If you look at a cake, it can be made with just five ingredients – self raising flour, sugar, butter/oil, egg and your favorite flavor. But to dish out a lip smacking dessert, you need to be an expert. Expertise means having the know how about how each ingredient would behave, what’s the ratio to be used, how quantity can be altered without losing cakes softness and texture etc.….. If you ask a chef….they will say it can only be gained by experience.
But then here I differ….Making a cake is all about science…precisely speaking…chemistry. Let me detail out the chemistry behind making a cake, so that you could bake like a pro from your first attempt.
It’s said, If cooking is an Art, Baking is Science
Let’s start with the Flour
First lesson don’t mix up flours
Maida or white flour is similar to cake flour sold in the United States . Like cake flour, white flour is finely milled. It has less protein than all purpose flour. White flour is produced from soft wheat and is low in gluten content (8-10%).
All purpose flour is different from white flour. It is made from a mixture of hard and soft wheat. It has a gluten content of 9-12%. This can be used to make both cakes and breads. However cakes won’t be very soft.
Self-raising flour is a mix of all purpose flour, raising agent, and salt. The most commonly used raising agent is baking powder, but some brands also use bicarbonate of soda. Self-raising flour is many a times used as a short cut in baking (no need to add soda), or by vegans who do not eat eggs, as the extra raising agent in the flour mimics the role of egg..
Note: Weighing is the only accurate way to measure flour, as flour amount would vary depending on how tightly flour is packed into a measuring cup
Cake becomes dense and fails to rise….understand Gluten
Flours are mainly made up of starch and protein. When water is added to the flour, chemistry develops between them…. proteins glutenin and gliadin combine and form gluten. Stirring, kneading, folding, and mixing causes gluten to stretch and organize itself into a network. Overmixing the cake batter, leads to thick, cohesive and elastic gluten resulting in a more dense, chewy texture. This is beneficial in case of cookies, but it harms the cake.
Note: Overmixing the cake batter, leads to thick, cohesive and elastic gluten resulting in a more dense, tough texture.
Fluff up your Batter with Butter and Oil