Monday, March 19, 2012

The Honesty of Petal Cake

She's the girl at the prom with the great dress, pretty hair and a huge butt.

I fell in love with Petal Cake over at Main Street Cupcakes.  Had never heard of it before.  The name was intriguing.  And then I tasted it.  Divinely delicate in every way.  The texture, the flavor, just downright dainty. 

I had to have it, er, well, I had to MAKE it.  I found this recipe here - one of the only ones I could find that described what I remembered eating.  I vowed to make it.  I admit, I have never made a cake from scratch before.  EVA. 

And then it snoozed in my recipe box for about 9 months. 

This early spring weather we're having had me purging for ideas and there it was.  Springtime?  Flowers blooming?  Bring on the Petal Cake!

For all her loveliness in my photos, I must be honest.  I am quite disappointed in my cake.  I did everything right.  The batter looked like silk.  Baked beautifully.  Texture looked grand.  And then,

It was dry.  Why, I ask you?

I used cake flour in the proportions described to replace AP flour.  I sifted.  I used the shortening despite the cake flour box recommending NOT to use shortening in place of butter or margarine.  I stayed true to the recipe as written.

I did not use the recipe for the buttercream that came with the cake recipe.  I went for a standard frosting recipe and added a little orange and almond extracts to heighten the cake flavors.  I also tinted it a pale peach color for some contrast.  It was too sweet.


I guess this is one of those times where it just didn't work as hoped.  But don't get me wrong, we're eating it.  Placing a scoop of Mango Sorbet beside it really helps cut the sweet frosting and does not at all hide the delicate orange/almond in the cake.  The melt-y sorbet probably saves your mouth from becoming a cake desert.

I learned a lot from this experience, but I want to learn more.  SO...

PLEASE comment on this post.  If you know anything about cake, take a look at this recipe and let me know what you think might cause this to be so dry.  Or if you have an outstanding recipe for Petal Cake that you will share.

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk less one tablespoon
1/2 cup water less 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon orange extract
2/3 cup shortening
5 egg whites, unbeaten
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Sift first four ingredients into bowl. Add water, milk and flavorings. Drop in shortening and beat three minutes. Add egg whites and beat three minutes. Bake at 375 degrees until it tests done.
You can use two 9-inch round pans for 25 to 30 minutes, or a 13-by-9-inch pan or cupcake pan.


  1. I'm catching up on a few of your posts, and I'm commenting because I may have something to offer. Maybe.

    I've been baking white cakes for a few months now (the wedding-type), and unfortunately, they all are somewhat dry. I blame it on all those egg whites and the lack egg yolks and butter. Brushing the cake with a simple syrup would help impart moisture, but I'm not sure if doing this would maintain the integrity of the cupcake you tasted.

    I feel your pain! The cake is simply gorgeous, though. :)

    1. Thank you! I thought about brushing with a simple syrup flavored with a bit of Grand Marnier to carry the orange flavor - but I wanted to try it straight first since it LOOKED so good. I will try this again brushing's too lovely a cake to give up on!

  2. I've read that cake recipes with oil in them are a bit more moist, perhaps you can add a little bit of oil to it in addition to the shortening.

    1. Thanks, Heidi, a good suggestion. Oil wouldn't change the color of the cake. I might try this...

  3. I think shortening keeps a cake dry(er) than butter - it contains more fat and less water. I learned to use shortening in pie crusts and shortbread to get crispier, dryer cakes and maybe that's what happened here as well...

    Why didn't you use the original buttercream recipe?

    Anyway the cake looks absolutely stunning :)
    It's lovely.

    1. Anonymous ,
      Thank you for your feedback. It seems the consensus that shortening makes the cakes drier. But where white cake is concerned, I think butter and egg (yolks) color the batter a bit, and don't give that heavenly white color. I didn't use the original buttercream recipe because I think I was running short on one of the specified ingredients - that's what I get for shortcutting!

  4. I usually substitute milk for sour cream. It makes cake oh so moist! Also, I would use oil or butter instead of shortening. I'm gonna try this!! ;)

    1. Sour cream? Hmmm. Now there's a possibility. Does it make the cake more dense? I'd love to hear how things turn out if you try this! Let me know! Thanks!

  5. Hi this is my first time on this blog.this receipe has a lot of baking powder. also it is my understanding that the flour goes in the mixer first and the the other ingredients and then everything else is beaten for three min? is that right? I would suggest beating the shortening first. flour tightens up when it is beaten too much. add the flour and eggwhites alternating actually hmmm not sure this would helpI think will try it and let you know how it comes out maybe sprinkle bakes has the right idea dab it with an orange blossom simple syrup? this would be great for mothers day...never surrender!!! your blog is now on my book mark

    1. Hi Arts,
      Thanks for reading! Thanks also for your hints and suggestions. I like the idea of testing this again with the same ingredients, just in a different order or combination. PERFECT experiment! You're right, this would make a great mother's day cake! Keep reading, I promise there are great things to come!

  6. okay here goes. I made the petal cake and even though I wrote in your comments that maybe a different approach would be better, I could not bring my self to NOT do the recipe exactly. thats the Virgo in me. I have been thinking about this cake a lot. I like the fact of having a petal cake on mothers day. a week before this I found an old minnie donut maker ( it looks like a waffle iron) so I got a wild hair and pipped the batter into the donut maker. I cooked it about 45 seconds and then took them out and deep fried them then dipped them in cinnamon sugar. VERY GOOD I made the rest of the batter into a cake. very odd texture and dry. NOT GOOD. so, batch #2 I then creamed the sugar and shorting then added flour and liquids alternating OMG the texture of the donuts were completely different! they seemed very greasy! NOT GOOD then I made the rest into a cake, and it was VERYGOOD no odd texture or dryness.whew! I am amazed at how technique changes everything. So my plan is to make rose scented petal cake donuts with cinnamon sugar sprinkled with canied rose petals and served with an espresso and cream to dip the donut in, but what kind? and why would I be cooking on mothers day??I am really sick of sweets right now!!!
    Thanks for listening I explained all this to my husband but his eyes were glazing over.
    Pam Ramirez

  7. One thing to try is sifting the flour BEFORE measuring, and use regular all purpose flour. I've made this cake dozens of times and the times I have forgotten to sift beforehand seemed drier. This my daughter's favorite cake, used it for her grad cake and am baking it right now for my niece's wedding cake.


Play nice in the sandbox, please!