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Trouble with butter cakes

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
I keep trying to make cakes strictly from scratch, butter cakes in particular, but they keep coming out dry! What am I doing wrong?
-Christy
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-Christy
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post #2 of 35
I don't have this trouble, but, I have a book called "Cookwise" by Shirley O. Corriher. She is a food scientist. When ever I have a problem with something I am making I check out her book. She has a whole chapter on eggs and what they do in baking, and using egg whites vs. egg yolks. Then she goes into each ingredient and exactly what it does, she also details things like outside temperature and oven issues. If I were you I would check her book out of the library, I am sure it will help

p.s. I don't care for her recipes in general too heavy, but her advice and information has always been spot on. Good luck.
"Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes; that way when you criticize them you will be a mile away and have a new pair of shoes."
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"Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes; that way when you criticize them you will be a mile away and have a new pair of shoes."
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post #3 of 35
By NO MEANS am I a food scientist or anything even close but I'll offer some advice that I have found from trial and error. I don't know which recipes you are using but you could try substituting sour cream or buttermilk for some or all of the liquid. Cakes with these items in them tend to turn out moist.

Perhaps you are over beating the cake. Also when you measure your flour, are you spooning the flour into the measuring cup or scooping? If you are scooping, you are actually packing the flour in the cup, thus adding more flour than the recipe calls for.

A little off topic but DeMuralist...I love your signature line. So true..so true. Empathy (not sympathy) is a trait that few possess.
Darlita
Die-Hard Scratch Baker

Time...and baking heals all wounds.
Your only competition should be yourself.
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Darlita
Die-Hard Scratch Baker

Time...and baking heals all wounds.
Your only competition should be yourself.
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post #4 of 35
I'm no scientist either, but in my small experience a dry scratch cake has come from over-baking. If you are using cake flour it is the nature of that flour to have a drier texture. Most people compare the moistness of a scratch cake to a box mix but they are two different animals.
post #5 of 35
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice, everyone.

I spoon the flour into the measuring cups, and I normally don't use cake flour. I'm going to try using buttermilk next time I make a cake! I've made a buttermilk cake many years ago and it turned out great. I'
-Christy
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-Christy
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post #6 of 35
Can you post exactly how make the cake?

It is a combination of ingredients and process that will make or break a cake. And if you can post the recipe too that will be helpful.

In my own experience there are a number of factors to a dry cake.

1. Not creaming the butter/sugar long enough in the beginning stage.
2. Overmixing the batter once you start incorporating the flour. Mix too long and you start that gluten process that leads to dry and tough cake.
3. Not having the right or correct amount of leavening. Now this depends on the cake. I used to take every cake recipe and correct the leavening as some of them are just overleavened. Cookwise (as the other poster stated) is a good book, as well as Bakewise, both by Shirley Corriher. Bakewise goes into this in further detail. BUT if you are making a chocolate cake with cocoa powder, more leaving is needed because leavening is also a tenderizer which leads to a moister cake. So now I don't adjust the leavening in a cake until I make it as written at least once.
4. Overbaking will lead to a dry cake. Rose Levenbraun (sp?) stated somewhere in one of her videos on Youtube that the sides of the cake should not come away from the sides until after the cake is out of the oven and cooling on the rack. If you pull the cake out of the oven and the sides have pulled away then you have overbaked it and the result will be a dry cake.
5. Not enough liquid in the cake. I tried one recipe three times and got dry results. I had written it down in weights so I kept referring to my written notes. On the third try I decided to make sure I had written down the amounts correctly. It turns out I had somehow not seen the 1 cup of liquid that was required for the mix. It made all the difference in the world.

Be careful when substituting out the liquid of sour cream or buttermilk for other liquids. It can be done, but you have to adjust other things in the recipe like fat and or more/less liquid to compensate. For example when substituting sour cream you have to add in 1/3 cup milk for each cup of sour cream. You can find this in Shirley Corriher's Bakewise. Believe it or not, but too much fat can also lead to a dry cake. It goes against conventional wisdom, but it is true.

Check out the current issue of Cake Central magazine. There is an article in there about eggs that also covers almost the same thing about how eggs effects the cake.

HTH
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post #7 of 35
One other thing I forgot.

You should try and get into the habit of weighing your ingredients. Otherwise you will be adding different amounts every time you make a cake. I did an experiment where I measured and then weighed every cup of flour I used. It turns out I was off by as much as one ounce per cup depending on how heavily a tossed the flour into the measuring cup. I now measure everything.

Also cake flour will make a lighter, less dry cake than AP flour.
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post #8 of 35
Thread Starter 
Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for all the advice! I'm going to keep trying. I'm tired of using boxed mixes. They taste good, and some people can jazz them up, but nothing beats a scratch cake. Love them.

The last recipe I tried was this one: http://www.joyofbaking.com/WhiteCake.html
-Christy
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-Christy
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post #9 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by agentdorkfish

Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for all the advice! I'm going to keep trying. I'm tired of using boxed mixes. They taste good, and some people can jazz them up, but nothing beats a scratch cake. Love them.

The last recipe I tried was this one: http://www.joyofbaking.com/WhiteCake.html



The cake could have been a little dry because the egg whites were beaten too much. The whites should only be beaten just until stiff peaks form and incorporated into the batter in 3rds, mixing until no streaks of white remain. If they are beaten too long, they can dry out which will yield a dry cake.

