Sunday, June 26, 2011

Nothing Worse Than An Overdone Dry Cake

Y'all are going to have to trust me on this one - most cakes are overbaked, i.e. dry.  All of  their delicious moistness and flavor has evaporated, dissipated, aerified, gasified... In short, it's disappeared because the cake has baked toooooo long.  I'm only going to tell you twice and show you once (I hope you'll be able to see in the photos what I'm talking about) how to bake a moist cake and keep it moist.

See that cake?  It was actually so moist that it collapsed in transport.  ohyeaH (<- think Joe Dirt) it did!  That and it was an outdoor reception and 100 degrees - but this post isn't how to improvise-engineer cake retaining walls out of display board and skewers.  The cake was so flavorful and moist it was completely consumed with many smiles, giggles and second helpings and that's the end goal, isn't it?

It starts with the batter, of course.  Whackerslap/bang/shake and generally disturb a plain cake batter to make most of the air bubbles rise to the surface and pop.  If you've bunches and bunches of trapped bubbles in the batter it will bake that way, leaving a vesicular texture to fill with air and make the cake dry.  Please oh please don't treat any cake with chocolate chips, fruits, nuts, or all three in this manner.  Not a good idea, as banging the batter makes all that settle on the bottom of the pan.  Yikes.  The lone angel food cake I've ever made didn't stand up to it either.  In hindsight, I realize it defeated the purpose of beating the egg whites to fold into the cake batter if I was just going to slam it back out again.  Annnnyways.  The batter should be smooth and relatively free of bubbles before baking.

Do you know where the hot spots are in your oven?  Mine are in the back on the top rack and the front on the bottom rack.  I try to space the pans on top so they've equal clearance all the way around and only put them slightly to the back.  The small things on the bottom rack are right ON the hot spot.  I want them to bake quickly (since they're extra batter) so they can be gotten on out of the heat flow and the top layers can bake more evenly.  I suppose you could get a thermometer and check where the hot spots are that way.  These were discovered cooking baked potatoes for the loaded potatoes fund raisers that allowed the Youngest Fellow to go to California with the Mississippi FBLA group his senior year in high school.  Yep.  Those taters in the top back corner were a PAIN to get out first.  Learning the hot spots was one of those lived lessons learned sticking.

In the several years of baking cakes I've noticed they begin to take on a roasted flour-y smell towards the end of the baking cycle.  That's when I start checking every five to seven minutes; five being an easy number to remember for some reason and seven the number of perfection, right?  I like the number 7.

My big oven bakes slow by about 25 degrees.  I could adjust the knob but since I'm the only person baking in it it's easier to NOT adjust the knob and know I need to bake the cakes slightly longer than a perfectly regulated oven would.  

Can you see that the cake has pulled away from the edge of the pan?
Perhaps this is the part that makes you shake your head:  it's done.  The top of the cake is NOT dry and springlike.  The middle of the top of this cake is a little sticky.  It will take a fingerprint the FBI can use if you touch it.  How do I know it's done?  The SIDES of the cake have pulled away from the pan.  I'm serious.  You're welcome to go ahead and bake it until the top is dry and springlike but that will do nothing more than bake more moisture out of the cake and make the top dry and springlike!  I almost always take the crown off the cake with a cake leveler so it will lay flat and the stickiness never comes into play.  Pound cakes need to go about ten minutes beyond this point but even so, it's a good reference point for them to set the timer to.

I really do this by the timer.  See my Dollar General timer?  Every time I spend more than $2.00 on a timer it gets dropped, skiefed, or melted.  Beeping puts me on edge anyways.  When the cakes come out of the oven set the timer and let them cool in the pans for five minutes.

Did I forget to tell you to have the cooling racks and wax paper ready?  Yep.  You'll want those on hand to keep the cake moist until it's filled and iced.  Just follow the pics while I flip out, flip over, and upright the cake again.

 Uhmmm... I forgot to photograph the black cooling rack on top of the wax paper for the last flip to put the cake top side up again.  You'll notice there is wax paper on the bottom of the cake?
 Wax paper is also on top of the cake.  The cake is still very warm.  Waiting  until the cake is cool to cover with wax paper will result in the evaporation of precious moisture from even a sticky-top cake. 

Tadadaaaaaaaa!!!!!  Magically, fifteen minutes later you come back to cover the cakes with the old towels and the two 10 inch butter cakes are now THREE 8 inch chocolate cakes.  Naw.  Not really.  I accidentally deleted the photo showing that the cakes are covered with something heavy enough to sit down ON the cake without squashing it.  The butter layers are under the hideous pink towel.
This is what it looks like the next morning, completely cooled, ready to have the crown sliced off an made into the middle tier of a wedding cake that collapsed on the way to the reception that the bride never knew about until it was time to cut the cake!!!!  All the moisture that made the wax paper pucker would have evaporated and be gone but it's still in the cake.

That's how I do it.  Watch the cakes to start pulling away from the sides of the pans;cover with wax paper, top and bottom; and then cover with something heavier to keep the paper against the layers. 

Thank you all so very much for your thoughts and prayers during the last week as our family has dealt with the sudden death of the oldest brother.  For all of his lack of playing the Favorite Child game and constantly spoiling my fun (he did take his roll as oldest child very seriously) a constant element from every single day of my life is missing. Your support is felt...  Thank you.

No comments:

Post a Comment