High Ratio Yellow Cake Recipe

The name of the game in high ratio cake recipes is “emulsification”, which means an extremely smooth and integrated mixture with all the ingredients distributed as finely and uniformly as possible. That’s how the very fine and strong crumb of a commercially made cake layer is achieved. Most people don’t have access to the high ratio flour and emulsified shortening that commercial bakeries use, so I’m adding adding extra emulsifiers in the form of egg yolks. What are emulsifiers? Simply little whatsit molecules that get between other molecules and keep them from forming big clumps. A key to this is making sure all your ingredients are room temperature, since egg yolk emulsifiers don’t work well when they’re cold.

This cake works for a number of applications, from small layers to doughnuts to sheet cakes. As with the chocolate high ratio cake formula, it can also be used to make doughnuts, though depending on the type of extruder you’re using you may need to take out some of the liquid to thicken it. For larger sheets, you’ll want to subtract a bit of the leavening to help keep the rise under control and prevent the center from falling. The recipe goes like this:

6.75 ounces (3/4 cup + 1 1/2 tablespoons) milk, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) vegetable oil
13.5 ounces (3 cups) cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon baking powder (1/4 tsp less if you’re baking a large sheet cake)
15 ounces (2 cups, 2 tablespoons) sugar
6.75 ounces (1 cup) shortening (butter can also be used).
3 eggs
6 egg yolks

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, grease a 9″ x 13″ pan and line it with parchment. Combine the milk, vanilla and oil in a bowl and set aside. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the salt, baking powder and HALF the sugar. Set that aside also. Next, combine the remaining sugar and shortening in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (beater) and cream them thoroughly, about two minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the yolks steadily. Stir in about a third of the flour, then half the milk mixture, another third of the flour, etc. until everything is incorporate. Scrape the mixture into a greased 9″ x 13″ cake pan and bake about half an hour until the cake springs back in the middle when touched.

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37 Responses to High Ratio Yellow Cake Recipe

  1. Lloyd says:

    Thinking sheet-cake baking; I have seen advertised a hollow cone shaped device with a flat top [heating core device] to be inserted into a sheet-cake pan to “improve baking outcomes,” that is, to bake the center at the same speed as the edges. Some batter is poured into the device at baking time, to assist in plugging the hole made by the device. It is usually sold next to fabric strips that are to be placed around the outside edges to “improve baking outcomes” of the edges. Are these useful or are they extras that are not necessary?

    • joepastry says:

      Hi Lloyd!

      Yes, I’ve seen those. They’re suppose to help radiate oven heat into the center of the cake. I suppose they, along with cake strips, do work at least to some extent, and would be worth a try if you’re having problems with falling centers. However nice thick pans are probably the best way to avoid undercooked middles, after that a good-quality oven, though of course new ovens don’t grow on trees. And thank God. Can you imagine the clatter they’d make when they dropped in the Autumn? Lordy.

      - Joe

    • Catherine says:

      I have also read that placing a flower nail upside-down in the center of the pan can achieve a similar effect as the cone without having to plug up a large hole after baking. I haven’t tried it, but it might be worth looking into if you’re planning an experiment. :)

      Here are the nails on Wilton’s website: http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?sku=pg_flowernails

  2. Chana says:

    I’ve read that metal flower nails for cake decorating will also help radiate heat to the center of a 9×13 pan. Put one or two into the central portion of the cake, point down. They’re slender enough that they apparently don’t leave a hole in the cake.

  3. Phyllis says:

    Rose Levy Barenbaum recommends cake strips as a way to slow down the baking of the sides to allow the center to heat up more evenly with the sides creating a much more level cake…no more 1/2 inch sides with a domed 3 inch peak in the middle. No more crunchy edges either..yeah! ( Remember this is cake not brownies where crunchy sides are fought over!)

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Phyllis!

      That’s true. Personally I’ve never noticed much of a difference using cake strips. Some people swear by them. But everyone’s kitchen is different!

      - Joe

  4. Linda says:

    I never had great success with cake strips. And I constantly stabbed myself with the pin that came with them to annoy me even more than the cake strips not working so great. Some years back I saw a trick with thicker cake batters to make a well in the middle and the sides higher to keep the center from doming and it does seem to work when I remember to do it. I have used a metal can with both ends open to make a core for very large layers like 12 in. Or more. Works well but you do have this odd loose core. I usually glue it with a bit of icing to make sure it stays with the layer. Flower nail sounds good if it is oven safe and does the trick! Try the trick of lowering the center on 9×13 cakes and I think you will see less underdone centers and fewer domes.

  5. Rachael says:

    Hi joe. I stumbled upon your site completely by accident and luck. In so glad I did. I’m an amateur baker and somewhat of a chemistry nerd. I just live that you can give easy to understand extinctions of how baking works. Thanks a bunch.

    • joepastry says:

      Glad to have you abroad, Rachael!

      Thanks for the note and please get in touch should you have any questions about anything on the blog!

      - Joe

  6. Henry says:

    This is somewhat of a stupid question: could you define what’s a high-ratio cake? Some people define it as a cake made with the reverse creaming method that is high in sugar and fat contents. Is that so? What if I employ the reverse creaming method but employs little sugar? Does that still count as a high-ratio cake? Namely, is it the ratio or the method that makes a cake high-ratio?
    Aren’t most American butter cakes high-ratio cakes anyway?

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Henry!

      Just scroll down to the post “On High Ratio Cakes” it’s all there!

