Cake Impossible
May 2, 2010, 1:35 am
Filed under: Recipe

I’ve got a million pages of writing to do for the end of the semester but I’ve got the issue of cake buzzing away in my brain.  I wanted to make cupcakes tonight, which I haven’t done in a few months (a long time for me!).  I was going to make regular vanilla cake and went looking into my recipe files & books and realized… I don’t have a cake recipe that I regularly use.  The last zillion times I made cupcakes were either something novel, so a specific recipe was used, or from the Vegan Cupcakes book. I don’t have a go-to- recipe for plain cake.  I use the vegan cupcake recipes so much for a couple of reasons:

  • they taste good and always taste better than vegan cupcakes I’ve tried from bakeries (the boy still prefers real cake)
  • I can make cake without eggs.  I always have the dry ingredients, soymilk (esp since I can keep it in cartons in the cabinet), and apple cider vinegar in the pantry. With regular cake, I need to eggs & butter, which I don’t always have.
  • the biggest reason: The recipes in the book make 12 cupcakes.  Every other cake recipe is for 24-30, which I don’t want to make for two people.  I don’t have room for them in my counter and don’t want to eat them all in the 3 days before they go stale.  And no, I’m not going to give away cupcakes *every* time I make them.  People are bitches.

So here I was, wanting to make plain vanilla cake and without a recipe.  I also only wanted a small amount of cake.  I looked at a bunch of cake recipes and attempted to create my own recipe based on the use of only one egg.  The scientific ratio for pound cake is equal parts butter, flour, sugar, and egg.  I’ve used it before and it works perfectly: weigh one egg, add in equal parts of all the other stuff based on how many grams are in that egg.  Perfect amount of cake for two people, no leftovers.  But a cake-cake is different than a pound cake, right?

After like a half hour of calculations, here is the recipe that I came up with:

1 egg (54 grams)
54 grams butter
90 grams flour
90 grams sugar
30 grams milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder

I already knew that 2 tsp baking powder seemed like too much for this amount of cake, but in the video for Billy’s Cupcakes, he uses 2 TBSP of baking powder for a full recipe and confirms it. When I was measuring my incredients, I compared my amounts with Billy’s Cupcakes recipe divided by 4, and the numbers were pretty much the same, give or take a few grams.  I thought the video was correct and the written recipe was a typo.  I thought I was in good shape.  Of course, looking at the video a 3rd time and the way Billy doesn’t really respond to Martha’s question about the baking powder makes me think he made a mistake and isn’t really a baker because he didn’t explain himself.

Verdict? TERRIBLE.   (I tried to make one vanilla batch and one mocha w/espresso frosting) The batter tasted good.  The flavor of the cake itself was fine.  It made 8 cupcakes, perfect.  But the texture was totally off.  Dry, hard, and they sank when I took them out of the oven.  I’ve never had a cake sink!

I blame it on the baking powder. Next time I guess I need less baking powder, possible a few more grams of milk.  If that still doesn’t work, I will try decreasing the amounts of flour & sugar.  I hope I eventually succeed in this because the ability to make a small quantity of cake is a necessity in my life!  And maybe when I do, I will publish my results and be famous for improving the lives of sad people who eat cake alone.

My frosting swirls look good though.

Another weird random thing I learned: I think Crisco works better than Whole Foods 365 shortening when it comes to making frosting.  My frosting never came out gritty when I was using those Crisco sticks, but it does with this WF brand.  Hmm.  Must be that transfattyness.