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Breads vs. Cakes

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What is the fundamental difference between breads and cakes? Some of the guesses include:

  • Cakes are sweet and breads, not sweet
  • Cakes have a “smoother” texture while bread has a rougher texture.
  • Breads are “stretchy” while cakes are not as stretchy.

However, these are just side-effects of the actual difference between the two. The fundamental difference between breads and cakes lie in two aspects:

  • Presence of fat in the batter and
  • The rising agent used.

To elaborate, cakes have fat, namely butter or shortening, while bread has none. Fat is what makes cakes “creamy” and “smooth” compared to breads. Since fat doesn’t really bind with water (i.e. the batter), we’ll need something to bind the fat to the batter or else it’ll just evaporate when you bake it, thus the need for egg whites. Breads don’t have fat so it doesn’t need egg whites to bind the fat to the batter.

Rising agents are substances that release gases due to some reaction. They make breads and cakes fluffy and without them, we’ll get breads and cakes that are as compact as bricks. The riser used in cake is baking powder which is similar to baking soda except that it reacts with water instead of acids (e.g. vinegar) to release carbon dioxide. Breads on the other hand, use yeast which reacts with starch to produce carbon dioxide and gluten, an adhesive substance that holds the bread together, making it rougher and harder than cakes.

There are two particular variations of this pattern: dinner rolls and (American) biscuits1. Dinner rolls are basically breads with fats. Biscuits, are a bit more interesting. They are cakes without eggs and eggs are rich in proteins which are binding substances. Because of the lack of eggs, biscuits are less sturdy than cakes and breads, crumbling more easily.

  1. In our country, biscuits are synonymous to crackers or cookies. Though what I’m referring to here are the things that are similar to scones.

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