What Are Shortened Cakes?

Quality shortened cakes has the following characteristics:

  • A flat or slightly rounded top
  • A uniform golden brown, fine-grained crust
  • A soft, velvety and resilient crumb and small uniform grain
  • It is light, tender and moist rather than dry
  • It has an acceptable flavour

Shortened Cakes Ingredients and Their Functions

Seven basic ingredients of a shortened cake include:

  • Flour
  • Fat
  • Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Liquid
  • Salt and leavening.

Other ingredients may include spices, fruits and nuts

  1. Flour: soft or weak flour is recommended for cake making.  This type of flour results in a fined grained, soft, velvety crumb and tender product.  Satisfactory results can be obtained with plain flour.  Self-raising flour may be used.  Whole wheat or brown flour results in a darker colour, a heavier product and coarser texture due to the bran and germ.  Strong or bread flour is not recommended as it produces a more open grain characteristic of bread.
  2. Fat is needed to shorten or tenderise the product.  It is a means of introducing air into creamed cakes and contributes to the colour and flavour as well as to the keeping qualities.
  3. Caster sugar is recommended for cake making.  In addition to giving a sweet taste, it helps to incorporate air in creamed cake mixtures.  It delays the coagulation of egg protein and the pasting of starch in the flour and this helps to give a good volume.  Sugar also plays a role in keeping cakes moist.
  4. Eggs introduce air into cakes and play a structural role in the cooked product due to the coagulation of egg proteins during cooking.  The fact that eggs are liquid is useful for purposes of mixing.  Emulsifiers in eggs are useful in the formation of cake batters owing to their emulsifying properties.
  5. Liquid dissolves the sugar and salt and makes possible the action of chemical leavenings.  It disperses the ingredients and hydrates the flour.  Steam made from liquid through baking acts as a leavening.
  6. Leavening agent: as in scone making, chemical leavening agents are used.
  7. Salt is used for flavouring.

The proportion of recommended fats in shortened cakes and techniques of preparation.

Method of cake makingRecommended fatsFat to flourSugar to flourPreparation techniques
Rubbing inButter margarine½ or less½ or lessFat rubbed into flour and liquid added including egg if used
Creaming-plain                    Medium   RichButter margarine½   ¾   1½   ¾   1Fat and sugar creamed together; egg added; half flour folded in; liquid added and remaining flour folded in.
MeltingMargarine, cooking fat, lard, oil¾ just over1Fat melted with syrup, treacle and sugar; when cooled this and other liquids, including eggs, stirred into the flour
All-in-oneSoft margarine11All ingredients mixed together at the same time

Recipe Balance in Shortened Cakes

  1. Fat: The higher the proportion of fat, the more tender and fragile the cake crumb will be and the richer the cake.
  2. Sugar: The use of more sugar than is recommended produces a coarse-grained product and a biscuit like crust.  Cakes made by the melting method have a high proportion of sugar, and this accounts to some extent for the coarser grain and the ease with which this mixture burns.
  3. Eggs: The richer the cake, the higher the proportion of eggs in the formula.  Too many eggs results in a rubbery texture and excessive liquid in the mixture.
  4. Leavening:  Too little results in a poor volume and close texture.  Too much can give the cake a coarse open texture; the surface may be cracked and the cake may collapse so that the surface is hollowed.
  5. Liquid:  too much causes the cake to be doughy and heavy and the top may be cracked.  If not enough is used the cake may be cracked on the surface, the crumb dry and tunnels are likely to develop.
  6. Salt in excessive amounts can give the cake an unpleasant taste.

Proportion of Ingredients for Shortened Cakes

Method of cake makingFlour (g)Fat (g)Sugar (g)Eggs (no)Liquid (ml)Baking (ml)
Rubbing in20075-10075-1000-160-14012.5
Creaming-plain Medium Rich  200 200 200  100 150 200  100 150 200  2 3 4-5  40-80 20-40 20-0  10.0 7.5 5.0
Melting200752002 5.0
All-in-one1251251252 5.0

Preparation Techniques For Shortened Cakes

The ingredients should be at room temperature (15 degrees Celsius).  Block fats need to be softened for creaming and eggs function more efficiently as emulsifiers at this temperature.

  1. Sifting: if the raising agent is not sifted with the flour and salt the cake is likely to have a speckled top.  Even distribution of the raising agent is necessary to achieve a fine-grained crumb.
  2. Fat dispersion

Cooking Shortened Cakes

Recommended baking temperatures cover a wide range depending upon the type of cake: 130 degrees Celsius to 140 degrees Celsius for rich fruit cakes to 190 degrees Celsius to 200 degrees Celsius for rock cakes.

During cooking the air bubbles become dispersed in the batter and carbon dioxide is liberated from the baking powder.  The gas produced collects in the air bubbles and this expands.  The expanding gases cause the product to rise and increase in volume.  Steam also acts as a leavening.  The protein films around the gas bubbles coagulate, the starch grains gelatinise and the batter sets.  As this happens the air cells rupture and leak the leavening gases but the cells do not collapse. 

The emulsion breaks and some of the fat appears at the interface of the cake crumb and air.  As baking proceeds, moisture is evaporated from the surface of the cake and a crust forms which will be golden or darker brown.  If the temperature is too low the heat penetration is slower and there is greater expansion of the batter.  The batter becomes over stretched before the proteins coagulate and the starch gelatinises.  The final product has a large grain. 

Pre-heating the oven allows for more rapid heat penetration.  Lower temperatures may also contribute to a pale crust and an uneven rise.  If the temperature is too high the cake is likely to be tunnelled, the texture close and the crust may become badly cracked or peaked and darker in colour.  Test if a cake is cooked adequately:

  1. An adequately cooked cake is brown in colour, well risen and begins to shrink from the sides of the tin
  2. When the ear is held over the surface of the cake there is no sound of bubbling, only a faint ticking
  3. The smell should not be musty, cooked cakes have a distinguishable smell.
  4. When pushed lightly with a finger the cake should feel firm and springy in the middle as well as at the edges; if an indent remains the cake is not done; if a skewer inserted into the cake comes out sticky, not clean, the cake is not adequately cooked.

Different Types of Shortened Cake Mixtures in Food Preparation

  • Rubbing in: small: raspberry buns, rock cakes, American doughnuts; large: farmhouse fruit cake; chocolate cake and dorset apple cake.
  • Creaming small: queen cakes, fairy cakes, madelines, large: cherry, madeira, Dundee, Victoria sandwich, battenburg
  • Melting: gingerbread and parkin

All in one: Victoria sandwich, madeira cake.

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