Whole-Wheat Rye Cake

Whole-Wheat Rye Cake
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whole-wheat rye cake
Made with whole-wheat and rye? Yes!

Why should bread have all the flavor from whole-wheat? Why not make a cake from whole-wheat flour, and perhaps other flours, too, such as rye flour? Yes, that’s what we thought of several weeks ago, a cake made from whole-wheat and rye flours. But, what kind of cake would stand up to using whole-grain flours? We settled on modifying one of our favorite cakes, pound cake, as a test.

Now, at the same time, we were thinking about adding caraway seeds to the cake, too. After all, caraway is a great match for rye. Well, it turns out that adding caraway seeds to a pound cake makes it a seed cake, so, although we thought that we’d come up with something new, we really hadn’t; instead, we just modified the recipe for seed cake from The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, to make our own version (they use all-purpose flour).

We will point out that we made four small cakes, which needed only a half batch of the batter, so that’s what you’ll see in the photos. And, since we’re dedicated scratchers, we ground and sifted the flour ourselves, but don’t feel as if you have to do the same. We do expect you to refer to this cake as a Crustimoney Proseedcake, as Pooh Bear probably would.

Whole-Wheat Rye Cake

Yield: 1 loaf cake

Whole-Wheat Rye Cake


  • 1 cup (125 g) sifted rye flour
  • 1 cup (125 g) sifted whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 225 g) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 5 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 2 Tbs candied orange peel, minced

Abbreviated Instructions

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a 9x5 inch loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment.

Sift flours before measuring, then sift together into a bowl with cream of tartar, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium speed until smooth and glossy, about 1 minute. With the mixer still running, slowly add sugar, and beat on medium-high until pale in color and light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Add egg yolks one at a time, waiting until completely incorporated before adding the next. Add vanilla extract and beat in.

Turn mixer to the lowest speed and slowly add flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Add caraway seeds and orange peel and mix in.

Transfer batter to a bowl and clean mixer bowl thoroughly.

Whip egg whites on high until they hold stiff but shiny peaks. Working with about 1/4 of the egg whites at a time, fold into batter until no streaks remain.

Fill prepared loaf pan and bake for about 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.


Ingredient discussion:

mise en place
For cakes, we like to get everything out and measured in advance. It’s known as mise en place, and it makes baking easy and fun.

We’ve been buying whole-wheat berries for grinding into flour, and, for this cake, we used half rye berries (70 g — remember, we made half of the recipe above) and half Sonora White Wheat (70 g), a local heirloom wheat. Note that we use more wheat berries (by weight) than we would if we used flour, as we find that about 10% of the ground grain doesn’t go through the sifter. Eggs: use those from healthy hens. To us, it’s obvious: healthy hens will lay the healthiest eggs. If you wish, you can omit the separating of the eggs and just use whole eggs. It’ll be easier, but the cake will be denser. For the candied orange peel, we used our scratched version, but, if you don’t have any on hand, you can omit.

Procedure in detail:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Generously butter a loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment. Set aside.

sifting flour
For sifting freshly ground flour, we use a tamis or drum sifter,
whole-wheat flours
Our freshly ground flour, plus a pinch of cream of tartar, a pinch of salt, and a grating of nutmeg.

Sift dry ingredients. Since we ground our own flour, we needed to sift, and we recommend it for any whole grain flours. But, using a whisk to fluff the flours will work in a pinch, too. So, either sift or whisk together the flours, add the cream of tartar, salt, and nutmeg, and sift or whisk again until well combined. Set aside.

Cream butter. We always do this, as it’s a good way to test if your butter is warm enough for creaming with sugar. Place the butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium. If the butter is smooth and shiny in under a minute, you’ll have no trouble getting a fluffy mixture when you cream the butter and sugar together. Otherwise, let the butter warm longer.

adding sugar
We add the sugar at about the rate the mixer will work it into the butter.
creamed butter and sugar
The butter and sugar will fluff nicely; just give it time.

Add sugar. With the mixer still on medium, slowly add the sugar. Once added, increase the speed to medium-high and cream until the mixture is light in color and fluffy. This may take 5 minutes, so be patient. The sugar is whipping in air, which will make for a lighter cake. If needed, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides from time to time.

adding egg yolks
Drop the yolks in one at a time, making sure each is incorporated before adding the next.

Add egg yolks. Once the butter is fluffy, decrease the mixer speed to medium and add the egg yolks one at a time (or whole eggs, if you’re foregoing the whipping and folding of egg whites), mixing until fully incorporated before adding the next. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.

adding vanilla
Ah, vanilla, everything is better with some vanilla extract.

Add vanilla. With the mixer still running on medium, add the vanilla and mix until incorporated, about a minute.

adding flour
We used a really big bowl for the flour to make for easy sifting, but it did make for difficult pouring.

Add flour mixture. Turn the mixer to its lowest speed, and, slowly pour in the flour mixture. Allow the mixer to run until the flours are just incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to incorporate any remaining dry ingredients, and mix again.

Add caraway seeds and orange peel. Add the seeds and orange peel, and mix just long enough to incorporate. If you’re using separated egg yolks, your batter will be quite stiff, even more like a paste.

cake batter
The batter will be very stiff, more like a dough, but that’s okay.

Transfer and clean. Transfer the batter to a bowl (the bowl you used for flour might work), and clean the mixer bowl in preparation for whipping egg whites. Whenever we whip egg whites, we double-clean the bowl. It may not be necessary, but, by double-washing, we’ve never failed to whip egg whites.

Whip egg whites. Attach the whisk attachment and whip the egg whites on high until they hold stiff, but shiny peaks. If you wish, you can add a pinch of cream of tartar, a pinch of salt, or a drop or two of fresh lemon juice. Any of these will help stabilize the eggs whites and make them easier to whip.

folding in egg whites
Folding egg whites into such a stiff batter is difficult, but, all you can do is try.

Fold in egg whites. This will be difficult with such a thick batter, so do it in four additions. Using a quarter of the egg whites at a time, fold (or at the beginning, stir) in the egg whites until no streaks remain. Don’t be surprised if the batter is still fairly thick; that’s the nature of this cake.

fillingloaf pans
Even with the egg whites, the batter is stiff enough to spread like dough. It’ll work, just wait and see.

Fill pans. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth off the top as best you can.

Bake. Bake the cake for about 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. It’s likely that the cake will puff and crack in the center. Again, it’s just the nature of this cake.

cakes cooling
We made mini-loaf cakes; that way, we could each have whole cakes.

Cool. Let the cake cool for 20 to 30 minutes in the pan, then run a knife around the edge to loosen. Invert and remove the cake. Peel off the parchment, and let cool completely on a rack.

Different, in a good way. Sure, using whole grains made for a denser cake, but also a tastier cake. The rye flavor was very mild, and we might consider increasing the proportion of rye flour next time. The caraway seeds added a lot to the flavor, but, we thought that the amount of orange peel might have been just a bit too much. Try it and see what you think. Overall, this is a four-star way to eat a cake that’s good (well, better, perhaps) for you.

Worth the trouble?

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