Do you have to follow the instructions?

We emailed Garrett McCord, the author of our Red Velvet Cup Cakes recipe, telling him we planned to use his recipe for a science experiment to look at two aspects of cake making:

1. Do you have to follow the steps?
2. Can you substitute ingredients?

His response was that “Yes, you should follow the steps in order. As for changing the ingredients, yes, you can, but I don’t know what the result will be. ”

Well should, would, could!  We immediately felt an even greater challenge in regard to our first objective despite our already failed attempt!  

His approach was add dry to wet whereas cake mixes add wet to dry.  Was this simply because our Red Velvet Cup Cakes recipe used butter and not oil?  Did it all come down to a butter versus oil approach to cake making? 

In an act of serendipity, while researching all things flour, we then came across the work of Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Cake Bible, who had done an interesting thesis on the role of sifting flour in cake making. (Short answer is that it is a good idea).  Looking at her website, we discovered she liked to add the wet to the dry, more specifically instead of creaming the butter and the sugar, she starts out adding the butter to the flour.

So what would happen if we used her steps with his recipe?  We plan to find out.

Posted by Annushka's Mum in Cup Cake Trials
  1. Once we got her Rose Red Velvet recipe, we found she treats sugar as part of the dry ingredients. She sifts her flour but then she just puts all the dry ingredients in a bowl together and whisks it to mix.

    She does kind of cream the butter on its own (or in her case oil and butter) to get it mixed and soft.

    Then she just dumps the flour mix and buttermilk in with the butter and mixing it all in one go.

    She is very precise on the time and speed spent mixing at each step.

    At the very end, she adds egg whites beaten with the food coloring into the mix. Not sure what that is all about. Seems pretty arbitrary as I cannot see any need to mix these two together.

  2. Amusingly we got a better result by NOT following the instructions.

    And interestingly neither Garrett's nor Rose's method worked best for us.

    The one bowl method courtesy of the Joy of Baking was a winner!

    But I am sure there will be detractors. They'll say it was the Cake Flour or the fact we added the sugar last or it was the change of food coloring. Really? You think?