Carrot Cake – A Question of Timing
I received this question from Laurie Koch asking,
Can I prepare a carrot cake at 8 in the morning, put it in a 9×13 pan, put it in the fridge, and then take it out and bake it at 8 p.m. at night? If not, why not?
The consensus is it needs to be baked right after it is prepared and in the pan, but no one can tell me why?? My husband is hoping to save on electricity costs and heating up the house. My response, “tough!!
So I sent this question to contributing writer Jenni Field, a professional baker. Here is what she had to say,
While I applaud your husband’s wanting to save electricity, I join you in saying, “Tough!” to him.
The issue with holding batter over is about the leavening. I’m not sure what your recipe calls for, but if it’s like many carrot cakes, it is leavened with baking soda. Baking soda has its rather boisterous chemical reaction as soon as it gets wet.
That means that the closer to mixing that you bake, the lighter your cake will be since all those bubbles will still be present to leaven the cake. The longer you let the batter sit, the fewer the bubbles that remain.
If your recipe calls for baking powder, at least in part, you’ll be a bit better off if you use double acting baking powder. As its name implies, it has double the chemical reaction.
Or rather, it’s comprised of components that release gases under different conditions. Some release gas once they get wet, or are mixed into the batter. Others release their gases as they get hot, or in the oven. This buys you some time since you’ll still get some of the leavening effect from the gases emitted in the oven.
The bottom line is that, with either type of leavening, if you wait a substantial amount of time between mixing and baking, your cake will not rise as high and will be somewhat dense. Having said that, carrot cakes are generally extremely moist, and lots of folks like them kind of dense. So, I guess I’d better amend my “tough” to your husband.
If you are a fan of light, well risen cakes, you’ll need to either mix and bake in the evening (and mixing shouldn’t take too much time, especially if you have all of your ingredients ready), or live with kinda dense cake. Actually, I’d suggest you measure/prep your ingredients in the morning and then mix and bake in the evening to get the best of both worlds. Compromise is a beautiful thing!
Chef JenniIf you spend any time here on my blog or web site, you will hear me talk about Chef Jenni Field. She is a wonderful writer with encyclopedic knowledge of all things pastry and baking.