The Fresh Loaf

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Increasing Pound Cake Mouth-Feel Moistness

AsburgerCook's picture

Increasing Pound Cake Mouth-Feel Moistness

UPDATE: SOLUTION -- This box pound cake box mix can't be fixed. The solution is to make my own pound cake. Or...possibly to use a regular cake mix instead of flour and tweak it all. I added a new comment at the bottom of all this, with an explanation.

Okay, this is initially about a Betty Crocker boxed pound cake. I know how to make a great pound cake, but often enough I'm not in the mood. The box cake is easy and fast, and tastes fairly okay with a couple of tweaks. But....

I made the cake, using a 9x5 cheap nonstick pan from Wally's World. It came out perfectly, per the instructions. But it was ultra light, and had a "dry" taste (not to mention minimal flavor). I was going to pitch it, but then realized: This is exactly the problem I have with various bread recipes. I shall experiment!

The pound cake only takes minutes to prepare, 45-50 minutes to bake, and then some time to cool. So I can make new trial versions with ingredient changes. Without having yeast rise, etc., etc.

In bread, I know that some instant mashed potatoes flakes improves softness and maybe moistness. I'm concerned the graininess would mess up a cake (although they do this in Europe, apparently). It's a last option, at the moment.

I've used milk instead of water -- even more dry. I've added 1/4 cup of flour, which improves density, but not much moistness. I've switched to melted butter instead of room-temp whipped. Okay...getting there. I added an extra egg -- they want 2, I used 3, room temp. But now it's moving toward a souffle.

My own pound cake is fairly heavy, nice and soft, tight crumb, flavorful and moist. These box cakes are well-known for being dry (overbaked), and too light. I want a heavier cake, and it should taste nice and moist when taking a bite. I'm fairly confident I don't want to make a poolish for a pound cake..........right? :-)

I'd thought BC was maybe using cake flour, but probably not. Then I thought about sugar: A common "hack" is to add 1/2 a pkg of instant pudding. That only adds cornstarch (makes for dry), but also sugar -- a wet ingredient.

The pudding would thicken somewhat like a gel, and presumably make for moistness. However; I'd rather just keep a cake mix on hand, and not have to check to see if I have some pudding.

So...sugar? This mix really isn't all that sweet, so I think it could handle more sugar. I'm also going to try 2 tsp of malt extract powder (and no, I have no clue what kind; I just bought some "malt powder" on Amazon). That should grab water, and I might be able to add a bit more water to the original.

I don't need "light and airy," and I don't care for "tender." Southern biscuits recipes go on and on about "tender." I've learned that means, "crumbles immediately when you slice one, and tastes like dust." I want "chewy," like Grands biscuits.

For the biscuits, I learned that adding an egg and some butter makes a much nicer result. But for the pound cake, the extra egg just makes a sort of rubbery texture.

Any other ideas? This mix uses 2/3 cup water, 4 TBsp softened butter (or fat), and 2 eggs. 

I'm adding 1/4 cup AP flour, 1 tsp lemon juice, and (previously) 1 extra egg. I'm going back to 2 eggs. And I'm baking only 45 minutes (internal temp about 195-200) instead of 50 minutes, at 350-F. 

Moe C's picture
Moe C

You don't know which kind of malt powder you bought, but there's a difference. Non-diastatic malt will add sweetness, diastatic contains enzymes that work on yeast and doesn't add sweetness. I forget which TFL member hates diastatic malt powder (is it Jo?) because she says it makes her bread gummy. Now, that characteristic might be helpful in this case.

AsburgerCook's picture

I wasn't as clear as I'd intended. On a different post, someone asked which kind of non-diastatic malt I was using, and I had no clue. But yes, I do understand the difference. We tried the diastatic malt, long ago, and it was horrible. We also learned that many flours simply include some of the diastatic malt. Since so little goes a long way, we quit adding it. 

The non-diastatic malt grabs onto and holds water. I use it a lot for additional moisture, and will try it on the next test of the pound cake. I only meant to say that I don't know which brand or flavor I bought -- just "malt extract powder" from Amazon.

TheBreadMaster's picture

Hey, try adding 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt or sour cream instead of some of the liquid. That'll give it a nice tangy kick and extra moisture, which will help keep your cake from being too dry and dense.

AsburgerCook's picture

Hi there BreadMaster,

Thanks for the suggestion(s). I've tried sour cream in the past, and it tended to dry out whatever it was added to. I suppose the Greek yogurt might be different, but I'll leave these two until there's nothing at all left. Appreciate the help, though.

mariana's picture

Hi! I would definitely not add more flour to the mix, but do add more liquid and some flavorings, such as vanilla or citrus zest, or any other essence you might have at home. More liquid increases the overall mass if the batter and baking powder in the mix won't be able to lift it as high making the cake less dry and less airy. Adjust sugar and salt to taste after the test bake, so that the cake does not taste "watery".