HTH
Darlita
Die-Hard Scratch Baker

Time...and baking heals all wounds.
Your only competition should be yourself.
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Darlita
Die-Hard Scratch Baker

Time...and baking heals all wounds.
Your only competition should be yourself.
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post #10 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lita829

Quote:
Originally Posted by agentdorkfish

Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for all the advice! I'm going to keep trying. I'm tired of using boxed mixes. They taste good, and some people can jazz them up, but nothing beats a scratch cake. Love them.

The last recipe I tried was this one: http://www.joyofbaking.com/WhiteCake.html



The cake could have been a little dry because the egg whites were beaten too much. The whites should only be beaten just until stiff peaks form and incorporated into the batter in 3rds, mixing until no streaks of white remain. If they are beaten too long, they can dry out which will yield a dry cake.

HTH



And to add to this, there is definitely a difference in the way you fold in the eggs too. You basically cut down the middle, scoop the spatula under the batter and fold the batter of the eggs, and give the bowl a quarter of a turn at the same time. Otherwise you get a dry cake. Ask me how I know. icon_rolleyes.gif I think I remember seeing a video on Youtube about folding in batter. I'll see if I can find it and post it here later.

I did not know about the stiffness of the peaks in the egg whites. Can you describe further about just exactly how stiff. Do you want the peak to stand up on its own, or should it fall just a little bit. I gave up on these type of recipes because I did not like what I'll call rubbery texture. I made several batches testing it and came up with a different result every time. Because I couldn't get any kind of consistency, I just won't make any recipe that has this process. My problem could be how stiff I beat the egg whites. Thanks!
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post #11 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaF144

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lita829

Quote:
Originally Posted by agentdorkfish

Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for all the advice! I'm going to keep trying. I'm tired of using boxed mixes. They taste good, and some people can jazz them up, but nothing beats a scratch cake. Love them.

The last recipe I tried was this one: http://www.joyofbaking.com/WhiteCake.html



The cake could have been a little dry because the egg whites were beaten too much. The whites should only be beaten just until stiff peaks form and incorporated into the batter in 3rds, mixing until no streaks of white remain. If they are beaten too long, they can dry out which will yield a dry cake.

HTH



And to add to this, there is definitely a difference in the way you fold in the eggs too. You basically cut down the middle, scoop the spatula under the batter and fold the batter of the eggs, and give the bowl a quarter of a turn at the same time. Otherwise you get a dry cake. Ask me how I know. icon_rolleyes.gif I think I remember seeing a video on Youtube about folding in batter. I'll see if I can find it and post it here later.

I did not know about the stiffness of the peaks in the egg whites. Can you describe further about just exactly how stiff. Do you want the peak to stand up on its own, or should it fall just a little bit. I gave up on these type of recipes because I did not like what I'll call rubbery texture. I made several batches testing it and came up with a different result every time. Because I couldn't get any kind of consistency, I just won't make any recipe that has this process. My problem could be how stiff I beat the egg whites. Thanks!



The egg whites should stand up straight when the beater is lifted but the whites should still have a slight sheen. If the peak of the whites fall over, then that is considered soft peak stage. What I do is when it reaches the soft peak stage, I check the whites every 15-30 seconds to make sure I don't overbeat.

HTH

I know that these cakes can definately be tricky. Don't give up.
Darlita
Die-Hard Scratch Baker

Time...and baking heals all wounds.
Your only competition should be yourself.
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Darlita
Die-Hard Scratch Baker

Time...and baking heals all wounds.
Your only competition should be yourself.
Reply
post #12 of 35
I found the youtube video for folding in batter. It is near the end.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rLQFfolobY

Thanks for your help on the egg whites. I guess I'll give it one more try. icon_rolleyes.gificon_wink.gificon_lol.gif
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post #13 of 35
I love baking my cakes from scratch as well. The problem I have is when I put them in the fridge they dry out. They are always super moist when at room temp, and no matter how I store them in the fridge they always taste drier. Could it just be my recipe? Thanks for any advise!!
post #14 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by baking_girl

I love baking my cakes from scratch as well. The problem I have is when I put them in the fridge they dry out. They are always super moist when at room temp, and no matter how I store them in the fridge they always taste drier. Could it just be my recipe? Thanks for any advise!!



I never put my cupcakes in the fridge, ever.

One - they often don't last long enough to be put in the fridge.

Two - Refrigerating a cake dries it out, which probably happens faster with a cupcake seeing how it is smaller. The only time I would refrigerate a cupcake is if there was something perishable in the icing besides the butter. I have had that experience with a fresh raspberry puree I added to SMBC, and even then it took two days before it starting turning.

I had cupcakes that I had three days at home. I then sent them to work with my DD and they were wolfed down in no time flat. Everybody kept saying how nice and moist they were. So go figure.

So my advice is to stop putting them in the refrigerator. If you intend on keeping them a long time, freeze them as soon as they come out of the oven. That will lock in the moisture.
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post #15 of 35
I don't really have any advice other than to read Shirley Corriher's Bakewise and to experiment with different recipes and techniques.

I just had to say that I love when Linda F gets going on baking chemistry!! icon_biggrin.gif
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