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Cake Batter Mixing Methods – Reverse Creaming

This is the first in a series of 7 “Cake Batter” classes. Over the course of the series we’ll test how changes to cake batter mixing technique and ingredients can alter a cake’s taste and texture.

Two forks each with a bite of cake at the end against a gray background

This is how you can perfect your own recipes. Start with a base recipe, then tweak the ingredients and/or techniques to get a cake more to your own taste.

We’ll look at the role each ingredient plays in the batter. But first we’ll look at two cake batter mixing methods.

A baker can’t just haphazardly change around the ingredients in a recipe and expect a good outcome. We must make adjustments thoughtfully to keep the recipe in balance.

We’ll work with a very basic pound cake as our test recipe for the “Cake Batter” classes. Pound cake is a great tool for our purposes precisely because it’s a simple recipe with just 4 ingredients.

Pound cake got it’s name based on the original formula of 1 pound each of butter, sugar, eggs and flour. It’s called “quatre-quarts” (four-fourths) by the French.

Cake Batter – Creaming vs Reverse Creaming

When I was in culinary school, our first lesson in the “cakes” section was the basic pound cake. Not only did we have to use the original “quatre quarts” recipe, we were required to cream the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon, by hand.

We had to add the eggs one at a time, while trying to keep the proper texture of the batter. At the time it seemed a little ridiculous. We knew we’d never actually mix a pound cake by hand, especially in a pro kitchen.

But the exercise did reinforce how important technique is, not only for pound cake but for all baking.

Precisely because the original pound cake recipe is so simple it’s the perfect vehicle to test how mixing technique can affect cake texture.

It matters how the ingredients of a pound cake are put together. There is no hiding behind swirls of sweet frosting to mask a rubbery or dense cake. S

o lets learn about two cake batter mixing methods.

Traditional Creaming vs. Reverse Creaming (or two stage creaming)

The traditional creaming method starts by beating together the butter and sugar. The sharp edges of the sugar crystals cut through the butter to create lots of little air bubbles. The eggs are added one at a time and the flour is added last.

As soon as the flour is added gluten, the protein in the flour that gives baked goods their structure, will start to form. As the cake bakes the air bubbles trapped in the butter will expand in the heat of the oven producing, in theory, a light and airy cake.

Reverse creaming, aka two-stage creaming, is an alternate technique used by many bakers (including me). Reverse creaming starts by beating together the flour, sugar and butter.

Gluten won’t start to form until the flour comes in contact with water (in the egg whites). Coating the flour molecules with butterfat before the eggs are added creates a barrier which slows the formation of gluten. Reverse creaming should, in theory, make a cake with a more tender and velvety texture.

Cake Batter testing creaming methods

One way to compare mixing techniques is to run side-by-side tests. For each test I mixed one batch using the traditional creaming method and one batch using the reverse creaming method.

Each batch of cake contained exactly 8 ounces each of cake flour, granulated sugar, unsalted butter and eggs. The butter and eggs were at ideal room temperature, between 65-70°F.

All cakes were baked in identical 9”x 5” loaf pans at 325°F in a convection oven.

Step by step photos showing how to monitor to the temperature of ingredients for cake batter.

All ingredients should be at ideal room temperature, about 65°-70°F.

Two unbaked pound cakes in the pans, side by side. One is marked traditional and the other is marked reverse

The cake batters look similar going into the oven.

Two pound cakes on a cooling rack with cake pans in the background.

The crusts on the cakes had slightly different texture.

Cake test results

At first glance, the cakes made with the different mixing methods looked very similar, but once I cut and tasted the cakes the differences became apparent.

The cake made with the traditional creaming method had a very tight crumb and contained a few pockets of air. The cake was a little chewy with a slightly bouncy texture. I pinched a piece of the cake between my fingers and it held together a moment before breaking up.

The cake made with the reverse method also had a tight crumb, but it was very consistent with no air pockets. The texture was softer and more tender. When I pinched a piece of that cake between my fingers it broke apart more easily.

Two pound cakes side by side on a cooling rack with a gray background

The two cakes made with different mixing methods look similar, but they didn’t taste the same.

While there wasn’t a tremendous difference between the cakes, the cake made with the reverse creaming method was softer and more tender. Which is why reverse creaming is my preferred mixing method.

