What is the sugarbatter method of cakemaking

With this cakemaking method a batter is formed based on an emulsion of oil in water with air bubbles trapped in the fat phase. The other ingredients are dissolved or dispersed in the water phase.

The fats and sugar are creamed together until the mixture is light. Usually this takes about 10 minutes but does depend on the temperature and creaming qualities of the fat and the type of mixer used. Most commercial bakers mix the batter to a fixed specific gravity (see 13.4). The liquid egg is then added in four or five portions over a period of five to seven minutes with creaming of the mixture between additions to prevent the batter curdling. Egg, and the other ingredients, should be at the correct temperature (21 °C/70 °F is considered optimum) as this will also assist in avoiding curdling of the batter. Curdling (see 10.15) arises as a result of the breakdown of the emulsion when the fat separates out from the aqueous phase.

Once all the eggs have been creamed in, the batter should have a smooth, velvety look and texture. Flavouring can then be added followed by sifted flour and other powders and any additional milk or water. These are gently mixed into the batter. Any fruit should be added when clearing the batter (i.e. the last stages of mixing to ensure that there are no unmixed ingredients remaining). It is not advisable to mix the fruit with the flour as some flour may stick to the fruit and could cause the formation of larger holes in the baked cake.

It is important in all cakemaking processes to have correct temperatures and mixing conditions to ensure consistent product quality.

10.3 When making fruit cakes we find that the fruit settles to the bottom of the cake after baking. Why is this and what can we do about it?

The settling or sinking of fruit in cakes is connected with the viscosity and density of the batter during the early stages of baking. If the initial viscosity decrease during baking is too great, the fruit, being of higher density than the batter, will sink while the latter is still in a semi-liquid state - rather like a stone would sink in water. The denser or the larger the pieces of fruit, e.g. cherries, the greater their potential for sinking.

To prevent the fruit, whether it be cherries, sultanas or other particulate materials, e.g. chocolate chips, from sinking, the batter viscosity in the early stages of baking must be increased. There are various ways in which this problem can be overcome, such as recipe changes, using high-protein cake flour, the additions of hydrocolloids such as cellulose gums, decreasing the batter pH or processing changes, e.g. by adjusting baking conditions.

In high ratio recipes the batters are always more fluid than traditional types of batters by the end of mixing. However, the use of chlorinated or heat-treated flours will give a more viscous batter than untreated flours during baking. In such fruit cakes it is common to add tartaric acid or some other acid in excess of that found in baking powder. Lowering the batter pH is probably the most effective remedy to the problem since the extra acidity increases the contribution to batter viscosity of the proteins present in the flour, egg and other raw materials. The levels of addition are small, typically 0.2 to 0.3% tartaric acid based on flour weight is added.

Another remedy involves ensuring that the batter does not remain in a fluid state for too long. In some cases baking at a slightly higher temperature reduces the time that the batter viscosity is at its lowest. Reducing the baking powder, particularly for larger units or slab cakes, will reduce the batter aeration during the slower baking conditions normally required for these large sizes of cake and so keeps the batter more viscous for longer periods.

Eggs also have an effect on the viscosity of the batter. The addition of too much egg can cause the batter density to become too low. Generally frozen egg once thawed is a more viscous product than freshly broken shell egg. The addition of too much raising agent can have the same effect on lowering batter density.

The fruit itself should not escape scrutiny. Washed but not properly dried fruit will have a tendency to sink. The extra water associated with the fruit will cause the batter to be less viscous and add to the potential for the fruit to sink. In more traditional cakemaking the dried fruit can be dressed with the recipe flour (not extra flour) in order to coat the fruit and help prevent its downward movement by providing a 'granular' coating. The mixture should be added at the end of mixing after the flour has been added to the batter.

Older recipe books show that bakers have added a small quantity of ground almonds to the mixing. During baking this will have sufficient binding and swelling effect to counteract the force of gravity acting on the fruit. However, this can add to the costs of the recipe and may cause other problems, e.g. in the safety of the product when marketing for people with nut allergies. Additions of other starches, e.g. cornflour, should be avoided because they have different gelatinisation characteristics from wheat starch and may lower batter viscosity at the critical moment during baking.

Another cause of sinking fruit is using too weak a flour, that is one with a low protein content. Most flour suppliers will have a slightly higher protein flour (typically around 11-12%) which can be used for fruit cakemaking. If you are making lower-ratio cakes then you can use a good-quality bread flour.

Continue reading here: Can we freeze cake batters and what happens to them during storage

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