Baking Diary – log 18 – 26.11.2012
I am back! How are you?
Remember in the last post, I have introduced the Creaming Method of making Butter Cake, together with my Ultimate Pineapple Upside Down Cake reicpe? So what you gonna show us today, Rose? Tehe, this post will also be about Butter Cake, but from a less popolar point of view. Some of you might know, there is another brother in this Making Butter Cake family, the two-stage method. What is it, really, you ask? In this post of the Butter Cake series, we will discuss this method in detail, together with a super delicious variation of it, my Ultimate Chocolate Mud Cake.
Introduction of the Two-stage Method
The two stage mixing method was originally invented for high ratio cakes. The term “high ratio” refers to a high ratio of water to flour held together by the emulsifiers in the “new fangled” solid shortenings. Since the emulsifiers could hold more water, the batter could also hold more sugar (usually more than the 100% based on the weight of the flour), as sugar dissolves in water. This high sugar content helps increase shelf life and moistness in cakes. The method gets its name because the liquids are added in two stages.
Recently, since we all have become more health conscious about the effect of trans fats; solid shortenings have been off somewhat. The two-stage mixing method, however, still stays as it is proved to be a very effective method for creating a meltingly tender, fine crumbed cake. This method was introduced to home baking and made popular by Rose Levy Beranbaum in her book “The Cake Bible”, and more recently, “Rose’s Heavenly Cakes”. I don’t own any copy of these wonderful books, but have been collecting recipes around from them.
Generally, this method consists of 4 steps, as explain below:
- Combine all of your dry ingredients, including sugar, in a big mixing bowl. Whisk them well to evenly distribute the salt and the leavening ingredients.
- Divide the wet ingredients into 2 mixtures. In most recipes, Wet Mix no.1 includes softened fat, some variation plus ¼ of the liquid, or eggs and the flavorings (cocoa powder, vanilla, spices, etc.); Wet Mix no.2 includes the rest or most of the liquid (can be milk, buttermilk, etc.). Some other recipes (for instance, mine) divide the wet ingredients differently, but what they have in common is to always divide them into two separated mixtures, which most of the first mix is always softened fat, and the second most of the liquid.
- Put the Wet mix no.1, usually including softened fat, some egg or milk, and flavorings into the dry mixture. First mix on low speed to moisten the flour. Then, increase the speed to medium to develop the cake structure and aerate the batter. This step should take about 2-3 minutes. The batter is quite thick at this moment; it is OK if there are still some minor lumps.
- Add the Wet mix no.2 in 2 additions, mixing for just a few seconds after each addition to blend. Don’t be too enthusiastic and mixing for longer time, or else, the cake won’t rise properly as the gluten developed too much. Scrape bowl frequently during and after mixing. The batter will be quite thin, especially in comparing with batter made by the creaming method.
How it works
In first step of the two-stage mixing method, you are mixing the dry ingredients, mainly flour in a limited amount of liquid (part of milk and/or whites) in the presence of sugar. Sugar has the ability to prevent gluten formation by absorbing some of the liquid that would otherwise activate the gluten. Furthermore, the softened fat is also added at the very beginning; the fat create a wall between flour and water.
As the result of having the flour and sugar well blended, plus forming the softened fat shield, and limiting the amount of liquid in the initial mixing, a very tender cake is created effortless with this method.
Some Notes on the Two-stage method
NOTE 1 – Usually use icing sugar to help it combine better with butter. If you don’t have it in hand, simply make some by process granulated white sugar in a food processor for a few minutes. In worst cases when you don’t have any icing sugar and cannot make it, using the granulated white sugar is fine, too; however, because it will not completely dissolve into the butter, it might affect the texture of the cake.
NOTE 3 – In most cases the wet ingredient mixture, especially Wet Mix no.2, must be added in stages with only small amounts at a time. If they are added too quickly, they cannot be absorbed properly into the batter.
NOTE 4 – Some said that in this two-stage mixing method, it doesn’t matter how much you beat the batter; the cake will still be fine as the flour already coated with softened fat before contacting water. Yet again, NEVER overbeat your batter; it doesn’t hurt! When adding ingredients into it, remember to mix on medium speed until just combine, meaning to stop the instance you see there is no flour lumps or traces of liquid in the batter (about 1 minute each addition).
NOTE 5 – Make sure that all of your ingredients are at cool room temperature–about 21 degrees Celsius, milk, eggs, butter – everything; for easier combination for the same reason as I explained in the Creaming Method.
