Key Blends

Food Ingredients

When formulating cakes it is important to balance the tenderizers with the tougheners in the formula.  The ratio of tenderizers to tougheners must be kept balanced.  If you change one, you must change another to keep the cake in balance.

Category Ingredient
Tougheners Flour, Milk Solids, Egg Whites
Tenderizers Sugar, Fats, Egg Yolks, Chocolate, Leavenings, Emulsifiers, Starches, Gums
Moisteners Water, Liquid Milk, Liquid Eggs, Syrups, Liquid Sugars
Driers Flour, Milk Solids, Instant Starch, Gums
Flavors Salt, Sugar, Cocoa, Chocolate, Butter, Vanilla, other flavors



Flour is the primary structure builder and is used to bind all of the other ingredients together during the cake making process. Short extraction (very low ash), Chlorinated Soft wheat flour is best suited for use in high ratio layer cakes. Soft wheat flours are generally low in water absorption and do not require harsh mixing or a long mix time. Flour is one of the most important ingredients!

A short patent flour of low ash and protein is ideal. In the milling process, the "extraction" is defined as the portion of the wheat berry as a whole which is milled into actual flour. A normal extraction is approximately 72 percent of the wheat berry. This flour which has been extracted is gradually separated into streams consisting of one of the following categories: Extra short or fancy patent flour, short, medium, long, and very long patent flour. The shorter the patent, the more refined (has a lower degree of separation) the flour will be.

The following specifications are recommended for a typical cake flour. The protein content should be 8 ± 0.5% with a moisture content of 13 ± 0.5%, an ash level of .35± 0.05% and a particle size of 10±0.5 microns. The flour should be well bleached with chlorine bleach, (not benzyl peroxide) to a pH level of 4.4 - 4.8. Chlorination of flour provides 2 great benefits. First is bleaching, which gives a better crumb color but second and more importantly it lowers the gelatinization temperature of the starch within the flour. This makes it possible for the cake to set faster and therefore reduces the loss of leavening during baking. Bleaching also gives the flour the ability to carry more sugar and shortening as well as water. Bleached flour must be used in high ratio cakes where the sugar is higher than the flour level.


Sugar is mainly used as a tenderizer in cakes because of the softening effect it has on the protein in the flour (gluten.). Sugar is also used for sweetness, moisture retention, lubrication of other ingredients, and crust color. Increasing sugar will raise the gelatinization temperature of the starches in the flour and thus will increase expansion time. Granulated sugar will have a cutting action during mixing and will help incorporate air into the batter. Sugar is also hygroscopic and will assist with increasing shelf life.

Other types of sugars used in the bakery include dextrose and brown sugar. Also, syrups such as invert sugar, corn syrup, molasses, honey or refiner's syrups are used either for the particular flavor they impart or as a moisture retaining agents. When using these sweetener varieties you must be aware that some do not have the same sweetness as granulated sugar (sucrose) and do contain various levels of water. Sugars of any kind, when used in cakes, tend to soften the batter and make it thinner. Fine granulated sugar or special baker's sugar gives the best results in cake work.


The primary function of shortening in cakes is to incorporate air into the finished cake batter. Any ingredient that incorporates air acts as a tenderizer; therefore shortening is a tenderizing agent. Shortening is also used in lubrication of other ingredients which allows the cake to rise more freely and increases the shelf life by helping to retain moisture in the finished cake.

The types of shortenings used today are as follows: All-purpose shortening This is a non-emulsified hydrogenated shortening. This type of shortening can be used successfully in hi-ratio cakes with the addition of emulsifiers (normally 2- 6% of the shortening weight). Cake Shortening or cake and Icing Shortening This is an all-purpose hydrogenated shortening in which the manufacturer has added one, two or a combination of emulsifiers. These emulsifiers include but are not limited to mono & diglycerides, polysorbate 60, Propylene Glycol monoesters, sodium Stearoyl Lactylate and lecithin. The emulsifiers, which are blended into the shortening, help to form an emulsion, especially at lower temperatures. This allows the baker to add more water to the cakes and in this way improves the eating qualities of the finished cake by retaining more moisture. Other types of shortening may include fluid shortenings and butter or margarine.


