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how to add cognac to sour cream butter cake-batter.
Posted: 10 February 2013 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Yesterday I had a try-out for a new recipe I wanted to make. Vanilla cognac cake. I found the recipe on the internet. It was a bit of a desaster….
So I checked the recipe for amounts Rose would have chosen and found out the base of the cake was exactly the same as Rose’s Sour Cream Butter Cake in the CB. The internetrecipe said to heat it to 300 F.. wich I did.. so no wonder it was not fully done. I’ll correct that for Rose’s instructions for 350.
But the other thing was that the recipe added 1/4 cup of cognac to the recipe, leaving everything else the same. As if it wouln’t change the structure by adding such amount of liquid. That might be another reason the cake was very dense.

Does anybody have any advice how to add cognac to the batter and still have a light crumb if I wanted to use the sour cream butter cake recipe? If I leave out some of the sour cream the acidity and fat content woudn’t be the same….Or should I take the all-accasion downy yellow butter cake and sub milk for cognac?

I really would like to make this combination, because, whow.. the batter tasted sooo good.

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Posted: 10 February 2013 02:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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A few thoughts:

You could probably get away with adding 1 Tbs brandy to the batter, with no other changes.  Then add the rest after the cake is baked as a syrup, with or without water and sugar, according to your preference (my preference would be to warm, but not boil, the brandy and dissolve some sugar into it). 

Any substitution of brandy for liquid (sour cream, milk or buttermilk) might get complicated.  I think alcohol evaporates more quickly than water, so it may not be a 1:1 substitution, and faster evaporation may lead to a drier cake.  It might mess with the pH enough to need additional adjustments to baking soda.  Then again, it might work out fine, I just don’t know.  You might try the buttermilk cake, as rose says that buttermilk acts as a buffer in cake batter.  That way you can try it without soda adjustments and not worry too much about fat adjustments as buttermilk is lowfat. 

If you try something, please let us know how it works out.

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Posted: 10 February 2013 02:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Perhaps the extra liquid interfered with gluten formation? Alcohol doesn’t contribute to gluten formation like water does, but one would think that by diluting the flour with liquid of any kind would reduce the efficiency of gluten development. You might consider mixing longer if you were to try it again.

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Posted: 10 February 2013 04:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Thank you both so much! reading Rose’s books I am getting into the sience of baking, but I am not as good as you guys. So I love your replies.
I looked up the buttermilk cake. And read the ‘Understanding’ part
It is probably a stupid question, but I don’t understand why the buttermilk does not affect the pH when sour cream does.
Maybe it is a problem that buttermilk here in Holland is most often acidified milk? I know one organic brand that besides acidified milk also has cultures from real buttermilk in it. Would that make the difference?

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Posted: 10 February 2013 08:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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hieperdepiep - 10 February 2013 08:12 PM

why the buttermilk does not affect the pH when sour cream does.

Buttermilk does affect the pH. It is acidic in the same range as sour cream.

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Posted: 11 February 2013 11:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Rose maintains that sour cream tastes terrible in cake if you don’t neutralize the acidity with baking soda.  For buttermilk, her preference is to leave it as is, no baking soda.  I was thinking that the “buffering capacity” she refers to might be related to a higher mineral content in the buttermilk (compared to the sour cream), but I looked it up and it’s only true by a small margin, not sure if it would be significant.

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Posted: 11 February 2013 03:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Julie - 11 February 2013 03:13 PM

Rose maintains that sour cream tastes terrible in cake if you don’t neutralize the acidity with baking soda.  For buttermilk, her preference is to leave it as is, no baking soda.


Interesting, i didn’t know that Rose held that point of view. I’ve always thought it didn’t make sense to add an acidic ingredient to a baked item in order to give it a tang, yet turn around an attempt to neutralize the tang with something alkaline. I assumed that some acid had to remain unneutralized.

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Posted: 11 February 2013 07:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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CharlesT - 11 February 2013 07:00 PM

Interesting, i didn’t know that Rose held that point of view. I’ve always thought it didn’t make sense to add an acidic ingredient to a baked item in order to give it a tang, yet turn around an attempt to neutralize the tang with something alkaline. I assumed that some acid had to remain unneutralized.

My guess is that not all of the acid is neutralized. Unless the cake is loaded with a lot of baking soda or baking powder, then some of the acid hasn’t been neutralized, yet enough of it has reacted with the base to produce the CO2 to help enlarge the air pockets created during the creaming process. If I recall correctly, Rose states it’s better to have too little baking soda rather than too much.

Without knowing more about the exact amounts of buttermilk (and its pH), baking soda and/or baking powder, being used I can’t say more.

