• Jeremy Scheck

ASB Basics: Creaming, Reverse-Creaming, and All in One...What Does It All Mean?

Updated: Jun 22


For my IB chemistry class, I conducted an in-depth investigation to figure out which method of cake preparation yields the lightest (least dense) butter cake. The following is a copy of my experiment, complete with statistical analysis and some conclusions.

A quick summary for those not interested in reading 12 pages of chemistry:

The reverse creaming method (the method employed in my Favorite Vanilla Cake recipe) yields the most reliably light cake. The creaming method came close in density, but was more variable. Just mixing your ingredients together all at once created the cake most dense and unpredictable cake.

Which method of butter cake preparation, Creaming, Reverse Creaming, or All in One, will yield a baked cake with the lowest density?

Background

Gluten is the protein central to cake baking. It is formed in dough when the glutenin and gliadin proteins in flour become hydrated and form bonds with each other. Gluten is a very elastic protein that yeast can inflate and create the structure characteristic of bread (Crosby). In bread making, gluten development is encouraged to form a strong, chewy structure; however cake is designed to be light and tender with a close crumb, differing from chewy breads. Thus, the method for preparing butter cake recipes is often engineered to minimize gluten formation and stretching.

There are three main methods of preparing a butter cake: Creaming, Reverse Creaming, and All in One. The Creaming and Reverse Creaming methods are two approaches that attempt to minimize gluten formation in different ways. They are fairly complicated; however, in my experience, proper execution does achieve light cakes. The All in One Method is much easier than the other two, but in my experience the results may vary more.

The Creaming Method is the tried-and-true gold standard for cake recipes, and it can be broken down into three steps: beating room-temperature butter with sugar, adding eggs one at a time, then alternating adding the remaining dry ingredients with the wet. The first step, the actual “creaming”, is designed to beat as much air as possible into the butter and sugar mixture to create a light texture. The second step, beating in the eggs, is used to build structure from the proteins in the eggs, and is done so one at a time to better emulsify the mixture. The final step, mixing in the dry ingredients alternating with the wet, is designed to minimize the time spent beating the flour, and in turn minimize gluten development.

The Reverse Creaming Method starts by beating the dry ingredients with room temperature butter, so that the fat in the butter coats the glutenin and gliadin in the flour and physically blocks them from bonding. After this initial step, the eggs and other wet ingredients are added. Because the glutenin and gliadin have been coated in fat, the completed batter can be safely whipped more at the end, beating in air, and theoretically lightening the texture.

The All in One Method simply involves placing all the room-temperature ingredients in a bowl and beating. It makes no specific effort to mitigate gluten formation and development.

These three methods of cake preparations will be tested to see which method produces the lightest textured cake, the sample with the lowest density. To measure the density, 10 rectangular prisms of cake will be cut out of each cake layer, and measured on a balance in grams. The dimensions of the pieces will be measured in centimeters using a ruler, and then the measurement for density will be derived using the formula mass/volume.

Research Question

Which method of butter cake preparation, Creaming, Reverse Creaming, or All in One, will yield a baked cake with the lowest density?

Variables

  • Independent: method of butter cake preparation (Creaming, Reverse Creaming, or All in One)

  • Dependent: density of final cake (g/cm^3)

  • Control: room temperature (25° C), oven temperature (176.7° C), cook time (25 mins)

Hypothesis

The Reverse Creaming Method will produce the butter cake with the lowest density, because fat coating the glutenin and the gliadin will be most successful in mitigating gluten development. The All in One Method will produce the most dense cake because the gluten has the most time to develop. The Creaming Method will have a density somewhere between the other two, because the gluten does form, but has less time to develop.

Safety, Ethical, and Environmental Considerations

This experiment required the use of animal products, thus the strictest level of consideration of the impact was implemented. The butter came from Kerrygold, an Irish dairy company that only works with grass-fed, free-range cows. The milk and eggs were delivered from a local farm, South Mountain Creamery, which also upholds a strict free-range policy for their animals, the most humane conditions possible. The experiment also involves high temperatures, thus oven mitts are necessary for safe handling.

Materials - Equipment

  • Baking oven

  • Oven mitts

  • Hand mixer for baking

  • Wire whisk

  • Rubber spatula, to scrape down bowl

  • Large mixing bowl

  • Small Mixing bowl

  • Small offset metal spatula for leveling batter

  • 1 9 x 9 inch (22.9 x 22.9 cm) square cake pan

  • Silicone-coated parchment paper, to line the bottom of the pan

  • Non-stick baking spray

Materials - Cake Batter

(The following is needed for each individual layer, so three times the amount listed is necessary for the whole experiment)

  • 3 egg yolks from USDA Large eggs

  • 121 ml pasteurized whole milk

  • 4g pure vanilla extract

  • 150g sifted Swans’ Down ® cake flour

  • 150g Domino ® sugar

  • 10g aluminum-free baking powder

  • 2.5g sea salt

  • 85g unsalted Kerrygold ® butter

All ingredients are needed at room temperature.


