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Normally, baking powder is preferred to yeast for making cake. I wanted to make simple light cake with yeast (using bread machine), but I face a problem that is not addressed in recipes (at least, I was unable to find).

Bread dough is much harder than cake, and yeast cannot rise such a soft dough. To make it capable of rising, I added extra flour to make the cake dough harder (but not as hard as bread dough). As a result, the dough did rise, but when I started to bake, the dough started to fall down.

My question is: How to adjust simple cake recipe to perfectly work with yeast instead of baking powder?

There a are a few recipes for baking cake in bread machine. However, I am interested to know how to adjust available recipes (which are numerous) to work with yeast.

And I wonder isn't it problematic to keep the cake dough at warm environment to make the yeast work? since it has milk, and this temperature can spoil the milk (can?).

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In English cooking, the word "cake" is defined very narrowly and has to be leavened with baking powder per definition. English does not have a word for a wider type of flour-based baked dessert the way many other languages do (e.g. the German Kuchen). But if it is Kuchen you want to make, there are lots of yeast-based ones. Look up recipes for brioches, north german guggelhupfs (the southern are frequently chemically leavened), datschis and so on. –  rumtscho Jul 18 '13 at 8:56
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@rumtscho I have to say that I can not find anywhere in my English baking sources a definition of cake that includes baking powder as a crucial ingredient. Traditional cakes would not use any leavening agents, but rather get the air bubbles from beating the egg. However, I have to admit that also many definitions explicitly state that a cake batter is not made with yeast (but this definitions were however quite focused on sponge cake). The use of the word cake in English in my experience is quite ambiguous, as it can include many different deserts –  Martin Turjak Jul 18 '13 at 12:00
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@All oh, oh! you don't want to go down this path. I have witnessed some discussions with Germans about tempering with their cake recipes - I can just tell you, they didn't go well - and an important lesson I learned is: A "Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte" made vegan (no matter how delicious and good looking) wouldn't be a "Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte" =) That said, I support your approach. Have fun experimenting! =) –  Martin Turjak Jul 18 '13 at 12:32
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@rumtscho: Can you decide on narrowly defined or loosely defined? :) I am not sure if there is a difference between US and English interpretation of the word cake, but both e.g. American cheesecakes and English fruit or Christmas cakes are usually not leavened, in their consistency very far away from spongy baking-powder-cakes and still called cakes. –  Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jul 18 '13 at 16:51
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I will try to rephrase my core statement. If you live in the USA, GB, and possibly other countries, you cannot use yeast to bake something which is considered a "cake" in the culinary tradition of your country. If you live in some other countries (e.g. Germany) it is possible to use yeast to bake something called [word] such that the widely accepted translation of [word] to English is "cake". We don't have to analyse the linguistic and cultural reasons here, but knowledge of this fact is helpful in a recipe search strategy, so it is pertinent to the question. –  rumtscho Jul 21 '13 at 13:07

2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

This is not really an answer,

but rather a report on an experiment.

After the discussion here I got very curious and wanted to compare what I would call a "yeast cake" (even though this is against the traditional definition, but the texture is more or less that of a spongy cake/quick bread) to the "same" cake made with baking powder.

To perform the comparison I divided all ingredients in two and the only difference between them was the leavening.

I tried to keep it really simple, and threw together some ingredients that I had in the house (using a simple quick-bread/muffin method).

Just so you have the feeling of what the batter was like, I will add my experimental

materials:

For each cake I used:

2 ¼ cups soy milk
¾ cup baking margarine
3 cups all-purpose flour (type 550)
2 cups raw sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
½ tsp ground vanilla pods

Then for one (A) I added:

1 ½ tsp dry yeast
2 tbsp sugar

and for the other one (B) I used:

1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
2 tbsp cider vinegar

For both I warmed up the milk and margarine just enough that it melted and added the vanilla, then let it cool down.

For A I then added the extra 2 tbsp of sugar and the yeast, and let the yeast get activated and work for an hour - the soy milk curdled and completely separated. When I made B I added the vinegar to the milk mixture and mixed - the soy milk got thicker and curdled a little. The baking powder and baking soda I added to the dry ingredients.

After waiting for an hour for A to do its thing (of course B was ready to put in the oven instantly), I poured the milk mixture into the combined dry ingredients and gently stirred, just enough for the components to combine. I poured the batters into oiled and floured pans and baked each cake on its own in a preheated oven for 40 minutes (this is when both passed the skewer test) at 350 F.

