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View Full Version : Opinion needed - do nuts make a cake dry out?



RebeccaT
02-16-2004, 10:21 AM
I am in charge of MIL's birthday cake for Friday. The recipe I want to make involves chopped pecans in the cake layers. However, it seems like other cakes and similar desserts that I have made with nuts have been dry. Is this because of the nuts? Should I leave them out? MIL likes nuts, but I don't necessarily think that the recipe would suffer if I left them out (it's a white chocolate cake with white chocolate-cream cheese frosting, and I plan to add raspberry jam between the layers).

Thoughts, anyone?

claire797
02-16-2004, 10:24 AM
Rebecca, I've never heard of nuts drying out a cake, but it might be an interesting thing to research.

IMHO, this cake sounds better without them.

sneezles
02-16-2004, 11:23 AM
I wouldn't think it would be the nuts that cause the cake to dry out since nutsare more than 50% fat. I did find that using extra fine granulated sugar produces a moister crumb. You also have to watch the egg whites (if the recipe calls for beating them separate) because overbeating them causes a cake to be dry. And while butter cakes, as opposed to angel food or sponges, don't do well with syrups you can lightly brush them with a simple syrup for added moisture (works very nicely if your splitting the layers horizontally).

yorkshirepud
02-16-2004, 11:27 AM
I can't answer your question Rebecca, but just wanted to say that for the flavours in the recipe, I think almonds would be a better nut choice. Almonds, white chocolate and raspberry - yum!!!!

Shirley Ekstein
02-16-2004, 12:23 PM
Rebecca, since as sneezles says nuts are high in fat (and they are also hydroscopic) it cannot have been the nuts that caused any cake you made containing them to dry out.
But as you say it's your cake layers that contain the chopped nuts, I would, if you are worried, recommend that you forget chopping the nuts and grind them instead - throw the nuts and flour into your processor and grind till fine, then proceed with recipe.
This will NOT dry out, I promise, and will taste v good. Think would work v well with white chocolate/cream cheese frosting.

However, would add that if you really are bothered about the nuts then leave them out, but remember to add the left-out-nuts-weight in extra flour, and you will need the WEIGHT of the nuts, not the cup measurement, otherwise you will unbalance your recipe -

(Oh god - why did I start this...??????)

RebeccaT
02-16-2004, 12:27 PM
Originally posted by Shirley Ekstein

However, would add that if you really are bothered about the nuts then leave them out, but remember to add the left-out-nuts-weight in extra flour, and you will need the WEIGHT of the nuts, not the cup measurement, otherwise you will unbalance your recipe -


Now, that is something I hadn't thought of! The recipe calls for 1 cup of pecans, chopped. Not sure how much a cup of pecans weighs (although I can find out easily enough w/ my scale). I like the idea of grinding the nuts, which seems like it would add an interesting flavor. I am wondering about the texture, and how it would change, though...

I understand about the fat in the nuts, and while it makes total sense, my anecdotal evidence tells me otherwise. Perhaps I just tend to overbake things that have nuts in them??? :confused:

wallycat
02-16-2004, 01:32 PM
I just made the monkey bars (and I sub 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup oatbran) and I added chopped walnuts. It is VERY moist and tender...and I even ground my own flour, which tends to absorb liquid more...and there is really not much liquid to speak of in that recipe.

I'm not sure what it will be like in another day or so but can post back.

Kathy B
02-16-2004, 04:32 PM
You could just leave the nuts out of the cake, but sprinkle them all over the outside of the cake (onto the frosting) after it is frosted. Since she likes nuts, this would leave them in, just not as part of the cake layer itself. When I omit chopped nuts, I never replace them with anything. I would think that would only be necessary for ground nuts which act more like part of the dry ingredients.

sneezles
02-16-2004, 04:37 PM
Originally posted by Kathy B
You could just leave the nuts out of the cake, but sprinkle them all over the outside of the cake (onto the frosting) after it is frosted. Since she likes nuts, this would leave them in, just not as part of the cake layer itself. When I omit chopped nuts, I never replace them with anything. I would think that would only be necessary for ground nuts which act more like part of the dry ingredients.

I agree the nuts would be more like adding or not adding chocolate chips to a batter-they're not part of the chemical response needed for a cake to be successful.

claire797
02-16-2004, 04:48 PM
Originally posted by sneezles


I agree the nuts would be more like adding or not adding chocolate chips to a batter-they're not part of the chemical response needed for a cake to be successful.

