Imagine. Right now, you are taking a bite of your favorite cake. Its the softest cake you've ever tasted. Intrigued by its deliciously smooth bite, you begin to wonder how does it actually become that way? In all seriousness, chemistry is key.

As bakers, we follow recipes; Measuring each ingredient out to the tip-top of the measuring cup, but do we really understand what the purpose of each precisely measured ingredient is? More specifically, what is the secret behind that decadent and softest cake slice that we love to devour. Let’s take a look at a basic vanilla cake recipe. What all goes into the mix? Eggs, butter, milk, if it’s vanilla, you’ll throw in a little extract to give the cake that flavor you are looking for; Sure, all of those are important, but the real superstars are the type of flour and baking powder; the secret to making any cake the softest cake.

You may be asking yourself, how can only two ingredients have such an impact of the outcome of a cake. Let me explain: First let’s talk about flour. For the sake of softness, the type of flour used really does matter. Cake flour, which is more finely ground and contains less protein than its all-purpose counterpart, is a major contributor to how soft and the overall weight of a cake. Since cake flour has less protein, less gluten is formed. Without all of that gluten, the cake becomes less dense, airy, and smooth. Does baking feel like a delicious science experiment yet?

Now we can’t let the flour steal the entire show because baking powder has a major role in the texture of a cake too. Baking powder is a leavening ingredient which basically means that it helps the cake rise. As you stroll down your local grocer’s baking section you will most likely see that baking powder is labeled “double-acting.” This actually has huge effect of the consistency of a cake. Baking powder is composed of, baking soda, cornstarch, and cream of tartar (basically a chemical reaction in a container when mixed with a liquid). In the first part of the “double-acting” process the baking powder is activated when you combine the wet ingredients with the dry. At this point the baking powder reacts with the present liquid and form air bubbles. The second and final stage of this leavening process occurs when you finally put the cake in the oven. As it is baking in the oven the air bubbles formed from the first stage are released and expand which causes the cake to rise even more becoming one of the softest cakes you can't resist a bite of. However, you should be careful when measuring out the powder because too much could affect the flavor of your cake causing it to taste bitter, and not enough, well it would make for a pretty frumpy cake, and no one wants that!

TIP: You shouldn’t make your batter ahead of time to bake for later since the powder is already begun activating, therefore losing its ability to rise.

When we bake, we often just toss the ingredients to a bowl following the recipe step by step, and it’s not often we actually know what the true intentions of each ingredient is. Is it to soften, solidify, or slush? Hopefully after gaining a perspective of seeing how an ingredient affects a recipe, specifically you should be eager to head to the kitchen and bake a cake or try some wacky new cooking experiment now that you know what some ingredients are capable of! So, if you do any of the latter, please feel free to share a slice or capture the exploding batter on film, because that would be something to write about.