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Eat your books

Crossing the Atlantic by Cookbook

Jul 7, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose

Cookbooks, particularly baking books, that cross the Atlantic have the well-earned reputation of being troublemakers. Differences in flour have long been suspected of being the culprit. When MacMillan of London bought the rights to publish my book The Cake Bible in the U.K., I was determined to get to the bottom of this culinary Tower of Babel. A British friend began sending me kilograms of the two basic flours available to British consumers: self-raising and plain, and I started baking. Much to my alarm, the cakes produced with the British flour were unrecognizable from their original models. It was hard to believe that innocent seeming flour could be responsible for such a dramatic difference. The logical way to conquer the problem seemed clear: to retest and redevelop the recipes to work as well as the originals, but with British ingredients. The only place to do this was in the UK with native equipment and native ingredients.

Kyle Cathie, my brilliant British editor with pioneering spirit, made it possible for me to spend two weeks in a charming airy flat retesting recipes. She purchased a heavy duty mixer, food processor, 12 dozen eggs and arranged a shopping tour to Sainsbury, a large British supermarket. I was delighted to discover that England is a baker's paradise: double cream with pure uncooked flavor, wondrous clotted cream which is divine simply spread on cake in place of buttercream, glorious golden refiners syrup, flavorful marzipan and nuts of every type and gradation imaginable.
The problem was indeed the flour. Bleached cake flour is indispensable for butter cakes. But the only bleached flour available was the "self-raising" variety which contained leavening. When a cake uses an acid ingredient such as sour cream, it needs to be tempered with baking soda. But when the flour already contains the maximum amount of baking powder, adding baking soda would make the combined leavening too high, causing the cake to collapse. Fortunately, the plain unbleached flour is just fine for all the sponge type of cakes.
The solution was first to assess how much baking powder was contained in the cake flour and then to create a blend of self-raising and plain flour in order to lower the overall leavening but still have the benefit of the cake flour. This necessitated other changes as well, such as replacing all yolk cakes with whole eggs and decreasing butter to strengthen the cakes' structure. With sour cream cakes, extra sugar was needed for aeration. Each and every cake had to be adjusted separately, sometimes as many as three times before it was exactly right. It was a night and day job, without much sleep, but well worth the effort because I can now be confident that when a British person is baking one of my cakes, it will have essentially the same flavor and texture as mine.
While in England, Kyle told me that the book could not be called The Cake Bible if it did not contain the beloved British gingerbread, a moist, spicy cake with an intriguing blend of buttery, lemony, wheaty treacley flavors.
I developed the recipe while still on British soil but am happy to report that it works equally well in America, especially if you use the golden refiners syrup. It is easy to make, not even requiring a mixer, and is a wonderful addition to the book. Regrettably, I didn't know to include it in the American version, so here it is now!

Beloved English Gingerbread Cake
Serves: 10 to 12

8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1¼ liquid cups golden refiner's syrup or corn syrup*
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 heaping tablespoon marmalade
2 large eggs
2/3 cup milk
1 cup (4 ozs.) sifted cake flour (lightly spooned into cup and leveled off)
1 cup -1 tablespoon (4 ozs.) whole wheat flour (lightly spooned into cup and leveled off)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch salt
lemon syrup:
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
One 8-inch square cake pan, preferably metal*, greased, bottom lined with parchment or waxed paper, then greased and floured.
Note: some metal pans slope inward and are less than 8-inches at the bottom. In this case it is better to use a 9-inch square pan or fill the pan ½ full and bake the excess batter as cup cakes.
In a small, heavy saucepan, on medium low heat, stir together the butter, golden syrup, sugar and marmalade until melted and uniform. Set aside until just barely warm, then whisk in the eggs and milk.
In a large bowl, whisk together all the remaining dry ingredients. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring with a large spoon or rubber spatula just until the batter is smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin, no more than ½ full. Bake for 50-60 minute or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven.
To make syrup: In a small pan, stir together the 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons softened butter and the 3 tablespoons sugar. Heat stirring, until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved. Brush half the syrup on to the top of the cake. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes.
Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto a greased wire rack. Brush the bottom with the remaining syrup. To prevent splitting, reinvert so that the top is up.
For extra moistness, cover the cake with plastic wrap while still hot and allow it to cool. Wrap airtight for 24 hours before eating.
FINISHED HEIGHT: about 2 inches
STORE: 2 days room temperature, 5 days refrigerated, 2 months frozen.


Comments

Anyone have any tips or suggestions when using British cake recipes with American flour and ingredients?

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Sue Epstein
Sue Epstein
03/26/2010 02:13 AM

Rose, I live in Israel and find that some cakes I made in the States work perfectly with our flour here and others, (such as a favorite marble cake that I made successfully a gazillion times in the States) fail every time I make it here. I've tried different types of flour and still no luck. It can be very frustrating.

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Elisa Kelly
Elisa Kelly in reply to comment from Bina
03/25/2010 07:37 AM

exciting to know - Thanks!!

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sherri, i wouldn't do it! chiffon and most other of my cakes needs the granulation of sugar for its texture. if you'd like to read more about honey i've written about it in the article i did for food arts magazine and its posted on this blog: do a search for "rose's sugar bible."

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Hi Rose,
Just found your website and am loving it.
Question, how can I substitute honey for sugar in a chiffon cake recipe?
Thanks

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Helen,

I'm very interested in learning more about your experience with German flours. For example, I'm trying to figure out what the German number equivalents are to cake flour and self-rising flour. Also, I'm having a hard time finding brown sugar, molasses, crisco, baking soda and baking powder in Germany (near Stuttgart). If you have any suggestions, I would be very thankful!

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hey all, thanks for all your wonderful comments. I'm half British and half American so have used all different types of measuring devices, flour, other ingredients, you name it. All the recipes from my mother's side of the family come from America and all from my father's are from England, and depending on where I've been and what ingredients I have to hand my recipes have been made different ways, and I've had loads of practice at converting ingredients. It's amazing when you discover how different things are that you would never have imagined could be, like chocolate or syrup or even butter. Now I have a new challenge as I'm living in Germany and the flour here is quite different from what I've experienced before. Flour here is graded in numbers, apparently this is by ash content, from what I can find on the internet. So a basic soft flour is numbered 405. What I use mostly for bread is 550. Rye bread uses a white flour to mix with the rye which is numbered 1050. I've also been able to find durum wheat flour here very easily, which is lovely. But I've been slowly working out what flours work with what recipes as I've been here. Does anyone else have any experience with German flours? I'm going mostly on guess and error so if anyone actually knows how these are comparable to other British or American flours, I'd love to hear about it!

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thanks Bina, I'm due a trip to London.

:)

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For those of you living in Central London, American cake flour is available at Partridge's Delicatessen near Sloane Square as are many other American baking products i.e. unsweetened chocolate, baking powder etc. It is about a five minute walk from the tube station.

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Good to meet you Helen :).

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Just out of interest, how hard is 'too hard' for unbleached all-purpose (for use in UK recipes)? Plain flour in the UK has a 10-11% protein content.

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Dear Patrincia, I'm usually lurking, but I had to say that I'm always trying US cakes in britain, with average results, and my husband is continually telling me that I should do British cakes with british ingredients. It could be true ;)

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Cicely - I'd suggest an even more simple solution - use US flour with US recipes :).

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You can also buy SR flour in the US, and by my calculation it's about the same proportions (my Supercook baking powder says 4 tsp BP to 8 oz flour btw! US is 1.5 tsp to 1 cup flour). I think ordinary Gold Medal type would be best for a sponge cake. It's bleached but is close in protein content.

Pastry flour is both soft and unbleached, so might give the closest results. It's not easy to find though, you might have to order it from King Arthur or go to Whole Foods.

