A buttercake is classically put together using what's called the creaming method. I've referred to this method many times, but I think I went into the most detail in my chocolate chip cookie post. In a nutshell:
- Beat together any fats and sugars
- Slowly add any wet ingredients
- Slowly add any dry ingredients
- Fold in any garnishes
This is one of the most basic techniques used in baking, and it was the method that many of the recipes that I based my lime cake on used, and was therefore the method used for my lime cake. Tonight I decided to try things a little differently. I thought I'd see how things went if I used the muffin method. In another, different nutshell:
- Mix together the dry stuff in one bowl
- Mix together the wet stuff in another bowl
- Mix together the wet and the dry stuff
There are a couple more things to keep in mind with the muffin method. While the creaming method involves a soft, but still solid fat, such as butter or cream cheese (yes, cream cheese counts as a fat), the muffin method calls for a liquid fat. That doesn't mean you can't use butter, it just means that the butter has to be melted. Also, sugar counts as a wet ingredient, not dry. That's because it mixes so well with wet stuff. And while fat, by definition, doesn't actually contain any moisture, liquid fat still counts as a wet ingredient. And so without any further ado, I present:
3/4 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 whole chicken eggs
1 1/2 cups crushed strawberries
2 2/3 cups cake flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350F. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in one bowl. Whisk together all of the other ingredients in another bowl. Pour the wet stuff on the dry stuff, and mix together until just combined. Try to use as little motion as possible. Pour into a greased 10-inch cake pan at bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan before inverting onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.
There were a couple of major differences between this cake and my last one. First of all, I went back to cake flour, like I should have in the first place. Second, since the fat was liquid, it was able to surround the flour more quickly, which shortens gluten strands and keeps them from developing. This is crucial for things like cake, cupcakes and, of course, muffins. Because I managed to keep gluten in check this time, the cake was lighter and more, well, cake-like.
One thing that I noticed about my cake is that the top was completely level. Whether this was due to the Utah altitude or the fact that I incresed the liquid by half a cup, I do not know. What I do know is that the flavor, while still not as intense as I would like, was certainly better than before. I may have to resort to essential oils to get that last little kick of flavor, and to food coloring to get that last shade of pink. But for those of you who eschew additives, this recipe will be quite dandy on its own.