Friday, July 6, 2012

Marble Butter Cake

I do not bake butter cakes as often as I bake sponge cakes.  The previous butter cake that I baked was a 2-tier wedding cake for my cake decorating class.  Personally, I prefer sponge cake for the softer and lighter texture, and also the lower fats content.  No kidding, one 8" butter cake will need a whole block of butter (250g!).  That is the amount needed for making two 8" tart shells or three 8" sponge cakes. 

Marble Butter Cake, baked in chiffon mould

If you read any butter cake recipes, most will begin with creaming the butter and sugar till light and fluffy.  Thereafter, you either add in whole eggs (and continue to beat for a few more minutes) or use the egg separation method, i.e. the egg whites are whisk till stiff before combining with the beaten butter/egg yolk mixture.  I have also try beating egg yolks separately from butter/sugar before combining the two, as in my earlier walnut butter cake.    Egg separation method yields softer and lighter butter cakes due to the added air in the whisked egg whites.  Nevertheless, all these methods involves creaming the butter and sugar together.  I have also seen rubbing-in method used for making butter cake at a demo session.  Butter is rubbed into flour till it resembles fine breadcrumbs, before adding in buttermilk and eggs.  Surprising, it also yields light texture, perhaps with the addition of buttermilk (though not as soft compared to the creaming method).

Soft and light butter cake

The first lesson I learnt for making butter cake is how to cream the butter and sugar together.  Very often, we read that we need to cream the butter and sugar till "light and fluffy", "pale white" or "creamy".  Sounds familiar?  But just what is light and fluffy?  How pale is pale?  Can we fixed a time required for creaming the butter, say 5 or 10 minutes?  Should we cream the butter when it's cold and hard (straight from the fridge) or let it rest at room temperature to soften?

I'm glad to have learnt from Mr Richard Goh.  He is a very experienced baking instructor and most importantly, he is willing to share his experience and tips with his students.  It was from his baking classes that I learnt the basics and understand why at times my cakes fail.  I will share a few points here on baking butter cakes, which will be useful for new bakers.  But, don't ask me why your cakes turn out this way or that, cos I may not have an answer or expertise to know why.  Instead, I will recommend you to sign up for his classes, which are available at various community centres - check online.

When baking butter cakes:
1) Use cold butter from the fridge, no need to rest at room temperature.  Cut into smaller chunks before creaming.  It makes sense to cream butter when it's cold, especially in our hot tropical weather.  This is to prevent the butter from melting (since it takes some time to cream the butter till fluffy) and cause your cake to be oily.  If you want to soften the butter a little before creaming, I guess there's no harm doing so, as long as you keep an eye on it while creaming the butter.

2) There is no fixed time for creaming butter/sugar.  A handheld mixer with smaller power capacity will take a longer time compared to a stronger mixer.  I use a Kenwood Chef and it takes about 10 minutes to cream 250g butter, before addition of eggs.

3) Light and fluffy, pale white -  this is really a matter of good judgement.  I am still learning how to judge this.  But a general guide will be, if you spread the butter mixture with a palette knife, it should look creamy and smooth.  If your butter cake is hard after baking, most likely you need to cream the butter mixture for a longer time.  If your butter cake looks oily, make sure you use cold butter and do not over-cream the mixture.

4) Fine sugar or caster sugar?  In the past, I had the impression that caster sugar must be used for baking cakes (that's what written in most cake recipes!).  If you master the proper technique of creaming butter (or for sponge cake - whisking the eggs and sugar together), fine sugar works well too and it's much cheaper. I don't know, I did not do an experiment to compare cakes baked with fine sugar vs. caster sugar, but I'm happy with using fine sugar.

5) Another interesting point - cake flour, plain flour, top flour or self-raising flour?  Now, I used mainly plain flour for my butter, sponge and chiffon cakes.  Plain flour works! It's much neater than keeping packets of unused flour in your pantry, plus it's cheaper too.  Sometimes, I will mix a little top flour with plain flour for making chiffon cakes or Swiss rolls, but with no significant differences noted (I understand that top flour is actually the same as plain flour, except it's finer).

6) If using egg separation method, make sure you have folded and combined well the egg whites with the cake batter.  For this step, maybe I should have given my cake batter just a few more folds - see some "holes" in the cake?

And now, the recipe:
(adapted from Richard Goh's Golden Butter Cake)

This butter cake has a very light, soft and moist texture.  It bakes well too, no cracks, no humps etc.

227g unsalted butter (can use salted butter, but I only have unsalted one)
100g fine sugar
1/4 tsp salt
5 egg yolks
50g evaporated milk
1 tsp rum extract
1 tsp vanilla extract

(B) Sift together:
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

(C) Whisk till stiff:
5 egg whites
60g fine sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

(D): 1 tsp chocolate paste (for the marbling effect)

1) Cream butter, sugar and salt at medium speed till fluffy (see pointers above).
2) Add in egg yolks, one at a time.  Add in the evaporated milk, rum and vanilla extract.
3) Add in sifted flour and mix well to combine.
4) Whisk ingredients (C) till stiff and fold to combine with the cake batter.
5) Pour cake batter into greased and lined baking pan (8 or 9" pan), leaving a small portion of cake batter to mix with the chocolate paste.  Pour the chocolate batter into the cake pan and swirl the batter with a palette knife or chopstick to create the marbling effect.
6) Bake in preheated oven at 160C for about 45 to 50 minutes.

Happy Weekend to all!


  1. Hello! Your cake looks super good! But i totally agree with you that 250g of butter in one cake is too much! hahah which is why i like sponge cakes so much more. Anyws, its really weird but i learnt from watching an anime called "Yumeiro Patisserie" that butter cakes should be made with granulated sugar instead of caster sugar like we always see in baking books. I forgot why, but when i find out, i will tell you:D

  2. Again, you have another great post and great baking tips!
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Again, you have another great post! Thanks for sharing your baking tips!

  4. Interestingly I just saw a butter cake demo at Courts@ jurong point - it uses creaming method but the cake turned out to been.really soft and fluffy... Nite unlike those made with separation method like what u shared here.

    Thank you for your tips.

  5. Interestingly I just saw a butter cake demo at Courts@ jurong point - it uses creaming method but the cake turned out to been.really soft and fluffy... Nite unlike those made with separation method like what u shared here.

    Thank you for your tips.

  6. Hi Cookie, yes, I agree. good old creaming method will give nice soft butter cakes too. And I'm sure those aunties or uncles doing the demo would have done so many rounds of cakes to have perfect their recipes.

  7. Eileen@Hundred Eighty DegreesJuly 14, 2012 at 10:08 PM

    This cake was well baked, even better than those featured in some cookbooks. It looked so light, soft and moist.

  8. ^Wow, your marble butter cake looks so delicious! =D
    Really wished I can help myself to a slice! ^


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