Here's Part II of my cake test results. As with the others I didn't comment on their ability to be converted into cupcakes because I didn't try making cupcakes, except with the Downy Yellow Cake from the Cake Bible. I baked half recipes in either 6" or 7" pans. Each half recipe yielded two layers.Toba Garret's
Ultimate Yellow Cake
Texture: Spongy, fine crumb. Tender cake. The edges got crisp during baking but this isn't a problem
Moistness: This is even moister than Great American Cake. Very moist but not wet or oily.
Flavor: Delicious butter-vanilla aroma matched by delicious butter-vanilla flavor. It is similar to Sylvia Weinstocks cake. Very good. When paired with frosting the cake holds its own. It can take on a supporting role to stronger flavors e.g. chocolate or lemon curd or it can be the star of milder
Ease of preparation: Standard. Creaming method
Cost: Even with supermarket brands and vanilla flavoring this cake is delicious. Using premium ingredients would only make it more sublime.
Other comments: Slices tend to be crumbly. Baked evenly with crunchy edges. 8 out of 10 only because I like the taste of Sylvia's and Downy Yellow better. Even my testers concluded the same.Sylvia Weinstock's Classic Yellow Cake
Texture: Light, spongy, fine crumb. Very tender cake.
Moistness: This is was the 2nd moistest cake (after Cake Man Raven). Moist almost to the point of being greasy/buttery but in a very good way.
Flavor: Everyone unanimously agreed it was one of the most delicious cake of the 7 we tried. Very good. I ran out of unsalted butter so I used salted butter. I forgot to adjust the salt and added the original amount called for in the original recipe. Turned out to be a lucky mistake because the cake came out so well rounded and balanced in flavor. The butter, and vanilla flavors are heightened. The sour cream contributes not only a tangy, full flavor but also adds to the moistness and tenderness of this cake. This cake pairs best with a not too sweet frosting as the cake itself is already on the sweet side. The sugar in this cake is almost twice the weight of the flour! In her books Sylvia uses an all butter mousseline which isnt so sweet and this cake would pair perfectly with that. I wouldnt use powdered sugar based frosting on this cake.
A dark chocolate ganache is sublime too!
Ease of preparation: Fiddliest. Standard creaming method to incorporate ingredients then whip egg whites separately and fold into batter. The increase in lightness and volume due to this step may be minimal but to me its worth the extra step. I may even have overbaked this cake as I forgot all about it and remembered it just in time. I took it out of the oven after the sides started pulling from the pan but it still came out moist and tender and the flavor was still great.
Cost: From pocket friendly to expensive, depending on the quality of ingredients you use. I tried it using supermarket brands and it came out superb. Next time Im going to use European butter and Madagascar vanilla.
Other comments: Maintains moistness even after a few days at room temp. Need slices. Layers baked evenly but browned easily (due to extra sugar). Delicious, delicious, delicious! Love it . 9 out of 10
Texture: Coarse crumb. Firm, not spongy. Sticky. Dense.
Moistness: The driest of the lot.
Flavor: Smells deliciously buttery but actually tastes very eggy. Lacks sweetness. One dimensional flavor. Vanilla is practically overpowered by the eggs. Even when paired a sweet frosting (Kahlua mousseline), the cake remained bland.
Ease of preparation: Very easy. Hi-ratio (two step) method
Cost: I feel this cake needs premium ingredients to shine. Use the best european butter and finest vanilla extract. In this sense, the cake can be quite expensive to prepare. Using supermarket brands is less costly but will not produce good flavors.
Other comments: The top domed during baking and then sank slightly upon cooling. I know I underbaked it slightly but I wanted to keep as much moisture as possible. Even then it was dry and unappealing. Moistness improves after letting the frosted and filled cake stand for at least at room temp but flavor did not improve. I really wanted to like this cake because most of the recipes from that book are very good but I'm very disappointed with this cake. I followed the instructions to the letter. Will not make again, unless I'm inspired to find out if I did something wrong the first time. 5 out of 10All Occasion Downy Yellow Buter Cake
note: I didn't bake this together with the other 6 cakes. I made it yesterday and had people try it yesterday evening. I also passed out samples of the other cakes so they could make comparisons.
Texture: Fine, velvety crumb. Feels denser than Sylvias, Tobas and Great American Cake because cake is velvety soft, not pillowy soft. The texture is similar to Sky High but not as compact and is way lighter. This cake has the highest proportion of baking powder making it really light.
Moistness: Moist but not in the way CakeMan Ravens or Sylvia Weinstocks is moist. Those cakes are moist to the point of almost being wet or oily and the crumbs compact in your mouth. This is moist as in buttery crumbs melt in your mouth.
Flavor: Delicious. Voted one of the most delicious cakes, together with Sylvia's. Good balance of ingredients. Very good flavor which improves over time. Like Sylvias this calls for frosting thats not too sweet so I wouldnt pair it with powder sugar based buttercream. Mousseline, IMBC or classic French BC are perfect, as well as ganache. It amazes me how it can have such great flavor given that amongst the 7 cakes I tested it has one of the lowest proportions of butter, and has far less sugar than the other cakes which were highly rated for their flavor. I like the roundess of flavor contributed by the salt.
Ease of preparation: Mixing is Easy. Hi ratio method. BUT measuring and baking is a whole new ball game. Very important to measure by weight for precision. Very important to have ingredients at room temp. Very important to have correct oven temp.To maintain moistness its imperative not to overbake. Test for doneness at least 7 minutes before minimum baking time. Top should still hold depression if pressed with a finger, toothpick inserted in the center should come out moist but not wet with batter, sides should not have pulled from pan. If you follow the directions and these tips exactly a perfect cake is almost guaranteed. I do concede that you may need some experience with it for consistent results. In this sense it can be off putting especially if your first attempt was a dud.
Cost: Reasonable but premium ingredients make a world of difference to this cake.
Ability to turn into cupcakes: Temperemental. I used to have great success with it when I was using a better milled cake flour and a convection oven. Since moving to another tropical country, using local flour and a gas oven, my cupcakes have been failing. They rise but fall on cooling. Bottoms were hollow. I've been experimenting to get it right but haven't had luck yet. Reducing baking powder or reducing sugar gives the cupcakes good form but affects taste and texture. I've since decided to use either WASC or Martha Stewart's cupcake recipe until I can solve the Downy Yellow Cupcake conundrum
Other comments: Bakes evenly. Carves well when chilled but is not heavy or dense. The cake improves in texture and flavor even after holding at room temp for a few days. Though the original recipe calls for 9 pans, the layers will only be 1 1/4 tall and the finished cake will be short. I either use the wedding cake conversion chart on the Cake Bible to make layers tall enough to torte or I bake the original quantity in 8 pans. 9 out of 10
As I am truly obsessive, I made comparison charts for these cakes plus for a few more cakes on the scratch off list. The charts scale down the recipes and also show the ingredient proportions in baker's percentages. By looking at the chart you can predict how each recipe is going to behave/taste/feel. Interesting stuff for cake nerds like me. PM me your email address if you want a copy.