One of the main functions of eggs is to build the structure (whites and whole eggs). They are used as a tenderizer (yolks - contain lecithin - an emulsifier). They are also used for color, nutrition, flavor and help to retain moisture in the finished cake. The egg level of a layer cake is usually 10% higher than the shortening level.

Dry eggs are more convenient but liquid eggs have slightly more strength function.  This is due to the increase denatured state of dried eggs.  Heat will modify (de-nature) proteins, and this is seen in eggs from the solidification of eggs upon heating.  Dried eggs will have slightly less firming or set of the crumb when compared to liquid eggs.


Mixing of a cake batter serves the purpose of hydrating the ingredients, dispersing the ingredients and aerating the batter.

During mixing, water-containing ingredients (e.g., water, liquid eggs, and liquid milk) are combined with the dry ingredients of the formula. In this process, the water is distributed such that it can serve to unlock the functionality of various ingredients. For example, water dissolves the chemical leaveners, enabling them to contribute towards the leavening action in the cake batter. Starches in the flour are also hydrated such that, during baking, their gelatinization can serve as an integral part of the structure formation of the cake. In addition, hydration of the various ingredients leads to a fluidity (viscosity) of the batter that is directly involved in the development of a high-quality cake.


During the mixing process, the various ingredients of a cake formula are combined and dispersed to form a homogeneous mixture that is free of lumps. A major factor in forming this type of mixture for cake batters is the combining of the fat and water components of the formula. These two constituents are normally incapable of being combined. Emulsifiers make it possible to blend the fat and water components. As a result, mixing of a cake batter results in the formation of an oil-in-water emulsion in which the various ingredients are evenly dispersed. In certain instances, such as the addition of too much liquid or adding it too rapidly, a loss of the oil-in-water emulsion can occur. This, then, produces a “curdled” batter, in which lumps of fat become separated from the aqueous portion. Because the batter is no longer uniformly mixed, the quality of the finished cake is adversely affected. Characteristics observed in a cake produced from curdled batter include low volume, coarse crumb, sugary top crust, and tender structure.


Aerating of batter cakes is the incorporation of air into the batter during mixing. Expansion of this air during the baking process leads to an increase in the volume of the cake. The air cells incorporated during mixing serve as nuclei to collect and hold the carbon dioxide (CO2) gas released by the action of the chemical leaveners. The number and size of air bubbles incorporated during mixing directly affect the volume and grain of the finished cake. Low and medium speed mixing in open bowl mixers is most efficient at producing air cells, as higher speeds result in the formation of fewer cells, and those that are produced tend to be coarser and more irregular . Large air cells have a greater buoyancy than smaller cells, and thus, have an increased chance of loss due to rising to the surface of the batter and subsequent departure. This can lead to low finished cake volumes and coarse grain. Thus, smaller bubbles provide more nuclei for gas retention and thus make a larger cake with a finer grain. Smaller bubbles or a finer grain also retain more moisture as the cake cools. A greater number of air cells in a batter contributes to a more efficient utilization of chemical leaveners. This results from the increased number of cells more effectively collecting and retaining the CO2 produced by the leaveners. Subsequently, this leads to an improved finished cake volume. Finally, evenness in the size of the air bubbles in a batter is an important factor. Similarly sized, small air cells contribute towards improved grain characteristics in the baked cake. Adherence to proper mixing techniques results in aeration of the batter in a manner conducive to the development of these evenly sized cells.


Mixing is basically accomplished in 4 steps:

1.) The wetting of ingredients.

2.) Incorporation of air into the batter.

3.) A homogeneous dispersion of air becoming increasingly fine throughout the batter.

4.) Elimination of possible large air pockets and still a finer break down of the air cells.

