Scratch cakes

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Assistant Cook
Oct 10, 2010
San Diego, Ca
I have been attempting to making my cakes from scratch, however, I have run into some problems. Very dense and not real moist. I have always used box cakes and really like the airy, moist softness they produce. I am unable to duplicate this.

1. I have not been able to find cake flour, so I have used the formula of 1 c flour, remove 2 tbsp of flour and replace with 2 tbsp of cornstarch. Sift 5 - 6 times.

2. Have replaced shortening with oil. Also used mayo. Have not used sour cream yet.

3. Increased my baking powder from 2 1/2 tsp to 3 tsp to help it rise better.
4. Used 1/2 c of dry non fat milk with 1 1/4 c water vs 1 1/4 c milk. Did not like the milk version when previously made as the cake seemed too chewy.

I have followed the instructions to really sift. Too alternate my liquid vs. dry when blending. I have creamed my eggs and sugar for 4 - 5 mins for fluffiness.

I have made three scratch cakes, so far and each one is better than the last. However, still not airy. Moistness is almost there.

Please help. Thank you

Andy M.

Certified Pretend Chef
Sep 1, 2004
A cake can go from moist to dry in a minute or two of overcooking. Try taking a cake out a minute earlier to see the effect.


Ogress Supreme
Moderator Emeritus
Jul 14, 2009
Are you using all purpose flour?

For your substitution, sift the flour first and then take out the 2 tbs and replace with the 2 tbs of cornstarch. Then re-sift.


Executive Chef
Nov 5, 2009
North Carolina
There is a method involving mixing the dry ingredients with softened butter first and then adding the rest of the wet, instead of the traditional creaming butter, sugar, eggs and adding the dry, I use this method with great success, you get a texture similar to a cake mix with the nice flavor of a scratch cake. Here is a great recipe.

Throwing Spoons: Let them eat cake

get some cake flour, it looks like you live in a place where it will be easy to find. You likely will not find it in a bag like regular flour, but in a box, the size of a small cereal box. Popular brands are Softasilk and Swansdown.


One of my favorite chocolate cakes is this one from hersheys, it has a different method with a very thin batter, but produces an excellent very moist chocolate cake.

Remember cakes made with butter will be firm when chilled and are best eaten at room temperature for great soft texture. Cakes made with oil will be softer when chilled and will stay more moist longer. Butter is the winner in flavor, but oil is the winner for moistness. There are times where I will use half oil and half butter, I suggest trying recipes as written first and then experimenting so you can compare how it should be with your modifications. Remember baking is chemistry and messing with the formula (even just a little)can cause drastically different results!:chef:
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Master Chef
Jul 16, 2006
Metro New York

Have you tried just following a recipe verbatim before you start substituting? That may be your problem. If you do that, you will have a better idea of how the recipe was intended to be.

Another biggie is making sure your oven is calibrated properly so it is really the temperature it says it is. An inexpensive oven thermometer that hands from the middle shelf can help fix this, or just ensure that what you thought you knew is so.

Andy's right... over baking will ensure a dry (or drier) cake, so watch the timing carefully. Are you using a timer? And how do you test your cakes for doneness?

Here is a recipe for the lightest, airiest white cake I've ever eaten or baked. Just in case you're looking for a "goodie!" :D

Coconut-Lemon Layer Cake

makes one 9-inch 2-layer cake

for the cake:
1/4 pound (4 ounces / 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup pure cane granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 1/4 cups cake flour, sifted twice
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 extra large egg whites, beaten with 1/4 cup sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Cream butter and one cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Add lemon extract.
2. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add to the butter/sugar mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Add vanilla.
3. Whip the egg whites until foamy, then add the additional 1/4 cup sugar and whip until fluffy, but not dry. Stir one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then gently but thoroughly fold in the remaining whites.
4. Pour into the prepared pans and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Allow cake layers to cool in their pans for 10 minutes, then remove them and allow cooling to complete on cake racks.

for the lemon filling:
1 cup pure cane granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, strained through a fine strainer
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
5 beaten large egg yolks

1. Put the sugar, sea salt, water and lemon juice into a 2-quart non-reactive saucepan and set over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Have the beaten egg yolks in a bowl nearby. Pour some of the hot mixture into the bowl, stirring the yolks all the while as you pour to prevent them from scrambling. Pour the yolk mixture back into the saucepan and return it to the stove.
2. Cook carefully, stirring constantly, until the contents become translucent and will definitely coat a spoon. Then mix in the butter. Let this mixture cool completely. (Overnight is best.)

Coconut Buttercream:

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
3 (or more) cups grated, unsweetened coconut (un-treated)

1. Using electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in yolks, then vanilla and coconut. Cover tightly and refrigerate until set.

Teacher’s Tip: This mixture can be prepared 2 days ahead.

To Assemble the Cake:

1. Put the bottom cake layer on a serving plate. Stir the filling well so that it is easy to spread. Spread a generous amount of lemon curd on the cake. [You may not need all of it.] Then place the second layer on top of the filling.
2. Spoon a generous amount of frosting on the center of the cake and frost the top and the sides. Make sure the cake is well covered. Sprinkle the grated coconut thickly over the top and sides of the cake.

Teacher’s Tips: 1. For this cake I only use untreated shredded coconut that I purchase in a health-food store. I would also recommend preparing a fresh coconut, but THAT is a whole lot more work, and very seasonal. I never use the shredded coconut found in the supermarket baking section. It has too many preservatives for me.
2. If you are squeamish about using raw eggs in the frosting, you could use pasteurized eggs, available in the freezer case of your super market


Master Chef
Moderator Emeritus
Mar 11, 2008
You need to look for chiffon cake recipes. The light airy box cake recipes are based on chiffon cake recipes that use oil instead of shorting.
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