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Hi all, unbleached american flour is too hard. I would try with the mixes between cake flour and corn starch, though probably cake flour by itself will work well. If you have an old can of UK baking powder, it will give you the quants to add to 'plain' (that's all purpose in the US) flour to get a sponge. You may have to experiment a little, if you are using american baking powder. Apparently you use 1 tsp baking powder per 5 oz (1 US cup) flour.

Good luck

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I agree with Kate, if you are using your usual UK recipes, unbleached AP flour with added
baking powder is the way to go. On the other hand you could try Rose's recipes with the flour she specifies in her book and see what kind of results you get!
Please let us know how you get on, it will be interesting!

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I agree with Kate, if you are using your usual UK recipes, unbleached AP flour with added
baking powder is the way to go. On the other hand you could try Rose's recipes with the flour she specifies in her book and see what kind of results you get!
Please let us know how you get on, it will be interesting!

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... although if you want to use 'English' recipes, it sounds as though unbleached all-purpose might be the closest thing to our plain flour. You'd need to add baking powder to turn it into SR flour.

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Cicely, what an interesting question, which normally we have addressed reversely (from the USA to the UK instead).

I would try All Purpose Bleached first. Then a mix of Cake Flour plus Corn Starch. And ultimately 100% Wondra flour.

Cake Bible has excellent recipes for Genoise and for Biscuit.

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Cicely Willis
Cicely Willis
04/21/2008 06:36 PM

Hello Rose, Could you tell me please what kind of flour I should use here in the United States, to make a light sponge cake? My baking was always so good in England, but as the flour is different here, nothing turns out well.

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Susan, cornstarch and cornflour are one and the same thing.

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Dear Rose,
Thank you so much for your wonderful cookbooks! I have never in my life found any recipes explained so clearly and producing such incredible results.
I'm sorry if this question has already been addressed here, but I live in the UK and was wondering if there is any difference between what is referred to as "cornflour" here and the cornstarch you use in your recipes? Are they the same, or do I need to adjust the amount I add?
Also, is arrowroot a substitute for cornstarch, or only to be used in cetain circumstances?
Thank you very much for your help!
Susan.

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eliz. i can just imagine how desperate you must have felt and am so glad that i and kate and all the wonderful bloggers will give you the help you need!

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Elizabeth - do a search on this blog for "Kate flour". She's located in the UK and has discovered a great way to get excellent baking results.

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Hello Rose! I just found this website and am so happy to feel validated for my baking traumas. I used to be a pretty good baker in the US and all of the sudden, since we moved to the UK, all of my cakes, pancakes, pies, etc have been a disaster!!! As recently as two days ago, I tried to make pancakes for the kids and OMG, what a mess. I tried again, and same thing happened (they came out as crepes). I have tried different flours with the same results. I am now returning to the US for a "supply weekend" to get flour, sugar, baking soda and powder. I have been on numerous forums to get answers for my baking failures to no avail. I was thinking that it was the baking powder I was using the whole time. I will look for the ilalian flour you mentioned. I am so happy I could cry!!! ps. I have your cake bible here (made my own wedding cake from it). It is so dirty, pages are stuck together, binding has fallen apart, etc, but I still use it religiously. You are the best!

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Hi, Rose. Love your books! I am experimenting with making classic butter pound cakes. I'm trying to achieve the same moisture and texture as commercially produced pound cakes that are sold at cafe's, (i.e. Au bon pain) which are moist but not wet, very light and tender, with a good crumb but unmistakably still a pound cake. I took up reading the ingredients list on commercially produced pound cakes and found that some list vital wheat gluten. Have you ever used vital wheat gluten in a butter pound cake before; what was the result? And exactly how much gluten should one use? Also, I noticed that some ingredient lists include both milk and whey. Is there any added benefit from adding whey to a recipe? And how much whey would you use? Any suggestions you make would be greatly appreciated on my quest to produce a "clone" cake from my kitchen. Thanks!

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the only thing i can think of is that they would be adding the boiling water to activate the baking soda so that it would not act as a leavener but just as a ph elevator to balance the acidity of the molasses.

thanks re the angel food cake!

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Can you tell me why so many gingerbread recipes call for boiling water? Some of them seem non-sensical -- instructions to cream butter & sugar together but then pouring the combined boiling water & ginger into that, which, of course, simply melts both the butter & the sugar. What is the HOT water meant to do? (I see that your recipe assembles those ingredients more logically then calls for cooling the hot mixture.)

I'll be giving the recipe you posted a try soon! Gotta make a trip to see if I can find the golden syrup locally.

BTW -- Your chocolate angel food cake from 'the Bible' is wildly popular anytime I make it. THX!

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Here's a link with some useful information about Baker's ammonia:

http://www.foodproductdesign.com/articles/0904CC.html

As far as spoilage, I suspect the sugar and honey act as preservatives in your recipe.

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Sue Epstein
Sue Epstein
01/14/2008 05:11 AM

I live in Israel and have found that by and large most of my cake recipes from the States come out the same, but a few cakes that I used to make very successfully when I lived in there just don't come out well here no matter what I do.

It never occurred to me that it might be the flour. In Israel "cake flour" is self-rising flour and unbleached flour seems to be available only to the trade in 25 kg. sacks. But I do get wonderful whole wheat flour that is grown and milled (stone ground) just a few minutes' drive from me.

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Rose, I've written before on your blog about Baker's ammonia or as it is also called Hartshorn or Hart's horn salts. I believe it is used in these recipes because the leavening action does not activate till it is heated. In cookies the ammonia is quickly dissipated
(but you will smell it while it is baking)
and there is no left over taste. It is used in cookies such as ones that are air dried for a while. It also gives the authentic snap to the cookies. Hope this helps to explain Betsy.

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if you're concerned you should try making the cookies shortly after mixing the dough and compare to see if they are as good. i wrote in my xmas cookie book that this is the odlest cookie dating back to 2000 BC and that often the dough mixture is prepared as much as a year ahead! evidentally all the honey, sugar, and spice serve as preservatives and even as leavening.
i don't use baker's ammonia in them or any other leavening for that matter (perhaps you can find my book in the library--rose's christmas cookeis and compare it to your recipe). this is an old-time leavening and you want it to dissipate on baking--it would taste horrible if it didn't!

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Hi Rose,
It's now that time of year to make my mother-in-law's recipe for lebkuchen for Christmas. She is gone now and was never able to give me an answer that makes sense re why her recipe is made as it is. I worry that a mixture with eggs is left to sit our for 3 days before baking. I wonder what the significance is of using baker's ammonia instead of a more traditional leavening ingredient. And I wonder whether the best leavening use of the baker's ammonia is to get it into the oven immediately before it all dissipates and not leave it for 3 days since it's a somewhat volatile agent.

Martha's German Lebkuchen Recipe
3/4 cup honey; 1 1/4 cup sugar; 1 cup chopped nuts; 1/4 cup fine chopped citron (I make my own); 1/4 cup orange juice with all of the grated zest added as well" 2 Tbls water; 2 3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour; 1 tsp clove; 2 tsp cardamom; 2 tsp cinnamon; 1 tsp baking soda; 1 tsp baking ammonia; 2 beaten eggs;
Once mixed, store in the eventual baking pan, tightly covered for 3 days, then bake at 325° for 35-40 min; remove and stroke a glaze over it made from powdr sugar, hot water and vanilla. Make this on the weekend after Thanksgiving and let it sit untouched, wrapped tightly until Christmas; then cut up into squares and serve.

I've made it many times and it always tased OK; consistency is dense like a brownie, but has never tasted "off", and this is how she made it for decades for my husband and the rest of her family.

Rose, I would be so grateful if you could comment on my concerns above.
Thank you!
Betsy

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o.k. so my birthday isn't til april (i just discovered that it's the same day as the wedding anniversary of jeffrey steingarten--arguably america's top food writer)but i consider this a life time birthday present. kate you are a great investigative scientist--brava. EVERYONE go right to this posting. wait--i'll post it as a general posting so those not on this thread will see it.

