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I recently baked the golden vanilla cake from King Arthur FLour's website. It baked nicely, and looked really nice. However, when I was at my cake decorating class, I had to level and torte that cake, and for the life of me, I could not get my cake leveler to go through the cake! It just bounced off and would not go through the cake, no matter how hard I pressed, or sawed. I eventually resorted to using a serrated knife, but even that was incredibly difficult to cut through.

Is there something I did when making the cake? I know I used a 9 inch pan instead of the 8 inch it asked for, but that was the only change I made. Or is this just an impenetrable cake?

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How long did the cake sit out? Could it have gotten stale? I've noticed that some cakes will get hard as rocks, if allowed to go stale. How long did you mix the batter? I wonder if you worked too much gluten into the mix. Wheat Flour + liquid + lots of mixing/moving/aggitation = gluten. Gluten= hard/chewy baked goods (awesome for bread, bad for cakes) –  Macromika May 11 '11 at 16:23
    
It was out for an hour at most. And I mixed the batter for as long as it stated in the recipe - I used my timer that came with my Kitchen Aid mixer to make sure I didn't over beat the cake. –  Ashley Nunn May 11 '11 at 16:43

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

I blame the recipe, which calls for absurdly long mixing times, well past the point of overmixing.

After you add the wet ingredients, the recipe has you mix for:

  • 30 seconds at low speed for the milk
  • 30 seconds at medium speed for the milk
  • An unspecified amount of time at low speed to incorporate the first egg
  • 2 minutes at medium speed for all the eggs (30 seconds after each)

That is simply way too much mixing for a cake. Personally, I don't even like the concept of using an electric mixer at all, except to cream the butter. But that's over 3 minutes of mixing and it is simply too high. You'll end up with extremely tough, chewy cake, practically bread.

If you look at the top-rated from-scratch cake recipes on various recipe sites (e.g. Epicurious) you'll see that they all either call for incorporating the wet ingredients either by folding with a rubber spatula (best) or with an electric beater at low speed.

Beware of "manufacturer" recipes - I don't think I've ever had a positive experience with one. You would think that they are authoritative sources, but in practice you'll achieve much better results with a search engine and careful reading of the reviews.

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That's really good to know, actually - I assumed that being a flour company, they would know something about cakes, moreso than, say, cooks from a site like Tasty Kitchen or Epicurious. It felt like a lot of mixing to me, but I didn't know any better. :) –  Ashley Nunn May 11 '11 at 17:17

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