That is, unless you're making the infamous Tunnel of Fudge cake from the Pillsbury Bakeoff :p . Have you seen that one? It always appears with a notation saying "Don't omit the nuts or the recipe will not work."

http://www.pillsbury.com/recipesearch/showRecipe.asp?recipeID=2868

In Anne Byrne's Cake Mix Doctor book, she states that the walnuts are there because that's the way Ella Helfrich wanted it. That's something I think about at night when I can't sleep -- "Will tunnel of fudge cake really work without the walnuts?".

pilgrim719
02-16-2004, 04:55 PM
I've never made a Tunnel of Fudge Cake, but always wanted to try one. I don't like nuts, though, and always figured I'd just leave them out. Now I wonder what would happen if I did?

I think putting the nuts on top of the cake instead of in it was a good suggestion! As for replacing the omitted nuts with something like flour in a recipe, I've never done that either, and I am always leaving nuts out of things. I never noticed a problem, but then again I guess I have nothing to compare those recipes to, since I've never made any of them with the nuts. :rolleyes:

Kari

sneezles
02-16-2004, 05:00 PM
Originally posted by claire797
That's something I think about at night when I can't sleep -- "Will tunnel of fudge cake really work without the walnuts?".

So why ponder? If you can't sleep why not make the thing without the walnuts and find out? :confused:


HMMMMMM, it says "Don't scrimp on the nuts, or it won't work"! Where's our baking goddess when we really need her? Two times in the past week, major chemistry-in-baking- going on around here and no expert advice...:(

RebeccaT
02-17-2004, 08:08 AM
Hmmm. A lot to think about. Knowing me, I will probably wait until the last minute, cup o' nuts hovering precariously over my mixing bowl, before making the final decision as to whether to use them or leave them out. Kathy, I like your idea about putting them on the outside of the cake, but I have to confess that I have my heart set on the decoration (basket weave on sides, white chocolate shavings on top with raspberries) so I probably won't do that this time.

I will be sure to let you all know how it plays out (oh the suspense!) and provide the recipe if it turns out well! :)

Thanks!

Shirley Ekstein
02-17-2004, 11:39 AM
Rebecca - sorry - had to come back because what sneezles said about my recommendation is right - i.e. only adding extra flour if recipe specifies GROUND nuts - if nuts are coarsely chopped then adding extra flour would send the recipe haywire and I am a prat.
Sorry.
But just another thought (as if I haven't confused things enough already) - instead of chopped nuts you could add an equivalent proportion of chopped dried cherries - would think that would sit nicely with the white chocolate, and you could maybe use cherry jam between the layers.

I am now going to shut up, because more advice you really do NOT need.

claire797
02-17-2004, 11:49 AM
What if you just followed the recipe as stated? I think we all agree that the nuts won't dry it out.....and your MIL does like them :).

Where did you find the recipe?

RebeccaT
02-17-2004, 01:22 PM
:)

Anna, you crack me up. Now what kind of a BB-er would I be if I followed a recipe as stated? :p The recipe is from Stop and Smell the Rosemary, so I am quite certain that it is a good one. There is a similar one here (http://www.cakerecipe.com/az/CameoCake.asp), but I think the one in SASTR is a bit more refined.

Shirley, I really like your idea of cherries! I might use cherry jam between the layers (I was planning to use some sort of jam) even if I don't use the dried cherries... thanks!

RebeccaT
02-18-2004, 09:06 AM
Well, the answer to this question, at least for this recipe, is a resounding "NO!" I made the cake layers last night to freeze until Friday, and they came out SO MOIST! There is buttermilk in the recipe, which gave it a dense crumb, almost like the Lemonade Layer Cake.

I will report back on the final product. Thanks, everyone, for your advice!

claire797
02-18-2004, 10:05 AM
Originally posted by RebeccaT
Well, the answer to this question, at least for this recipe, is a resounding "NO!" I made the cake layers last night to freeze until Friday, and they came out SO MOIST! There is buttermilk in the recipe, which gave it a dense crumb, almost like the Lemonade Layer Cake.

I will report back on the final product. Thanks, everyone, for your advice!

Looking forward to the review! I checked that book out from the library but never made any of the recipes. I do, however, have lots of other Houston Junior League books and most of their recipes are terrific.