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The American butter cake (buttercake) is an example of shortened cakes leavened with baking powder and/or baking soda. It has become the standard cake that we fill and stack in layers, bake as sheet cakes or cupcakes, carve into shapes or decorate and serve at birthdays, weddings, special occasions, and graduations, or just eat for snacks or after dinner. I am sure, if questioned, we can readily name our favorite butter cake, such as Yellow, White or Chocolate cake, or lemon, orange, strawberry and marble or chocolate and vanilla swirled together. There are limitless butter cake flavor combinations! Butter cakes are good keepers and freeze well, too.
SARAH SAYS: This is the first cake that I learned to bake with.
An American butter cake typically contains:
6 to 12 percent solid butter (not including the liquid and milk solids in the butter) or other shortening
18 to 36 percent liquid (usually milk or water)
27 percent flour or a combination of flour and cocoa
27 to 40 percent sugar
5 to 10 percent egg
a small amount of flavoring
leavening such as baking powder and/or baking soda.
(Proportions from Rose Levy Beranbaum)
|Appearance||Rounded top, free of cracks
Uniform, characteristic color
throughout crust and crumb
|Texture||Soft, velvety crumb
Small, thin-walled air cells
Free of tunnels
Moist, smooth mouthfeel
Light — but not crumbly
|Tenderness||Handles easily, yet breaks apart
Seems to “melt in the mouth,”
offers no resistance when bitten
|Flavor||Delicate, sweet flavor
SARAH SAYS: A "good" butter cake should be flavorful, yet not overly sweet, tender and somewhat dense in texture, but moist and certainly not dry. The optimal look of a butter cake layer is that it should bake flat; meaning it has the proper balance of tougheners to tenderizers. It should not need much trimming, saving you time and money from not having to waste ingredients. I have formulated the butter cake recipes to do just that; minimal doming in the middle with flat tops and straight up-and-down sides, given you use a pan without sloping sides, unless you overmix the recipe or other problems occur during measuring, mixing and baking.
The cake should be able to stand on its own or be filled and frosted and/or be able to be decorated to the hilt. It should become one of your "every occasion" cakes and a big part of your family's culinary events.
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