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Puzzling technique in P. Allen Smith's Blackberry Jam Cake recipe

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Saw him making this large bundt cake on TV. It was his great-grandmother's creation. He placed unbeaten egg yolks, brown sugar, jam, and softened butter into a bowl and stirred until blended, then stirred the buttermilk into the mixture. After blending in the dried ingredients, raisins, and nuts he used a separate bowl to very lightly beat the egg whites with an electric mixer. They were just foam and still very liquid. He poured then stirred them into the batter, which then went into the bundt pan.

I have never seen this before. Can anyone explain the reasoning for not just whisking the whole eggs together, either before assembling the other liquids or later? I can't see the point in separating the eggs when the yolks are only getting stirred and the whites barely beaten. The cake was baked at 325 for 60-90 minutes. I would have linked to the recipe if I had been able to find an online version. It will be on CreateTV again today at 8pm and at 2am Monday, Eastern time.

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  1. I'll bet that the reason to mix the cake this way is that his great-grandmother used to do it that way. Maybe, once upon a time, the egg whites were beaten more and then folded into the mixture, and all that now remains is separating the eggs and beating the egg whites briefly. IMO, there's no real reason to do this. I'd just add the whole egg to the mixture.

    1. The technique of separating yolks from whites, then beating whites until either foamy or stiff is classic egg foam batter technique - actually not unusual at all. It's used in chiffon, angelfood, sponge and genoise cakes. The aeration of the whites, which he then folded into the rest of the batter, is used to lighten the batter and leaven the cake, which is why he folded them, instead of just dumping and stirring, them. He mentioned that the whites were whipped for the purpose of lightening the texture, but the comment could easily have been missed. Just dumping whole eggs and mixing them as roxlet plans to do will result in a heavy, gluey, unleavened cake. Whipping the whites is actualky very important to the recipe coming out right and resulting in an edible product.

      1. JMBee is correct according to recipes i have used in the the past...a lighter cake. Important to lightly fold/incorporate them...not beat them in.

        1. I agree with JMBee and Tripper. Beating the egg whites is not just for cakes- it is a technique to make waffles and pancakes really light and fluffy. It is an extra step- but worth doing. You just need to gently fold the beaten whites into the mix so as not to break all the air bubbles.

          2 Replies
          1. re: sedimental

            I do understand that concept - this particular footage just seemed strange. He did not even break up the yolks before adding the butter, sugar, etc. Just a lot of wooden spoon stirring of a heavy batter. And the whites were not whipped enough to hold any shape - they looked like runny seafoam - nor would I call the incorporating into the batter "folding". I did hear him explain that this was to make the cake lighter, but earlier he mentioned that it had the coarse texture of a country cake. Maybe he just cut the whipping time too short.

            1. re: greygarious

              I saw the episode, and though Smith didn't follow classic formula technique as he beat the eggs, it didn't seem strange to me. Also, it's not necessary to break yolks before adding other ingredients unless there is a needed chemical reaction or texture caused by doing so. In that case, when a recipe calls for adding one egg at a time, you should do it that way (as in the case of pate a choux, when all the recipe's eggs may not be necessary). Smith used a modified creaming method, but placed his fats and sugar all together to mix them, instead of the typical creaming technique of blending softened fats such as butter or shortening with sugar until fluffy, then adding yolks. The result was the same, though his way, more mixing might be necessary. Often, overmixing results in dense cakes, large holes in the final product, or cakes that don't rise. Since he's obviously made this, or watched it being made, since he was a boy, Smith probably has a goid idea of what the batter can bear, so to speak. Finally, keep in mind that this whole segment, though it may not look it, was edited. After working in the industry for years, I can tell you that even cooking shows edit, and often don't show every second of preparing a recipe. A few seconds or a take not carwfully watched by the script person, or edited by someone who didn't know better, can inadvertently change something crucial.

          2. I have to pick my own nits - I watched it again and realize that my OP had the order wrong. The whites were stirred into the batter before the raisins and nuts, which were the final addition.

            1 Reply
            1. re: greygarious

              You're so funny! Hope the conversation about all this makes us ALL better bakers! : )