Please note that it is possible to produce a variety of differences in the finished product by changing the formula and/or mixing methods by which the batter is assembled. The two most common cake mixing methods used in the baking industry today the multi-stage mixing and continuous mix.

Multi-Stage Mixing

 All-purpose shortening  50 lbs.  Add Ingredients to Bottom of Bowl
 Mix 1 min. @ 35-40 RPM
 Granulated sugar  100 lbs.
 Cake Flour  50 lbs.
    Mix 30 sec. @ 90 RPM
Mix 2 min. @ 100 Rpm
 Liquid Whole Eggs  30 lbs.  Add at 35 RPM, Scrape.
Mix 1 min. @ 40 RPM
Mix 4 min. @90 Rpm  
 Water  10 lbs.
 Liquid Whole Eggs  20 lbs. Add at @35 RPM
Scrape down sides of Bowl
 Water  25 lbs.
 Flavors  2.5 lbs.
 Vegetable Oil  5 lbs.  Mix 4 min. @35 RPM


The basic equipment required for continuous cake batter mixing consists of a pre-mixer, a holding tank, and the continuous mixer.

The preparation of the slurry is a relatively simple process and is usually accomplished in an automatic mixer into which all the wet and dry ingredients are automatically metered, followed by the manual addition of the shortening and minor ingredients.

The actual mixing is accomplished in a mixing head which has only one moving part called a "rotor". This rotor revolved at raring speeds between places (or stators) carrying a very large number of rods and the emulsifying action in this head is accomplished by "liquid sheer". Depending on the size of the mixing head, there is relatively a small amount of batter passing into and through at any time. If the output was 3500 -4000 pounds of batter per hour, the material would remain in the head only @ 3 seconds. The density (specific gravity) is controlled by a small valve on a "flowrator" which is a meter used to measure the volume of air being pumped into the mix. Using this system the batch size and production speed can be greatly increased. This is due to the fact the mixing time in the premix to the depositor is very short, (@1 - 3 minutes in the premix and only seconds in the actual mixing head) also there is little or no aeration of the batter in the pre-mix stage (the specific gravity staling at @ 1.100), so there is no need to make an allowance for any rise of the batter in the bowl.


The temperature of finished cake batter is very important this is due to the batter temperature's affect to the viscosity which in turn affects both the stability of the batter and it's ability to incorporate air. The table listed below can be used as a guideline for temperatures and specific gravity in various cake batters.

If the cake batter is too cold, it will take a longer amount of time for the vapor pressure to be developed (The vapor pressure is what allows the cake to rise). This gives the cake time to crust over and set on top before expansion really takes place. This will produce cracking and result in a poor looking top on the finished cake. The optimum temperature should be between 68 - 72F for a finished cake batter


  Yellow layer  68-72  .70-.80
 White layer  68-72 .70-.80
 devils food 68-72 .70-.80
 Pound Cake  68-72 .80-.90


Specific gravity is recorded as the degree of aeration in the batter and is directly related to the final cake volume. This also affects the symmetry, texture and grain. Whenever changes are made in ingredients, mixing operation or equipment design the aeration of the batter will most likely vary. Specific gravity is the ratio between the weight of a given volume of any substance (i.e. the cake batter) and the weight of the same volume. You can use virtually any container available in the bakery following the formula below to determine the specific gravity of any batter.

Specific gravity is the ratio of the weight of a set volume of cake batter to the weight of water of the same volume.  So if a container holds 100 grams of water and you fill it with cake batter and it weighs 75 grams    75/100=0.75 so the Specific Gravity  (SpGr) is 0.75

                        THE WEIGHT OF AN EQUAL VOLUME OF WATER





Size (inches)


Temperature F


Time Minutes


Bake Loss

7-8 oz 6 inch round 390-410 13-16 16%
9-11 oz 7 inch round 370-390 16-19 15%
12-14 oz 8 inch round 360-380 21-23 13%
14-16 oz 9 inch round 350-370 25-29 12%


Once the cake batter has been mixed it should be deposited into the cake pans and conveyed into the oven with a "minimum" loss of time. This is because once the batter has been mixed the leavening agents have gone into solution and begun to interact. In more fluid batters such as cake batters, the gas tends to rise towards the surface with the small bubbles coalescing in the process into larger cells. There is an inevitable escape of leavening gas from the batter which is held on the floor in bowls or an open hopper as well as a coarsening of the cell structure over extended periods of time.


