For years, I faithfully followed recipes whenever I baked. Cooking is a completely different story, but I always believed in following the recipe exactly when it came to baking. After all, baking is a science and I’m not great with science or math.
But I started feeling a little suffocated by recipes last year. I’ve been baking completely on my own for almost 20 years and finally had enough of following them to a T. It got boring. Spending time searching for new recipes became a chore. I felt stuck, and it sucked the fun out of baking. It was only interesting when my kids were enthusiastic and I kept busy repeatedly telling them they couldn’t play with the flour.
So, I started getting a little creative. I have a chocolate cake recipe that makes an excellent cake but extremely flat cupcakes, so I started tweaking it to get that nice little dome. Actually, I still need to finish those tweaks. Then I started experimenting with cake mixes and switching up ingredients for similar ones.
But what I really wanted to try was ratio baking. I lacked one important ingredient, though. The kitchen scale. I always faithfully followed the recipe, so never bothered to get one. I think my husband heard me talk about one enough that he surprised me with one for Christmas.
At first, I didn’t do anything with it. My mind was swirling with too many incomplete thoughts and ideas that I wouldn’t have been able to make anything remotely edible. Instead, I did a lot of reading on how to do ratio baking, especially since I’m terrible with numbers, and ratios and fractions scare the living daylights out of me.
So, I started with cakes. They’re one part flour, one part fat, one part sugar, and one part eggs. Easy enough. I just have to make sure everything weighs about the same. Of course, there are different methods of mixing them together, but I prefer the creaming method of creaming the butter and sugar together first. The easy part is measuring everything (just have to remember to measure the eggs first). The hard part is remembering to substitute cocoa powder in for some of the flour, add the vanilla extract, and add the baking powder.
I set up a baking corner, so everything I need is in one place. It’s convenient as I don’t have to wander around the kitchen to find everything, but inconvenient because my mind tells me everything is right there so I don’t have to take out everything I need. This screwed up my first attempt.
Oh, I did great at substituting in some cocoa powder. I even added some vanilla extract. I diligently weighed everything while my daughter stood on a chair and watched me. We creamed together the sugar and butter, added the eggs and extract, and added the flour and cocoa powder. I made sure the cover the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. The oven was ready. I set the timer.
It was only when the cake turned out to be almost as flat as a pancake that I realized 1) I probably could have doubled what I used or used a smaller pan, and 2) I forgot the baking powder/soda. Oh well. At least it was chocolatey and edible.
For attempt #2, I made a home in my spice rack for the baking powder. This time my son was home to help. Previously, I used only 2 eggs. This time, he wanted me to use 3. We weighed everything out. After weighing the flour and cocoa powder, I made sure to add about a teaspoon of baking powder this time.
It was great. Instead of a less than 1/2 inch cake, I had a little over an inch of cake. Success? Not quite. The batter was quite thick and I should have added milk or something to loosen it up, but I decided not to, just to see how what I had would turn out.
Well, it’s a much higher cake and just as chocolatey, but definitely a little dense.
Cake is cake. I’ll still eat it. I don’t drink alcohol or coffee, so I liberally partake in chocolate. I guarantee you chocolate cake lasts less than a week with me around.
And I’ll remember to add milk or something when it’s time for attempt #3. One of these days I’m bound to bake the perfect cake. I just might need more cocoa powder.
Ratio baking: have you tried it? Would you?