blocks and in 2.5g bags.

Have you tried Callebaut’s ruby chocolate? My brother bought a bunch of it; we are going to do some product development with with. It’s unique for sure.

When you graduate and get to working full time, then you will be able to fund your baking addiction.
 
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I think you are under creaming the butter for sure, based on the photos. Toss the butter in the mixer and whip it for about 45 seconds on 4; scrap; then add sugar, salt, and leavening and beat. Add the vanilla extract with the last egg since it is a liquid. It should change color and increase in volume when it is beaten properly.

The flours by Ardent Mills are actually not 6.2% - 11% protein. Rather, that range refers to the various types. The Velvet Hi Ratio Cake will be the low protein, about 6.2% - 8% at most. That is because of the variety of soft wheat, which is naturally lower in protein. If you look at the description the the Velvet Cake flour, it says it is a “top patent” flour. That means it is milled from the inner most part of the endosperm, so it that is the starchiest part of the wheat kennel. So that will reduce the protein level. And since it is a hi ratio cake flour, that mean it has the lowest extraction, meaning the most bran, germ, and outer endosperm removed. With an extraction rate of about 45% that will further reduce the protein. Lastly, it is bleached, so the protein in that is going to be 6.2%.

The Flaky Crust state it is unbleached flour. Since is is multiple purpose pastry and cookies, it will have a high extraction rate. So that flour is going to be around 11%.

The Cake and Pastry flour is a soft red winter wheat, which is lower in protein than a hard red winter wheat. Since it is labeled cake and pastry, it will have a lower extraction rate; not quite as low as the hi ratio cake flour, but certainly lower than the Flaky Crust multi purpose flour. This cake and pastry flour should be around 9% - 10%. This is the flour you should use for your cake. There is no reason to add 13% protein flour to your cakes.

If after adjusting the oven temperature your cake is still browning to fast on top, you can alway tent it with foil about 15 minutes into the bake.

Good baking ingredients are expensive/ Years ago I took macaron class. The pastry chef only used valrhona chocolate, but she mentioned Callebaut was good, but for white, only valrhona would do. We used white chocolate in that class for one of the flavors. The following week I purchased all Callebaut chocolate to make my macarons. I thought Callebaut is good chocolate, so their white chocolate cannot be that bad.o_O I will never buy any other brand of white chocolate again. I too, have heard Cocoa Barry’s Zephyr is suppose to be good, but I just haven’t bothered to try it.

I love Callebaut’s 811. It tempers beautifully. It’s a great dipping chocolate, It’s my go to for biscotti, chocolate chuck cookies, glazes, you name it. I buy it in 5kg blocks and in 2.5g bags.

Have you tried Callebaut’s ruby chocolate? My brother bought a bunch of it; we are going to do some product development with with. It’s unique for sure.

When you graduate and get to working full time, then you will be able to fund your baking addiction.
Nice to know about the flour info. Stuff like extraction rate, ash, patent, etc. still mostly go over my head. I've tried reading up on it but it's just the one area related to baking/food science that I can't find interesting lol. But with how the cake turned out I also think a lower protein flour would've been better.

Never had the chance to try the ruby chocolate yet but been very intrigued by it. It seems to be getting more popular, so who knows, maybe I'll get my hands on some in the future. I'm sure you'll find some nice and interesting uses for it!
 
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Nice to know about the flour info. Stuff like extraction rate, ash, patent, etc. still mostly go over my head. I've tried reading up on it but it's just the one area related to baking/food science that I can't find interesting lol. But with how the cake turned out I also think a lower protein flour would've been better.

Never had the chance to try the ruby chocolate yet but been very intrigued by it. It seems to be getting more popular, so who knows, maybe I'll get my hands on some in the future. I'm sure you'll find some nice and interesting uses for it!

Flour is very confusing...in a nutshell.

