Duff Goldman Explains The Extra Step For Truly Great Box Cake

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For most of us, childhood birthdays were probably celebrated with our favorite double-layer cake coated in frosting; After all, Julia Child might have famously said, "A party without cake is just a meeting" (though Child's cookbook publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, suggested it could be a misquote). While our grandparents made the cake from scratch, most of us identified a 'homemade' cake as being baked in our kitchen from a box of cake mix.

Today, celebratory cakes can be purchased at grocery stores, giant sheet cakes from big box chains like Costco, and famous bakeries like Duff Goldman's Charm City Cakes. Goldman, the celebrity decorative cake baker, was famous for his larger-than-life confections for famous clients on his Food Network show, "Ace of Cakes" and now stars inĀ "Ace of Taste." The classically trained pastry chef is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone and has worked in the premier kitchens of Thomas Keller's French Laundry and Todd English's Olives before establishing himself as the creative baker who keeps pyrotechnics and gears next to the bins of flour and sugar (per Food Network).

Goldman's reputation has been built on making delicious, elaborate cakes. Yet just like the rest of us, he has a nostalgic fondness for the boxed cake mixes of his youth. While developing the yellow cake recipe he uses at Charm City Cakes, Goldman used his favorite boxed mix as inspiration.

Sift the flour

According to Cook's Illustrated, since at least the 1950s, three familiar baking aisle companies, Duncan Hines, Pillsbury, and Betty Crocker, have been making cake mixes responsible for many of the bake sales, classroom cupcakes, and birthday cakes of our youth. In an interview with Insider, Duff Goldman shares that one of them inspired his yellow cake recipe: "My absolute favorite cake in the world to eat is Betty Crocker yellow cake with the canned fudge frosting."

According to Goldman, the secret behind the fluffy texture of boxed mixes is sifting the flour. "It just makes it so much lighter and spongier and softer," he said of the added step. Baker Odette Williams, who wrote "Simple Cake: All You Need to Keep Your Friends and Family in Cake," agrees, adding that sifting evenly distributes the ingredients and creates a softer crumb resulting in "a sublime cake, rather than 'it'll do' cake," via Martha Stewart.

However, some recipes measure the flour by volume, others by weight. Since a cup of sifted flour weighs less than a cup of unsifted, the difference can affect the end results. A cake with too much flour will be dry, while a cake with too much liquid will be too wet and lack structure, per Sally's Baking Addiction. If uncertain, Williams says, "If it doesn't state the weight, then you should assume that is for unsifted flour."