Is this legal?
Posted: 04 February 2009 10:09 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hi everybody,

  I have a recipe for a red velvet cake that has worked very well for me in the past but I want to try something different this time. However, I’m not sure if this will work.

First of all, here is the recipe (Not mine, compliments of Raven “Cake Man Raven” Dennis III):

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring (1 ounce)
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The first thing I want to try is using cake flour instead of all-purpose flour. I know you can use cake flour instead of all-purpose flour and vice versa for some cakes. Is this one of them? If so, what else changes in the recipe. I know cake flour has less protein and more starch than all-purpose flour, but I don’t know how to adjust the recipe to account for the differences in protein and starch content in the flour.

Secondly, the recipe calls for the batter to be evenly divided into three 9x1 1/2 inch round pans. I only have 9x2 round pans. Will it make a difference if the batter is still evenly divided among the three pans, or is this why the cakes are so thin when they are finished? Does the pan height affect how high the cake will bake? Also, I would like to just add more batter to the pan but I’m afraid of the cake not being able to rise properly if there is too much batter in the pan.

I wanted to use the Rose Factor to change the batter volume, like I did with the white velvet cake I made two weeks ago (which worked out very well for me), but I thought that was only for butter cakes. This is a dumb question, but is a butter cake any cake with butter in it, or does the butter have to be a certain percentage of the batter by mass? I couldn’t find an exact definition of what a butter cake is in TCB. This cake has buttermilk in it, but I don’t think that makes it a butter cake.

Is it legal to make these adjustments to the recipe, or am I violating the laws of cake baking? Will the pastry police come and get me and throw me in pastry prison?

Thanks for any help you guys can offer here.

Matthew smile

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Posted: 05 February 2009 01:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Hi Matthew,

You can substitute cake flour for all-purpose, but keep in mind that the buttermilk is acidic (and your recipe also calls for vinegar), which weakens the gluten in the flour, and makes all-purpose flour behave more like cake flour in terms of gluten strength. This means that if you opt to use cake flour, you will probably end up with a very tender cake that falls apart when you nudge it with a fork. I have made such tender cakes, and they taste very good and have a good texture. They are a little tricky to work with if you are stacking layers, though, because they are more prone to cracking and breaking. It is best to freeze the layers to firm them up so that they are easier to manipulate.

In my experience, it is no problem to use a deeper pan than what is called for. A pan with a different diameter would be a problem, but depth is not a problem, so long as you keep the batter the same as what the recipe calls for. I have found that a deeper pan sometimes results in a taller layer because the cake can climb a little higher.

I was just reading TCB today (it’s one of my favorite cookbooks to read at lunchtime!) and a butter cake refers to a cake with a certain percentage of actual butter in it—6 to 12 percent (see p. 23). I don’t know if the Rose factor will work for cakes other than those in TCB. One way I size up cakes is by the pan volume. A 12-inch cake pan holds approximately double the batter of a 9-inch cake pan. So, if I wanted to make a 2-layer 12-inch cake from your Red Velvet recipe, I would double it and divide the batter between two 12-inch pans.

If you find yourself pastry prison, send me a Napoleon!

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Posted: 05 February 2009 11:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Hi MP,

I agree with Christine—substituting cake flour will change the texture of any cake, making it more delicate and fragile.  You don’t need to change anything else in the recipe—just make sure that you substitute an equal WEIGHT of cake flour—by volume, you will be using more cake flour.  I don’t think the buttermilk and vinegar should affect the gluten too much as most of the acid is neutralized by the baking soda.

I do not agree, however, with pan size.  It has NOT been my experience that cakes bake well in deeper pans.  The bare metal sides tend to overheat, making the sides of the cake dry and overdone while the center takes much longer to bake because the high sides shield heat away from it. I think you should always use correct pan sizes—in this case, I would bake the batter in TWO 9x2 pans, and make the bit of leftover as cupcakes.  Two 9x2 layers are plenty high for a cake—you wouldn’t need a third layer.

Regarding buttermilk and butter cakes, you probably know this MP, but, traditionally, buttermilk is the liquid leftover from making butter, so it actually has very little if any butterfat in it. This recipe is an oil cake—part of the butter/oil cake category.  Butter and oil cakes derive their structure from flour, whereas sponge or foam cakes derive their structure from eggs.

One final comment about the Rose factor. The Rose factor is empirical, not theoretical.  In other words, it is a collection of Rose’s observations from baking one recipe in all sizes.  It isn’t meant to apply in general to all butter cakes, etc. You don’t have to worry about factoring here because the pan diameter is the same—you would adjust the leavening if the diameter increased—say to a 12 inch cake—plus you don’t need anymore batter anyway if you are using two 9x2 pans.

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Posted: 05 February 2009 09:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Thanks for the advice you guys. I think I will experiment with this cake this weekend and see what happens. The last time I made this cake I followed the recipe exactly as it was written (except for the pan size - 9x1 1/2). I used 9x2 round pans and divided the batter evenly among the three of them. The cake tasted fine but I thought it would be interesting to try this with cake flour.

The reason I want to try increasing the batter volume in the pan is to see if the cake still bakes okay. I will keep the all-purpose flour in the cake for this one and try using cake flour another time. If I change more than one variable in this experiment then I won’t know which one was the cause of any problems that occur (if they do). I should have clarified in my first post that I want to use more batter and try to get a taller cake in the pan is because the last time I made this cake I did not level the cakes before stacking the layers. This made frosting and assembling the cake a little difficult and it didn’t look all that nice when finished. Since the layers come out fairly thin to begin with, if I level the cakes before frosting and assembling then they will be too thin. I think it will make things easier in the end if I bake a tall layer and then level it before frosting and assembling the cake. The past two cakes I made I leveled the individual layers first and it made things easier for me then.

Is it wrong to apply that logic to this cake?

Thanks,
Matthew smile

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Posted: 06 February 2009 01:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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It would be interesting to see if you could bake a taller layer in a deeper pan. My advice to you would be to fill the pan no more than halfway, and to use Magic Cake Strips to keep the layers from doming. This way, you won’t have to cut off as much cake when you level them. Let us know how it turns out.

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Posted: 06 February 2009 06:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I bet it will work to bake a taller layer in a 2-inch deep pan versus a 1 1/2 inch deep pan. Try it and see what happens!

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Posted: 16 February 2009 01:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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If you want a red velvet cake recipe that is a butter cake, you HAVE to try the recipe in The Sweet Side of Amy’s Bread (new cookbook released in December 2008). It’s the best Red Velvet Cake I have ever had. The texture is light and tender from cake flour. It’s moist, buttery , and rich from both butter and sour cream. AND(!), you can actually taste the chocolate in the cake as it uses Dutch cocoa and more of it than other Red Velvet Cakes (5 TBS as opposed to the usual 2 TBS). The flavor is out of this world, really. I highly recommend it.

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Posted: 16 February 2009 08:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Thanks for the tip on the different RVC recipe, Roxanne. I will give that a try once I get my hands on that book.

I made this version of the RVC last week for work and it turned out great. I increased the recipe by 50 % and the cake thickness was perfect after leveling. It turns out with this particular cake I was able to increase the amount of batter used in each pan with no adverse results. I can’t speak for other RVC recipes, but with this one, increasing the pan size from 9 x 1 1/2 inches to a 9 x 2 pan and increasing the amount of batter works well and the cake will turn out fine.

Thanks for all the tips here, folks.

~Matthew smile

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