The wheat kernel is comprised of three parts:
  • bran: 14.5% outer shell
  • endosperm: 83% fleshy tissue that make up the body of the seed
  • germ: 2.5% the embryo of the seed
The three components are usually separated and milled separately.

Then depending on the type of flour, they are mixed together.

Extraction refers to the amount of the kernel “extracted” to make the flour.

Whole wheat flour is 100% extraction because 100% of the kernel is extracted to make the flour.
  • milled bran, endosperm, and bran is blended in to make the flour

Cake flour is 45% extraction because only 45% of the kernel is extracted to make the flour.
  • only milled endosperm is used to make the flour

All Purpose flour is 73% extraction because 73% of the kernel is extracted to make the flour.
  • milled endosperm and some bran is used to make the flour

Patent flour is milled from only the center of the endosperm. Since they have no bran or germ, they will be lower in protein. They will also be more finely milled and sieved.

Top Patent is the purest flour milled from best part of the center of the endosperm. It is finely sieved so very refined.
Second Patent is sightly less refined and from the outer endosperm.

Straight flour is milled from the endosperm and may not be that finely sieved.

All purpose and bread flour is blend of patent flour and straight flour.
 
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Flour is very confusing...in a nutshell.

The wheat kernel is comprised of three parts:
  • bran: 14.5% outer shell
  • endosperm: 83% fleshy tissue that make up the body of the seed
  • germ: 2.5% the embryo of the seed
The three components are usually separated and milled separately.

Then depending on the type of flour, they are mixed together.

Extraction refers to the amount of the kernel “extracted” to make the flour.

Whole wheat flour is 100% extraction because 100% of the kernel is extracted to make the flour.
  • milled bran, endosperm, and bran is blended in to make the flour

Cake flour is 45% extraction because only 45% of the kernel is extracted to make the flour.
  • only milled endosperm is used to make the flour

All Purpose flour is 73% extraction because 73% of the kernel is extracted to make the flour.
  • milled endosperm and some bran is used to make the flour

Patent flour is milled from only the center of the endosperm. Since they have no bran or germ, they will be lower in protein. They will also be more finely milled and sieved.

Top Patent is the purest flour milled from best part of the center of the endosperm. It is finely sieved so very refined.
Second Patent is sightly less refined and from the outer endosperm.

Straight flour is milled from the endosperm and may not be that finely sieved.

All purpose and bread flour is blend of patent flour and straight flour.
Ah I now recall you explaining that the extraction rate is the percentage of the kernel extracted to make the flour before in another post. The fact that I didn't remember that at first just shows how much it went over my head. But that was a very good and clear summary. It'll help make sense of flour information in the future beyond just looking at the protein percentage.
 
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Ah I now recall you explaining that the extraction rate is the percentage of the kernel extracted to make the flour before in another post. The fact that I didn't remember that at first just shows how much it went over my head. But that was a very good and clear summary. It'll help make sense of flour information in the future beyond just looking at the protein percentage.

If you understand the basic concept of extraction rate, it helps you select the correct flour the project.

In commercial baking there’s a lot of flour terms that you don’t find in retail flour. They all relate to milling.
  • What is milled
  • What section of the endosperm is milled, e.i.,
    • Top patent flour is center of endosperm​
    • Clear flour is outer endosperm near bran​
  • how much is sieved out
  • percentages blended back together
 
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@Norcalbaker59 I got around to trying out making layer cakes a couple days ago. Since I like do things slow and methodical, decided to start with basic vanilla cake and American buttercream. Used the vanilla cake recipe from Baked by an Introvert and the American buttercream recipe from Stella Parks, which has equal parts butter and sugar instead of the more common 150-200% sugar to butter.

I know you've said how you dislike American buttercream, but I was surprised by how less sweet it was, and I didn't feel any grittiness either likely due to the amount of liquid added. Of course the meringue buttercreams probably still taste better, but this particular recipe isn't bad honestly.