Water is better than milk, because milk has a lot of dry ingredients in it and less water, i.e. it moves the cake in opposite direction, making it taste even dryer and overbake even quicker when in the oven.

Other people reported that they fortify and moisten their BC pound cake by adding an additional egg yolk, a juice of one lemon (1/4cup of additional liquid), and a big dollop of either sour cream or ricotta. Cottage cheese would work as well.  Strained yogurt or full fat yogurt (6%fat) would also work. All that will make cake heavier and moister. Of course, soaking/drizzling it with syrup after baking and keeping it wrapped or fully iced will also help with moistness.

Please, read about their solutions here, on Betty Crockers webpage in the reviews section at the bottom:


AsburgerCook's picture

Hi Mariana,

I've read the various tips, tricks and hacks from all over the place, including Betty Crocker. Since they don't work, I've been experimenting. What I like about your thoughts here, is that I apparently can add a fairly significant amount of new water -- more than I'd imagined.

I hadn't thought about adjusting sugars to that added water. Since I grew up in the 60s, when children were sent out into the wild entirely unsupervised, I'm immune to just about everything. Therefore, I still enjoy licking the bowl and beaters for a cake. That means (gasp!) eating....dare I say it....Raw Eggs! I'll taste for the sugar in the batter and add judiciously.

I also did add some lemon juice, but was cautious about turning it entirely into a lemon cake. So I only went with maybe 1 teaspoon. From what you're saying, I have a lot more leeway than I'd thought.

So, Plan Next: I'm going to add 2-3 tsp of sugar, one at a time. I'm going to up the water by maybe 2 TBsp (1/8 C). I'm also going to add 2 tsp of malt extract powder to see if it'll attract and hold the liquid.

The cake uses 2/3 C water. With the 2-minutes high-speed mixing, the cake rose some amount (a lot). When I just plain mixed at low speed until everything was incorporated, I didn't notice any difference in lift. When I used melted instead of soft butter and mixed that in with a spatula, I also didn't see any difference. I'm guessing there's a LOT of baking powder in this thing! The water should overcome that.

When I make my own pound cake, I use 7-Up for the liquid. The gas bubble help with the lift, and the extra sugar gives it a slight crispiness. I'll stick with water this next time around, though.

mariana's picture

Good morning AsburgerCook!

I had the same problem with BC pancake and waffle mix. Both items were turning out too high and too dry with their recommended amounts of water/milk on the box. I added 30% more water, for example, if the recipe requires 1 cup of water, I added 1 and 1/3 cup of water, and that took care of the issue. TBH, I also added a tsp of additional baking powder to compensate, along with a Tbsp of sugar and a pinch of salt to avoid empty/watery taste, but that was because I wanted the lift and fluffiness/airiness in pancakes and waffles. 

So, yes, give yourself permission to be bold. Water won't hurt.

I added that much more water off the bat only because I knew from experience that in our house we have very low air humidity and flour and dry mixes become drier and  require more water than usual, up to 25-30% more water, even in cookies and cakes, let alone breads and rolls. And I learned to add a bit more yeast/soda/ baking powder with salt along with water as well because without them the bread or cake in a bread machine, for example, won't be as tall as it should be.  

AsburgerCook's picture

Hi Mariana,

Thanks very much for the specifics! You know us folk on the spectrum -- very detail minded. :-) I'd meant to say earlier that I've added vanilla, but since I'm not a particular fan of the taste, it was just to "help" the flavorless cake. Lemon juice works. But what you're saying about the water makes so much sense, I'm doing it the next iteration. In fact, I may just make it some orange juice if I'm feeling particularly daring.

I'd also thought about the existing baking powder and salt maybe getting too diluted from the extra water. However; this cake rises too much, in my opinion. I'll taste the batter to see if the salt gets lost, but I'm pretty sensitive to salt, and find that most recipes taste too salty for me. 

I realize this is kind of nuts, actually. :-D It's a box cake! They're supposed to be kind of crappy! But I don't often have a pound cake, and I like the box sitting in the pantry for those few times. I did, on the other hand, find a fantastic, and unbelievably good Chocolate pound cake from King Arthur. The "secret" is using a) cocoa powder, and b) Dutch Processed. 

When I was a kid and had the Swanson's frozen fried chicken dinner, there was a unique brownie included. I've also noted that it seems only Jell-O brand chocolate pudding tastes "right." I did some looking, and now believe it's the use of the Dutch Process cocoa. Not easy to find (but easy on KA site and Amazon), but holy guacamole does it make a difference!

I found their Expresso powder at my local grocery store, of all things, but had been using some leftover brewed coffee. And, once again, the ONLY problem for me was thinking it tasted just a bit dry in the mouth. So this foolishness with the pound cake is teaching me a whole lot about which ingredients specifically target that "mouth feel."

