What is Butter Cake?
Butter cake is considered the quintessential American cake, and a variation of this cake is often served at weddings and birthdays. The most common forms of butter cake are white cake and yellow cake. These cakes are fairly simple, containing only flour, eggs, butter, sugar, sometimes salt, and a chemical leavening.1
Butter cake is likely an adaptation of England’s pound cake. The only distinction between butter cake and pound cake is that butter cake uses some sort of chemical leavening agent such as baking powder, baking soda, or a combination of the two. Baking powder was first invented in 1843 by Alfred Bird, which revolutionized baking. Bakers no longer had to spend the majority of their time whipping egg whites to achieve light and airy cakes. This allowed cakes to become more of a widespread dessert. Butter cake recipes began to take shape after the invention of baking powder because an English pound cake could now have a lighter and airier texture.
Making a butter cake is fairly simple. There are two primary methods when making these sorts of cakes. Both methods require that the ingredients be at room temperature, 20℃ (68-72 ℉) at that start of the process. The creaming method is more common in the United States and leads to a lighter and fluffier texture of cake. This method involves whipping sugar into butter in order to incorporate air. The eggs are then added one at a time followed by alternating dry and wet ingredients into the mixer. The quick method, or one bowl method, involves adding the butter and liquids to the dry ingredients, followed by adding eggs one at a time.2
This process leads to a denser cake. Both of these methods are moister than nearly any other type of cake. Either of these methods can also have egg whites added to the mixture in order to have a lighter and large cake. Regardless of the method, the batter is poured into a greased and floured cake pan and baked until the internal temperature is 96-99 ℃ (205-210 ℉).
When baked correctly, these cakes are incredibly moist, with a light and airy texture. This is only true at room temperature though. If refrigerated, they become dry and stiff. As a result, cream cheese frosting, pastry cream, and other toppings or fillings that require refrigeration, should not be used.
1. Manay, N. Shakuntala., and M. Shadaksharaswamy. Foods: Facts and Principles. New Delhi: New Age International, 1995. Print.
2. O’Brien, Richard D. Fats and Oils: Formulating and Processing for Applications. Boca Raton: CRC, 2009. Print.