Saturday, September 17, 2011

Be wary of labels

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Labels can be wrong, and looks can be deceiving. Well, that’s not earth-shattering news, is it? Have you ever tried to buy white paint to match the white paint you already had without having a swatch with you to compare? There’s white, and then there’s white. And don’t we feel dumb when we get the new paint home and see that the two whites aren’t even close. Similarly, if we need a half-cup measure, we grab a half cup measure, but we don’t grab two half cup measures in order to verify the truthfulness of the first. We don’t do that, and neither did I.

What I grabbed was a scoop to scoop my cake flour (you remember my cake flour, don’t you?) into the sifter (oops, didn’t need a sifter, did I?). Then when I needed to measure my cake flour – well, why dirty two utensils? The scoop is a half cup, so I used that.
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Now looking at these two measuring utensils, one can see an obvious difference, just like the obvious difference between our hypothetical new white paint and old white paint. However, since I did not have the benefit of this side-by-side comparison while I was preparing my Tender White Cake, I had no clue that I was relying upon an unreliable label. Today the light dawned as I was doing the dishes. With DH as my witness I poured a pre-measured amount of water into the “half cup” scoop. Guess what. It required six ounces of water to fill it. That’s three-quarters of a cup, a fifty percent error.

So when preparing my Tender White Cake and measuring two and three-quarters cups of my cake flour, I actually got almost four and one-quarter cups of cake flour! I believe that was more than enough to sabotage the Tender White Cake, far more flour than the prescribed leavening and flavoring were capable of handling. That explains the thick, flour-paste consistency of my batter, the heavy density of the finished cake, the lack of taste, and probably the inability to achieve “paste”.

Plainly and simply, I was duped by a cheap dime-store scoop and the non-English speaking, foreign company that squirted it out of the extrusion machine that some American company sold for pennies on the dollar because it was obsolete technology. Politically speaking, we sold them the rope with which to hang our economy and my Tender White Cake.

The upside of this fraud is that I will confidently retry this Tender White Cake recipe, because apparently I am not the sorry cook I thought I was.


  1. I'm so glad you figured this out! Reminds me of the time I had an unlevel level. I kept leveling, and leveling, and leveling, and couldn't figure out what the problem was until I figure out it was the level! I hope your next cake turns out perfect, and that you threw away that scoop!

  2. Oh, how maddening to have an unlevel level! I’m sure you threw THAT one away. I’m keeping the scoop but only as a scoop.

  3. You have got to be kidding ... A half-cup scoop that measures 6 ounces??? I had no idea that this was even something that we should be checking, trusting soul that I am. (You know that I just checked my own half cup measuring cups, don't you?)

    This post should be considered a public service message.

  4. I would never think about this on my own! Thank you - I will be more careful from now on.

  5. I agree, Connie. 50% is a pretty extreme “error” – and unexpected, too. Of course, now if I need 3/4 cup of something, I know where to go. Did your measuring cups pass the test?

    Masha, I didn't think of it either - in time.

  6. I'm glad the cake recipe is going to get another chance. I really want to make that cake myself but haven't gotten to it yet. I WILL be checking my measuring utensils. Who would have thought?