Flour Power: The Food Science Secret for Perfect Cupcakes

 

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I don’t know about you, but when it comes to celebrating momentous milestones, my family always includes something scrumptious on the side. So when my brother and (new!) sister-in-law prepared to tie the knot last weekend, my sister the Science Chef couldn’t wait to whip up a memorable pre-nuptial nosh for the rehearsal dinner.

What to bake the cute couple for their last dessert before the aisle? Cupcakes, of course! (She’s a pro, remember?)

I always learn something new when helping my sister in the kitchen (like don’t continue to eat the frosting after she’s asked you to stop … seriously, she’ll hit you with the spatula) and this sister sous-chef session was no exception. 

Her latest tip? When in pursuit of the perfect cupcake, remember the …

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… CAKE FLOUR!

If you think like me, your next question will be, isn’t all-purpose flour good for, you know, all purposes? Funny story. It’s not. And there’s a very interesting Food Science reason behind this confusing cupcake conundrum.

Stick with me while I get a bit technical here. The difference between various types of flours boils down to their protein content: Bread Flour (14-16%), All-Purpose Flour (10-12%), Pastry Flour (9%) and Cake Flour (7-8%). Protein content translates to how much gluten is formed in the cooking process. Glutens then create structure and determine texture within food and baked goods. Flours with low protein content generate less glutens; flours with high protein content generate more. (OK. Technical part over.)

To get the light and airy texture of a perfect cupcake (or any cake, really), simply mix in cake flour along with the all-purpose. For her cupcakes, Jane mixed 3 cups cake flour with 1 1/2 cups all-purpose, which brought the protein and gluten level to the ideal melt-in-your-mouth amount. (Don’t worry, I tried the batter just to be sure.)

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No cake flour in your pantry? No problem! For the adventurous Food Scientists out there, you can replicate cake and pastry flour by adding 2 tablespoons of corn starch to one cup of all-purpose. Or, if baking bread is your goal, bump up the protein content of all-purpose flour by adding a few tablespoons of wheat gluten.

Using different flours might seem like an annoying added step, but it should not be overlooked. Trust me, one bite of the heavenly treat will have your taste buds (and taste buddies) swooning with delight.

The frosting? Well, that’s up to you, but I know the bride and groom sure were grateful for their finished product. (See what I did there? Word Nerd out.)

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2 Comments

  1. Maryjane Henry

    So good to know!! Love learning the secrets to a delicious cake!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I take my frosting very seriously! Take a taste but leave the rest for the cake! :p

    Like

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