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I was making a scratch cake, and my sugar (to my chagrin) was inferior. When I beat it into the batter, it turned into many tiny lumps. Has anyone ever figured out how to solve this problem? I beat it for a long time on high speed, but there were still lumps.

If there's no way to fix this type of problem, could I get some hints on how to prevent it, e.g. how to smash all the sugar lumps before I put it in the batter?

Edit: For clarification, this batter is very thin, and the recipe requires beating it on the highest speed for three minutes straight. So that's not a big issue with this.

Also, I did mix the dry ingredients (including sugar) together before anything else. I used the mixer to try and break up the lumps (when the mixer only had the dry ingredients in it), and when it had stirred for 5 minutes or so, I thought it would be better to proceed with the recipe and add the wet ingredients, hoping that they would dissolve the sugar. They didn't. After beating it for the required three minutes, I just put it in the oven. I didn't actually beat the batter any longer than the recipe said to; the only thing I did that the recipe didn't tell me to was to stir the dry ingredients for 5 minutes.

The cake seems okay. Maybe when the lumps are small enough, the heat of the oven takes care of them?

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Yeah, your cake will be fine. The sugar will dissolve with the cooking heat. I would say pass the sugar by itself through a sieve. –  Adam S Jun 26 '11 at 12:04
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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Don't most cake recipes require mixing dry ingredients first? Well, what's been done has been done.

The standard professional chef way of getting lumps out of anything is to pass it through a fine strainer. In your case a standard metal pasta strainer should work. Put the strainer over a bowl, pour the batter in and use the back of a large spoon or ladle to gentle press the batter through. The lumps of sugar will be left over and you can just crush them then.

Whipping the batter might work the gluten proteins in the flour which will make for a tough chewy texture. Some cakes actually take this into account and others it is bad, so be careful.

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See my edits –  Daniel δ Jun 26 '11 at 10:27
    
In cake methods (and 'most' other places) sugar is treated as a wet ingredient. cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/564/… OR answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080917200931AAjvgGl That said, your advise is very sound. –  Cos Callis Jun 27 '11 at 1:35
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In the days before mixers, it was standard to cream the sugar and the fat together as a first step, then add the beaten eggs and milk, and the flour, a little at a time. Doing it that way, the sugar was always invisible by the time the flour went in.

Nothing to stop you adding the ingredients stepwise ...

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I agree. Always mix the butter sugars together first in order to avoid lumps. Also, if that didn't work, does your mixer have a whisk attachment? Mine does and that works well after all the ingredients have been added together to get out any final lumps.

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