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Is there a difference in the output or in the procedure when baking cakes in the Microwave ovens as compared to Electric ovens?

What are the basic and crucial differences found among cakes baked in the above mentioned different equipments?


Bounty: 100
Question: If we run the microwave (which has a convection feature) on "grill and convection" mode only, does it become same as rectangular "Electric ovens"? Please explain why and how too.

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As each microwave cooks differently, even recipes found online are going to be inexact. Unless the manufacturer of the microwave included a cookbook (which I don't think they've done for years), and it had a cake recipe in it, it'd be a lot of trial and error. –  Joe Sep 12 '11 at 13:56
    
Thank you .. @Joe –  TheIndependentAquarius Sep 12 '11 at 14:59
    
"Grill and convection" isn't a standard microwave mode, can you specify what kind of appliance you're talking about? Is it a "convection microwave"? –  Aaronut Oct 30 '11 at 14:17
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Can you tell us your make and model of microwave? We may be able to look up if its just marketing speak (like a microwave with a fan) or a real feature? –  rfusca Oct 31 '11 at 4:30
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Can you explain what you mean by bakery style structure? Or perhaps find a (close-up) picture of a cake with the kind of texture you're looking for? I'm guessing you're looking for a somewhat denser crumb, but it's hard to be sure. –  Jefromi Oct 27 '12 at 18:53

10 Answers 10

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Yes, there is a difference. You shouldn't be baking a cake (or anything else) in a microwave oven.

A microwave oven excites the water within your food. When you put in dough or batter, the excited water doesn't bind with the starch the way it does under normal heat, it escapes the starch, leaving you with a stone-hard piece of dough or batter.

There is something called "five-minutes microwave cake". I haven't tried it, but in the recipes floating around the interwebs it gets eaten while still hot (so probably before it has had the chance to get too hard). It also seems that there is a very small heat frame in which it gets OK. Bake it too much, and it will get hard, or burn. Bake it too little, and you end up with a mug of warm batter. It is also supposed to be a cupcake, I suspect that if you try to bake a bigger portion at once, there will be enough temperature difference in different zones of the batter to get underbaked, baked and hard portions all at once.

Bottom line: if you want to try for the fun of it, make a cupcake in the microwave, and watch your energy input (microwave watt setting and time) very closely, then eat immediately. You can find recipes all over the Web, e. g. on Instructables. If you want a real cake, don't bake in a microwave.

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That was very helpful, thanks. –  TheIndependentAquarius Sep 12 '11 at 9:50
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This, a million times over. Microwaves are for reheating leftovers, boiling water, and doing fun science experiments. They are not for serious cooking or baking. –  BobMcGee Sep 13 '11 at 4:52

Here is an answer to your edit - I make it a separate one, because it concerns a different matter (mods please tell me if I should roll it into the old one).

Soegaard already explained the difference between heating by microwaves and by standard oven. The point is, they are completely different methods, and the same oven needs two types of heaters within the same body to have both settings.

Normally, I would assume (the same as soegaard does) that if you put the oven to the "convection" setting, the microwave heater is turned off. But the truth is that it is up to the manufacturer to decide if this really happens, or if both heaters are turned on in this setting. It surely sounds illogical, but we have evidence that it does happen - and the evidence was for an LG oven. See this question: Why do my pizzas get such hard crusts?. So we can't promise you that it is OK to bake them in your oven, and I suspect that a manufacturer implements a feature in the same way across ovens. So assuming that the oven in the other question works as it should (it could be a defect unit which doesn't turn off the microwave heater when it is supposed to), you have low chances of getting good cakes.

Does it make sense to implement the feature that way? If you aren't baking, probably yes. You see, in a microwave, you don't get a crust. Pure convection cooks slower than microwaves. If you are cooking a veggie casserole in the oven, you'll probably be happy to have convection and microwaves at the same time. This still doesn't explain why the manufacturer labelled the feature in this misleading way, or why it doesn't give you two separate dials, one for the microwave heater and one for the convection heater. Maybe the target customer group are people with minimal cooking skills who only use their oven for reheating prefrozen food.

So we can't tell you if your oven will bake a good cake or not - it depends on how it is built. The best way to know is to just try it. Make a normal bread dough - don't waste time on preferments and the like, go for minimal effort and expenses - and bake a loaf in the oven at the convection setting. Wait 2-3 hours o give it a chance to harden. If it tastes like a nice bread afterwards, then the microwave heater was turned off and the cake will bake well too. If it is unusually hard - microwaved dough is practically impossible to bite off - then the microwave heater stays on at the convection setting and you can't bake a cake either.

You may want to call customer service before you try, and ask if the "convection" setting turns off the microwave heater. If the person on the other end of the line knows for sure how the oven works, they can save you from a useless experiment. But there is always the chance that the call is a waste of time.

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Much, much easier way to test. Put a glass of water in there. How fast does it boil? A few minutes? Your microwave is still on. –  rfusca Oct 31 '11 at 13:46
    
@rfusca How much should in your opinion it take to get a glass of water boiled in convection oven? –  TheIndependentAquarius Oct 31 '11 at 16:52
    
@Anisha - I'll test when I get home..but its going to take awhile. –  rfusca Oct 31 '11 at 17:34
    
@rumtscho Thanks, I'll give it a try. :) –  TheIndependentAquarius Nov 2 '11 at 6:57

If your microwave has a grill function, that might help a bit for getting a crust.

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Answering your second question:

Question: If we run the microwave on "grill and convection" mode only, does it become same as rectangular "Electric ovens"? Please explain why and how too.

You must have a combination oven. It can heat the food in various ways. When you are using grill and convection the oven is working just as normal oven.

