Scaling Your Ingredients


By Julie Bashore

Sugar Arts Institute

What is scaling?

Scaling is the method of weighing ingredients for precise accuracy and consistency, rather than measuring in cups or spoons. It is also the method of dividing batter or dough by weight, for the most accurate portioning into pans or containers. The equal division of dough or batter between pans is essential for bulk production to ensure that cakes and breads etc. are the same size. Scaling allows for even baking and browning.

The exact scaling of ingredients is an integral part of the baking process. If ingredients are not weighed properly, an inconsistent inferior product could result. Using bakers’ scales or digital scales can ensure that the amounts of ingredients are precise to the given formula. When scaling, it should be done efficiently and quickly to avoid loss of leavening or over-aging of dough or batter.

Eggs, oil, liquid shortening, honey, syrup, molasses and other heavy type liquids with a viscosity (having a thick, sticky consistency between solid and liquid) denser than milk or water, should always be weighed on a bakers scale. However, water and milk can be measured with liquid measures: 1 pint of liquid = 1 pound.

When scaling, it is more efficient and convenient to scale after the appropriate cake pan or container is placed on the scales, then “zeroed” resulting only in the ingredients being weighed. Don't forget to “zeroize” every time a new pan or container is used.

Scaling recipes up or down

Scaling a recipe is simply changing the recipe to yield more or less than the original recipe. Sometimes one needs more or fewer servings than a recipe makes. Multiplying or dividing the amount of ingredients to increase or decrease the yield is called scaling, and we all need to do it at some point in our cooking careers.

Some recipes are easy to scale up or down. You simply multiply or divide the ingredients to get the new yield. But not every recipe is so straightforward, and there are some considerations to keep in mind. Breads, cakes, pies, soufflés and delicate custards do not adapt well to scaling. The proportions of ingredients are vital to their success so it’s best to make multiple batches, one by one, according to the recipe. You can scale the recipe so you know how much of each ingredient to buy, but don’t stir together a huge bowlful of batter with triple the ingredients. It won’t make a triple-sized cake – just a disappointing mess.

Because of the chemistry involved in baking (how the ingredients interact with one another), super-sizing some recipes can lead to disaster -- especially when it comes to cakes, yeast breads, custard or soufflé. That's because these ingredients need to be in exact percentage proportions to interact properly.

Did You Know?

When scaling a recipe by adjusting ingredient quantities, you increase or decrease the amount of food it produces. Sounds simple, right? In reality, this can be somewhat complicated!
Recipe scaling is not just a matter of multiplying the ingredients. The container size and its shape (surface area to volume) cooking methods, and the accuracy of your measurements all greatly influence recipe scaling. Measuring all ingredients by weight will give you the most accurate results. One general rule of thumb is to not scale beyond a factor of 4. Another rule of thumb is that you should make multiple small batches if you have any doubt about scaling the recipe correctly.

General Scaling Information

Understanding scaling involves more than understanding the mathematics used for multiplying the ingredients.
I recommend limiting the scale factor to 4 (or ¼). Many baking formulas containing yeast do not do well with scaling. Formulas with egg whites also do not scale well. Liquids and spices may require adjustment. For savory items using spices, use the fudge factor. Instead of doubling the amount of spice when the recipe is doubled, only increase it by 1.5. When decreasing a recipe by half, use 1/3 instead or 1/2 to determine the spice amounts.
The cooking container also has a large impact on scaling. Evaporation of liquid in the formula depends on the surface area to volume of the container. The larger the surface area/volume ratio is, the greater the amount of evaporation during cooking. Cooking time, temperature and liquid may need to be adjusted based on the container you use. For containers with a smaller surface area/volume than the original container, you will need to decrease the liquid and increase the cooking time since evaporation will be less than with the original container. Conversely, if the container has a larger surface area/volume than the original container, increase the liquid and decrease the cooking time to compensate for the greater amount of evaporation.
If the baking container is shallower than the original, you may need to shorten the cooking time, raise the cooking temperature 15 to 25 degrees F, or both. If the baking container is deeper, you may need to lengthen the cooking time, lower the temperature 15 to 25 degrees F, or both.
When baking more than one item, increase the temperature by 25 degrees F. The cooking time will also be lengthened. When baking a half formula of breads, pies, cakes, etc., the temperature will be the same, but the baking time will be about 25% to 30% shorter than the original formula. For recipes that don’t scale well, make several small batches.

Methods of Scaling and Adjustments

1. Pan size: Look at the volume of the original pan called for – it’s in ounces, cups, quarts or milliliters. If you’re doubling the recipe, use a pan that will hold double the volume. Make sure the depth of the food is the same as it was in the original recipe. If a single batch comes about halfway up the side of the pan, a double batch should be the same depth. This ensures even cooking and prevents you from having a mushy, too-thick center and burnt edges.
If you end up with a significantly thicker or thinner layer, try adjusting the cooking time and temperature. For thicker baked goods, decrease the temperature by approximately 25°F (10°C) and cook for a little longer. For thinner baked goods, do the opposite: increase the temperature and cook for less time. Watch carefully for doneness and adjust accordingly. If a recipe has lots of liquid and comes up too high in the pan, try decreasing the liquid and cooking it for a little longer. Do the opposite if it’s too shallow.

2. Temperature: Work with the cooking temperatures in the recipe. Watch closely for signs of doneness and/or cook the food until it registers the internal temperature the recipe recommends. However, if you’re making multiple batches and have several pans in the oven, be prepared to increase the cooking time or raise the oven temperature by approximately 25°F (10°C) to compensate.