(For one round cake of 23cm diameter, 7 cm height)
Adapted from Exclusively Food
- 325g flour
- 30g cocoa powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- 400g sugar (preferably powdered, but granulated white also works)
Wet mix no.1
- 4 eggs
- 2 tbsp. canola oil (or other flavorless, odorless, edible oil)
- 125ml plain yogurt (or buttermilk for more complex flavor if you have it in hand)
- 1tsp. vanilla
Wet mix no.2
- 250g chocolate (it can be milk, or dark chocolate depending on your preference, and the availability of your pantry. I usually do a half-half proportion; meaning 125g milk chocolate – 125g dark chocolate)
- 250g butter
- 1 tsp. espresso powder
- ¾ cup milk
- 150g milk chocolate
- 150g dark chocolate
- 84ml (1/3 cup) thickened cream (35 percent fat)
Let’s put this method into practice, shall we?
Step 1: Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
Grease the side and base of a deep 23cm round cake pan. I use a spring-form pan for easy removal of the cake. Then line base and side of the pan with non-stick baking paper, extending the paper a few centimeters above the top rim of the pan, like below. Please be careful because this cake is quite sticky if not lined properly.
Step 2: Place 250g chocolate, butter, coffee and water in a large saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. When chocolate and butter have melted about 3/4, remove mixture from heat, give it some more stirs, and allow it to cool to lukewarm/room temperature.
Step 3: Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda together into a large bowl.
Step 4: Add the caster sugar to the bowl with the flour mixture, and give them more stirs until well combined. For this recipe, we only need a hand whisk to stir ingredients together. If you want to use machine, it is fine too.
Step 5: In a medium bowl, place eggs, oil, vanilla and yogurt. Whisk the wet ingredients together until well combined.
Step 6: Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until well combined. There might be traces of flour lumps, don’t worry.
Step 7: Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the egg-flour mixture in a two additions, stirring until combined after each.
You can see how thin the batter is, very pourable. It is totally normal.
Step 8: Pour mixture into prepared pan.
Bake for about 1 hour and 30 minutes (23cm pan). Insert a wooden skewer into the center of the cake, if the knife/skewer comes out clean or with a little moist crumbs attached (moist crumbs, not all gooey batter), the cake is fully baked.
Remove cake from oven, and allow it to cool in the pan.
Step 9: When the cake has cooled to room temperature, remove it from the pan. The top surface of the cake will probably have quite a crunchy crust, which may be trimmed off.
You can also turn the cake upside down to give a beautifully flat surface for icing. Store the cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature before serving
Step 10: Whip up some whipping cream with sugar to taste or make some basic ganache for icing. Spread ganache over cake using a palette knife or just top the slice with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, like I did.
The cake is soooo moist and tender, with a burst of chocolatey flavor… We finished this cake, Mr. Bear and I, in 3 days.
Side story – Some update with my baking course
In the second week of my baking course, we started to practice for real. The first 3 days was dedicated to Cookies and Biscuits. To say the truth, I was actually quite disappointed with how it went. We practiced 10 recipes of cookies in 3 days, and only 3 of them turn out quite alright, the rest 7 needed a lot of alternation and correction from the teacher, some before and some after seeing how wrongly they turned out.
For instance, here are the most ugly chocolate chip cookies I have every seen, ew!
Here is how the raisin oatmeal cookies DON’T suppose to turn out.
Lesson 1 – always test your baking soda and baking powder by dropping some into water, if it bubbles up vigorously, you can use it.
The class has reported this problem to the administration office, hope we will have some kind of redemption for this.
Yesterday, we practiced making quick breads. Here is carrot and apple muffin.
Here is coconut quick bread. Not my Bill’s version, but still.
And here is banana walnut quick bread.
They turned out all right, according to my little sis Mimi and Mr. Bear. However, Mr. Bear said that somehow, the quality of these cakes are less than what I have produced in Finland… Have I lost my charm?
I did not taste any of these because I am still on a low-carb diet. How torturing can it be? Working in an ice cream cake kitchen, studying baking, and not being able to eat anything related to these two (sobbing) Anyway I know it is for the best, since I still have my lab mice (oops, voluntary testers) with good tongues (trained by my endless baking in Finland) that are more than willing to try them for me, LOL. Thank you dears!
In the next post, I will write the last part in this Butter Cake series, to compare between the Creaming and Two-Stage Method, see them side by side to find the differences in results, as well as what is the condition and how to converted between these two wonderful method.
Big bonus: these methods will be both demonstrated in real-time using Mr. Bear All-Time Top 1 dessert: My Yellow Butter Cake recipe. I assure you with one fact that I never fail to impress my guy with this cake, so do come back for more!
Let’s hope for the best that my baking charm is just taking a week off.
Have a nice and productive week in the kitchen!
Wayne G. Professional Baking, 4th Edition, p. 328.