There are various philosophies regarding the “what-works-for-me” method of mixing cake batter from scratch.
Homemakers from decades past learned mixing techniques from their mothers and grandmothers, often without the aid of electrical appliances. Mixing batter manually with a wooden spoon produced tried-and-true results for hungry dessert-loving tummies. Also siphoned from this practice was a payoff known as let’s-firm-your-biceps.
Then, Dear Readers, in the mid-20th Century, the cake mix was perfected and certainly redefined what baking meant.
Some folks still considered the use of a box mix as made-from-scratch baking. After all, the baker added time, energy, and minimal ingredients to the dry ingredients housed within the rectangular cake box in order to duplicate the cake imagery pictured on the box’s frontal side.
From a Baking Purist
However, for a baking purist such as Miss NiNi, baking from scratch has always included skillfully measuring and mixing together each individual ingredient required in a recipe. This is the innovative way Yours Truly and our team of Miss NiNi bakers create each and every handcrafted dessert.
Dear Readers, I could introduce multiple this-produces-the-best-baking-results mixing techniques that were taught to me by my mom when baking from scratch. I’m certain that each of you have a few you could gratifyingly offer as well. I’d love for you to share them with me!
For this baking chat, though, my mini do-it-this-way tutorial lands on the subject of “Alternation.”
Picture this. You’re in the mood to bake a cake from scratch. The recipe’s required dry and wet ingredients have been assembled. Butter has been creamed with sugar. Eggs and extracts have been beaten into the batter. Now what?
Is there milk to add to the batter?
When do the dry ingredients get mixed into the grand cake production?
Should I dump everything in all at once and beat it until completely mixed?
The Science Behind It
There is “why” and “wherefore” scientific reasoning that produces a huge payola when alternating wet and dry ingredients to the batter. But do you add the wet ingredients or the dry ingredients first? After all, what difference does it make, Dear Readers?
Let it be known that the beautifully creamed butter/sugar/egg mixture will not absorb much liquid. Butter will become water logged, so to speak, if all of the liquid is added at once. The batter will have a “temper tantrum” and separate with the liquid, therefore deciding to stay on top.
Instead, start by gently adding 1/3 amount of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture to coat the fat molecules housed within the butter and egg yolks. Then alternate with ½ of the liquid, and continue adding another 1/3 of dry ingredients with remaining liquid, ending with dry ingredients. Yes, alternation is the key!
In addition, the subject of gluten development within flour also plays peek-a-boo in regard to the subject of alternating the addition of wet and dry ingredients.
If all of the dry ingredients were added at once to the batter, it would take much longer to thoroughly mix. Oh-Oh! If continuous mixing happens, elasticized gluten strands develop, producing a tougher cake texture.
Dear Readers, if you bake a cake from scratch, engaging in alternation of wet and dry ingredients to a batter is a mixing technique that you will want to employ. Miss NiNi wouldn’t do it any other way!