By Chef Todd

Mixing is More Important Than Baking in Christmas Cake Recipes

Have you ever taken the results of your family’s Christmas cake recipe out of the oven and been disappointed? How can the same recipe created year after year always come out differently? “Why didn’t my cake BAKE correctly?”

Have you ever taken the results of your family’s Christmas cake recipe out of the oven and been disappointed? How can the same recipe created year after year always come out differently? “Why didn’t my cake BAKE correctly?”


I’m here to tell you that the problem with most home baking mistakes isn’t in the BAKING, it’s in the MIXING of your cakes that most mistakes are made.

There are three goals in cake mixing, whether it’s a Christmas cake recipe, or any other baked good at any time of the year.

The first goal in cake mixing is to combine all the ingredients into a uniform batter. This may seem obvious, but when you don’t scrape the mixing bowl during the process you can have streaks of dry flour in your batter. If you haven’t incorporated eggs in the precise way to get the best emulsification, then how you BAKE the item really won’t matter.

The second goal is to trap as much air as possible. This is most often overlooked by the home cake baker. When creaming fat and sugar together, or whipping egg whites, the idea is to gather as much trapped air to give the cake a light texture and even crumb. This is accomplished through concerted MIXING, not BAKING.

Lastly, ingredients for your birthday cake or Christmas cake recipe are mixed properly to develop the structure of the cake. How wet and dry ingredients are added during mixing are the building blocks of a cake that is either sunken or bursting from the pan.

With those universal cake mixing goals in mind, now you can have ultimate power over any written cake instructions. However, while all mixing methods have the same goal, they have different procedures depending on the ratio of ingredients. This yields five basic types of cake.

All cakes are defined by their mixing methods, and broken into two categories; high-fat cakes and low-fat cakes.

High fat cakes are almost always mixed using the “creaming method”. The best cookies made from scratch are also made with a creaming method. This is the procedure where butter and sugar are creamed together to incorporate air. Remember? Trap Air? Here’s where it happens, and why it’s important to use room-temperature ingredients.

A “Two-Stage Method” cake uses egg whites that have been whipped to soft peaks. If you notice how the volume of egg whites increases dramatically when you whip them, you’re witnessing the incorporation of AIR into your batter. A batter of egg yolks, oil, water, and seasonings are added to the whites, along with two stages of alternating flour and liquid, thus the two-stage method.

Low-Fat cakes most often use an egg foam for structure and texture of the cakes. The first type of low-fat cake mixing method is a Sponge Cake. Whipped yolks and whites give solid structure and flavor to a sponge cake, again proving that the mixing methods are most important if you want your Christmas cake recipe to be the best it can be.

Angel food cakes are absolutely fat-free because they’re made entirely of egg whites, sugar, flour, and flavorings. But again, HOW you whip the egg whites for an angel food method will mean the difference between a dense, chewy cake, or light, fluffy Angel Food cake.

Chiffon Cakes are lower fat cakes that use the same method as angel food, but also include some egg yolks to give better structure, and use chemical leavening agents like baking powder or baking soda for extra rise.

Grandma’s Christmas cake recipe might make a comeback this year when you apply the basic mixing methods outlined here. Once you identify HOW Grandma was mixing her cakes, you can assure that you’re meeting the general goals of cake mixing; combine ingredients, trap air, and develop structure.

Stop blaming your oven for those cakes not BAKING correctly. You have no control over what happens to the cake once you shut the oven door. However, you have a tremendous amount of control over the MIXING of your cakes, and it is the most important skill to have when creating your own Christmas cake recipe.

Do you have a family baking tradition for the holidays? Please leave your comment below:

Discover a simple 5 step plan to save time, save money, explode your confidence and conquer the holiday kitchen this year with my FREE Holiday Cooking Success Class.

 

Turn Holiday Cooking Stress into Holiday Cooking Success this year.