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Okay so, I have recently started a vegan baking business in my home town, all the way over here in Venezuela. I have been having a difficult time because most of the best vegan baking ingredients can't be found here, so I've had to manage the best I can.
I have on specific problem with one of my cakes, a chocolate/orange cake. Every time I bake them, they have holes in them that look as if a caterpillar had decided to move in. And also, sometimes they don't end up straight in their bottom, but with an angle, making it look extremely off. For this cake I use,
Olive oil 13g
Vegetable oil 22g
Vinegar 4g
Water 164g
Vanilla 4g
Sal 2g
Baking powder 7g
Brown sugar 81g
All purpose flour 169g
Cocoa unsweetened 12g

The texture is not as most as I'd like, for which I was tiki king of replacing the water the almond milk to make it spongier. But I have no idea what to do with those holes. It is awful because I can't sell the, like that and expect clients to want more of a cake filled with air instead of flavor. What can I do?
Tuesday, August 02 2016, 06:37 AM
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Accepted Answer

Tuesday, August 02 2016, 11:09 PM - #Permalink
1 votes
Hi Anasaysguat!

Yes, I totally know what you're experiencing. It's mildly annoying for a home baker but for a business owner scrambling to get this under control it can be horrifying! I had a vegan baking company "back in the day" and these sorts of inconveniences can be very inconvenient, especially when customers are asking about it.

This issue may be happening because the gluten in the all-purpose flour is binding together to the point of where when the leavening occurs, the CO2 from the baking powder and the steam from the hot batter is channelling up trying to escape. Then as it bakes, it solidifies in that state, enabling the CO2/steam channels to solidify in place.

What can you do, without just giving it up and calling it Chocolate Caterpillar Cake?

In a traditional cake recipe, there would be less gluten development and a finer crumb caused by the natural emulsifier in the egg yolk which reduces the binding of the gluten. Think of this emulsifier as making the glutenin and gliadin proteins too slippery to bind into gluten.

You'd also have a strong protein network from the egg proteins, but for some reason these channels would most likely still be diminished, probably because egg proteins bind a little differently than gluten proteins.

Here's a few things you could try:

Do you have access to a starchy non-wheat flour in Venezuela? I made a wedding cake with cake flour recently which provided a nice soft, evenly dispersed crumb because most of the gluten is deactivated in this flour. I then decided to soften it further by substituting tapioca flour/starch at a rate of 2 Tablespoons per cup of flour. If you don't have access to cake flour I'd still recommend substituting 2 Tablespoons per cup of all-purpose flour with either tapioca flour, potato starch or corn starch. This means for every cup of all-purpose flour, you'd be removing 2 Tablespoons of the all-purpose flour and adding 2 Tablespoons tapioca flour/starch.

You also could be over leavening the batter and the channels are the CO2 gasses saying "please gawd get me out of here!" Frequently when baking with chocolate, I don't add any baking soda at all (or I add very little) because the acid from the chocolate is enough to react with baking soda and leaven the cake properly. Baking powder is a mixture of alkaline and acid which creates CO2 gas during heat and/or moisture contact. If your other ingredients are contributing an excessive amount of acid or alkaline to the baked item, very strange things can happen during baking! Baking soda is great in these applications because it's just alkaline and no acid. Look out for this also when baking with fruit which is excessively acidic. So in summary, look into baking powder and baking soda as a PH seesaw. More on that below.

Are you whisking the baking powder in the flour mixture when it's dry? There's a small chance that if you're not mixing this together enough there could be larger particles of baking powder in the batter, leading to cakes that rise at an angle.

How much are you mixing the batter? Vegan cake batters need barely any mixing at all until they're ready for baking. I usually just mix until I don't see any more lumps. Any more than that and you can bind too much gluten and the crumb can be too tight. I usually hand-whisk so I can get it just right, but with a baking company you're probably mixing with an electric mixer. It's super easy to go way over the top with the mixing and, hence gluten development.

If all else fails, look into tweaking the PH, which can heavily influence leavening. Cocoa powder is already on the acidic side, as I mentioned earlier, which can enhance gluten binding to an extent. Adding a little bit of baking soda (1/4 teaspoon?), which is alkaline, could make a small difference or at least shed some light on which direction a PH change could benefit things.

Good luck and please let me know how it goes!

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