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Following Recipe Directions vs. Conventional Wisdom

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 
Hi Guys,

I've been reading this board for months, but am just a mere home baker (I don't sell or bake my cakes for others, etc.) so haven't taken the opportunity to post. I will say that I enjoy reading this forum and utilizing some of the tricks and tips and recipes y'all provide.

I have been struggling with a few issues with some of my cakes and I wanted to ask some questions. I have a feeling that some of the issues I experience when baking cakes comes from overbeating. I know this is a common mistake so I don't feel too terrible about it, but I certainly want to remedy it.

The real problem lies in the fact that a lot of recipes state, as the final step, something along the lines of, 'beat batter on medium speed for 2 minutes.' But, when I go read baking tips, people warn against over beating batter! What's worse is sometimes, even in books and on blogs, people will have recipes that state this as a last step, but then (on the very same website or in the same book) have a page or section devoted to baking tips that advise against doing this - it just makes everything very confusing to me.

Second - my mixer came with a little book that tells me what each speed is used for. However, I'm curious - what do y'all use as 'low' 'medium-low' 'medium', etc. I have two KA stand mixers with speeds 1-10 and just kind of guess, but is there a definitive number that corresponds with a specific speed?

Thanks for the help!!
post #2 of 36
Welcome! I wouldn't make the assumption any of your issues are from overbeating. What is the problem you are having? If your cake is tough and you know its a good recipe, that may be the problem.
post #3 of 36
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your response - I appreciate it.

I think over beating may be a problem in a couple of my recipes, yeah. But, maybe it is best to break this down by recipe since some of my cakes turn out fine and some don't, and each have their own specific problems.

The cake I have the most problems with is a cold oven pound cake recipe I lifted from a blog. It rises, then sinks in the middle and cracks.

The cake is done on the outside, and under the crack (which is quite good - crispy and chewy and yum), there is about a half of inch of air and then gummy cake inside - it looks like the top part of the overall cake/cupcake rose but the middle didn't rise along with it. I've tried this both with a cake pan and cupcake pan and I always get the same result.

I hope that I described that clearly - kind of tough, haha.
post #4 of 36
Thread Starter 
Oh, and I'm still curious what you think about the over beating, in general. In most cases, should I avoid that last directive, and just mix/stir/beat until combined or is it really recipe specific, or cake-type specific?

Thank you!!
post #5 of 36
Betheigh, as far as beating your cake mixes, this is what I learned from Emeril Lagasse on the Food Network...I think he is spot on. First put in your sifted dry ingredients into your stand mixture...turn the mixer on low as to not throw the dry ingredients and add your liquid ingredients (except eggs) just until incorporated...stop the mixer...scrap down the sides and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula...turn mixer back on slow/medium...add each egg one at a time until completely incorporated and turn off the mixer. Scrap sides and bottom of bowl to assure no dry ingredients remain stuck. Pour into prepared pans. No specific time at all.
post #6 of 36
Thread Starter 
Interesting! So, you think throwing out the creaming method altogether is best bet and this is what you've had the most success with?

Thanks for any help you can provide.
post #7 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by cabecakes

Betheigh, as far as beating your cake mixes, this is what I learned from Emeril Lagasse on the Food Network...I think he is spot on. First put in your sifted dry ingredients into your stand mixture...turn the mixer on low as to not throw the dry ingredients and add your liquid ingredients (except eggs) just until incorporated...stop the mixer...scrap down the sides and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula...turn mixer back on slow/medium...add each egg one at a time until completely incorporated and turn off the mixer. Scrap sides and bottom of bowl to assure no dry ingredients remain stuck. Pour into prepared pans. No specific time at all.



This may work for cake mixes, but if you are a scratch baker, you need to follow the directions and if it calls for creaming first, do it. Don't just dump the ingredients in the bowl and mix, you will have a disaster. As to why a recipe you took from a blog doesn't work, it may not be you but the recipe. Often, I swear recipes are misstated on purpose.
post #8 of 36
First, why is it that a lot of newbies think they have to wait months before they register as a member here? Hey, just sign on and say hello - learn how to read the past forums, learn how to use the search option in the forums to see if your question has already been asked, and read, read, read, until you need visine to get the red out!

That being said -

Buy a good oven thermometer (not one from a dollar store) and check to make sure your oven is baking at the correct temperature. If it is not, you will either have to have it re-calibrated or lower your temp to accommodate the difference. Your oven may be baking too hot, which would give you a top that bakes too fast and a center that does not bake at all. Compensating temperature is a pain in the butt. There are instructions for calibrating ovens available online.

I never mix a cake past 5 on my ka, unless I'm beating the egg whites separately from the yolks.

Theresa icon_smile.gif
post #9 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Betheigh

Oh, and I'm still curious what you think about the over beating, in general. In most cases, should I avoid that last directive, and just mix/stir/beat until combined or is it really recipe specific, or cake-type specific?

Thank you!!



I do not like the last statement in recipes that say beat for two minutes. That is just plan wrong. All my research finds that to be disastrous to cake batters. This stre gthens the gluten I. The flour that you do NOT want to happen and yup get one tough dry cake.
For scratch baking, and there is a distinction, you want to turn your KA to 4 and beat for 10 seconds while counting 1, 1,000, 2, 1,000..... etc. til you get to 10. Then turn off the mixer. Take your spatula and get down to the bottom of the bowl and give it a good turn. If there is any discoloration in the batter that looks like it was not mixed thoroughly, I will then fold the batter over a few times, but then that is it.