Unfortunately there were some mishaps with baking the cake itself. Followed the recipe almost exactly, using baking strips too, but I instead baked at 325°F for 30 minutes instead of 350°F. I feel like for this recipe at least, 325°F might not work. You might notice that the two layers look slightly different - that's because one pan's baking strip fell off when I checked after 25 minutes, so it finished baking without the strip.

By the end of 30 minutes, the top bounced back slightly when pressed and a toothpick came out completely clean, but the internal temperature was only 194°F in the middle; however I decided to take the pans out anyway. When I unmolded them though, the cake had pulled away from the edges in the pan that finished baking without the baking strip, but the pan that baked completely with the baking strip still had slightly wet edges and was a bit messy unmolding. I ended up putting it back in the oven (unmolded from its pan) for another 4 minutes.

On the plus side, the layers baked super flat and you can see the crust is pretty minimal. I didn't trim them at all for assembling the cake. The batter only filled half the (9-inch diameter, 2-inch tall) pans, but the final height was about 3.1-3.2-cm. Really glad I found out about cake strips from you! I'm pretty happy overall with this recipe.

The cake that baked with the cake strip the entire way through (and was put back in the oven) is the bottom layer, and it looks a bit denser than the other layer. Do you think it'd be a good idea to just stick with the original 350°F baking temperature?

It's also weird that the toothpick test came out completely clean (no crumbs at all) even though the internal temperature wasn't at 200°F, which I've seen is the usual minimum benchmark for butter cakes. I tested it in multiple spots with both cakes since I was confused by that, but I didn't test the edges, only the area in the center. Next time I'll just trust the thermometer and bake to 200°F. Is it possible the cake strips actually caused the center to bake faster than the edges?

Also as an aside, since this was really a practice run to test out making the cake layer and the buttercream, I didn't bother decorating it or making it look like. Plus I don't have a cake stand, and it is a royal pain (virtually impossible for my skill level at least) to get perfectly smooth sides without one.

IMG_20201130_195621[1].jpg
 
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@Cahoot,
I’m sorry I missed this post! I don’t know why I didn’t get a notice on this post. Maybe my junk mail filter blocked it. So sorry about that:(

First off—that cakes looks damn good dude!! And for your first layer cake!!! WoW! That is a nice cake. I know some bakers who have been at it a few years who don’t bake a cake that nice. Seriously.

Overall, nice crumb. NO DRIED OUT DARK CRUST. That right there earns you top points. My biggest pet peeve are those dry brown crust lines on the cross-section of a cake slice. Nothing screams overbaked cake like dry brown crust lines.

Even your outside edge is clean!! Good Job.
A toothpick test in never dependable. It is not an indicator at of a baked cake. It can come out clean, but the cake—or whatever, can still not be baked.

It is important to check the spring back of the cake, check the rise and color, and the temperature. When you settle on a favorite recipe, you will get to know it—and your stove, so after a while you won’t have to test the temperature.

325°F is the right oven temperature. You just need patient. If you kick up the temperature, you will get the dry dark crust. You see on that Peppy Kitchen guys cakes are are level, but have that nasty dry crust? That is his anodized aluminum pans radiating too much heat. You have to control the heat around your cakes. So keep it at 325°F.

Some of my cakes will go 35 minutes or even a bit longer. Just be patient. Remember, time is not the determining factor as to when anything is baked. It is baked when it is baked. It might be done in 25 min or 35 min.

Your cake is soooo level. I just love that. Another pet peeve of mine is the domed cake. Cutting off the tops of cake and throwing it in the garbage is such a waste.

When the cake shrinks (pulls from the sides) too much is bad.

Once you try the meringue buttercream, you will see why it is preferred. There’s no way to describe the taste and texture. Once you try it, you won’t use anything else. Especially when you flavor them.

I also like to do a mascarpone Chantilly frostings. It is lighter and goes with just about any cake.


I think your cake looks lovely just as it is. I frequently make simple cakes without a lot of decorations. A cake doesn’t need to be totally decorated to be lovely and make a nice presentation.
 

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