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NOT SO SWEET CAKE

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That’s maybe a little prosaic for a title, but it’s hot and I’m cranky and don’t feel like thinking up a cutesey-pie title,  mmmkay?

The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum is the last best word on baking cakes ever written. This is not up for discussion. Anyone who wants to learn how to bake a cake beyond a box of Betty Crocker would do well to get this because it explains everything about the science behind making cakes. Everything from a very simple pound cake to an extravagant triple-layered dotted Swiss cake, folded chocolate pages, cake with trellised roses – it’s in here, with careful directions and sources for equipment.

One important lesson I took away from this book is about sifting. It does not mix ingredients; it aerates them. I had thought this for a long time but Beranbaum actually wrote her thesis on it. So those instructions in most recipes that read, “sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together”? Pffft.

I have made the Buttermilk Country Cake from this book dozens of times and it’s always perfect. Yesterday I wanted to make it but didn’t have buttermilk and didn’t want to run to the store. I also wanted to cut down on the fat and sugar a bit.  I adapted the recipe and it turned out very well.  The next time I make it, I will use almond extract instead of the vanilla.

LESS-SWEET, LESS FAT CAKE

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons softened butter

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 10-inch springform pan, line it with wax paper or parchment paper, then grease again and flour.

Combine the eggs, 1/4 cup of the yogurt, and the vanilla and lemon extracts in a small bowl and mix with a fork until there are no lumps of yogurt remaining. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Using an electric mixer, beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining yogurt and beat until dry ingredients are moistened, then increase speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Add the egg mixture to the dry mixture in 3 batches, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides as needed.

Scrape batter into pan. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cool 10 minutes on a rack, then run a knife around the inside of the pan. Loosen the sides and remove, then invert cake onto rack. Remove the paper, invert right-side-up, and let cool completely.

To serve, cut into wedges. Slice each wedge in half horizontally and fill with fruit. Top with sour cream, whipped cream, or ice cream. Here I used nonfat sour cream and a hot cherry filling.

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4 responses »

  1. I have a single-serving thing of greek yogurt which isn’t quite a cup, but I also have buttermilk powder. I assume that the volume of liquid is the important thing in getting a cake to come out right.

    I am tempted to make this in my rice-cooker. They work well for pancakes (they come out rather like cake) so they should work for regular cake as well, right?

    Reply
    • The volume of liquid is important but in baking cakes, you are also looking at the correct chemical reaction of acid & alkaline to create the rising effect, as well as the stability of the structure (Which is why in Beranbaum’s recipes, the directions tell you to beat the batter much longer than in standard recipes – you are developing the very small amount of protein in cake flour).

      The other thing to look at is the immediate effect of a hot oven to create the initial rise (air bubbles forming within the batter and expanding) followed by the solidifying of the batter (as in rebar).

      A rice cooker or other slow cooking vessel would create some sort of cooked cake product but you would probably not have the pound cake-like texture that this cake has.

      Reply
      • The coconut flour I used in my last foray into a rice-cooker pancake resulted in a very sacher-torte texture. All the gluten-free recipes explicitly call for a lot more aeration to get the bubbles, because otherwise, you end up with more of a brownie than a cake. I use a blender because for some reason we never got a beater-type mixer.

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