Question about cake texture

I baked a banana cake the other day. It came out good, but the texture was very different from normal. Much more spongey like bread. I can peel off little bite size pieces without dropping crumbs and I can also dunk it without it falling apart. I did a couple of things different with this cake and I am trying to figure out which one of those things caused the sponginess. I usually add sugar to the bananas and thoroughly cream them before adding the milk and flower. This time I didn’t cream them so well so I ended up beating the mixture for several minutes longer than usual. I suspect this was the main difference and it activated the glutens. The two other differences were not adding any oil and adding 1 tablespoon vinegar. Am I correct in thinking the extra beating time made the difference?

While not quite the same, one time, through a highly unlikely series of events * I made cornbread without any butter or oil. It was edible, sort of, but … like rubber.

  • still sitting in the measuring cup the next day. “That explains it!”

Not an experiences baker myself, but this alone probably explains the majority of the result. Especially if you were using general-purpose wheat flour, rather than a cake flour. About the only way to avoid a glutenized texture would be to treat the batter very gently.

Skipping the fat results in a much less tender cake as well. You might be able to get away with it better if you used cake flour in place of all-purpose.

Yep, if you didn’t add any oil that would definitely lead to the to a chewier texture. I just pulled out my copy of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, which states that fat inhibits gluten networks from forming. Gluten networks are what gives bread its chewy texture. But since you probably didn’t stir your cake batter for as long as you would knead bread dough, it wouldn’t be as chewy as bread (kneading helps form those gluten networks). There’s a whole diagram in the book that shows what textures you’ll get with different combinations of yeast, water, fat, and kneading/stiring.

IME, banananana bread is usually very dense; possibly your beating it so long chased out more air than usual. The only real crime against BB is baking it too long — scorched BB is :face_vomiting:.

Now I feel guilty for throwing out some squishy bananas yesterday. I should have made banana bread!

Speaking of cake texture, I can’t seem to make one that’s not incredibly dense. Sometimes that’s great, but sometimes you want an airy cake. I live at an altitude of 5593 feet, so that makes delicate baking a challenge, but I’ve been baking here for some 40 years, so I’m not a novice. I can make a box cake the texture I’m looking for using the high altitude instructions, but the same interventions don’t work on the recipes from scratch. Any ideas?

I don’t think that’s right; beating batter incorporates air, doesn’t it? But I do agree with others that both the lack of fat and the extra beating will change the texture.

Every time I’ve made a scratch cake, when the beaters are finished, there’re always a bazillion bubbles on the surface, popping merrily away. Then you fold in the baking powder and it seems to generate a boatload of more, bigger, bubbles, which I always assumed :wink: was to replace the bubbles you murdered with the beaters. Admittedly, there might be more to it than that.

I just realized the OP says banana cake and I’ve mistakenly been thinking banana bread, which I’ve never made and might be a whole 'nother chemical process.

Inform me, see vu play :smile:.

I always mix the flower and baking powder or soda alone before adding it to the mix

Those bubbles, popping on the surface? They’re the bubbles you put in there with the beaters. The beaters whip air into the batter, so that there are bubbles to pop.

Baking powder tends to be double-acting: some gas is formed via chemical reaction at room temperature, as soon as you add it, and more gas is formed via chemical reaction at a higher temperature, when it goes in the oven. AIUI, most of the gas formed works to expand the existing bubbles; and prior to baking powder/baking soda being commonly available, bakers had to beat the bejeesus out of their cakes/biscuits, or else use tricks like folding in beaten egg whites, to get a good raise.

As for banana cake, I don’t know a technical difference between quickbread and cake in this case. The same principles almost certainly apply, unless banana cake is something super weird that I’ve never encountered.

I think I could call mine banana bread instead of cake just because of the texture.

I think you’re joking here?

Bolding mine. No comment. Blame Spellcheck. :wink:

I don’t believe I’ve ever used baking soda in a cake – I’ve done mostly sponge cakes, so that might not be the case for other types of cake. Baking powder goes in dead last and is folded in so the cake doesn’t fall. The recipe I’ve used comes from my Mother – the hillbilly – so even if she’s wrong, I’m not telling her; be my guest, but beware, she will find you and you will be… treated.

I took Home Ec in high school and was the top student in that class (three boys and 20 girls), but it would have been useful to have some of that tech info told to us as well. Thanks for the brief chemistry/history lesson.

Just to be clear–you make the batter, and then you put the baking powder straight into the batter, without mixing it with the other dry ingredients first?

That’s interesting. I would worry that you’d get clumps of super-bitter baking powder in the cake that way, but if it works, it works. Every recipe I’ve ever used mixes the flour and salt and rising agents together, then adds that mixture in some way to the wet ingredients.

And yeah, the chemistry of baking is really weird and cool.

You are correct, a very strict rule in baking is to thoroughly mix baking powder and flower before adding wet ingredients.

Wait, don’t tell me I’m correct and then say something different. I just expressed surprise, but then conceded that whatever works, works.

King Arthur Flour–hardly a slouch in the baking department-- says it’s okay:

That said, @burpo_the_wonder_mutt, I just noticed that you said it goes in last “so the cake doesn’t fall” and that it’s an old recipe. I wonder if it dates back to the nineteenth-century days of single-acting baking powder? The history of baking powder is way more interesting than it has any right to be, including bribery scandals and fake health news.

Same for me, except one where i mix baking soda into sour cream before mixing the combination into the rest of the wet ingredients.

That’s fascinating! Does it start bubbling right away?