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How Cookie Dough Is Different Than Cake Batter

Cookie dough and cake batter have much in common: fat, eggs, sugar, and flour.

Cookie dough ingredients with The Cookie Elf

In both cases, a successful recipe’s ingredients combine together to make a consistent dough or batter.

Yet these two kinds of baked goods have very different consistencies.

Cookies are mixed to make dough – a thicker, denser texture. Cakes are mixed as a much thinner batter.

Two classes of ingredients conspire to make dough and batter different from each other

#1. Liquid

Cakes contain larger amounts of liquids (water and milk, for instance) than cookies. 

Liquid binds ingredients together and serves to make the batter as thin as possible, which allows bubbles – responsible for a cake's fluffiness – to form more easily.

Despite a descent from cakes and other sweetened breads, cookies use lower amounts of liquids.

Fats (butter, eggs, vegetable oils, or lard) are the binding agent in cookies, rather than liquids. Fats are thicker than liquids. The result is thicker dough that is dropped, placed, or spread on a pan in small amounts, rather than poured. As a cookie bakes, the fats in the dough coat the flour particles, seal in starch (to give the cookie shape), and remain in the batter rather than evaporate. That's why cookies have a crisper texture.

#2. Leaven

Leaven (substances like baking powder, baking soda, or yeast) cause dough or batter to expand. Cookie recipes designate smaller amounts of leaven than cake recipes. Less leaven means cookies do not rise as much as cakes do, giving them a more concentrated density.

Ratio of Ingredients

Home chef and culinary author Michael Ruhlman offers proportions of the ingredients (by weight) for basic preparations.

  • Typical cookie dough is 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, and 1 part sugar.

  • Cake batter is 2 parts each flour and liquid, 1 part each egg, fat, and sugar, plus 1 teaspoon baking powder per cup of flour.

A Word about Flour

While you can use all-purpose flour for baking a cake, but cake flour is lighter and adds to a lighter texture.

Cookie recipes, on the other hand, usually call for all-purpose flour.


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