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deeply appreciated.

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I'd like to re-do the yellow butter cake with the plain flour (heat-treated). Microwaving did seem to make a difference with the chocolate cake, even although it wasn't as light as when I made it using the pasta flour (microwaved). I didn't expect the yellow butter cake to be quite so soggy - I 'd just like to make sure before writing off the plain flour completely.

Then, I'll try the McDougall's pasta flour, too :-)

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thanks--disappointing but good to know. i guess we won't be able to arrive at a universal solution as flour varies around the world but if all someone had was the plain flour would it even be worth microwaving or is the difference not significant?
it certainly would be good to know if the mcdougall's pasta flour works--i suspect it will.

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This morning, I microwaved some McDougall's plain flour (10.4% protein), part-substituted this with cornflour and made the All-American Chocolate Butter Cake. My 5-yr old daughter loves it, but I was a wee bit suspicious about its texture - it seemed to me to be verging once again on the dense side of moist. It certainly wasn't as light as the chocolate cake I made with the microwaved pasta flour.

I didn't feel that I had anything definitive to report however, so this afternoon I gave a further batch of McDougall's plain flour the 'kate-flour' treatment. I used this to make the Sour Cream Yellow butter Cake. Nope - definitely soggy, I'm afraid.

I'm wondering if McDougall's use too much hard wheat in their plain flour for the microwave treatment to be successful. It certainly seems as though the soft wheat of the pasta flour is necessary.

I could try using McDougall's version of Dove's pasta flour (the McDougall's 00 grade flour is much more commonly available across UK supermarkets than the Doves Farm pasta flour).

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that such a poetic and beautiful thing to say"re "feeding them." you have the right spirit to be a great bread baker.

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Oooops, in all my excitement I forgot to mention how delicious the bread was. My daughter wanted to eat it as soon as it came out of the oven b/c she said it smelled so good.

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Whaaaaat 2009? I almost fell off my chair reading that. I guess we have no choice. The only consolation is that the book will be PERFECT and so informative as usual. Rose I just wanted to say a BIG thank you for the Ricotta bread recipe. For the second time in my life I baked bread. The first time was when I took a course in basic baking (which was a waste of time and money, the school used bread flour to make cakes. Need I say more???)I was so intimidated to bake bread. However having read the reviews and of course the fact that it is one of your recipes, I decided to give it a try. I don't have any formal education in baking but I do bake a lot and it is something that is so relaxing (for me) and satisfying. However, when I baked the bread I cannot tell you the sense of satisfaction I experienced. I cook for my husband and kids every single day, but when I baked the bread that day I REALLY felt like I was "feeding" them. I'm sorry this posting is so lengthy, but I was so happy I had to thank you. I know nothing about bread making but at least I have access to your knowledge and expertise and that's the best place to start.

By the way great job Kate with your findings. I'm sure Rose will sleep better now, knowing that more people can enjoy cake.
Rozanne

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i just posted a response on your blog.

yes mcdougall's plain flour is what i used when revising the book.

i'm still filled with joy by how much better cakes will now be around the world where bleaching is outlawed using your mw treatment. it's for sure going into my new book.

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I've just bought some McDougall's plain flour (common++ in the UK), so I'm ready to go as soon as my cake tins are empty again.

Coincidentally, things have taken an interesting turn in the comments on my own blog - see http://amerrierworld.wordpress.com/2007/10/30/more-questions-of-flour/#comments
(towards the end, where we are joined by a miller ...).

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i'd really appreciate if you would try this. i think the texture is close to identical but the cake flour ones have a slightly more sweet in the floral sense flavor. not something you'd notice unless tasting side by side.
you'll be interested to know that in the upcoming book most of the new cakes work best with bleached all purpose flour!

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I haven't tried that combination yet - for comparison, do you notice much of a difference in your cakes if you use bleached all-purpose flour that you've converted into cake flour with the addition of cornstarch?

I could try using the microwaving+cornflour method using the most common ingredients that you could pretty much guarantee to find on every UK supermarket shelf, if that would help ...?

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(Gasp) 2009??? That's an entire extra year! How terribly disappointing, but considering the quality of your recipes, it will be well worth the wait I know!

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thanks for asking as i've been hesitant to announce that the new book will come out fall of 09 instead of 08. i'm (and you) lucky that my editor and publisher is willing to extend the publication in order to fine tune and make it all it can be. with over 100 recipes and photographs and accompanying dvd it has turned into a huge and lengthy production. but will all be rewarding with something unique and special.
by the way, i mark important reference pages with tiny red postits.

kate, you may already have written about this but i'm wondering how it will work to use this microwave technique with plain flour cutting the protein with the addition of cornstarch. some people may not have access to pasta flour.

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So when does the New Testament of The Cake Bible come out, with additional recipes (of course!) and this information printed on pages with RED borders, I think, so they can easily be located??? Of course, with any good cookbook, it will soon open to the favored pages (or the ones bracketing them, since the favorites may be stuck together a bit), so the red would only be necessary at first...
Good work everyone! I will let you know how the angelfood comes out in a couple of weeks.

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victory is ours!!!

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Oh Rose, it really, absolutely worked!! I have a wonderfully soft, light, meltingly delicious Golden Luxury Butter Cake!

I used Doves Farm pasta flour and gave it the 'kate-flour' treatment (microwaving + cornflour substitution). Incidentally, each layer rose to 1 1/4 inches.

I can't take any photos right now as its dark (the flash on my camera is broken), but it really is quite a superb cake :-)

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I can safely confirm that Carrs Sauce Flour is best for ... well ... sauces, I assume. Definitely not cakes, microwaved or otherwise! Think of play-dough and you'll get a very good picture of the yellow butter cake it just made. (I think it must already be treated in some way - it gave off little steam in the microwave and formed a glossy, thin film on the bottom of the plate ...).

So, I'll be using Doves Farm Organic speciality pasta flour for the ultimate challenge ...

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That's 3 ways! ;-)

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petition petition petition!

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Oh, I'm so pleased you liked your cake, Jeannette! I've had butterflies in my stomach all day, wondering how you were getting on. Welcome to the plate-melters' club ;-) (I used a plastic plate too - it was fine the first couple of times when I was microwaving a larger amount of flour, but reached meltdown when I tried microwaving only a couple of spoonfuls. I'll use a ceramic plate next time, as well).
I've just come across a sauce flour by Carrs Flour Mills. It has a 9.3% protein content, and doesn't have any durum flour in it (unlike the Doves Organic pasta flour). I'm going to try another yellow butter cake with this one (microwaved + cornflour) before using the best in a Golden Luxury Butter Cake ...

Rose, I'm honoured that you want to link to my site - thank you! I'm (perhaps cynically) wondering whether this Carr's sauce flour could be the one they use as a basis for their cake flour ... hmmm. It will be interesting to see how it compares. Surely there must be some way to persuade them to consider packaging their cake flour for personal, homebaking use!?

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kate, we really have to storm the bastille of elitism! in this country the trend is toward making food service products available to the consumer. the reason baked goods in the past were so much better than much of homemade was bc they had access to some wonderful products and equipment. now i prefer homemade almost across the board! some products have gone to far to extend shelf life etc. and i find this totally undesirable.

maybe you should start a petition!

jeanette, we are all in deep gratitude to kate--i'm linking to her site--and it sounds like your cake was a success too. it may not be identical but it sure sounds like it's alot closer to the original.

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On reading through my post I realize I didn't say which cake I made--- it was the Perfect All American Chocolate Cake. My book is the American edition not the British one that Kate has.