The optimum baking conditions for cakes are determined by such factors and the richness or leanness of the formula, the flow and density of the batter, pan size etc. Cakes which are larger in size and / or are richer in formulation generally are baked at lower oven temperatures for longer periods of time when compared with leaner formulations and/or smaller size cakes.

Here is a list of representative cake baking times and temperatures for a conventional oven. The ranges of bake times and temperatures for each variety provide the needed margins for adjustment in both factors to conform to the particular scaling weight of the product. In all instances the maximum internal temperature of the finished cakes is 208-210F.

Cake Variety Bake Time Temperature
 Layer Cake 20-25 min. 365-375
 Loaf Cake 35-50 min. 350-360
 Pound Cake 50-65 min. 325-365
Sponge Cake  10-20 min. 390-420
 Creme Cake 30-45 min. 350-375
Cup Cakes  13-22 min. 375-400


In chemically leavened baked products, pH plays an important role in determining the color and texture of the finished goods. For example, the color of a devils food cake may range from a light brown at pH 7.0 - 7.5, to a dark mahogany red at pH 8.8 or 9.0. At the same time, the texture tends to become finer as the pH level increases. However, an excessively high pH must be avoided as it may produce an objectionable soapy taste. In white layer cakes, the color tends to change from white to a dull yellow as the pH increases and the product at the same time becomes more crumbly. Each product has an optimal pH value for the best keeping quality. The pH ranges which have been found most suitable for certain types of baked cakes (not batters) are listed below.

Type of Cake  pH
 White layer 7.0-7.5
Yellow Layer Cake  6.7-7.5
Chocolate Cake  7.5-8.0
Devils Food 8.0-9.0
 Pound Cake 6.6-7.2
Angel Food  5.2-6.0

Layer Cake Troubleshooting

Layers uneven Batter spread unevenly
Batter too thick
Oven trays not level.
Damaged or warped pans.
Peaks in center Oven too hot in beginning.
Insufficient shortening.
Batter too stiff.
Excessive gums or pregelatinized starches.
Insufficient moisture.
Excessive flour.
Incorrect Leavening.
Shrinkage Too much water.
Undersized Excessive floor time.
Batter specific gravity too low.
Leavening too low.
Unbalanced formula.
Oven too hot.
Oven too cold.
Improper mixing.
Insufficient cake batter in the pan.
Dark crust color Oven too hot.
Excessive top heat.
Excessive sugar.
Excessive milk
Excessive corn syrup
Light crust color Oven too cold.
Milk or whey too low.
pH too low.
Low Sugar
Unbalanced formula.

Uneven baking

Oven heat not uniform
Variation in baking pans.
Tough Insufficient sugar.
Insufficient shortening.
Excessive flour.
Excessive Egg White
Improper flour type.
Oven too hot.

Thick hard crust

Oven too hot.
Excessive baking.
Sticky crust Excessive sugar.
Excessive Corn Syrup.
Improper cooling.
Soggy crust Excessive water in the cake.
Insufficient cooling before wrapping.
Cracked crusts Oven too hot.
Batter too stiff.
Heavy Excessive shortening.
Excessive sugar.
Excessive liquid.
Insufficient leavening.
Under baking.
Too light or crumbly Batter Specific Gravity too low.
Excessive leavening.
Excessive shortening.
Coarse grain Excessive leavening
Batter specific gravity too low
Poor Symmetry Excessive sugar.
Insufficient egg.
Insufficient flour.
Excessive leavening.
Oven too cold.
Under baking.