Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cakes of Old for the Modern Day Cook

We all like Cakes. It seems everywhere we go there is a cake involved. Eating out, parties, a home cook dinner. Cakes are part of our food group, per-say. Ending a meal with cake was a tradition. Cakes have been around for centuries. Although they were  denser and make primarily for traveling and long term item. Made with flour, spices and leavening ingredients. They have evolved into  a fluffy and light delicacy, made with eggs and butter. I do not think we would let the cakes from centuries ago. however the cakes of the 19th and 20+ centuries we would love. I am fortunate to have several books on the those centuries cake. Plus cakes from families recipes.

Thought I would devote a time on making cakes. It really is not hard in this day and age to make cakes. with all the help we have in mixers, pans and ovens, we can bake the prefect cake. So lets get started.

The first thing you must get is a stand Mixer. I have had several over the years. The best one for me is the KitchenAid. I have two of them. one it the professional heavy duty (pictured here)  and the other is a Lift head, more for light duty. In making cake the Lift head will do fine.  Now I know they a pricey however, You will find yourself using it more and more in your kitchen. I use to to make chicken salad, egg salad, mixing meatloaf, making the perfect omelets as well as making cakes and desserts.  With the attachments you can even make pasta and grind your own meats, make sausages and grate food. It is the most important item for the kitchen cook.
In the long run the cost will not matter. I would suggest that you shop around to get a good cost.

The second thing you will need are good pans. Believe it that the baking pans do make a difference. The way the heat conducts in the pan can make or break your cake. I like the Wilton pans. You can find them in all stores. There are some other high end pans that are good as well. Make sure you do not get the dollar ones  or cheaper ones. The problem with them is the type of metal that is used. Cakes need uniform heat distribute throughout the cake pan. Hot spots can cause the cake not to rise well. Giving you a dense or lopsided cake. I have use several brands and seem to always go back to my Wilton pans.  I have had them for over 30 years and they are still the best pans. all the other brands have made there way to the thrift shop or donated.

The third thing is wax paper. Now this is the key to a good release of the cake. Only use the wax paper when making cakes. Because it does not work let parchment paper. It will burn alone in an oven. What you do with the wax paper is cut it to the size of the pan. Grease the pan , put the wax paper in the pan press down and then turn it around. this is so both sides are greased. Next thing is to flour the pan. Put about 2 tablespoons of flour the shake it around the pan. covering the sides and bottom. you will pour the batter in the wax paper bottom pan. when the cake is done the pan can be turned out and the wax paper will be on the bottom of the cake. Simply remove the wax paper. No more cake bottom stuck in the pan.

Oven temps are important also. I have found using the speed bake (confection bake option) is not good for cakes. The speed bake fans move air around the oven. The thought is that it will even out the heat in the oven. However the air movement causes uneven baking in the cake. I have use both methods and found that the cake is better in light and fluffiness without using the speed bake cycle. Even though most oven manufactures states you get a higher raise in bake goods. Pockets of uncooked cake and the false rise will deflate upon leaving the oven. This method will give you a denser or over cooked cake. Therefore my suggestion is use the regular oven cycle when baking cakes. When heating the oven let it heat to the temperature of the recipe and then wait 10 minutes before putting it in the oven. The extra time insures that the whole oven is at the temp and not just the thermostat area. Always place the cake pans in the middle rack of the oven and make sure there is at least  two inches between the pans. This insures that they cook evenly.

Now one more tip for that perfect cake. The eggs should be at room temperature as well the the butter. Having all ingredients at room temperature help with the cooking of the cake. It will rise better and cook evenly. Less of a shock to the rising ingredients. In days of old there was very little things kept cold. Eggs where gathered that morning, Milk was fresh that morning, butter was fresh and kept in room temp water. You can buy containers for that purpose today. They are called Stoneware Butter keepers. You can get them on amazon as well as specialty stores. I have several different styles.   Always use unsalted butter for baking.  Try using these  tips making your next cake. You will notice a difference.

So let me give you a cake recipe from the Days of Old.

This is a butter cake from a 1949 recipe. My mother use to make this one. I will give you the original recipe. later I will modernize  it.

Butter Cake.
 1 cup room temp butter
 1 cup Sugar
 1 teaspoon Flavoring ( any kind you like, vanilla, lemon, almond, ect)
 2 room temp eggs.
 2 Cups Cake flour ( this is a special flour made for cakes, can be found in the flour section of the store)
 2 teaspoon Baking Powder
 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
 3/4 cup Milk

1. Cream Butter until very light, gradually adding sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Add the flavoring, then add the eggs, one at a time. Beating well after each.
3. Sift the Cake flour and baking powder and salt together.
4. Add 1/4 of the sifted dry ingredients to the butter mixture beat well
    Add 1/4 cup of the milk, beat well.
    Add 1/4 of the sifted dry ingredients, beat well
continue this method ending with the dry ingredients.
5.  Pour the batter into  two 8" round greased and floured prepared Cake pans.
6.  Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about Twenty five minutes. cake should spring back when touch on top. Or cake tester comes out clean in the middle of the cake.
7.  Cool on a rack for 4 minutes. loosen side with knife and turn our. continue to cool before icing.

use your favorite icing. enjoy.

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