Results:

Both cakes rose to 2.5 times the batter height/level. However, B rose more evenly, whereas A rose a bit less towards the edge of the pan. B smelled like a normal cake/quick-bread, but A filled the house with a "doughnuty" smell (the most scientific term that can be used here would probably be: super yummy). When cooled and cut, both had a really (equally) nice bouncy, fluffy, slightly crumbly spongy texture. A had a bit more and larger trapped bubbles, see figures 1 and 2.

One of my taste testers (or is it test tasters) is quite sensitive to baking powder, and said B tasted a bit too much like baking powder. Everyone agreed that A tested a bit more complex. Both cakes would probably have been better with some nuts or chocolate or fruit, but I avoided these in order to have less complex experimental conditions, to make the cakes easier to compare.

enter image description here

Fig. 1: Side-by-side comparison of the yeast leavened "cake" (left) and the baking powder leavened cake (right).

enter image description here

Fig. 2: Zoomed in image of the yeast leavened "cake" (left) and the baking powder leavened cake (right).

The experiment was performed using an electric oven as I don't have a bread machine. A comparison between this two would be interesting as well.

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That is a fascinating comparison, and a far more successful result than I would have expected. –  SAJ14SAJ Jul 25 '13 at 13:25
    
I applaud the experiment. After some chatting and looking at the crumb on the right, this is more of a quickbread comparison than a cake comparison, but still very interesting. –  SAJ14SAJ Jul 25 '13 at 14:24
    
@SAJ14SAJ thanks! Now I edited the answer, and wrote explicitly that the quick-bread/muffin method was used in the experiment. –  Martin Turjak Jul 25 '13 at 15:37
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This is the best kind of answer I could have. –  All Jul 25 '13 at 15:57
    
So I think the conclusion here is that yes, you can do something in the quick bread category of cake, but not the light fluffy type of cake, right? –  Jefromi Jul 25 '13 at 17:13

There is no reasonable way to do this. Yeast raised breads and cakes simply are very different types of product, with different requirements and chemistry.

See Why are there no recipes combining both yeast and baking powder? for details.

In summary, sponge cakes are defined by their tender crumb:

  • Are made by the creaming method (or reverse creaming method) to minimize gluten development; their structure is from gelatinzed starch
  • Benefit from low-protein flours (cake flours)

Yeast raised cakes (and some do exist), due to the long time period over which yeast acts to create the leavening by essentially inflating tiny gluten balloons:

  • Have a much chewier crumb, due to the gluten development required to trap the CO2 emitted by the yeast
  • Benefit from higher protein flours

Furthermore, the highly enriched nature of cakes (lots of sugar and fat) is counter-productive to both gluten development and yeast activity.

The two types of product simply are different enough that you cannot realistically convert one into the other.


Note: there are some cakes (usually coffee cakes) which are yeast raised, and you may find bread machine recipes for them; you may also find recipes that still use chemical leaveners rather than yeast but which are mixed and cooked in the bread machine. Try googling bread machine cake recipe.

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you're quite right. The gluten generated is not suitable for sponge cake, but the result is not bad as a simple light cake. Still, I wonder how to keep the raised dough during baking. –  All Jul 18 '13 at 6:07
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I don't know what you mean by "simple light cake," and I don't understand how your revised question is substantially different. You cannot convert chemically leavened cake recipes for yeast leavening in any reasonable manner. You are better off searching for recipes that are based on yeast to start with. –  SAJ14SAJ Jul 18 '13 at 7:53
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+1 for the thorough answer. @All I noticed (also with bread) that in the bread machine the bough gets overworked (by the paddle), or that that something weird happens with the temperature (as sudden temperature drop in many cakes presents the main reason for collapse if the) before the dough is baked through. –  Martin Turjak Jul 18 '13 at 7:57
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With yeast cakes you can also get a more spongy texture if you don't overwork the dough (often, enough gluten gets activated just by the contact with water and gentle stirring). I had great success using yeast batters (as it needs to be way more runny than bread dough to achieve the lightness) for cake, pancakes and waffles (and they were all super light and delicious). I would try backing the cake from your recipe in the oven to eliminate the factor that the bread machine screws it up somehow (then you will see if it is the recipe or the machine). –  Martin Turjak Jul 18 '13 at 7:57
    
@MartinTurjak I totally agree with you, I also faced this problem with bread dough too. Can you elaborate how to keep the dough not-overworked? My breadmachine process the dough for 90min. By overwork you mean the time of rest, or massaging the dough? If you elaborate on this matter, I believe it will be a perfect answer. –  All Jul 18 '13 at 8:25

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