The New Bakers Dozen
Adding boiling water to choc cake batters...?

The The Bakers Dozen: Adding boiling water to choc cake batters...?
By d. on Thursday, January 20, 2000 - 04:33 pm: Edit

I've been tweaking around with choc. cake recipes like the Hershey one(cocoa, flour,sugar, b.s., oil,eggs and water) were you add hot water to the cake batter at the end of the mixing stage. I'm never satisfied with the end product because though it's moist and dark, the cakes always come out with irregular air pockets and tunneling. Does this happen to anyone else? I'm not overmixing and the oven temp. is correct. I'm looking for a dark, moist and soft choc. cake recipe, and do not want to use a cake mix. What exactly is the role of the hot water? I'm imagining that since baking soda is the only chemical leavener in the recipe, it sort of gives the cake batter a head start before it goes into the oven. I tried making the cake with room temp. water and it came out horrible. Any ideas?

By pa,m on Thursday, January 20, 2000 - 09:58 pm: Edit

this is the chocolate cake i always favorite is w the white chocolate cream cheese frosting in the cake bible.this is from "pretty cakes"this makes 2 8" rounds.i also scaled it to 2 10"& 12 x 18 bake at 350.i always use parchment,spray&flour
1 tbl vinegar(i use cider vinegar
3/4 c milk,room temp
2 tsp vanilla
3 oz unsweetened chocolate,chopped
3/4 c boiling water
3/4 c butter
2 c sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 c cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
add vinegar to milk to sour it.add a small bowl,pour the boiling water over the chocolate.stir until melted & allow to cool.cream butter until pale&smooth,add sugar gradually on medium until light&fluffy.add eggs one at at time.scrape after each addition.add chocolate & mix just until blended.sift dry ingredients.add to butter mixture 1/3 at a time on low alternating w milk.begin & end w dry.scrape frequently & mix only until blended after each addition. pour into prepared pans. bake 20-25 min

By W.DeBord on Friday, January 21, 2000 - 12:27 am: Edit

d. I have attempted 2 different recipes pouring hot h20 on the batter where the recipe claimed it would create a "sauce" on the bottom. Neither worked correctly.

I also have made regular cakes using hot h2o mixed into the batter but it's intent was not to melt another ingredient(like above). It did smooth out the batter. Wish I could tell you the reason for it's use, but I don't understand it. You can find several examples using this technique by the author of Death By Chocolate (can't think of his name at the moment). Every item I've every made from him has worked well (no large air pockets etc...)although I like the taste of my cakes better. I believe he has a choc. cake with this technique do you want to see the recipe to compare?

By d. on Friday, January 21, 2000 - 04:55 pm: Edit

I actually have that book and will take a look at it. Thanks for the offer. What I'm looking for is a deep/dark chocolate cake more on the soft and spongy side than a standard choc. butter cake, which is more dense and heavy. It's very different than a genoise and it's sometimes called "blackout cake" because the sponge is so dark. The closest comparison I can think of is the Hershey cake recipe. It looks like it has a wet crumb as opposed to the crumb of a genoise and butter cake(because of the oil). I'm looking at a couple of recipes and will test out sometime next week.

By W.DeBord on Friday, January 21, 2000 - 07:33 pm: Edit

d. I don't know if you own "Desserts to die for" also by Marcel Desaulniers? On page 44 he notes "Move quickly-once the hot water is added to the batter, the leavening action of the soda will be activated. If you take too long getting the pan into the oven, the baking soda will loose its punch". In "death by Choc" look at pages 99, 113 and 128 they all use this method.

It depends upon your tastes and ideal texure but I prefer all of his cakes slightly undone.

By W.DeBord on Friday, January 21, 2000 - 07:37 pm: Edit

P.S. his cakes are exactly what you say your looking for.

By Mikeh (Mikeh) on Saturday, January 22, 2000 - 03:06 am: Edit

Here is the explanation I have heard for the addition of boiling water to recipes containing cocoa powder. I tried verifying this information in McGee's On Food and Cooking, but he doesn't mention it.

Cocoa powder consists of a small amount of cocoa butter and the boiling water helps separate the cocoa butter out of the cocoa mass and emulsify it into the batter.

It sounds a little hokey to me, but I can't think of a white sponge recipe that ever required this method. This sounds like a good question to write to Cook's Illustrated, or a similar magazine.

Cheers, Mike

By W.DeBord on Saturday, January 22, 2000 - 04:41 pm: Edit

There are non-chocolate cakes that use this method, I believe I've made one. You might find one in a Marcel Desaulniers' book.

I follow your idea Mike, it may work like that in some recipes. But I tend to agree with d. that it's working on the baking soda.

This may be a stretch but the hot water method seems similar or parallel to another recipe I make. Red velvet cake or Waldorf Astoria Cake (same thing different names) at the end of the recipe you add the baking soda which is dissolved in vinegar. When you add the vinegar to the soda it bubbles up, isn't that changing the effectiveness of the soda? Slowing down its' lift?
This cake when finished has the texture of the cakes with the boiling h2o added so could it be doing the same thing?

By d. on Saturday, January 22, 2000 - 10:53 pm: Edit

Problem I've been encountering with the cake is that you have to scale the batter less then halfway in the pan and that produces a very low cake. Fill the pans halfway and when it bakes the texture of the cake gets funky. The center's crumb is doughy and has lots of tunnels yet the outer perimeters are fine. I can see that the addition of boiling water would also "wake up the cocoa"(in the Cake Bible she uses this method in most of her butter and genoise cakes), but the amount is so much that the batter is so thin and it takes a longer time to bake.
Also, is a devil's foodcake layer dark and chocolaty or sort of reddish brown?

By W.DeBord on Thursday, February 24, 2000 - 08:30 am: Edit

d. what happened with your experiments?? Did you see that Cooks Magazine looks into the best Choc. cakes and they say it's using the boiling h2o techinque. I passed that quickly at the book store, thought you would be interested.

By d. on Tuesday, February 29, 2000 - 04:06 pm: Edit

I bought the magazine but have not gotten around to testing it yet. Will keep you posted.

By d. on Friday, March 17, 2000 - 06:41 pm: Edit

I made the magazine recipe and it totally sucked! It came out like a pudding and sunk. Luckily I had a friend give me a choc. cake recipe that works. The hot water method for those chocolate cakes would not work in a pro bakeshop since the outcome is always so iffy. Will keep you posted on further experiments.

By W.DeBord on Saturday, March 18, 2000 - 08:54 am: Edit

Why is it iffy in a pro setting? Try Desaulniers' recipes they work fine at work. Or look at Nestles and Hersheys cookbooks, I think some of the vintage Pillsburys have alot of h2o type cake recipes too.

I've tried a few recipes from that magazine and none of them were great. I don't buy it much any more.

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