A cake is essentially a chemistry experiment—a series of ingredients mixed in a specific order to cause reactions that produce specific effects. Butter cakes, like pound cakes and most layer cakes, get their soft, fine texture and moistness—called a crumb—by first creaming together fat and sugar, adding eggs, and slowly incorporating dry ingredients into the mixture while alternating with a liquid, such as milk or buttermilk. Angel food, sponge, and chiffon cakes get their signature airy, foamlike textures when whole eggs or egg whites (depending on the cake) are whipped until voluminous, then folded into the batter. The air incorporated by whipping the eggs gives these cakes volume, making them springy and elastic. So whatever cake you’re making, be sure to follow the recipe instruction closely. The order and method described really counts when cake baking.
Rolled fondant—the smooth coating seen on elaborate wedding and reality-show competition cakes—is a combination of gelatin, glycerin, and sugar that forms into an easily molded dough. It doesn’t taste very good, though. Poured fondant is a cooked-sugar syrup that’s used as a cake filling, in candies, or to top petit fours—you might know it better as the center of a Cadbury Crème Egg.
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