Cake flour question

Yesterday I made a vegan chocolate cake which I’ve made successfully many times. Not this time! We ended up not eating it (too full from dinner), so today I planned to cut it into quarters to put in the freezer. When I tried to cut it, it crumbled into chunks. I’ve never seen that happen. The only thing I can think of is that I used cake flour (because we had it) instead of AP which is what the recipe called for. I won’t do that again, but I’m curious to know if anyone has some thoughts on this.
Here’s the recipe. It an old Laurie Colwin recipe. Thanks.

@TheLibrarian, while I’m a big fan of the late Laurie Colwin, I’ve never made this particular cake. Since you’ve made it successfully in the past, many times, I’d have to think it was the cake flour. Not as much gluten in it, for a softer cake crumb. I’m only guessing though…

That does sound reasonable…Thanks.

Hmm, I think I’d have to try it with AP flour before coming to any real conclusion. Even that “cover shot” looks awfully “crumbly” to me for a cake (which I’d tend to expect from a “lower-fat” “cake” without anything like the sort of protein eggs have to help hold it together), and when I’ve tried subbing cake flour in “regular” recipes where I should’ve known better - like brownies and pound cake, the results have always been disastrous, but disastrous in a too-moist, too-dense way, not a “too crumbly” way…

I have two editions of a cookbook from a now closed Boston bakery. I loved their cakes and wanted to make a yellow cake with buttercream frosting. Pretty basic. The earlier edition called for cake flour and separating four eggs. I think an extra whole egg or yolk was in there. The later edition had AP flour and no separating the four whole eggs.
I bought cake flour but then followed the recipe from the 2nd edition. The cake was fabulous and I’ve made that version several times since.
Perhaps in order to substitute cake for AP flour in your recipe a little tweaking is necessary. However, I’ve read recipes which say it’s ok to use one for the other.

What did you use instead of buttermilk?

The flour could certainly be to blame though. With so little else to hold it together, maybe the cake really needs the sturdier AP flour.

Instead of buttermilk, I use 1T. vinegar combined with enough almond milk to total one cup. I’ve done it in the past, and it worked fine.
I have to say that my cooking life was less complicated before my daughter became a vegan a couple of years ago. She became a vegetarian when she was 8 (as a result of seeing a documentary while at the local Humane Society’s summer camp), and that was a relative breeze…Oh well - it’s certainly expanded my cooking and menu-planning skills.

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What a coincidence! Husband couldn’t find cake flour today, and I looked up some substitutions . Not that it answers your question, but it was AP and cornstarch! Couldn’t figure out why that would work, and fortunately didn’t have to test it.

That does work, actually, and beautifully. A finer, more tender crumb than using plain AP.

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This looks like the amazon cake / crazy cake with buttermilk instead of water - you said you made it vegan - what did you substitute for the buttermilk?

I make this cake often, either with cake flour or with AP or with AP plus cornstarch as a cake flour sub, and have only had an issue of it being crumbly if it over-baked. Otherwise it’s just very moist.

So I’d guess either not enough liquid or too much baking time.

I think the idea is to reduce the gluten content of the total amount of “flour”. But it won’t make up for the other differences, like the much finer milling (which also affects its absorbency), or the relative acidity of cake flour compared to AP flour (due to the bleaching, iirc).

And fwiw, I think the specific reference to cornstarch is probably due to its relative availability here. I don’t know when it first started appearing in US cookbooks, but that recommendation goes back quite a while that I recall personally (at least 40 years), when most other refined starches weren’t readily available in most of the US. I don’t know for sure whether any/all would be better, worse, or the same, but I think at least some other “refined” starches - like wheat or potato starch - would work just as well.


Such a good answer.

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Thank you!