Understanding the various terms all boils down to understanding how energy (heat) is transfered to the food.

In a standard oven the heating element warms up adjacent air. The fan will eventually blow the air over the food, which will heat up. Energy transfer through gas (air) or liquid (water) is called convection. Thus your "convection" setting just means "regular oven".

All warm materials also send out heat radiation (infrared), thus the heating element will also transfer some of the energy to the food through radiation.

In a grill the heating element is so warm, that the radiation plays a much bigger part of the energy transfer. This it what your "grill" setting does.

The third way your oven can transfer energy is by help of microwaves. Microwaves penetrate the food item and cause the water molecules inside the food to vibrate. This vibration will heat up the other parts of the food.

Microwaves thus heat up the food from the inside. Convection and grill heat up the outside.

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Thanks, that was a good explanation of the technology. –  TheIndependentAquarius Nov 2 '11 at 6:56

No one has seen Ferran Adria (Chef of the best restaurant in the world) make cake in a microwave? http://www.britishlarder.co.uk/el-bullis-test-kithcen-with-albert-adria/#axzz1cTaE1baY

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Pretty cool flick there!! –  ferdiesfoodlab Mar 11 '13 at 23:00

It won't be easy to achieve a bakery style cake in the microwave (I'm assuming you are looking for an actual cake rather than just a 'cake-in-a-cup').

First of all, how a microwave works:

  • A microwave works emits waves called microwaves(!) (a short wave length)
  • These waves pass through most non-food items (ceramic, plastic) and bounce off metals
  • Once they hit water (and also I'm told fats and sugars) the waves excite (vibrate) the molecules which creates heat

The first obstacle is that with a microwave, you cannot use a metal cake tin (which most are), unless you are interested in likely severely damaging microwave and pan alike. However, you increasingly find 'silicone' tins, which would work.

It is also hard to get a brown crust on the cake as that is formed by the Maillard reaction. This is promoted by moisture in the air and direct heat which is not found in a microwave. Since the cake will cook, unlike in a real oven, roughly evenly and the heat does not have to travel into the center of the cake, there is no chance for it to brown. However, apparently placing a piece of foil (although I would be nervous to try it as I have always been told not to put ANY metal in a microwave) over the cake will mean that microwaves bounce off it and heat the top of the cake and browning it. Again, not recommend without advice from a professional.

Most of the recipes for microwave cakes have a higher liquid content in them than traditional cakes, which could explain their 'spongy' texture. I would try using a cake made with an equal amounts butter, sugar, flour and eggs (much like a pound cake). I can't see why cooking in a microwave should require a different recipe, although I suppose it is easier to have a recipe using a box mix and water/oil if you're making it in a small cup. This would also be slightly denser as it uses creaming to incorporate air, rather than using chemical raising agents.

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I mostly use microwave with convection feature to bake my cakes and muffins and though i have achieved satisfactory results with the cakes, it is not the perfect method to bake a cake. few of my observations below:

1) When cooking in MW conv the crust of the muffin and cake dont brown. The crust stays crispy when the cake is out of the oven, but after storing the cake for a day or two, the crust goes soggy and sticky.

2) there is an unusual eggy smell in the cakes and muffins which is more often not masked even after the addition of pure vanilla extract. Btw this does not seem to happen in OTGs.

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I've had success of sorts with a basic sponge cake, but I soon went back to my fan oven. They're good for steamed puddings though.

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Unsurprisingly, you're unlikely to get a decent result. I only managed an edible cake (more of a brownie) using a BodyBuilding recipe (which is supposedly nutritious).

  • 1 ½ scoops chocolate flavored whey protein
  • ¾ scoop chocolate soy protein (GNC’s 95 Protein is good)
  • 1 tablespoon fat free/ sugar free instant chocolate pudding mix (such as Jell-O instant pudding that comes in the box)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 packs Splenda

Directions Mix in a microwave safe bowl with enough water to make a batter like consistency (may take several tries to get it right)

Microwave for a minute or until cake like. It will rise considerably in the bowl. If it falls when you take it out, use less water next time

Topping

  • 2 tablespoons whipped cream cheese
  • 4 packs Splenda
  • Blend the Splenda and cream cheese
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Many conventional Microwave Ovens actually have an OVEN SETTING, guys. I think the OP is asking how much of a difference there is between BAKING in an electric oven that has only one use - baking in an oven, or using the oven setting on a microwave OVEN. Microwaves just heat things up, but microwave OVENS have an oven setting, which you can use, that does not use microwaves but actually uses a high powered heated lamp, the same way a conventional oven would.

In my personal experience, they work exactly the same. Just make sure you preheat the oven, and make absolutely SURE you're using the OVEN setting, not the microwave setting. You can tell because it'll usually display a temperature (i.e. 170 degrees C) and then you can set the time, usually like 10-20 minutes or whatever your recipe calls for. In the oven setting of a microwave, you can use metallic, ceramic, and even glass objects so long as they're OVEN SAFE, because unlike the microwave setting, it only uses heat lamps just like a regular oven.

They tend to be smaller, so you can't bake large cakes and bread you'd have to split up into several small loaves. Also, it tends to take longer to preheat it and is sometimes tricky to know when it's actually heated enough, so your baking time might be longer than it would take in a regular oven.

Basically, just make sure your microwave oven has an oven setting (does it have a tube-like lamp on top that doesn't go off when you normally heat things up? does it have an oven button? and when you select it, does it display the temp?) Use toothpicks and a careful eye to test the readiness of whatever you're baking because sometimes, microwave's oven setting isn't as powerful.

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