The basic ingredients of a cake are divided into two types
- Structure builders e.g., flour, eggs and milk;
- Tenderizers e.g., sugar, shortening and baking powder.
Each ingredient has specific effects on the finished product.
Flour:Flour is the primary structure builder in most cakes. The gluten formed during mixing coagulates during baking and supports weight of sugar and shortening. Flours for cake are made from soft wheats, which have a low protein content of 7.00 to 9.00 per cent, with a pH of around 5.2 to soften the gluten. It should be creamy white, with pleasant smell, sweet taste and should tend to cling together and yet easily fall apart, when squeezed firmly in between two fingers.
Sugar: Sugar acts as a sweetener and tenderizer besides lowering carmelization point of the batter, allowing the cake crust to color at a lower temperature. Sugar helps in retention of moisture in baked cake thus keeping it moist for several days. Sugar for all types of cakes except fatless sponge and Genoese cake should be of fine granulation to ensure an even grain and soft texture in cakes. This type of sugar dissolves very readily and produces a smooth creamy mass. Large sugar crystals produce a coarse texture.
Salt: Salt improves taste and tones down the sweetness. It enhances flavours and taste of ingredients used in cake making. It lowers caramelization temperature of cake batter and aids in obtaining crust colour.
Shortening: Shortening incorporates air in the cake batter during mixing and thus helps to build volume in the cakes. It also tenderizes the cake. The shortening used in cake should be white, neutral flavor and aroma and possess good creaming properties. It should be plastic when used at temperatures of 70 to 75ºF. Butter is the best of all bakery shortenings from a flavour stand point, but the creaming quality is poor. Cakes made with butter are generally lower in volume and have a coarser grain than those made with a high quality shortening. Shortening also helps to retain moisture in the finished cake and gives a silky mouth feel.
Eggs:Eggs furnish structure, moisture, flavor, color, and food value to the cake. The egg proteins coagulate during baking and build structure. Eggs also contribute moisture, flavour and colour to the product. Eggs used should be fresh and facilitate good whisking. Lecithin in yolk gives the emulsifying properties to egg and helps to give a smooth appearance to the batter.
Milk: Dry milk solids add richness and structure to the cake. Milk sugar lactose regulates the crust colour. Milk solids improve the flavour and retain moisture. The water in liquid functions as a moistening agent and contributes to the eating quality.
Leavening agents:/Cakes are leavened mainly in three ways depending upon the type of cake being made, the formula, consistency of batter and baking temperature. The methods of leavening may be any of the following
- Incorporation of air during mixing,
- Use of chemicals and
- By the vapor pressure created in the oven during baking.
Liquids:Liquid in the form of water, milk, eggs or any other ingredient which contains water is required in every cake formula. Liquid has several functions in cake preparation. It helps in gluten formation, dissolves sugar, and helps chemical reactions of leavening by baking powder. The liquids regulate the batter consistency, and control batter temperature. Water also acts as a leavening agent, creating vapour pressure when the internal temperature reaches 2080F during baking. The total liquids including water and the liquid contained in the eggs should always equal or exceed the weight of the sugar in the formula, because all of the sugar in the formula must be dissolved to produce a quality cake.
Flavouring agents: Taste and aroma combined produce the sensation called flavour. Flavour should be selected according to the product being made. Flavouring agents are of three basic types, spices, extracts and emulsions. Spices are granular powder of roots, bark, seeds and blossoms of aromatic plants. Extracts are alcoholic solutions containing aromatic flavour. Emulsions are colloidal system of volatile, essential oils, dispersed with water and stabilized by gum. Essence should be readily soluble in water. The flavouring agents should be stable during baking and should not break down or alter in any way by action of heat, acid or alkali.
Optional ingredients: Fruits, nuts and chocolate chips are used in special cases.