My cupcake recipes often contain the instruction “mix until just combined.” Today, inspired by Craftsy’s free (to Cupcake Project readers) baking basics course, I want to talk about what that really means and what happens when you overmix cake batter.
What Happens When You Overmix Cake Batter?
Mixing batter until “just combined” means that you should stop mixing as soon as you can’t see the ingredient that you just added. For example, if you are adding flour to butter and sugar, you should immediately stop mixing once you no longer see any white powder.
You may have read that when you overmix cake batter, the gluten in the flour can form elastic gluten strands – resulting in a more dense, chewy texture. This can be beneficial in cookies, but it’s not so great in cakes and it’s an archenemy of flaky pie crusts. I’d heard that as well, but until I saw the great visual of an overmixed cake in Craftsy’s Baking Basics course (psst… the class is free for Cupcake Project readers just by clicking the link), I’d never thought to purposely make an overmixed cupcake to see (and taste) what happens.
For my experiment, I mixed my Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake batter for an extra three minutes on high speed above what the recipe calls for.
Look how different the batter looks in each liner – the white liners’ batter is mixed correctly and the red liners’ batter is overmixed. The batter in the red liner was much smoother and more dense (almost like cookie dough). I’ll admit that when that when the cupcakes came out of the oven, I worried a bit that my experiment was a bust. The overmixed cupcakes looked nicer than their correctly-produced sisters. Both cupcake variations had perfect domes, but the overmixed ones looked cleaner and had fewer crumbs. If they tasted better, it would have been overmixed cupcakes for the win.
Once I tasted the two cupcakes, there was no contest. The overmixed cupcake was dense as pound cake and gummy; it stuck to the side of my mouth as I ate it. The correctly-mixed cupcake was light and airy and, well, the Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake. Also interesting was that by the time we took the photo (the next morning), the overmixed cupcake had sunk and lost its dome while the properly mixed cupcake still looked perfect.
Want More Baking Basics? Craftsy is Giving All Cupcake Project Readers a Free Online Class!
As Beth Somers says in Crafty’s online Baking Basics course, “Baking is a science.” Even if you’ve been baking for years, you may have never received any formal instruction in the baking basics. One small thing you were never taught could make all of the difference in your end results. Craftsy is giving away their Baking Basics course (a $19.99 value) free to all Cupcake Project readers and I highly recommend that you take advantage of it!
What I love about the Baking Basics course is that the class assumes no knowledge at all about baking. Everything is completely explained – from how soft your butter should be to how to properly measure flour and sugar.
Once Beth is done showing you how to bake a cake, she goes on to the basics of cake decorating. She teaches some easy ways to level and frost a layer cake. Beth is a fantastic instructor and makes everything simple, but I do have to question whether she’s a real human. After she levels her cake, she takes the top part and tosses it without taking a single bite. Are you able to do that? I’m not!
Beth had so many tips. She has a wonderful section on frosting where she talks about the three different thicknesses of frosting, how to use each kind, and how to know which kind you have. I also learned from her that adding corn syrup to frosting makes writing names on cakes easier (the frosting becomes more elastic).
Like any Craftsy course, one of the best parts of Baking Basics is the community. As you watch the class, you’ll see questions and comments from present and past students to the side of your screen and you’ll learn so much from them. Beth regularly chimes in to help answer the questions, so don’t shy away from asking her or your fellow students for help. No question is too basic.
To sign up for the free class, head to Craftsy now. Happy Baking!
This post was sponsored by Craftsy.