The secret to a good cake.

chocolate peanut butter drip cake for food science secrets
Chocolate cake for the Hubs’ bday. Doesn’t look perfect, but it was pretty tasty!

I’m the first to reach for a boxed cake mix. In my opinion, the convenience of a box mix is hard to beat. Add a few staple ingredients to the mix and you get a pretty darn good product for just a few bucks. The cake pictured above? A box mix. But with a bit of extra time, a few more ingredients, and a little science…you just might find yourself thinking outside the box.

Many of today’s scratch cake recipes call for cake flour. What can cake flour do that all-purpose flour can’t? As my baker friends know well, cake flour will yield a softer, lighter, more delicate texture in the finished product.

Cake flour is made from soft wheat, is finely milled, and has lower protein content than all-purpose flour (about 6-8% vs. 10-12%). The milling process readies the fine flour for maximum absorption of fat and dispersion in batter, making it ideal for delicate desserts. The low protein discourages development of the gluten network. (Contrast this to pasta or pizza dough where gluten development is encouraged and a stretchy, workable dough results.) Since the cake flour is designed with low gluten strength, bakers can beat cake batter on high for a few short seconds to fully incorporate ingredients and aerate the batter. The result? A dessert that really takes the cake. 😉

A Food Science Tid-Bite:  If you find your pantry void of cake flour, try substituting 3/4c all-purpose flour + 2 Tbs cornstarch for every 1c of cake flour. The sub should yield a comparable texture. Don’t attempt to substitute cake flour for all-purpose in breads, etc…the protein content is too low to develop a strong texture.

Source: “4 Cake Tips.” Saveur, March 2012

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