      But to answer your question, commercially made cakes are hi ratio, yes. As are box cakes. Home made butter cakes are often not, but the high ratio cake is quickly becoming the standard.

      - Joe

  7. jackL says:

    So, Joe, is this the “final” high-ratio yellow cake recipe? The picture of the chocolate cake version has the texture I was after!

    JackL

    • joepastry says:

      It is. I made the yellow cake today and I’ll have the photo tutorial up tomorrow!

      - Joe

  8. Leona says:

    I made this cake today. LOVE, Love, love the texture. It is a little dry so I made a trifle out of it. I did use a terry wrap around the sheet pan. Came out great nice and even. Please do consider a white version. THX

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Leona! Swap out a little olive oil for some of the butter and add it in after you beat in the egg yolks. That should amp up the moisture!

      Glad it worked so well,

      - Joe

  9. Geoff Malen says:

    This is makes so much sense. I never would of it in that way. I am sooooo trying this myself!! Nice one!

  10. Francy says:

    Hi Joe!
    first of all want to thank you for the ermine frosting (aka boiled milk aka… ), was delicious!
    Now I am searching a truly original recipe for yellow cake (have to make kind a historical research). I like your recipe very much may I ask you if it is the original one and from where you get it? thank you!

  11. Kristina says:

    What changes can I expect if I use butter instead of shortening? Also do you have a recipe for a chocolate version?
    Thanks!
    Kristina

  12. Nickie says:

    Can I double this recipe. I want to make 11 x 15 sheet pan.

  13. jeff says:

    how rich and moist is this cake? i’m looking for a food sponge that will hold up well in layers, but not be too heavy, yet still have a good mouthfeel and not require a glass of water..

    Thanks!

    • jeff says:

      *good.

    • joepastry says:

      Hi Jeff!

      That something of a subjective quality. It’s not as moist as a full-on butter cake, but I think it’s quite moist and tender for a high-ratio cake. There’s only one way to really find out: try it! Then get back to me with your review if you will!

      Cheers,

      - Joe

  14. Dianne Brims says:

    G’Day from DownUnder. I am a fan of HR cakes (not common in Aus outside of commercial bakeries)and my quest began with Nick Malgieri and ever continues. Maybe you can help me with something-my baking books are US ones, quite a few HR cakes, but all that I have found have been for layer cakes or (more recently) sheet cakes. I make layer cakes all the time but have a need for a cake with this wonderful HR texture that I can bake in a 9 or 10″ round deeper pan than layer pans i.e. I want one layer high enough to not look miserably flat when frosted. Is this too big an ask for the HR method? I came across your hugely informative site by accident and am glad I did as I will visit regularly now. So here is the big question – do you think your HR Yellow Cake Recipe would bake up well in a deepish round springform pan on the understanding that I would not use all the batter, just fill the pan 2/3 or so?

    Incidentally, vegetable shortening for baking is not used here (except commercially) but I have managed to get hold of some Crisco so can use that in the recipe. Cake flour here is low protein but is not bleached. I have tried (imported just for fun) US cake flour and it worked beautifully in the recipes but I thought the taste was less than wonderful – texture though was super. I have tried the substituting cornstarch for 2 tbs of the flour but that was spectacularly unsuccessful, the cake just tasted like cornstarch to me. So I want to give your recipe a go using our cake flour.

    You can probably assess that I am a baking nerd and pursue these “needs” to the bitter end – maybe I am not at the bitter end yet? I love US baking, Australian baking seems stuck in a bit of a time warp I think.
    Cheers again from DownUnder, Di Brims

    • joepastry says:

      Dianne, I enjoyed your comment very much. If any type of cake batter can work in a layer the size you’re imagining, it’s high ratio. I’d try the 9″ first and move up to the bigger 10″ as a next step. The problem high ratio — indeed any cake batter — can have is heat penetration. My concern is that your very thick layer may not heat fast enough in the middle and a “dip” will result. This can happen with large sheet cakes as you likely know. So try the 9″ springform, I think it will work. If the 10″ isn’t happening there are a few heat conduction tools on the market that will probably solve the problem. I’ve very curious about your results so please keep me informed.

      A not about flour: don’t be surprised if the soft unbleached flour isn’t up to the task. However you might try beating the batter up more than normal in an effort to get the gluten network to form. Here’s to a bold adventure! Cheers,

      - Joe

      • Dianne Brims says:

        Joe greetings from DownUnder and thankyou for your comments re my search for a HR yellow cake that would bake successfully in a deep 9″ or 10″ pan. I took heed and baked, and it was a success. I wanted to make an orange and dark chocolate stripey cake for a special occasion and needed a high round chocolate cake (I had a good recipe for that) and a really good textured high round yellow cake to match up with it in height – cut the two into vertical strips, layered the alternate flavored slices together with orange buttercream then next slice Grande Marnier flavored ganache-and so on – result, two nice big round stripey cakes waiting for a thin layer of buttercream then the final ganache. One served at the birthday celebration, oohs and aaahs, ate the other one. Many thanks. Di

        • joepastry says:

          Woohoo!

          I do love a good success story, Dianne. Many thanks for getting in touch — send some pictures if you do it again!

          Cheers,

          - Joe

  15. Joan says:

    Can I use high ratio shortening for your cake recipe or does that defeat the purpose? I understand you are adding things to make it “high ratio” and that’s why I’m asking. I purchased some high ratio shortening for use in frosting. I was only able to find it locally in a huge tub. I’m a hobby baker and am looking for other ways to use it up. Thanks so much.

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