I offer for your consideration last night's experiment: a plain buttermilk cake
. It turned out really good. Perfectly done, excellent flavor and texture, not quite as raised as I would have liked but not anywhere near flat. I used half sucralose and half sugar, and that was the only substitution that I made. I creamed the hell out of the butter and sugar before I added the sucralose.
Now that I'm convinced in my own competence again, I'm thinking I'll try the Splenda suggestion
-- add 1/2 cup dried milk and 1/2 tsp baking soda for every 1 cup of sucralose. I wonder if I want to add some acid to balance the base in the soda.
Let me share some of what I've learned, both from web sites and from you amazingly generous People of teh Intarwebs:
When fat and sugar are mixed together – the process is called creaming – little bubbles of air are being trapped in the mixture, each one surrounded by a film of fat (which is why the mixture changes colour during creaming as the trapped air creates a foam). It is this air which produces the lightness in the finished cake, but unless beaten egg is added to the mixture the fat would collapse and the air escape during cooking. The egg white conveniently forms a layer around each air bubble, and as the temperature of the cake rises in the heat of the oven this layer coagulates and forms a rigid wall round each bubble, preventing it from bursting and ruining the texture of the cake.
From The science of cake-making
, Delia online
As the sharp sugar crystals cut into the butter, tiny pockets are formed and fill with air as the mixer blades pull more butter over the top of the hole to close it. This makes the butter double in volume and become creamy in texture, which is why this procedure is called “creaming.” If the crystals of the store brand sugar are smaller than the old favorite, or the edges of the crystals aren’t as sharp, they won’t cut into the butter as deeply. This makes a smaller hole, so less air can be pulled through.
From Chemistry 101 for pound cakes
, Chef Rick
Milk solids have a binding effect on the protein of the flour, thereby increasing the toughness in a cake. A portion of the total solids in milk contain lactose sugar, which carmelizes at a low temperature (270 to 275 degrees F.). It is used to control crust color. It, along with the proteins in milk, adds food value and flavor to the cake, and helps to retain moisture in the cake.
From Baking and baking science
[Cake flour] is a flour that is grown especially to have a low protein content. Remember, that low-protein equals low gluten content equals more tenderness. If you can't find cake flour, or want to bake a cake but don't have any on hand, you can substitute 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. of regular all-purpose flour and 2 Tbsp. of cornstarch. Sift this mixture together, then measure your homemade pastry flour cup by cup.
From How baking ingredients perform in scratch cakes
Baking powder is baking soda with acid added. This neutralises the base and produces more CO2 according to the following equation: NaHCO3 + H+ → Na+ + H2O + CO2
From The chemistry of baking
, New Zealand Institute of Chemistry
Do not overbake. When the cake loses its wet look, and when a white or yellow cake barely begins to turn golden (not brown), it's time to open the oven and pinch a small dab of the “skin” off the top of the center of the cake. If the pinch is still gooey, but you can see the cake structure underneath it (it looks like a sponge), it’s done. That's when it's time to take the cake out of the oven.
From Seven professional secrets to baking a great cake
Sugar does more than just make the cake sweet... it helps incorporate air in the mix when you cream it with the butter (the sugar crystals are large and create air pockets.) It also prevents the gluten from over-developing to the point that you get a tough, bread-like texture by taking up the moisture in the mix. You can mix batter containing sugar longer and harder than you can batter that does not have sugar.
Pureed beets will add too much liquid and fiber to the mix. Go back to the food colouring. And subbing coconut cream won't work. Part of the deal is that the sour cream reacts with whatever you're using for a raising agent (BP or soda), while coconut cream won't. Sifting the flour gets the lumps out, but really shouldn't affect it that much.
Basically, that's a whole lot of substitution going on there. That's not to say that you can't make those subs, but pinpointing what's wrong is hard when you've introduced a lot of variables.
Truth is -- I enjoy playing with my food. :-) But nothing says I can't play in a more structured experimental fashion.