Cake batter made with reverse creaming and traditional cream mixing metods

Old Fashioned Pound Cake - Quatre Quarts

Yield: 12 portions
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

The original Pound Cake Recipe made with equal parts flour, eggs, butter and sugar. It's not my favorite pound cake recipe, but it is the original.

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups (8 oz, 225 g) cake flour
  • 1 cup (8 oz, 225 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks (8 oz, 225 g) unsalted butter, room temperature (65°-70°F)
  • 5 large (8 oz, 225 g) eggs room temperature

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9"x5" loaf pan
  2. Combine the flour and sugar in a mixer bowl. Mix one minute to combine.. With the mixer running on low, add the butter. Increase the speed to medium high and mix for 2-3 minutes to aerate the batter.
  3. Scrape the bowl and beater. With the mixer running on low, add the eggs in 2 batches, scraping after each addition. Pour the batter in the prepared pan.
  4. Bake about 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Notes

You can make the same recipe using the traditional creaming method.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram


If you love learning about the how’s and why’s of baking you’ll love my new book: Easy Baking From Scratch: Quick Tutorials, Time-Saving Tips, Extraordinary Sweet and Savory Classics. The book contains over 100 recipes that have been well-tested and are presented in simple, clear language. It’s available now on Amazon.


Next up: Cake Batter Class #2 will explore how adding salt, flavorings and leavening can improve on the basic pound cake recipe.

When we’re done experimenting with all the ingredients for this “cake batter” course, we’ll use all we’ve learned to create Pound Cake Perfection. In This comprehensive post about creating a great cake recipe you’ll find the perfected pound cake recipe, and lots of great information to help you adapt and create your own cake recipes.

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Marie-Laure Limousin

Thursday 14th of January 2021

Would this method also work for a chocolate cake where there is traditionally less creaming but only egg/dairy then flour/dry?

Eileen Gray

Thursday 14th of January 2021

I'm not sure I understand your question. The reverse creaming technique can be used for any recipe that normally begins with creaming the butter and sugar and then adding the flour (and dairy if there is any). The basic premise of this technique is that the flour is coated with fat to mitigate gluten formation before the liquid is added.

Emeka

Wednesday 2nd of September 2020

I've learnt one or two and hoping to learn more. More blessing. Pls grant access to getting hold of your ebook

Eileen Gray

Wednesday 2nd of September 2020

Which book are you looking for? My self published pound cake book and my book Easy Baking From Scratch are both available on Amazon.

Jenni

Sunday 9th of August 2020

I did a similar test when I was working with a high school student as her mentor. The thing that really surprised me was that not only were the batters of difrerent texture, they also had a slightly different color and tasted completely different (more than what could be accounted for from difference in texture).

We tested with a "standard" yellow cake, using The Creaming Method for one and Two Stage for the other. Did you taste the batters and notice the same thing with a simpler, 4-ingredient cake? I'm still intrigued by the huge difference. I expected the two-stage cake to have a more velvety crumb, but I didn't expect the two cakes to taste so different. Fascinating!

Eileen Gray

Saturday 15th of August 2020

Yes, I love doing side by side tests. The results are often surprising. If found in the original tests that the regular creamed cake had a more "greasy" taste than the reverse creamed cake.

Sashi

Thursday 2nd of July 2020

Hi totally in love with all your posts. I have one small question. Why is that the cake made with creaming method has air pockets and not in the reverse method ? Thank you

Eileen Gray

Thursday 2nd of July 2020

Are you referring to how the cakes look in the photos? Regular creaming method does incorporate more air into the batter, but I find the reverse creaming creates a more consistent and smaller crumb, which I prefer for a pound cake.

Giovana

Friday 12th of June 2020

Hi Eileen! I have been searching for the perfect cake recipe and decided to do some research and studies about it. It was when I found your blog. I never heard of reverse creaming before and I am very curious about it, and will give it a try one day. But I was thinking, does the reverse creaming will work in any cake recipe? When is the case to use reverse creaming to improve the outcome of a cake? There's still so much to tell and also, but I will leave to it for now. Thank you!

Eileen Gray

Friday 12th of June 2020

I can't say 100% since I haven't tried every recipe. But, in my opinion, the reverse creaming method could work for any recipe that is written for the "creaming" method.