3. Time: The cooking time can change quite a bit when you scale a recipe up or down. Use it as a guideline only and check often for signs of doneness, such as appearance, texture or aroma (without opening the lid or the oven door too often and letting all the heat escape!). This will cause cake batters to fall and will increase the cooking time. For recipes scaled up, start by checking the original recommended cooking time and pay attention to how your food is cooking. For recipes that are scaled down, the cooking time may be a bit longer than you anticipate. A halved recipe might take 75% of the original time, not the 50% you may expect.

4. Spices and Seasonings: Be careful to with small amounts and taste each time you adjust the seasonings. You’ll probably need to increase the seasonings by an extra 50% in recipes that are doubled. For recipes that are halved, you might need a little less than half. In either case, remember: you can’t take it out, but you can always add more. Food that is being served cold develops a more intense salty flavor so bear this in mind when adding salty seasonings. It is recommended to test your recipes and adjust seasonings based on the results of those tests. Don’t forget to make notations of all the changes made to your recipes.

The following guidelines are provided to give you a starting point.

Baker’s percent is similar to formula percent with the exception of how the percentages are calculated. In a baker’s percent by formula, a key ingredient (usually flour) is used to define 100% and the other ingredients are expressed as a percentage of the key ingredient. The total percentage of a baker’s percent by formula will always be more than 100%. To make calculations easier, weight is used in determining the percentages.
More than one key ingredient may also be used (such as when 2 different flours are used). In this case, the sum of the key ingredients equals 100% (e.g. rye flour 40% + wheat flour 60%). If there is no flour in the ingredient (i.e. an icing formula), you still must choose one key ingredient to use a baker’s percent.

In this example the masa flour is the key ingredient

Ingredient Amount Baker’s Percentage

Masa flour 228g (2 C) (228/228) 100.0%

Water 237g (1C) (237/228) 103.9%

Sugar 6g (1 tsp.) (6/228) 2.6%

Using the baker’s percent to scale recipes differs from the basic method and formula percent method, in that the scale factor is multiplied times the key ingredient amount, not the original batch size. The result is then multiplied times the ingredient’s baker’s percentage to determine a new ingredient amount.

The new key ingredient weight (scale factor of 2) would be 456g (228g * 2 = 456g):
Ingredient Baker’s % New Amount

Masa flour 100.0% 100.0%*(2* 228) = 456g

Water 103.9% 103.9%* (2* 228) = 474g

Sugar 2.6% 2.6%* (2* 228) = 12g

456 grams of masa = 4 cups (456/114). 474 grams of water = 2 cups (474/237) and salt = 12 grams.

Formula Percent

The formula percent is the percentage of an ingredient in the total formula. To calculate a formula percent, every ingredient’s amount is converted to a common measurement. The measurements are added to give a total batch size. Each ingredient amount is divided by the batch size to determine a percentage for that ingredient. The total of a formula percentage must always be 100%. Usually formula percent is determined using weights, but any measurement can be used providing that measurement is consistently used. You cannot determine formula percent based on volumes then use those percentages on weights (or vice versa).

In this example, teaspoons measurements are used (1 cup = 48 teaspoons), the results would be (batch size = 145 teaspoons):

Ingredient Amount Formula Percentage

Masa 96 tsp. (2 C) 66.2% (96/145)

Water 48 tsp. (1 C) 33.1% (48/145)

Sugar 1 tsp. 0.7% (1/145)

If weights are used the results would be (batch size = 471 grams):

Ingredient Amount Formula Percentage

Masa 228g (2 C) 48.4% (228/471)

Water 237g (1 C) 50.3% (237/471)

Sugar 6g (1 tsp.) 1.3% (6/471)

Using a formula percent to scale recipes is similar to the basic method. The scale factor is multiplied times the original batch size to determine the new batch size. The new amount of an ingredient is determined by multiplying the ingredient’s formula percent times the new batch size.
In the volumes example, the original batch size is 145 teaspoons (96 + 48 + 1). Doubling the recipe gives us a scale factor of 2. The new batch size would be 290 teaspoons (145 * 2). The new ingredient amounts would be:

Ingredient Formula% New Amount

Masa 66.2% 66.2%* 290 = 192 tsp.

Water 33.1% 33.1%* 290 – 96 tsp.

Sugar 0.7% 00.7%* 290 = 2 tsp.

192 teaspoons equals 4 cups (192/48) of masa. Water is 2 cups (96/48) and sugar is 2 teaspoons.

For weights, the amounts would be (new batch size = 471g * 2 = 942g):

Ingredient Formula% New Amount

Masa 48.4% 48.4%* 942 = 456g

Water 50.3% 50.3%* 942 = 474g

Sugar 1.3% 1.3%* 942 = 12g

456 grams of masa = 4 cups (456/114). 474 grams of water = 2 cups (474/237) and salt = 12 grams

Scaling Precision:

Changes to a formula can induce errors. Rounding off the calculations causes these. To get the most accurate results, use weights instead of volume measurements. (Accurate volume measurements are very difficult to achieve at home). It is also important to understand the limits of precision. If your scale only measures grams, your formulas will only be accurate to grams. If your scale is accurate to .1 grams then your precision will be .1 grams. Use the smallest measurement your scale allows. If the scale reads in grams or quarter ounces, use grams (1/4 ounce = 7.1 grams). The smaller the units, the more precise the measurement will be. The more precise the measurement is, the smaller the error will be. The more successful you will be!