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To relieve the suspense I have to tell you I have made my cake and on the whole I am pleased with it. I have put a message on Kate's blog so I hope she has seen it by now. I feel I want to satisfy Kate as much as you Rose, because she's done so much to solve our problems with the flour differences over here. To begin with I made the mistake of putting the flour to be microwaved on a plastic plate, which burnt!! I threw that out and started over with a ceramic plate this time. I did it on high for 1.30 mins then stirred it and put it on medium for another 1.30 mins. I then mixed in the required amount of cornflour as Kate did and followed your recipe using 2/3 quantities as my tin is 2ins. in depth, I made a one layer , not two.When I took it out of the oven it looked good, a nice even top and no bubbling. However, on releasing the sides as you advise I thought it should be deeper so I measured it, something I'm not in the habit of doing, and found the centre measured one and a half ins. but the sides only one inch. I then cut into it and tasted it , it tastes suberb, so nice it doesn't need any decoration or filling. My husband had some and without any prompting from me said how light it was. So I think you can say it is a success, I would love to have you taste and examine it for a personal opinion but i think that's not feasible!! I will be trying other recipes from the cake bible and let you know of my progress. I must say how grateful I am to Kate for all her interest and experimenting, if you look on her blog she has a wonderful carrot cake recipe which I've made twice now , it is really yummy!

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No news yet from Jeannette? Argh, it's killing me!

Thanks for checking the recipe for me, Rose (I use pounds and ounces as my kitchen scales are soooo old). The white chocolate is waiting in my cupboard ...

Interestingly, I noticed on the Carrs Flour Mills website at http://www.carrs-flourmills.co.uk/cs.html that they produce a 'Cake Flour'. I gave them a ring, was passed on the flour mill itself and eventually spoke to one of their technical staff. Apparently, Careena Flour was chlorinated ... and they no longer make this (according to the UK regulations). However, they have replaced it with an unbleached but *heat-treated* flour called Cheata Flour. This is plain flour and has about 9% protein content. Here's the best part, though - there's no way (emphasized) that anyone could buy this for personal use. They sell it only to bakeries/businesses for industrial use. Ha!!

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i know just what you mean--actually i feel the same way--it is such a miracle.

just checked the books and it's the same exact recipe except that it doesn't have added baking powder since it uses the self-raising sponge flour. the baking powder is 1 tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons/22 grams.
i'm sure you've noticed that the cup equivalency of flour is different, i.e. the self-raising sponge is a little lighter in weight than american cake flour but if you use weight you won't have a problem there.

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I'd like to confront my nemesis and try the Golden Luxury Butter Cake, but I don't know how much cake flour + baking powder (?) the US recipe uses, or whether any other ingredient weights are different from the version in my UK Cake Bible. Rose, can you help at all ...?

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I'm feeling really nervous now - what if it was all a dream??!
Don't keep me in suspense for too long, Jeanette!

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can't wait to hear!

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I am about to try Kate's experiment today, I have been in touch with her on her own blog and can't wait to see if it works for me also! Watch out for news of my results, fingers crossed they will be good!

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Kate, many thanks! I am looking forward to trying your microwaved flour. First I will get a microwave, which I haven't b/c I never used one a lot (to make Rose's Raspberry Sauce was the main reason, and I haven't made it here yet though I DO have some Scottish raspberries in the freezer for just such a thing) and then I will attempt to make angel food cake for his birthday, so I will let you know how that turns out in a couple of weeks. I may get really ambitious and send you pictures...

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Kate, many thanks! I am looking forward to trying your microwaved flour. First I will get a microwave, which I haven't b/c I never used one a lot (to make Rose's Raspberry Sauce was the main reason, and I haven't made it here yet though I DO have some Scottish raspberries in the freezer for just such a thing) and then I will attempt to make angel food cake for his birthday, so I will let you know how that turns out in a couple of weeks. I may get really ambitious and send you pictures...

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nancy, in good part due to the flour differences problem my other books have not been 'translated' although the cake is soon to come out in spanish revision/translation and the bread bible has been translated into czech!
i'm sure the above mentioned posting from kate will be a huge help to you.

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kate this is beyond exciting! here i leave for 10 days and return to my world turned on its ear! i can hardly contain myself. the only time i ever microwaved flour was when i had an infestation of weavils and finally just threw it all out!
i haven't read through all the links yet but your results and photos are astounding. this is like the discovery of a new star or a new theorum. this will help so many people all over the world. now you see how wonderful cakes can be and what a profound influence texture has on taste! bless you for this.
in december i'm giving a lecture on flour to the molecular gastronomy group and will include this in the presentation. i feel totally stunned with joy. flour is the soul of cakes at least 99.9% of cakes, and the absence of bleaching in other countries has posed been a great handicap to successful cake baking.

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I've been pondering the questions of cornflour and protein content, and now have some new, improved findings to report to you. (I also have a lot of cake sitting in my kitchen - any takers?!)

http://amerrierworld.wordpress.com/2007/10/30/more-questions-of-flour/

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Kate - your findings are amazing!!! I can imagine you've solved endless UK bakers problems! Bravo to you!!!

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Kate, I grew up in Peru and the flours there were similar to the ones in Europe: simple without leavening (for bread) and prepared with leavening (for cakes).

You could "call" the people from King Arthur Flour, they may know how to use "non cake flour" as "cake flour."

Keep on experimenting, and do report back.

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I haven't tried the cornstarch/cornflour trick yet ... perhaps that can be my next experiment ;-) (although I do think the bleached flour is probably key to its success as a substitute).

The UK version has the same amount of recipes as the US version (I assume) - it's just that it's not as simple as just substituting the plain/self-raising flour combinations for equal weights of microwaved/cake flour. Rose also adjusted things like egg, salt and sugar quantities (in addition to amounts of baking powder) to get the cakes to resemble those made with cake flour.

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Kate, the UK version has less recipes?

Have you tried adding some corn starch to make "cake flour."

I think you are right that bleached flour is perhaps the most important factor. I've used bleached US All Purpose Flour and the cakes come out pretty acceptable as using bleached US Cake Flour.

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I still can't quite believe that this works! I've just made the Sour Cream Butter Cake (using the US recipe on this blog - Rose's Favorite Yellow Layer Cake) and the microwaved flour has been successful again. My main problem now is that I have the UK version rather than the US version of TCB, so I'm running out of recipes ...!

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Kate, this is impressive! well done.

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Kate- endless thanks from Australia. what a relief for us!

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Kate,
That is very impressive. What a creative solution!

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Hi Nancy - I've just had an exciting discovery concerning Rose's cake recipes in the UK that I've written about on my blog (see http://amerrierworld.wordpress.com/2007/10/28/a-question-of-flour/ ).


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Rose, I am a 15-year devotee of The Cake Bible, and have recently crossed the Atlantic and now live in Scotland. I am pleased to see that you have a UK version of The Cake Bible. I was absolutely devastated to realize that my favorite cake recipes just did NOT work here. I look forward to finding a copy of the UK version; meanwhile, I will try some of the other suggestions. Did you have UK versions of your other books as well?

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cakebaker_cakemaker
cakebaker_cakemaker
10/19/2007 09:03 AM

Hi Cate,
Yes I can't wait to be able to buy the meauring cups and bowls.
I was so surprised that John McInnes would even bother ringing me...but there you go.
The plain flour I bought was in a box labelled Cake,Biscuit & Pastry Flour.
It says it's unbleached...I'll have to find out a bit more on bleached & unbleached flour.

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Hi Cakemaker,
Yes! Good news about the Pourfects (Peter McInnes the distributors of Kitchenaid et. al are great aren't they? They have been very helpful to me in the past too!)
I too noticed the Anchor Cake and Sponge Flour and another couple of types of Cake, scone, OO superfine and sponge flours just hit the shelves in Woolworths as well as Coles. One thing though, none of them are bleached that I could see... ;(

P.S. Rose: have a wonderful time in Italy!

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oops, that's right, sorry for my confusing comment.

