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Multiplication Frustration

This is not an optical illusion

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Yesterday I had one of the most frustrating days in the kitchen. My friend Chris and I were baking up a storm in my kitchen getting ready for an outdoor event in downtown Sandy Hook. I was trying to modify a chocolate cupcake recipe from Fine CookingMocha Chip Cupcakes – for 36 large cupcakes. This was not the first time I had made this recipe, and to boot I tripled it before with no problem. This time I was multiplying by 8. The result is the first picture above – the cupcake stumps fit nicely inside one another kinda like nesting dolls.

For the second attempt I reduced the leavening agent proportionally by about 16%. The cupcakes held up slightly better, but by the 3rd attempt (and adding a couple ounces of flour) I was out of patience. I took out my frustration on a couple of cakes from the first batch (second picture above). As I was photographing the sorry-looking chocolate blobs, inspiration struck. I tasted one of the cakes that was still in one piece and the texture was more brownie-like than anything else, so I sawed off the stump and drenched it in some chocolate ganache that Chris had left over from a batch of brownies. I heated and thinned some dulce de leche with milk, drizzled that and added chopped nuts. It was one of the best selling items at the sale today! Just goes to show you that the biggest successes often come from failure.

One question still remains, though. How do you scale delicate recipes like cupcakes? I thought this would be an interesting opportunity to ask the food geek a question. So…food geek, is there a formula for scaling recipes like this? Can you explain why the amount of leavening changed my recipe from moist tender crumb (for the yield in the original recipe) to dense cakey brownie? Or maybe the leavening agent is not to blame?

Anyone else have and thoughts? I’d love to hear them.    -Andy

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  • rockyroad1 | 07/13/2009

    Hia Andy,
    I enjoy reading your articles on baking in quantity. In the past, I used to bake in large quantities for several shops and a few caterers in NY- up to 400-500 servings.
    After much trial and error I found it was ok to triple and some instances quadruple recipes depending what they were- after that the items were ruined. In the case of those cupcakes you can always use ALOT of icing!
    As far as going slow, my best advice is to do what chefs have done for years- mise en place- everything in its place. Weigh and measure out multiple quantities of the ingredients in rows in order of use. Then one by one add them. Then go on to the next. Never failed for me.
    Thanks and keep up the great blog!
    Rocky Road

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