Modern American Cakes: Help from Modified Fats and Flours

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Beginning around 1910, several innovations in oil and flour processing led to major changes in American cakes. The first innovation made it possible to leaven cakes with much less work. The hydrogenation of liquid vegetable oils to make solid fats allowed manufacturers to produce specialized shortenings with the ideal properties for incorporating air quickly at room temperature. Modern cake shortenings also contain tiny bubbles of nitrogen that provide preformed gas cells for leavening, and emulsifiers that help stabilize the gas cells during mixing and baking, and disperse the fat in droplets that won’t deflate the gas cells.