Overbeating is definitely the culprit. Listen to your intuition.
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post #10 of 36
Not all recipes are created equal! I do recommend checking the oven temp. However, if other recipes are coming out well. Your oven is more than likely OK or close to being OK. If you are novice baker, be very picky about where you get your recipes- particularly on the internet or magazines. (The Taste of Home is usually safe.) If you could get Farm Journal recipe books I would recommend them. - It was a farm magazine that went out of business in the late seventies. It was always good. - The other places where you can generally find good recipes is product web sites. King Arthur Flour, Hershey's, or Swansdown. They want you to use their product so the recipes they publish tend to be first rate.
post #11 of 36
The "beat for two minutes" could also mean use a hand mixer, not a stand mixer. The stand mixer will give you different results. I don't time my mixing time, but I know that I never mix batter for two whole minutes.

Overmixing can cause cakes to fall during baking, as can an oven that's too cold.
post #12 of 36
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by playingwithsugar

First, why is it that a lot of newbies think they have to wait months before they register as a member here? Hey, just sign on and say hello - learn how to read the past forums, learn how to use the search option in the forums to see if your question has already been asked, and read, read, read, until you need visine to get the red out!

That being said -

Buy a good oven thermometer (not one from a dollar store) and check to make sure your oven is baking at the correct temperature. If it is not, you will either have to have it re-calibrated or lower your temp to accommodate the difference. Your oven may be baking too hot, which would give you a top that bakes too fast and a center that does not bake at all. Compensating temperature is a pain in the butt. There are instructions for calibrating ovens available online.

I never mix a cake past 5 on my ka, unless I'm beating the egg whites separately from the yolks.

Theresa icon_smile.gif



Thanks for your insight. I did purchase an oven thermometer, two even - probably a year ago. I feel pretty confident that the issue has nothing to do with my oven temperature.

I can't say I never go past 5, but I will say I don't do it routinely.

Also - I know how to use the search function, and have read threads and posts from years ago. I've spent hours on this forum and know how to use the search function, and have read many, many, many old posts/threads. I might be a newbie, but I'm not a total newb! icon_smile.gif
post #13 of 36
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pattycakesnj

Quote:
Originally Posted by cabecakes

Betheigh, as far as beating your cake mixes, this is what I learned from Emeril Lagasse on the Food Network...I think he is spot on. First put in your sifted dry ingredients into your stand mixture...turn the mixer on low as to not throw the dry ingredients and add your liquid ingredients (except eggs) just until incorporated...stop the mixer...scrap down the sides and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula...turn mixer back on slow/medium...add each egg one at a time until completely incorporated and turn off the mixer. Scrap sides and bottom of bowl to assure no dry ingredients remain stuck. Pour into prepared pans. No specific time at all.



This may work for cake mixes, but if you are a scratch baker, you need to follow the directions and if it calls for creaming first, do it. Don't just dump the ingredients in the bowl and mix, you will have a disaster. As to why a recipe you took from a blog doesn't work, it may not be you but the recipe. Often, I swear recipes are misstated on purpose.



Thanks for your response. I do use cake mixes sometimes - have a few on hand for 'emergencies,' haha, but I do mostly bake from scratch. It has been so long since I've made a cake with a baking mix that I don't even remember how I mixed it. I normally use an enhanced or modified recipe anyway, so I guess it probably differed depending on what cake.
post #14 of 36
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaF144

Quote:
Originally Posted by Betheigh

Oh, and I'm still curious what you think about the over beating, in general. In most cases, should I avoid that last directive, and just mix/stir/beat until combined or is it really recipe specific, or cake-type specific?

Thank you!!



I do not like the last statement in recipes that say beat for two minutes. That is just plan wrong. All my research finds that to be disastrous to cake batters. This stre gthens the gluten I. The flour that you do NOT want to happen and yup get one tough dry cake.
For scratch baking, and there is a distinction, you want to turn your KA to 4 and beat for 10 seconds while counting 1, 1,000, 2, 1,000..... etc. til you get to 10. Then turn off the mixer. Take your spatula and get down to the bottom of the bowl and give it a good turn. If there is any discoloration in the batter that looks like it was not mixed thoroughly, I will then fold the batter over a few times, but then that is it.

Overbeating is definitely the culprit. Listen to your intuition.



Thanks for responding. I will definitely try your counting tip and then the last little hand mixing. I read where some folks just hand mix the batter after the last addition of flour, but I thought it might not get mixed properly. Your method seems like a good solution - a little bit of both!

Sometimes I feel like I am almost being tooooo picky about this, but it just seems to me that even very minor things can make such a big difference.

I had plans to bake a cake tonight - went to the store, bought some new baking powder just to be sure that wasn't the issue, and got home only to realize I was missing an entirely different ingredient. Ugh! Maybe tomorrow!
post #15 of 36
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Narie

Not all recipes are created equal! I do recommend checking the oven temp. However, if other recipes are coming out well. Your oven is more than likely OK or close to being OK. If you are novice baker, be very picky about where you get your recipes- particularly on the internet or magazines. (The Taste of Home is usually safe.) If you could get Farm Journal recipe books I would recommend them. - It was a farm magazine that went out of business in the late seventies. It was always good. - The other places where you can generally find good recipes is product web sites. King Arthur Flour, Hershey's, or Swansdown. They want you to use their product so the recipes they publish tend to be first rate.



Thanks! I guess you are right - I hadn't thought much about the source. I do read comments on some of the recipes I use from blogs and of course people may leave feedback, but sometimes they don't so in some ways I am flying blind.

I love the Farm Journal books and have at least 5 or 6, and even the one on ice cream and cakes! They are all real gems. I will check out the websites you've mentioned - I think I've only looked at KA Flour site briefly, but the other two, I am pretty sure I haven't even peeked it. Oh, and I just subscribed to Taste of Home, so I'm glad to see that you have had good luck with their recipes.
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