Moe C's picture
Moe C

Swanson tv dinner still has that brownie, but whether the recipe is the same is anybody's guess.

AsburgerCook's picture

Yeah, I tried those when I got older, and it's not the same. Dutch-process cocoa is more expensive than plastic chocolate, so probably why it changed.

AsburgerCook's picture

Okay, I'd read this when I was learning how to make their chocolate pound cake, but hadn't thought about it. Seeing your post, I thought maybe it would apply to this regular (vanilla-ish) cake. Turns out the hot water is mostly for chocolate cake, to intensify the flavor of the chocolate. Like their using espresso powder or instant coffee, which brings out chocolate flavor.

But I got curioser, and looked around. Hot water for cakes in general will react with the baking powder and give a higher rise. I already have too much of a rise, so that wouldn't help.

However; I ran across this short article about using steam in the oven! Now that's interesting, because a lot of breads use steam. Why not a pound cake?

The Real Secret To Extra Moist Cakes Is To Create Steam In Your Oven

So thanks, bottleny for getting me into yet a different framework. I'm going to try the steam and see what happens. :-D


Sabina's picture

It's not something I've ever tried, but lots of people online seem to think it's amazing. It's a white cake mix with lots of other stuff added to it. It might give you some ideas if you haven't seen it before.


AsburgerCook's picture

I was thinking about Mariana's comment regarding extra flour. I chose to continue this time, because it seemed to have added some density. These cakes are so light, I want to know I have a slice in my hand. 

I went back to only the 2 eggs called for. BUT!...I made a loaf of whole wheat in between, and used some honey instead of granulated sugar this time. It's still a new thing for me, and the sugar was "basic," while other sweeteners are optional. So I went with some honey, and the bread was more moist. 

I forgot that honey carries with it that apparent moisture. I put 1 TBsp in the pound cake. Then I added about 1/4 of some orange juice I have laying around to the 2/3 water called for. And a squirt of lemon juice.

I also now only bake for 45 minutes instead of the 50-60 minutes at 350F in the instructions. That's ending the "overbaking" problem people have been having. It's about 198-203F at 45 minutes.

This version is pretty close. However! The extra flour Now is clearly making for dryness rather than density. So that goes away next time. Mariana is right!

The cake ends and sides are still quite dry, both in feel and taste. But the slices of the cake are pretty decent. Edible, in other words. It's not a great cake, but the results always depend on what you're starting with.

I also tried my experiment with the malt barley extract (non-diastatic) and went with 2 teaspoons. Modernist Cuisine says people tend to use 3% of the flour. 1 tsp of the powder weighed about 2 grams. The pound cake box contains 453 grams, so I arbitrarily guess the flour is 425g. But 3% of that seemed WAY too much.

I went with the 2 tsp (4 grams), but I think it actually dried things out -- it pulls in moisture. In bread, the malt extract powder definitely improves mouth feel, and slows down staling.

One more try, and I think I'll have the best it can get to. :-D

AsburgerCook's picture

I made my final iteration of the BC Pound Cake box mix, and it still didn't do what I want. I've become convinced that the mix uses cake flour instead of AP flour. The symptoms are: dry, very tight crumb, crumbly.

Plus there's likely an over-measure of baking powder, and the cook time is too long to reach an internal temp of around 200F-degrees. 45 minutes works, while their recommended 50-60 fails.

This time I used the mix and no extra flour. I used 2 eggs, no extra. But instead of 2/3 Cup water, I added 2 TBsp extra water plus 1 TBsp of bottled lemon juice. I used their 4 TBsp butter, but melted. I did NOT mix to incorporate air, just mixed everything to incorporate. 

This cake rose very nicely, and more "normally." And that's without all the extra high-speed whipping to incorporate air. Another symptom of way too much chemical leavening. An old-fashioned pound cake has no leavening at all, other than the air and lecithin from mixing fat and eggs.

I also used a trick from Jiffy cornbread tweaks, where I let the batter sit in the pan for about 30 minutes, then pre-heated the oven. My thinking was to increase gluten (never done with a cake), and that perhaps would improve moisture (capture), or density (chew).

No luck. Although this cake came out somewhat similar to a Sara Lee pound cake, it never reached the satisfying level of a real cake.

I'd thought of adding vital wheat gluten to "boost" the cake flour strength. That would mean having an extra ingredient around. If I were to do that, may as well buy a box of Instant Pudding, and use half of that.

I was going to pull out my recipe, when I got to thinking: Jiffy Yellow Cake is pretty decent, actually. They want 3 minutes of whipping the batter (to incorporate air for rise). So they must not have much baking powder in the mix.

When I (long ago) made one of their cakes, I felt 3 minutes was too long. I was a lot younger then. I just mixed until incorporated and the cake didn't rise hardly at all.

Time for a Challenge. :-)