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sorry guys--though i swore not to answer any more ?s til my return i just have to step in and tell you that G & B IS alkalized so not suitable for this cake.

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Suman, you need Dutch processed cocoa. The alkaloids offset the baking soda taste.

I've been noticing many of the newer 'healthier' cocoas are not alkali Dutch processed!

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Suman Varadaraj
Suman Varadaraj
10/17/2007 03:40 PM

Hi Rose,

I can't tell you what a big fan of your 'Cake Bible' I am. I'm in Ireland and am so thankful that you write your recipes in both volume and weight measures. I'm working my way through your book and am really happy with the results. So a big Thank You! I've been looking for years but still not had any luck finding cake flour here in Dublin. But I'm fortunate in that my brother lives in Philadelphia, so each time he comes over or I visit him, I get boxes and boxes of cake flour.

I do have a question regarding cocoa though. I made your chocolate mayonnaise cake with Green and Black's (http://www.greenandblacks.com/uk/index.php?flash=yes) Organic cocoa powder, not knowing whether it was alkalized or not. While the texture and colour was better than any cake I've baked or eaten, the taste was awful. I could only taste the soda bicarb. If I didn't trust your recipes so much, I'd have filed it away as a bad egg, but I know that this recipe has great potential if only I knew how to solve the problem with what I'm assuming is alkaline cocoa powder. Please help - I can't wait to bake that cake again!

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jeanette, my suggestion is that you buy a box of american cake flour--i think harrods still may carry it. it's not expensive though shipping probably could make it so. just try it once to see what the differences are and it will teach you volumes!

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cakebaker_cakemaker
cakebaker_cakemaker
10/12/2007 10:23 PM

I just want to correct a detail on my previous post about the pourfect cups...they are English, Metric & Braille.

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Rose, I made your Cordon Banana Cake yesterday, my first from your Cake Bible, although I have made the cream cheese pastry on your blog, which was a great success. I am in the UK, so used OOgrade flour in place of cake flour and I use a fan oven so reduced the temp. by 20deg. The cake seemed to be darkish after 30 mins. but not quite cooked when I tested it so I left it for a further 5mins. with the oven turned off. After leaving it for10 mins. I turned it out as instructed , it seemed to be flatter then I expected, I didn't measure it but I felt it would have been better to have baked it in an 8" tin rather than the 9" I used. The taste was good, I cut it through the middle and sandwiched it with your chocolate ganache . I refridgerated it overnight and today it eats very well. I would love to taste your original recipe to compare it with my result!

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cakebaker_cakemaker
cakebaker_cakemaker
10/11/2007 11:53 PM

I just had a call from a company who distribute Kitchenaid in Australia. He was responding to a query I put into Pourfect in the US. He told me that the pourfect brand cups and bowls will be available in Australia in the new year.
They have Imperial, metric & braille measurements.
the power of the internet is amazing!!!

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oven temp is 325°F/160°C

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cakebaker_cakemaker
cakebaker_cakemaker
10/11/2007 07:30 PM

Just to let you know we can buy cake flour in Australia now. It's sold through Coles supermarkets under the Anchor brand.
I am sooo sick of having to convert all my US recipes so I would like to buy some US cups. Does anyone know where I can buy some in Australia? If not, who in the US would ship to Australia?

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I can't find an oven temp for the gingerbread recipe. Did I miss it???

BTW where can I shop the Web for British sized baking pans? I have 7" sandwich tins (gift of a British pal) and a Dundee cake pan, but I need 7" square, and 6" square and round.

Many thanks for any tips -- and what temp do I bake that interesting sounding gingerbread at?

--Kathryn

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No worries cate...I wasn't bored a single bit. All that information you've provided has been most enlightening! Am so glad I can seek out the opinion of an aussie on this blog as being in a new foreign land (am in Brisbane) can be pretty daunting and having to get use to all things new. And thanks Rose for creating this fabulous blog!

I'll go check out the '00' superfine flour. Yup and do let me know the local internet baking supplier sites. Would be most helpful!

Thanks mate!! ;)

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another term in that realm i encountered in AU was "nature identical"!

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*hic* ... hehe Rose, I must confess to having typed the previous post with a glass of white by the keyboard :-)

Sharon: one more thing, I would be inclined to try the sponge cake self rising flour you mention too (you may need to experiment depending on the recipe you choose from TCB as SR has added leavening) as despite the box saying the flour is 'naturally' white, flour treatment agent 928 is benzoyl peroxide which amongst other properties is a bleach.

Some of our food labelling standards here are very strange and 'natural' colour COULD mean that because naturally occuring additives are used the colour is still 'natural' (but not necessarrily unbleached if you get what I mean). To give you another example: manufacturers here can use the term (shudder) 'Lite' and it could mean 'light in colour' or 'light in taste' not 'lighter in calories/kilojoules' as you would think! Ahh the joys of marketing!

Anyhow...I won't bore you anymore! (Besides the glass of wine has mysteriously evaporated... time for a refill methinks... :)

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i bet part of the reason for the high incidence of WK is the abundance of wonderful and affordable wine!

thanks kate for the very generous and good info.

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Hi Sharon,

First of all welcome to Australia!
Second of all, as Rose suggest there are many posts about flour types, have a search around this blog but personally I have had main success with TCB recipes using '00' superfine flour (usually Italian-made or available in good Italian deli's here - it's the one I also use if making pasta or foccacia too.)

Another thing to note here is that thiamin (Vitamin B1) is routinely added to most flours here... why...

In January 1991, an amendment to the Australian Food Standards Code made it a legal requirement that bread-making flour contains no less than 6.4 mg/kg of thiamin.

The thiamin content of white and wholemeal flours, before fortification, is 2.0-2.5mg thiamin/kg and 4.5-5.0 mg thiamin/kg respectively. Consequently, additional thiamin must be added to the flour before it is used for making bread.

Why was thiamin fortification required?
Apparently mandatory thiamin fortification of bread-making flour was introduced to reduce the incidence of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) in Australia. WKS is a degenerative brain disease associated with a high alcohol intake and a diet deficient in thiamin. Australia has a relatively high incidence of WKS compared to other countries.

Supposedly the quantity of thiamin added does not affect the baking properties of the flour ... call me a cynic but chemistry is very subtle, especially in baked goods!

Hope this helps a little. If you are in Sydney or Perth let me know and I can give you some best spots to get baking supplies/flours. There are also some great local internet baking supplier sites if you need them (it may save you some international shipping costs!!)

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sharon, this is a very complex problem that has been addressed in length all over this blog. there are some very helpful suggestions from people in australia so please do a search and i'm sure you will find them.

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Hi Rose,

I just bought the ‘Cake Bible’ and I can’t wait to try out the recipes, especially the new method of mixing the ingredients compared to the usual creaming method!

As I just moved to Australia from the US, I had to get used to the different flours here and dearie me, was I devastated to find that cake flour is not readily available. I checked through the local supermarkets and finally was able to find the following flour that's as close to cake flour as I can get.

Sponge cake self-raising flour:
The description on the box says it’s a finer & whiter blend milled from a special blend of medium (mid protein – 9.1g per 100g) wheat varieties to achieve a natural whiteness (unbleached) & triple sifted for a super fine texture. Has a flour treatment agent (928) added to it

Plain flour:
Soft, low protein blend milled from a special blend of soft (low protein – 8.5g per 100g) wheat varieties to achieve a natural whiteness (unbleached) & triple sifted for a super fine texture

For the recipes in your book, which of the 2 flours would be better for baking them? The plain flour with a lower protein content or the sponge cake self-raising flour that’s of a finer & whiter blend (bearing in mind that both are unbleached)? If the protein level of the plain flour is slightly higher than the Softasilk cake flour in the US, should I still adjust each cup with 2 (or perhaps 1?) tbsp of corn starch to reduce the protein content further so that it’s almost on par to the Softasilk cake flour (8g protein per 113g)?

