It can be a real bummer when you’re done baking a cake, only to find that it tastes like cornbread. Baking is tricky, and the result is never guaranteed. But if you know what’s causing the cornbread taste, you can avoid it the next time you’re baking a cake.
So, why does my cake taste like cornbread?
You may be using expired ingredients, messing with the measurements, or using stale flour. Here are all the reasons that cause cakes to taste like cornbread.
For the batter to rise and create the sweet, fluffy texture you’re aiming at, you must beat it well beforehand. If you don’t beat it well, the texture will be dense because it won’t have enough air inside.
In this case, it can taste like cornbread because it’s not as fluffy as cakes should be.
If you can’t do much with your hands, getting an electric handheld mixer is better. It’ll beat the batter perfectly well in under two minutes. You can also use a stand mixer using its whisk attachment.
In all cases, make sure the batter gets enough air inside it. It should be creamy rather than thick and dense. You also shouldn’t see any traces of sugar.
Beating the batter too hard is as bad as not beating it well. When you mix it more than necessary, the ingredients will release gummy gluten.
It won’t only change the taste of your cake to resemble cornbread but also cause it to have a dense texture.
If you’re using an electric mixer, make sure not to keep it working for too long. Once the streaks of sugar and flour are gone, you can turn it off and continue with your recipe.
If you’re a beginner in baking, you may not know the difference between bleached and unbleached flour. Bleached flour is white with a very fine grain, and its texture is often soft in your hands.
Meanwhile, unbleached flour has a rough texture, and its grains are relatively denser. Its color will also lean more towards off-white.
If you use unbleached flour to make your cake, it may taste like cornbread because the flour isn’t self-rising. It’s better to opt for all-purpose flour the next time you make a cake.
If your cake doesn’t have enough sugar, there’s a high chance it won’t taste like a cake. Sugar is an essential ingredient for baked goods and is partially responsible for the sweet taste. So if the cake tastes more like a piece of cornbread, that may be because you didn’t add enough sugar.
For whatever recipe you’re following, make sure to add the recommended sugar amount or more. You should also make sure the sugar dissolves when you beat the batter. Or else, the cake will have a crunchy texture due to the undissolved sugar bits.
Accidents happen, and no recipe is fool-proof. For example, because baking powder and corn starch have the same consistency and texture, you may accidentally add the latter.
In this case, the cake will taste like cornbread, and the lack of baking powder will cause the texture to be thicker than you’d expect.
If you don’t have labels on your powder jars, now may be a good time. That way, you won’t ever add corn starch instead of baking powder.
If the flour has been sitting in the pantry for too long, you may have accidentally left it next to an open package of cornmeal. In this case, the flour will probably catch the smell, and the cake will end up tasting like cornbread.
The same goes if you’re using butter that’s not fresh or eggs that have been sitting in your fridge for weeks.
You may be doing all the steps right, but if the ingredients aren’t fresh, the results will be unexpected. Always make sure to store the flour away from anything that might leave an odor.
Baking powder is an essential ingredient in your cake. If it’s expired, or if anything is wrong with it, the cake won’t meet your expectations. The same goes for baking soda, which releases a foul taste when it’s expired.
As mentioned above, before baking, make sure all ingredients are fresh. Any ingredient, no matter how minor, can significantly affect your cake’s taste.
Any ingredient, including flour, can go stale if it goes unused for long. If you don’t have fresh flour, you may think it’s okay to use that old pack sitting in your pantry for ages. However, that’s likely why your cake doesn’t taste as it should.
Stale flour usually develops an odor, although not noticeable. When you bake a cake using it, it won’t give the fresh, sweet taste you’re used to. It also may not beat well with the batter mixture, resulting in a dense cake with no fluffy texture.
If you’re buying your flour from an untrusted store, it may have some residual cornmeal inside it.
In that case, the cake will definitely taste like cornbread, no matter what you do to avoid it.
Always make sure to buy your flour somewhere trustworthy. You may even smell it to ensure it doesn’t have any traces of cornmeal.
A recipe is meant to be followed. If you decide to mess with the measurements or add more additives than necessary, you can expect a change in the taste.
The cake may not always taste like cornbread, but changing the measurements of the ingredients is sure to cause a taste change.
Flour and additives, in particular, can mess with the taste if they’re not added in the right amounts. Try to always follow a recipe rather than create measurements on your own.
The baking temperature is essential for the cake’s texture. If you’re baking at a higher than necessary temperature, chances are, the cake will dry from the outside.
Its top surface will bake faster than the insides. So, while you wait for the insides to bake, the outsides will be dry. It may not taste exactly like cornbread, but its texture will be more like it.
That’s why it’s crucial to adjust the temperature according to the ingredients you’re using. If you’re following a recipe, don’t try to change the temperature on your own accord. Follow the steps accurately to get the result you want.
So, why does my cake taste like cornbread?
Chances are, you’re doing something wrong with the recipe. You may be using corn starch instead of baking powder, beating the mixture too hard, or not beating it enough. You also may be using stale flour or flour that has some cornmeal remnants. In all cases, the cake won’t turn out as good as you want it to be.
To avoid that, double-check that all the ingredients are fresh. And, don’t attempt to mess with the measurements. Follow the recipe religiously to get the result you want.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.