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Notes from the Test Kitchen: Crazy cakes

January 22, 2010 |  3:36 pm

Crazycakekirkmckoy So maybe they are called "crazy," but when it comes to the recipes for these fun and simple cakes, there is a method to the madness.

Emily Dwass' story this week, "Mad for crazy cake," includes a couple of great recipes for these classic cakes, one for  a rich chocolate and the other a fun lemon poppyseed cake.

We started testing the cakes two weeks ago. We ran through each recipe to familiarize ourselves with the method, make sure the recipes worked as expected, and get a look at the finished cakes so we could figure out how to approach shooting the final versions in the studio.

The chocolate cake recipe worked fairly well; the method worked without a hitch, and the final cake was flavorful, though we thought the texture could have been a bit more tender (it was on the spongy side). That spongy texture was more noticeable with the poppyseed cake, and the leavening didn't seem to be working as well.

So I contacted Emily to run through the recipes and compare results.

We decided to test the cakes again comparing different flours: a standard all-purpose, a higher-protein all-purpose, and a bread flour. Whereas most cakes generally benefit from a lighter flour (like cake flour -- where less protein makes for a lighter crumb), this cake might benefit from a higher-protein flour -- the protein making for sturdier structure, allowing for better leavening and final texture.

IMG_1528 Side by side, the results were dramatic: The photo at right shows slices from three tests, the bread flour (left), higher-protein AP (center), and standard AP (right). The extra height from the bread flour was nice, though the texture was gummy (a bit too much protein). The standard AP didn't have enough protein to support a good structure, and the cake was still a bit flat and spongy.We liked the higher-protein AP best; the final cake still had great texture, but the crumb was lighter and had a pleasant texture.

In all, we tested the chocolate cake four times, and the poppyseed cake seven times. Probably the craziest thing in the text kitchen was how quickly each of those tests disappeared!

-- Noelle Carter

Photo credits: Kirk McKoy (top) and Noelle Carter / Los Angeles Times 

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