Procedure for Creaming Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (176.7° C)

  2. Prepare 9 x 9 in (22.9 cm x 22.9 cm) baking pan by spraying with baking spray and lining the bottom with silicone-coated baking paper.

  3. In the small bowl, place the flour, salt, and baking powder. Whisk together the ingredients to combine and aerate.

  4. In the large bowl, place the butter and sugar. Use the hand mixers to cream for 5 minutes on high speed. Pause halfway through to scrape down the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula.

  5. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating with the hand mixer 30 seconds after each addition.

  6. Add 75g flour, mix only until no streaks remain.

  7. Add the milk and vanilla extract, beat briefly to combine.

  8. Add the other 75g flour, mix only until no streaks remain.

  9. Spread the batter into the prepared cake pan, making an even layer with the offset spatula.

  10. Bake at 350° F for 25 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly touched.

  11. Remove the baked layer from the oven, let cool in the tin until it reaches room temperature.

  12. Cut 10 rectangular pieces, measure all dimensions in cm, and weigh each piece in grams.

Procedure for Reverse Creaming Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (176.7° C)

  2. Prepare 9 x 9 in (22.9 cm x 22.9 cm) baking pan by spraying with baking spray and lining the bottom with silicone-coated baking paper.

  3. In the large bowl, place the flour, baking powder, salt, and butter.

  4. Beat 3 minutes, or until no visible chunks of butter remain and the mixture has the texture of moist sand.

  5. Add the egg yolks, beat 2 minutes to build structure and aerate.

  6. Slowly add the milk and vanilla extract.

  7. Spread the batter into the prepared cake pan, making an even layer with the offset spatula.

  8. Bake at 350° F for 25 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly touched.

  9. Remove the baked layer from the oven, let cool in the tin until it reaches room temperature.

  10. Cut 10 rectangular pieces, measure all dimensions in cm, and weigh each piece in grams.

Procedure for the All in One Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (176.7° C)

  2. Prepare 9 x 9 in (22.9 cm x 22.9 cm) baking pan by spraying with baking spray and lining the bottom with silicone-coated baking paper.

  3. Place all ingredients in the large bowl, and beat 1 minutes until completely combined.

  4. Bake at 350° F for 25 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly touched.

  5. Remove the baked layer from the oven, let cool in the tin until it reaches room temperature.

  6. Cut 10 rectangular pieces, measure all dimensions in cm, and weigh each piece in grams.

Raw Data

Processed Data




A bar graph was chosen to best compare the average densities of the experimental groups. With this graph, the relative differences are clearly visible between experimental groups. The error bars show the standard deviation of the data sets, as listed in Table 4. In addition, a scatterplot was used to show the trend of the densities for every trial.

Data Analysis

The data support the hypothesis that the Reverse Creaming Method would produce the cake pieces with the lowest density. The Reverse Creaming method stood at 0.4004 g/cm3, compared to the Creaming Method at 0.4176 g/cm3 in the middle, and the All in One Method at 0.4865 g/cm3, with the greatest density. While a difference in density of only 0.0861 g/cm3 between most and least dense groups may seem negligible, it should be noted that the cake baked using the Reverse Creaming Method exhibited a clearly observable lighter texture and color than the other two groups. In addition, the Reverse Creaming Method was the method with the lowest standard deviation in its density, the density varied less between pieces of the same cake. The All in One Method had the greatest standard deviation, confirming my experience that the method produced more variable results. Hence, the Reverse Creaming Method is the method that produces the lightest and most reliably so butter cake. Despite this, all of the measurements carry a high degree of uncertainty that is compounded when the volume and density are derived.

Evaluation

Many factors contributed to the strength of this investigation. First, rather than using a normal kitchen balance to find the mass of the cake pieces, the cake pieces were measured using a laboratory balance with an error of +/– .0001g. In addition, the experiment used the average of 10 data points for each method, which is fairly representative. While the experiment was for the most part successful, improvements still could have been made to improve the quality of investigation and reliability of results. Most notably, if more trials with more batches of cakes conducted, even more representative data would be produced, with a greater degree of reliability. In addition, stricter measures could have been taken to ensure that each method used exactly the same amount of each ingredient. For example, while most of the ingredients were measured carefully on a kitchen balance, the egg yolks likely varied in weight across experimental groups. Because the Creaming and Reverse Creaming Methods only differed by 0.0172 g/cm3, more trials should be conducted between the two in order to discover the cause of the significant differences in appearance. A future experiment also could examine variables within a single method. For example, researchers could look at the optimal amount of creaming time in the Creaming Method to see if creaming for longer would reduce the density even more. The experiment could also be repeated with a gluten-free flour variety to find the exact extent to which gluten affects butter cake density.

Works Cited

Crosby, Guy. “Explaining Gluten.” The Cooking Science Guy, July 2012, www.cookingscienceguy.com/pages/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Explaining-Gluten.pdf.


Recent Posts

See All

Scheck, Please! Media