Chocolate cake for SCIENCE!
June 26, 2014 5:39 AM   Subscribe

How will changing variables in this microwave chocolate cake recipe change the outcome?

The recipe makes a very dense, moist cake, almost like a brownie. If I change things like add more flour, less oil, more milk, etc, how will that affect the outcome? What about cooking the mixture in a wide, shallow bowl as opposed to a taller, slimmer mug? What things are worth altering to make an appreciable difference to the outcome?

I have a variety of sizes/shapes of bowls available, and the microwave is 700w. I'd like to stick to the recipe as much as possible, because I don't have a huge amount of extra ingredients. Omitting something or adding extra in is OK, but I'm probably not going to have an obscure ingredient. That said, I do have things like live yoghurt & baking powder. Glycerine, not so much.

Unfortunately, there is only so much testing that I can do myself. I will report back with all findings.
posted by Solomon to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
What's your objective in changing ingredients? What do you want the cake to become?
posted by elsietheeel at 5:41 AM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It's more of a science experiment (and an excuse to eat a lot of cake) than trying to achieve a specific outcome. Something lighter and more airy, like a Victoria sponge, would be cool.
posted by Solomon at 5:44 AM on June 26, 2014

Best answer: I tend to follow recipes when I'm baking so I can't guarantee this will come out well, but I was just reading about eggs and I would try subbing two egg whites for the one egg. Possibly beating them to soft peaks, then folding into the batter.
posted by brilliantine at 6:01 AM on June 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

If its an experiment, surely you want to try all your possible variables an report/eat your findings ;) Its a lot less fun if we tell you the answers. You can buy more ingredients - you don't have to do it all in 1 day surely?
posted by missmagenta at 6:04 AM on June 26, 2014

Best answer: Oooh, dude, you need two books: Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking" and Mark Ruhlman's "Ratio" - an evening spent skimming the baking-related sections will give you a massive information-injection on everything you need to know. If you don't wanna dork out over food science books that much, I can give you an amateur baker's rundown:

Adding More = Increased:
- Flour = firmness, dryness, cohesion, and (if recipe has enough water content) chew.
- Oil/Fat = density, tenderness, mouthfeel, (if excessive) greasiness.
- Milk = crumb, structure, external crisping.
- Sugar = chewiness, browning, some effect of moistness.
- Eggs = fluffiness/airiness, cohesion, (if entire egg used) tenderness.
- Cornstarch (or other non-proteinaceous starch) = tenderness, fragility.
- Baking Soda/Powder = rise, fluffiness, some effect of browning.
- Melted Chocolate = flavor, density, tenderness.
- Cocoa Powder = flavor, dryness.

Damned near all other things that you add will just impact the flavor and appearance of the final product.
posted by julthumbscrew at 6:08 AM on June 26, 2014 [27 favorites]

Best answer: An important parameter for you is understanding your cooking time.

First, to account for the difference between the 1000 W microwave in the recipe and yours at 700 W, I'd simply scale the time as 1000/700. Microwave absorption is additive to the simplest approximation, so that is the easiest way to start. There might be geometric and reflection factors in your particular set up which mess with that that, so I'd keep an eye on it to start with.

Secondly, much of the rising agent for microwave cakes is boiling water. Anything that adds water (milk, eggs) etc... is going to increase the fluffiness of the cake, I'd think.

In terms of length of cooking, water needs about 4x the microwave power compared to the oils. Dry ingredients, compared to water, will absorb almost no microwaves. If you scale up or down a particular ingredient, you cooking time will change based mostly on the water content of the ingredients.

Eggs are roughly 2T of water each, milk will count as pure water, butter about 15% water. For oils, divide by 4 or 5 before counting volume, to calculate your cooking time.
posted by bonehead at 6:16 AM on June 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Possibly beating them to soft peaks, then folding into the batter.

That's what I was thinking, too. Or separate the egg, beat the white and fold it in. If you want to do this on a regular basis, you can get a little hand whisk at kitchen stores that will let you beat a single egg white in a teacup by pumping it up and down.

(Note that single-serving cake recipes like this are dangerous. They make it much more easy to make delicious cake on a whim. You have been warned!)
posted by gimonca at 6:20 AM on June 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I always skip the egg because I don't like how microwaved eggs taste and smell. I haven't made this in years but I think I added extra milk to replace the extra liquid volume. I also generally cooked them in a wideish bowl. My recipe called for regular flour and I generally added a pinch each of baking soda and baking powder. Mine generally did not come out dense and brownie-like.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:01 AM on June 26, 2014

Best answer: Try skipping the egg, and cut the sugar back to 2 tablespoons. I made a similar recipe recently and it turned out fluffier (not quite like a Victoria sponge, though) than previous attempts. I didn't feel the need to increase the liquids to make up for the lack of egg, because I was using less sugar.
posted by infodiva at 8:33 AM on June 26, 2014

You might find Serious Eats' work on The Science of the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies useful in suggesting some avenues of research, even if the results are not directly relevant.
posted by teditrix at 8:37 AM on June 26, 2014

Best answer: Beating the egg white and folding it into the batter is a good idea. Just be sure you fold it in well, as unincorporated beaten egg whites will cook ultra-fast in a microwave and will make the cake taste eggy.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:13 PM on June 26, 2014

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