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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Culinary School - Session 37: Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cupcakes and Pecan Coffee Cake

Culinary School: Session 37 (11.10.14)

Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cupcakes and Pecan Coffee Cake

Not just any fat... liquid fat...

That's right. Time for a new method. Goodbye, Egg Foam Cakes and all of your mechanical leavening magic. It's time to melt some butter and try an entirely new class of cakes: Liquid Fat Cakes. And to start, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cupcakes and Pecan Coffee Cake. And let me just say, they were three for three on delicious.

Carrot Cake

But what is so unique about a Liquid Fat Cake?

Well, yes... the liquid fat, be it melted butter, oil, or even something less obvious like sour cream. But that answer alone won't win you any culinary insight awards.

Liquid Fat Cakes depend on chemical leavening (e.g. Baking Soda, Baking Powder, etc) to get their lift. Try all you want (go ahead, set your mixer on top speed and walk away for a few hours), there's only so much air that you can trap in a cake batter that is laden with a high amount of fluid fat.  Don't believe me? Check out the photo below. Yes, whipping makes the batter somewhat light and airy, but it's a far cry from what we've seen with Egg Foam Cakes or even Creaming Method Cakes.

Chemical leaveners come to the rescue, creating pockets of air inside the cake through a series of chemical reactions in response to acids in the batter and the heat of the oven. 

Whipped Liquid Fat Cake Batter

But wait, there's more...

Consider this as a little bonus, brought to you by your good friend, Fat. 

With Liquid Fat Cakes, we don't need to worry as much about over-working the batter and creating undesirable gluten networks. The high fat content obstructs the proteins in the flour from binding together.

Think of it like a party. You have the Gluten Kids, who only want to hang out together. And then you have the Liquid Fat Kids, who want to talk to everybody. The Gluten Kids keep trying to form their own little circle where they can have their own conversation, blocking out everyone else. But every time they try to get together, one of those Liquid Fat Kids steps in and interrupts. No Gluten Cliques in this cake, Heather.

Now don't get carried away. This doesn't mean you can stir with reckless abandon. A delicate hand is always best. You're just working with a bit of a safety net with these cakes.

Poured Carrot Cake Batter with Chemical Leavening Air Bubbles

- Ingredients Running Tally -

Ingredients used to date (11.10.14):
  • Flour: 15,385g
  • Eggs: 8,200g (164x)
  • Sugar: 8,850g
  • Butter: 9,515g
  • Milk/Cream: 9,215g

- The Recipes -


Carrot Cake

Dense without being overwhelming, this Carrot Cake is double-layered deliciousness. The batter is enriched with vegetable oil and leavened with baking powder and baking soda. The traditional Cream Cheese Frosting has been modified to include less sugar (letting the flavor of the Cream Cheese shine) and mixed with Buttercream (making the frosting more stable).

Focus Techniques:
- Emulsifying the vegetable oil into the batter. By slowly whipping the oil into the mixture of eggs and sugar, you create a true emulsification. As a result, the oil will be more evenly distributed throughout the final batter.
- Gently stirring the dry ingredients with the wet. Although this is a Liquid Fat Method Cake, it's still best to use a gentle hand once the flour has been added.
- Reducing the amount of powdered sugar that is used in the frosting and combining it with some plain Buttercream. Powdered sugar actually makes the frosting more fluid. By using less powdered sugar and replacing the volume with traditional (room temperature stable) Buttercream, you get a more stable Cream Cheese Frosting.

Carrot Cake Batter

Layers of Carrot Cake

Completed Carrot Cake

Slice of Carrot Cake


Chocolate Cupcakes

Yes, please! Sometimes the best treats are the most straight-forward. It's chocolate cake with chocolate icing. No bells and whistles. But when both are done this well, who needs distractions? 

Focus Techniques:
- Using a combination of melted butter, vegetable oil and buttermilk as liquid fats.
- Ensuring the liquid ingredients (primarily the melted butter) are cool before incorporating the dry ingredients. Although the high fat content of the liquid ingredients reduces the risk of creating a strong gluten structure in the batter through over-mixing, heat can also promote gluten development and should be avoided.

Filled Chocolate Cupcake Tins

Baked Chocolate Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcake


Pecan Coffee Cake

A traditional Coffee Cake using mostly sour cream as the liquid fat. A layer of pecan crumble in the center of the cake adds a great crunch to a very soft, even crumb. My only complaint... needs a touch more salt. But that's an easy fix. The recipe calls for a pinch. I guess I just need bigger fingers!

Focus Techniques:
- Using an Angel Food Cake mold. This particular cake bakes most evenly and rises best in this type of mold.
- Creating the crumb filling/topping using the Cut-In-Butter Method, chopping solid butter into the mixture of flour, sugar and pecans.

Pecan Coffee Cake

We also had a chance to unmold our Cassis Fruit Mousse Miroir from last class. Wow! Now that's a visual delight. Can't wait to unmold the White & Dark Chocolate Mousse Cakes next class.

Cassis Fruit Mousse Miroir

Slice of Cassis Fruit Mousse Miroir

Take a look at the full syllabus

Questions? Comments? Send me an email or leave a comment.
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