- MP

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Posted: 12 February 2013 01:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Monsieur P?tisserie - 11 February 2013 11:10 PM

Without knowing more about the exact amounts of buttermilk (and its pH), baking soda and/or baking powder, being used I can’t say more.


I almost bought a pH meter, but from what I can tell, they aren’t designed for thick substances like cake batter.

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Posted: 12 February 2013 04:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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This thread is getting quit interesting!!

I’ve read two books of Rose (TB en HC) from A to Z but that is probably not enough to know exactly what her opinion is on sour cream and buttermilk.
In my own kitchen I use creme fraiche, which is a lovely taste to taste in baking goods. I haven’t used buttermilk just until last year. ( I drink it al the time for lunch, like you guys drink a glass of cold milk).
In cooking sour cream isn’t used here, it is considered to split when you boil it, the fat content is only 10%, while the creme fraiche is 30%. So when I use sour cream in a American recipe I mix it with creme fraiche.

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Posted: 12 February 2013 11:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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CharlesT - 11 February 2013 07:00 PM

Interesting, i didn’t know that Rose held that point of view.

This didn’t come from her books, it came from a discussion with forum member Bill, from when he was tinkering with recipes.  I think her comment was something along the lines of sour cream tastes terrible [context was developing cake recipes] if you don’t neutralize it with baking soda.  At the time, it struck a chord with me as I had just made a pie crust and found I was out of cream cheese but had sour cream.  I decided to substitute rather than run to the store, and it wasn’t very good- not nearly as good as the cream cheese version. 

The buttermilk opinion is just what she’s written in the headnote of TCB buttermilk country cake.  But I assume that opinion still holds as she didn’t alter the cake for RHC (cradle cake). 

I’ve always thought it didn’t make sense to add an acidic ingredient to a baked item in order to give it a tang, yet turn around an attempt to neutralize the tang with something alkaline.

I’m not sure the goal is always to make it tangy.  I love both the buttermilk country cake and the sour cream butter cake, but the latter is more mellow and the former more tangy.  They both benefit from the flavor of cultured dairy, but the tanginess of the buttermilk cake makes it less of an all-purpose base than the sour cream cake (for me).

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Posted: 12 February 2013 05:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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hieperdepiep - 10 February 2013 08:12 PM

Maybe it is a problem that buttermilk here in Holland is most often acidified milk? I know one organic brand that besides acidified milk also has cultures from real buttermilk in it. Would that make the difference?

It sounds like your buttermilk might be a little different than what we have here. Can you tell us if yours is processed in a different way, and also what the typical pH range is for it?

CharlesT - 12 February 2013 05:14 AM

I almost bought a pH meter, but from what I can tell, they aren’t designed for thick substances like cake batter.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I think I know a way that the batter’s pH can be tested, but I want to confirm it with a few of friends of mine (two are analytical chemists and the other is a biochemist). I’ll get back to you on this later.

hieperdepiep - 12 February 2013 08:02 AM

This thread is getting quit interesting!!


I’m glad you like this. I was getting worried that we lost sight of your initial question and took over your thread. I always enjoy discussing the science behind baking, so this thread is one that I find quite interesting as well.

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Posted: 12 February 2013 10:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I am always a bit worried when I see sour cream in a recipe because…

Grade A Cultured Cream, Milk, Food Starch-modified,
Guar Gum, Sodium Phosphate, Locust Bean Gum,
Sodium Citrate, Carrageenan, Dextrose, Potassium
Sorbate, Enzymes.

So many ingredients to mess with the recipe. Will it work if I use my natural brand that only has one ingredient?

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Posted: 12 February 2013 10:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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My apologies- this is Julie- I must have hit a wrong button and edited this post instead of quoting from it.  So sorry!  Charles, feel free to re-edit and re-post your comments.  Again, so sorry!

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Posted: 13 February 2013 08:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Gene - 13 February 2013 02:10 AM

Will it work if I use my natural brand that only has one ingredient?

The only sour cream I’ve ever used with Rose’s recipes is Organic Valley, and it has just dairy and cultures, no additives.  Works perfectly.  The only place (in Rose’s recipes) that the additives are important is the cream cheese in cheesecake- the gums, etc. are beneficial to the structure and texture.

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Posted: 13 February 2013 08:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Monsieur P?tisserie - 12 February 2013 09:33 PM

And I suppose that litmus paper would work .

I’ve used narrow-range litmus paper with my sourdough cultures and it worked just fine.  I did have to maintain the cultures with a hydration of 80% or more to make it easier to take readings, it didn’t work very well for my 60-65% culture.  For something like $11-12 you can pick up a good size roll from Amazon, just be sure the range is somewhat narrowed (for accuracy) and covers what you expect to need.

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