Sharon

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yes i callibrate my scales but not with a 1 grams weight. the proper callibration weight has always come with the scale.

for small quantities i recommend the my weigh accurate to 0.01 gram up to 200 grams, the i201 (around $100). check out www.myweigh.com

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Ah, got it. Thanks much. Cake is in the oven. Got your book last week and having fun.

BTW, I'm looking around for a 1 gram calibration weight and can't find any here in San Diego. There is the Old Will Knott Scales that sell them cheap. Do you ever calibrate your scales?

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p.s. the weight i gave in the cake bible is slightly high because 20 years ago i didn't have as accurate a scale. now that i realize how essential this is i am not even listing weights for leavening in the upcoming book!

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gary, i have been weighing baking powder for years and find it varies between 4.3 and 5.1 grams per teaspoon. you musn't try weighing it if you don't have a scale that is accurate to a fraction of a gram. it's far more accurate for these small amounts to measure.

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Hello all. I searched my question but could not find info.

So, in the Downy Yellow cake, it calls for 1 tablespoon + 1 tea of baking powder, or 19.5 grams.

According to the package (Rumsford), it's .7 g per 1/8 teaspoon. So, .7 x 8= 5.6 grams per teaspoon. And there are 3 teaspoons per tablespoon, so that's 16.8 grams per tablespoon. Thus, the total weight should be 22.4 grams. What am I doing wrong?

However, using my new Salter Digital scale, I only got 12 grams using the scoop method. Is a mechanical scale better for these light weights? I tried using a plate to widen out the distance. Also, mine only reads every 2 grams, not single grams.

Can't wait to make this today. Thanks for any help!

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Nope!
u can place it before putting the pan into the oven but have to take EXTRA care for keeping the nail straight!

simply pour the batter into the pan, then put the pan as usual onto the pre-heated oven rack. and in no time place the nail(s). be careful: don't keep the oven-door opened for long(keeping the nail ready right beside the oven is a good idea), and dont burn yr hands.

nail(s) won't get buried to yr apprehension:-). can be easily taken out when the cake is inverted. best of nail-luck!

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Thanks, nushera :-) Do you mean that you let the cake bake for a bit (how long?) before you place the nail into the top of it (with the head sticking out the top of the cake?)? Sorry to be thick - I just can't quite picture the steps in this technique.

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hi Kate- liked yr cake and words on "experience" too. i belong to a different culture with desserts different from this type of cakes but enjoy occasional baking and dare posting here!!! Rose is such a BROAD institution.

you can use one or more flat-headed nail/boardpin/screw (bigger than the regularly used size) instead of flower-nail. place it after you have put the pan with batter in the oven so that it stays in position. make sure you check the metal and boil it before using. it works.

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actually people have posted photos on the blog and also set up their own sites and link to them on the postings. if you do a search i'm sure you'll find the instructions how to do it.
the nail may float up but then will sink down and the important thing is that it stay in the middle of the cake which it does--up or down is not significant!

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Oh, thank you both - that's very kind :-) I find it very difficult to judge my own baking as I haven't got a lot of 'real-life' examples to compare it with (apart from what it tastes like, which is usually better than anything that's been produced commercially). I didn't really cook or bake anything at all until a couple of years ago - once I'd started, I was hooked ... but very inexperienced! The funny thing is, the more experienced I become, the more I realize how inexperienced I actually am.

As a related but somewhat aside - is there any chance that you (Rose) could introduce some sort of photo gallery to this blog? Something to display what something going wrong looks like, as well as when it goes right?

Just a thought ... and thanks for the tip about the flower nail technique (I had to look up what a flower nail was, let alone the technique! but I think I get the idea ... only, how do you stop the nail floating up with the batter as it rises?? Wouldn't it end up buried somewhere in the middle of the cake?).

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I think it looks fine , Kate , and if it tastes good , as you say it does, I'd be happy with it!

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actually i think it looks pretty darn good! try using the flower nail technique for the middle next time. i never needed to do that but others report that for cakes that don't set well in the middle for them due to flour or dark pan it helps immeasurably.

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Are there any doctors in the house? ;-)

Here's my Domingo Cake: http://www.flickr.com/photos/13089961@N05/1397625076/

It's made with Dove Farm Italian Grade 0 flour (9.9% protein, apparently). It tastes wonderful (my judges agree), but it's not too hot on appearance ... I used a cake-strip, it rose and then flattened like the book said it would, the tester came out clean, the top was springy, the sides pulled away only after I removed it from the oven ... but the middle seems very underdone and the top is bobbly (and there's probably even more wrong with it of which I'm not even aware!)

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Morning, Kate, Iknow what you mean about children being critical judges!! However , my family are now grown up but still let me know if something is not quite right. So far, my efforts have passed with flying colours . As far as different flours go , I think we can only experiment with what is available on this side of the pond, and we do have some very good ingredients at our disposal. After all the cakes are not going to be complete failures and we only learn by doing. I will be interested to hear how you get on and I will post my experiences up for your benefit also. Cheers!

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Thanks, Jeannette - I'll try the 00 grade flour instead of cake flour :-)
(As far as winning prizes goes ... I have two very, extremely fierce judges, namely my 2-yr old and 5-yr old daughters. They are very honest about my baking efforts!)

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I don't know if this is of any help,Kate, but I have used the Italian 00grade flour in place of American AllPurpose flour in other US recipes,ie from Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My House to YOurs and they have turned out very well so far. Obviously I can't compare my results with the US versions but I think they have been successful and certainly enjoyable to eat and that is what baking is about . Whether they would win prizes is debatable!!!

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Hi, it's me again ;-) I'm still looking at the UK-version of the recipe for the Chocolate Domingo Cake, and my questions are now about flour rather than cocoa!

A lot of the recipes in my copy of the Cake Bible call for a mix of plain and SR flour, which I understand to be the work-around for the differences between UK flour and US cake flour. However, the Chocolate Domingo recipe asks for cake flour alone. Apparently, bleached flour is prohibited in the UK ... so, apart from trying to import some US flour (I'm very tempted, believe me - I can't stand not knowing the difference) ... it seems that Italian 00 grade flour might be the best substitute. Does anyone have any recent experience of using this with the UK recipe, rather than their US copy of the book?

On the other hand, you wrote (Rose) that:

"come to think of it, you might be better off getting the US version and use the italian flour!"

Has anyone tried this? - I mean, has anyone tried the UK version with the plain/SR flour-workaround and compared the results to the US version with cake flour and the US version with (unbleached) Italian 00 grade flour?

Thanks :-)

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Just received my copy of The Cake Bible this morning , and I have had a quick flick through and it looks very enticing, can't wait to really get stuck in! Will let you know how I get on with it and if I have any problems with ingredients with being on the other side of the pond!

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I can't believe you answered my query so quickly!!! Thank you so much, I am definitely ordering your book now and can't wait to receive it and start using it . Thanks also for your tips on the flour , I have seen the Italian flour in Sainsbury's, Nigella Lawson also recommends it so I shall stock up with it on my next trip there.

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got inspired to check amazon UK on the web and unfortunately it shows the photo of the US edition. i think your only hope is to go to an out of print bookstore or site or if you have an e-bay search there. the UK publisher was macmillan.
come to think of it, you might be better off getting the US version and use the italian flour! my UK version has yellowed with age--apparently they used cheap paper though they boasted about stitching the binding!

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p.s. my cousin peggy who lives in the UK reports great success using the italian triple 0 flour (i've tried it too and like it) which is apparently more available than the US cake flour in the UK.

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i wish i knew for sure if all the cake bibles sold on amazon UK were the UK edition but if they have a photo, you can tell by the fact that the UK edition is beige instead of white and has a box drawn around the cake instead of free floating. the UK edition also comes in paperback. do let me know--amazon US shows photos of all the books so hopefully the UK one does too.

