dcsimg

Cakes

Cakes

An Introduction to Desserts

The subject of dessert making is one that seems to illicit strong reactions in people. While most people are more than happy to consume dessert, those who have the interest, the discipline, and the talent to produce them are a far smaller group. Dessert making holds a certain mystique and is often associated with disastrous stories of curdled eggs, sunken souffl�s, and rock hard pie crusts. Unlike most areas of cooking where just a basic knowledge of food science is sufficient, dessert making requires a broader understanding of food chemistry and how and why dessert recipes work. Successful dessert making requires precision, patience, and strong attention span.

Dessert & Baking Equipment

The more familiar you are with your own equipment and tools, the more success you'll have. Many factors are involved in dessert making and with each of these comes potential challenges. You could follow a recipe to the word, but if your oven is quite different from the one in which the recipes were tested, you may end up with very different results.

The same can be said of your other kitchen equipment, your measuring tools, the type of metal your pans are made of as well as the freshness of your ingredients, the amount of the moisture in the air, the moisture content of the foods you are cooking with, and even the altitude. All of these, and more, are factors that can directly affect your level of success with dessert making.

Simple Desserts First

Certain areas of dessert production are more forgiving than others and it is always best to start out simple and move on from there as your skill level increases. Don't try to make a wedding cake before you've made a great batch of cookies. As you become proficient in dessert making, you start to recognize certain things and often know early in a project whether or not it is going to come out the way you want. With proficiency comes confidence and creativity and, when you are confident enough to relax and enjoy the process, you find that your creative juices begin to flow. At this level you are able to experiment more and as you understand the basics you also begin to garner an understanding of which areas allow room for creativity and which do not.

Cakes

Baking cakes is not as daunting as many people believe, but to be successful at it you need to have patience and a basic understanding of the ingredients you are using. It is imperative that you follow recipes exactly because how the ingredients are handled and how they are combined will affect the quality and final outcome of your cake. The basic ingredients for most cakes are flour, butter, sugar, eggs, and often some type of chemical leavening such as baking powder or baking soda. From there, other ingredients and flavorings are added and all of these are factors that determine what type of cake you create. Cakes can be divided into two general categories--foam cakes and shortened or butter cakes.

Foam Cakes

Foam cakes are light and airy and only use eggs for leavening. Sometimes the eggs are left whole when they are whipped with the other ingredients, as with genoise. Sometimes the yolks and whites are whipped separately and then combined, as with sponge cake. Sometimes either the yolks or the whites are used, but not both, as with angel food cake. Foam cakes are most often made with cake flour because it absorbs moisture well, is finer in texture than all purpose flour, and has a lower gluten content, which keeps the cake from becoming tough. Foam batters must be handled gently and carefully because it is easy to deflate the whipped eggs when incorporating other ingredients into the batter. Because no other leavening is used, this results in a cake that does not have as much volume as it should.

Shortened Cakes

Shortened cakes differ from foam cakes because they always contain fat, usually butter or shortening, and they use baking powder or baking soda in addition to eggs for leavening. Pound cake and devil's food cake are both examples of this type of cake. Shortened cakes are prepared using one of three methods. The first is called the creaming method, in which sugar and fat are creamed together and then the eggs are added slowly, and in stages, so that the batter doesn't curdle. Once the eggs are incorporated, the liquids and the dry ingredients are added either one before the other, or alternately. Cakes made this way are the most light and airy of the creamed cakes.

The second method, the one bowl technique, is the quickest and easiest way to make creamed cakes. In this method, the dry ingredients are blended with the fat and then the eggs and remaining ingredients are added. This technique produces a dense, moist, cake with a velvety texture, but less volume than a cake made using the creaming method.

The third technique is called the combination method and involves creaming the flour and fat and then adding eggs or egg yolks and any other liquids or flavors being used. Egg whites and sugar are then whipped together separately and folded into the creamed mixture at the very end. This method results in a light cake with a lot of volume.

Baking Cakes

It is very important when baking cakes that you use the proper sized pans and that you know how accurate the temperature of your oven is. It is sometimes possible to use different sized pans if you don't own the correct size, but keep in mind that each sized pan varies from the others in volume and this affects the baking time in addition to other factors. An oven thermometer, timer, and cooling racks are all tools that increase the likelihood of your cake baking experience being a good one.

Frosting Cakes

Frosting cakes is an art form in itself, but making a great frosting from scratch is less of a challenge. There are many types of frostings. Some are quite time consuming and labor intensive such as butter creams and some are fast and simple, such as ganache. Each type is delicious in its own right and which type you use is determined by personal preference, how and when the cake will be served, and how ornately the cake will be decorated.

About the Author

After receiving degrees from the University of Wisconsin and the Culinary Institute of America, Andrea Rappaport moved into a full-time career in the restaurant business. For over 12 years, she worked in various culinary jobs, including as a cook for Wolfgang Puck at Spago, and ultimately as the executive chef and partner of the highly revered San Francisco restaurant Zinzino. For the past seven years, Andrea has worked as the private chef for one family in the San Francisco area, and continues to expand her culinary portfolio by catering, teaching, and consulting.

Browse Culinary Arts Schools & Colleges

Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT Clear All

    See More

  • DEGREE

    See More

  • PROGRAM TYPE

  • START TIME

    LOCATION
    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
            • An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
            • 15,000 graduates, including celebrities like Bobby Flay, David Chang, and Christina Tosi*
            • Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
            • Campuses in New York and Silicon Valley with nearby housing available
            Show more [+]
            1 Program(s) Found

            Baker College is the largest independent college in Michigan with the most focused approach to education and training available. Our mission is to prepare you for meaningful employment.

            2 Program(s) Found
            • Culinary Arts program includes the 3-week Farm To Table® Experience, where students gain a direct, in-depth look at where food comes from.
            • Numerous scholarship opportunities and financial aid are available to students who qualify.
            • Accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET), and the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
            • 2 campuses located in Boulder, Colorado and Austin, Texas.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            2 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Colleges in the South in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Ranked the 13th  Best College for Veterans in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • A private institution founded in 1977 with a current total undergraduate enrollment of over 15,00.
            • Its student-faculty ratio is 12:1, and 89.3% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
            • Has students attend one class at a time to ensure easy access to faculty and a more hands-on education.
            Show more [+]
            2 Program(s) Found
            • Students get real-world experience through the required externship at the end of the program.
            • Curriculum includes laboratory sessions, academic preparation and hands-on experience.
            • Program objectives are to provide students with skills needed for cooking wholesome, attractive, food preparations and to assist graduates in obtaining positions in the food service industry.
            • Accredited by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).
            • Has campuses in Melbourne, Sarasota, and Tallahassee, Florida
            Show more [+]