Date: Mon Dec 20 12:54:24 1999
Posted By: Carl Custer, Staff, Office Public Health & Science, Scientific Research Oversight Staff , USDA FSIS OPHS
Area of science: Chemistry
I couldn't find any reasonable explanation either, nor could the
experienced cake bakers (two chemists, one food technologist; one
microbiologists) that I asked.
Cakes rise because of:
One person speculated that stirring in the opposite direction of what one
is accustomed to might mix less air in the batter because we usually stir
in the direction that is easiest because of muscle development. If true,
then the cake would not rise as far - but - that would not affect the gas
production from the baking powder.
- Entrapped air in the batter expanding in the oven's heat and
- gas production from the baking powder.
The gas-air stays in the cooking batter because:
Gluten production is critical for the drier dough of bread, but not for
the wetter batter of cakes (or biscuits)
- The cohesion of the flours' starch.
- The strength of the flour's gluten, developed during stirring.
So, except for the arm strength theory, we guess that the belief
of "switching the direction of mixing a cake makes it fail to rise" is
an "urban legend" or "old wives tale". However, this is a great
opportunity to experiment:
If possible, repeat at least twice (Yum ;^d). On the repeats: switch
which batter gets stirred in the opposite direction (new bowl or old) and
where in the oven each pan goes.
- Mix one batch of cake batter.
- Pour half of the batter into another bowl; stir in the same direction.
- Stir the other half of batter in the opposite direction.
- Pour batter into separate pans and bake (make sure you've poured equal
amounts of batter).
- Measure cake heights.
Admin Note: You should also try the recipe with left vs. right-handers to see if
use of the dominant hand affects the level that the cake rises.
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