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Jeannette Mara
Jeannette Mara
07/22/2007 10:59 AM

I have just found this site today and have spent a very wet afternoon devouring all the very interesting facts and baking info. which I love. I have been on to Amazon UK to try to order your book and find there are no new editions available, only used copies although some are described as "good as new". However, it doesn't say whether they are the UK edition which I would prefer, A re all the books sold here in the UK the British edition? I am relieved to see the recipes have weights included, I must admit I didn't think the flour differences would affect the results so much!

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Hi Celine, The 3 'Bibles' are readily available here in KL M'sia - at MPH, Borders, Kinokuniya and even Popular bookstores. Maybe you wld like to check with the S'pore branches and enquire?

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there's a direct link to amazon on the lefthand side of the book under rose's books!

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I came upon your site whilst searching for tips on baking cakes and was glad to find many helpful tips.
I am from Singapore and am unable to find your Cake Bible. Could you please let me know how I am able to obtain a copy ?

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Situ - firstly, how tall will the cake be? If it's a 2-layer cake it will be about 4" tall. If it's a single layer cake it will only be about 2" tall.

Once we know that information, we can decide if you want wedding cake sized portions, or something like you would serve to your family at home.

Rose suggests to following:
For wedding cake sized portions from a 4" tall cake (1" wide x 2" deep x by 4" tall), you will get 50 servings. For wedding cake sized portions from a single layer cake (2" x 2" x 2"), you will get 25 servings.

Keep in mind wedding cake sized portions are small. If you want portions that are about the size of a standard piece of cake, just serve pieces that are twice the size.

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how many servings can you have in a 10" square cake? please help me out

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Thanks, Helen! I picked up some Gran Padano 00 flour at Sainsbury's (they didn't have McDougall's) and it made an enormous difference in the yellow cake I made last night. My (used) copy of the UK edition of The Cake Bible arrived this morning, giving me just enough time to whip up something impressive for the church fair this afternoon. Such a relief!

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For Molly, I think I submitted this earlier, but if you are in London, try using McDougal's OO flour. It isn't quite as fine as cake flour, but it is better than the standard 'plain' flours. I've used McDougal's successfully on a few American recipes (Fanny Farmer, but also the Buttercup cook book), but not Cake Bible yet, though as I'm about to run out of my hoard of cake flour, I will have to.

best of british(american)

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Then it'll have to be a used copy. Thanks for the speedy response.

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thanks so much--but it is no longer in print.

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I can't tell you how reassuring it was to find this post! I taught myself to bake using The Cake Bible and I got really good, if I do say so myself. (And believe me, I gave you full credit when people marveled over my cakes!)

Then we moved to London a few months ago and nothing, absolutely nothing I baked has come out right. It's been so frustrating -- I thought it might be my oven, but three oven thermometers later, it hit me that it might be the flour. Thank you, Rose, for the workarounds you describe above. Is the UK edition of The Cake Bible still in print? I could only find it used on Amazon.co.uk just now. I'd far prefer to buy it new so you get your royalty for it --it's teh least I could do!

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peter--i hope these recipes are trust-worthy. i wonder if this is sort of like talking to one's plants, i.e. singing to one's cakes. anyway: self-raising flour in the UK IS cake flour.

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I believe self-rising flour is similar to self-rising cake flour, and cake flour is similar to superfine flour. Self-rising flour is basically cake flour with the baking powder already added in.

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Peter - are you in the US or Britain?

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I read some of the comments on the British flours vs. American flours dilemma, but I am still confused. I have a cookbook from a well-known British television cooking chanteuse, but many of the recipes call for self-rising cake flour. I have only seen cake flour OR self-rising flour but not self-rising cake flour. What do you suggest as a substitute?

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Aha, now I finally understand why my Australian dessert book recipes have resulted in dry dead cakes without exception here in the US.

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I send food by air rather frequently, ny family is in the Philippines and even if I give my mom the recipe she says it's not the same! I've found that most firm/moist foods are fine if sent wrapped in a soft-sided vaccuum pack (achieved with one of those FoodSaver type machines, or with a commercial CryoVac) rather than glass or metal that would expand or contract with pressure. Sausages travel well this way, pickles might too!

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GREAT idea!!! russ and daughters did me a great favor sending half sour dill pickels to my dad in FL for his 90's. they don't usually do it bc they can explode in the air--hey i shouldn't be giving terrorists any ideas! death by dill pickle. i'm sorry-- that's probably in poor taste.

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Melinda Pickworth
Melinda Pickworth
12/25/2006 04:04 PM

Helen, Shall we start importing cake flour to UK together? I haven't been able to find it anywhere for a couple of years now. My sisters draw the line at sending me cake flour (too heavy) and proper dill pickles. It's just one of those things that is irritating not to be able to get!
Oh well!! Melinda P.

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Thanks for the tip on the booklet, I'll go track it down. oil and flour worked very well indeed, but as usual, the cake was a little heavy-ish. I also realised in time that I had to prop the sides up a bit with some metal rings, otherwise the batter would have oozed out of the mould. I bought the mould cheap at a Lidl store, and I think it was missing a critical piece of equipment (a support ring?) Nonetheless, I improvised, and it actually came out beautifully!

I must try to bake a cake at home (california) next time I'm there, just to remind myself of what I am aiming for! I know it's the flour issue again, but I think I need to experiment a bit more as well.

Cheers, Helen

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i hope you've checked out my booklet on silicone (do a search on the blog). and i'm glad you realize silicone requires some preparation as often people think it will just release on it's own which is not the case. the best thing for all pans is a spray that contains oil and flour.

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Dear Rose, I've been baking american style cakes over here in Britain for about 15 years, with varying degrees of success. Currently, I've found that Macdougal's make an OO flour which is almost substitutable for cake flour. Interestingly, I've found US recipes calling for all purpose and self raising, and these work ok. Usually, however, I have to have friends send me cake flour, if I really want to be picky.

Great blog, by the way, I've only found it tonight whilst looking for tips on how to prepare a silicon cake mould (hopefully oil and flour?).

Happy Holidays

Helen

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the flour in canada has a higher protein content. you'll probably have to experiment to see what would would give comparable results. probably bleached all-purpose gold medal or pillsbury.

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This more a question than a comment. I have recently moved to the U.S. from Canada, and neither of my fruit cake recipes turned out this year. One is traditional, and seems to have too much batter and crumbles. The other cake (a light fruit cake made with cream cheese that is supposed to be like a pound cake with fruit) is too light and crumbly as well. Is it the flour or the baking powder or what? Any suggestions?

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bleached all-purpose would be fine as long as you were using the same weight because the volume would be more than was intended. 1 cup of sifted cake flour = 100 grams. for 100 grams of all purpose you would have to use only 3/4 cup.
if you are able to find bleached self-raising cake flour then you should eliminate the leavening completely as it probably has the same amount that was intended. if it peaks or domes in the middle then you know you need to add leavining. if it sinks in the middle it means it has too much leavening and you need to cut the flour with a little all-purpose to strengthen it.

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Rose,
I'm from Australia and have similar flours as Britain; we don't have cake flour, only plain (all purpose), self-raising, and soft self-raising. Unfortunately, the British edition of the Cake Bible is not available here, just the US version. I made your downy yellow cake (with bleached all purpose) and while it had a wonderful taste, it was a bit dense, which left me wondering what the original version ought to be when made with the flour you have in the US. If I were to try it again with the soft self-raising (ie sponge flour) how should I amend the amounts of raising agents to achieve the correct result?

Thanks!

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I've never used the 00 for cake baking, sorry (only bought it once, as my local Waitrose doesn't carry it). So I can't say how it works in that. It did well in my pancakes and muffins, though.

