By Bill Weekley, Certified Master Baker & Corporate Chef
As a high quality cake mix, Pillsbury Bakers’ Plus carries with it the benefit of years of formulation expertise, consistent performance, and superior operational tolerance. Even with these technical attributes, however, improper handling of a mix can create inconsistent results. At General Mills, we focus on three keys to the successful production of consistent, high quality cakes; mixing time, batter temperature and batter specific gravity. Below is a brief summary of the importance of each topic.
The goal of mixing a cake batter is to incorporate and properly hydrate the ingredients while aerating the batter. As this goal is accomplished, the appearance of a cake batter will change during the multi-stage process. The batter will start as a stiff-paste in the first stage, finishing to a velvety, free-flowing consistency in the final stage. An increase in the batter volume will be noticed as air is incorporated, setting the stage for the final crumb structure
and texture. Under-mixing could result in lower volume and a tighter grain in the finished cake due to inadequate batter aeration. Over-mixing could create a weakened structure due to over aeration leading to a collapsed cake.
The batter temperature as prescribed on the bag directions is designed to yield the proper leavening activity during mixing and baking. Changes in batter temperature will have a significant effect on the aeration potential and leavening action of the batter. Warm batters will activate the leavening too early in the production process. This early activation will result in cakes with insufficient volume and a coarse grain. These cakes will also have a tendency to be very fragile and will crumble easily when handled. Conversely, cool batters will delay the leavening action resulting in peaked and broken tops with a tough crumb.
The specific gravity of a batter is the ratio of the weight of cake batter in a standard volume container compared to the weight of water in the same container. This ratio is a way to measure the amount of air incorporated into the batter during the mixing process. Correct mixing times and temperatures will ensure that the batter’s specific gravity falls within the range specified on the bag instructions, which in turn will ensure a finished cake with consistent volume, texture and grain. Low specific gravity would signify an over-aerated batter that could lead to collapsing in the oven. High values result from a lack of aeration and will yield a dense cake with poor volume.