Folding, stirring, whisking, creaming and beating are all common techniques used in baking. Each recipe will call for a different technique at each stage of the baking process. Whether you fold, stir or whisk, the way you handle the batter or mixture will impact the end result of your baked goods.
Knowing which technique to use is really important in achieving the best outcome for your cake. Many cake recipes, especially ones that use a lighter sponge, require you to gently combine a light batter with a heavier one. You will have seen this technique used in cakes such as genoise, angel food and even in soufflés and lava cakes. All of these cakes require a gentle mix of whisked egg whites folded in with heavier, dry ingredients.
Not sure what folding actually is and whether your KitchenAid folding attachment is capable of doing this effectively? Keep reading to find out more!
What Does Folding Mean?
Folding refers to the method in which you gently ‘fold’ a lighter mixture into a heavier one. This most commonly refers to stiffened egg whites (meringue) being mixed in with a heavier batter usually consisting of egg yolks, flour, and sugar. One of my favorite recipes that showcase this technique is this recipe for a chocolate tres leches cake. The folding technique is also used to incorporate things like chocolate drops, chopped fruits, nuts and even flour.
The trick to folding the lighter mixture in with the heavier one is to not deflate any of the air that has already been created. Delicate folding action will trap all those air pockets into the mixture, allowing the cake to rise well in the oven. Maintaining the air as much as you can will result in a light and airy cake.
Folding also gives you more control over how much air is in your mixture and in turn you will achieve the best results in your final bake.
How To Fold
Stiffened egg whites
When a recipe asks for you to fold I would always recommend doing this with a silicone spatula or even better, with a large metal spoon that has a really sharp, thin edge. The thinner the utensil used, the better you will be able to carve through the batter. Another thing to keep in mind is to always mix light with heavy, not the other way around. If you add the heavier batter on top of the light one, it will most likely cause all that fluffy, white mixture to collapse.
My top tip when folding lighter mixture into heavy is to always loosen the heavy batter with a large spoonful of the light mixture. You can be quite vigorous with the stirring at this stage as it is just to loosen up the batter. Whatever you do, do not skip this part! It will make the folding process easier and quicker.
Once you have done that, start adding your light mixture, about two large spoonfuls at a time into the heavy one. Cut through the middle of the batter with the edge of your spatula or spoon and scoop around the outside. Repeat this slowly and gently until all the egg white is fully incorporated.
Chopped fruits, nuts, and chocolate
Adding in any additional ingredients like chopped chocolate or macadamia nut to any type of batter typically happens towards the end of the mixing process. By this stage, you will have already worked the batter enough and any additional over-mixing runs the risk of deflating all those precious bubbles that are needed to raise your cake in the oven.
Chopped nuts are also heavier than, let’s say egg whites, so if you were to vigorously mix them in, chances are you will ruin your cake. By folding in these additional ingredients, you are minimizing the risk of knocking out any of the air.
To fold these ingredients, follow a similar technique to the stiffened egg whites above. Try and use as few strokes as possible to really avoid overmixing your batter.
KitchenAid Folding Attachment
If you are looking for your KitchenAid to do all the folding for you, the most suitable attachment to use is the paddle attachment (flat beater).
The paddle attachment is shaped like a rounded triangle and the crossbars divide the attachment into sections. These sections allow the batter to fold over itself, which makes the paddle attachment a great tool for folding, right? Guess again.
Folding is a very delicate process and depending on what you are baking, your KitchenAid mixer might not always be the best option.
Most KitchenAid stand mixers have a ‘Stir’ setting which gently stirs mixtures at a very low speed. Even the lowest of speeds can be detrimental to very delicate mixtures, so even though it is very tempting to make your mixer do all the hard work for you, stick to your spatula instead.
The paddle attachment along with the stir setting can safely be used if you are wanting to incorporate the flour into a creamed butter mix. For anything else, like folding stiff egg whites into a heavy batter, I would strongly recommend doing this by hand.
How to fold flour with your KitchenAid mixer
Folding in flour with your KitchenAid stand mixer is very simple.
- Cream the room-temperature butter and superfine sugar at a medium speed for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is really pale in color.
- Turn your mixer to a lower speed and add your eggs one at a time, waiting until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one.
- Once the eggs have mixed in well with the butter and sugar, stop your stand mixer and get ready to add in the flour.
- Add in your flour (there is no need to do it in stages) and turn your mixer on to the lowest setting.
- Once the flour has fully combined add any other remaining ingredients and stir once more for a few seconds on a low speed.
- Remove your bowl from the stand mixer and stir one last time using a spatula, ensuring any ingredients in the bottom of the bowl are mixed in properly.
You can also use your KitchenAid mixer on low speed to fold in any chopped nuts, fruits and chocolate.