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thanks alexis--that's very valuable information.

the sponge flour is definitely bleached. are you saying the 00 actually works for butter cakes in which the butter is not melted? i'd be very surprised to learn that it can be used without the usual dipping in the center soon after bakig!

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AFAIK, the 00 is not bleached, but it is somewhat softer than the regular plain flour. I researched this once, and according to the Flour Advisory Bureau, bleached flour is not available to the UK consumer. (Although I suspect that the McDougall Supreme Sponge is bleached as it claims it can absorb more fat and sugar than regular flour... sadly it's only available in self-rising!)

UK spoons are now pretty much standardised at 5 and 15ml. The Aussies are the ones who are off: an Australian tablespoon is 20ml! I bake in metric now so I can ignore imperial versus US ounces.

The other headache is baking powder. I know a lot of Americans who report having to use 1.5x as much. My guess is that there's more bulking agent--the first ingredient listed on the container is rice flour. I'll be honest, I cheat: I bring American baking powder back with me (and I've got some Swans Down as well).

British soured cream is the same fat content as American, 18%, though it tends to be thinner in texture. I've never had a problem cooking with it.

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cherry--i like that word marginalia! thanks so much for reporting about the mcdougall's "00"--it must be bleached right? this is very encouraging and i'll do a posting on it when you respond so everyone in the uk and commonwealth countries will be encouraged!

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thanks reeni--i'm going to the book store tomorrow so i'll try to find the book.

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Rose, I found your contribution to the book On Baking, it's the box on chocolate...

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You gave me useful advice a few years back about flour after I moved to the UK. I've since discovered that McDougall's Grade "00" flour (not self-rising) is a perfect substitute.
Additionally, I find that buttermilk is a better substitute for American sour cream than (higher fat) UK soured cream in cakes and muffins--seems to give more reliable results than an educated guess at the amount of soured cream to decrease.
Thus, with a few added marginalia, the US "Cake Bible" remains in use here.

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roxanne, it's the same wonderful lyle's syrup!

ruth, i look forward to hearing how you like the gingerbread!

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reeni, i didn't contribute anything to my knowledge but many people use the cake bible as a reference and then are kind enough to credit it in the bibliography. i'm looking forward to seeing the book!

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steven, a spread sheet with weights is an excellent idea! these weights are, in fact, based on my experience but if you'd like to create this chart and forward it to me i'd be happy to post it. otherwise, i'll have to hire someone to do it as i don't know how to create spread sheets.

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I have always thought that gingerbread soaked with a rum syrup would be a fantastic combination, but the gingerbread recipes I've tried were too moist to add syrup. I can't wait to try your recipe substituting rum for lemon juice.

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I have always thought that gingerbread soaked with a rum syrup would be a fantastic combination, but the gingerbread recipes I've tried were too moist to add syrup. I can't wait to try your recipe substituting rum for lemon juice.

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Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I have made SO many gingerbread recipes in the last two years and each one of them have been less than steller and definitely not British (to much of a molasses flavor to most of them). Until now, I have not been lucky enough to come across this type of recipe, and I think this will be a winner :). I love gingerbread during the holiday season, but it is so hard to come across a tasty and reliable recipe, and since it's mostly a quickbread, this will probably bake up easily at my altitude (will probably just need to throw in an extra egg).

Question: is golden refiner's syrup the same as Lyles Golden Syrup? I have two tins of Lyles in my pantry, so I hope that's the right stuff.

Thanks!
Roxanne

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It is On Baking (a textbook of Baking and Pastry Fundamentals), Pearson Prentice Hall pub. Author is Sarah R. Labinsky, with Van damme, Martel and Tenbergen; the bibiliography lists The Cake Bible in the Books by Contributing Authors section, so I thought you had written part of it??

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Steven Healey
Steven Healey
07/16/2006 08:47 PM

Rose,
What is the copyright status of the volume-to-weight conversion chart in the Appendix of _Bread Bible_? Is it based on public sources or original research?

In either case, would you consider making it available in a spreadsheet format on your web site? I am forever converting measures for people using that chart and it would be great to be able to point them to it.

Thanks for the great cookbooks and web site!

sPh

PS I made the Heart of Wheat yesterday and today. I doubled the qtys from TBB, used 2/3 for one large loaf and 1/3 for a large baguette which I proofed in the refrigerator overnight and cooked for breakfast. Nothing like hot bread in the morning.

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who's the author and publisher?

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Thank you for posting this! It explains a lot about how and why recipes don't convert -- especially those in very-old-school British baking books, with such measurements as a "dessertspoonful." I have cousins in Australia and they will be glad to know this as well; I never would have thought that the flours were so different! Thank heaven for the metric system.
On another cookbook-related note, our text supplier gave me a copy of On Baking to preview and it's really an "epic tome" for serious baking science! I read it cover to cover before going to bed. I'm such a pastry nerd. I'd love to know which sections have your touch, there seem to have been so many illustrious contributors!

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Thank you for posting this! It explains a lot about how and why recipes don't convert -- especially those in very-old-school British baking books, with such measurements as a "dessertspoonful." I have cousins in Australia and they will be glad to know this as well; I never would have thought that the flours were so different! Thank heaven for the metric system.
On another cookbook-related note, our text supplier gave me a copy of On Baking to preview and it's really an "epic tome" for serious baking science! I read it cover to cover before going to bed. I'm such a pastry nerd. I'd love to know which sections have your touch, there seem to have been so many illustrious contributors!

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elicia, i'm thrilled to hear that you are able to achieve such success with the cakes in malaysia and that the essential flour ingredients are available. and yes, weights help to toppel that culinary tower of babel! i'm so glad they are helpful for your conversions from other recipes as well.

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Hi Rose,

I live in Malaysia and uses both cookbooks from US and UK. Indeed I have more frustrations with differences in weights and availability of ingredients! Luckily, many good cookbooks contain measurements in both metric weights (which is used in my country) and volume. After a while, we also learn to substitute one ingredient for another! Fortunately, cake flour as well as self raising flour is available here - so I rarely have problems with flours. The main problem I face is in conversion of volume to weight. In this area, I must thank you for the precise measurements (metric and volume) provided in The Cake Bible - it has helped me to convert measurements provided in other cookbooks as well. I've enjoyed much success making some of your delicious recipes in the book, as well as built confidence in a lot of basic cake recipes such as genoises and cheesecakes. Now I really look forward to your latest cookbook to hit Malaysia!

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what a delightful time you must have enjoyed in the UK! Thanks for the recipe.

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So, it sounds like if I pay attention to weight I may be fine for the most part. Thanks!

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jill, the major problem aside from flour with UK cookbooks working in the US is that their tablespoons and fluid ounces are entirely different from ours. the one way to make these recipes work is by weight! and thanksfully most UK books do list the weights. otherwise, you need a set of UK measures!

zach, bread recipe sounds great!

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
07/ 7/2006 11:40 PM

Hi Rose,

Loved reading the post above. It is interesting reading about such details.

My comment has to do with bread. My brother, who lives in Denver, just told me about a wonderful bread he found at a market made with white chocolate and mint. He said the bread was similar in look to a ciabatta and had pockets of white chocolate and large mint leaves throughout. I have never tasted this combination in bread, and being a chocolatier this of course caught my attention. I thought I would post this for all bread makers on this blog in case they wanted to try a unique flavor combination. Sounds delicious and it would be interesting to hear about the results.

Zach

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I found this post so interesting because I just read another post on a different blog today complaining that when the writer uses recipes from a certain very popular English chef's cookbooks they never turn out correctly. I'm wondering if it's because of the reasons you stated. Is there anyway for us in the US to use the wonderful English cookbooks and have them turn out correctly or do we just hope they accounted for the differences in their recipes. Any good rule of thumb you learned about baking?

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Thanks for posting this recipe! I've been experimenting with gingerbread recipes of one sort or another with wildly varying results. With yours in hand, I think I'll feel more confident of success.

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