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cake sags in the middle -- why?

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24 replies to this topic

#1 cognitivefun

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 05:34 AM

I made a spice cake last night. You whip eggs and sugar until very light, add melted butter and then alternately add sour cream and the flour/spices/leaveners. Then into the oven.

The middle sags. High on the outside part of the cake, low in the middle.

What causes this?

#2 etalanian

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 06:50 AM

Hi,

Do you use an oven thermometer? Are you certain your oven was actually at the right temperature? Was it completely pre-heated before you put the cake into the oven?

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#3 davecap

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 07:12 AM

I made a spice cake last night. You whip eggs and sugar until very light, add melted butter and then alternately add sour cream and the flour/spices/leaveners. Then into the oven.

The middle sags. High on the outside part of the cake, low in the middle.

What causes this?

View Post


My guess, too, is that the oven was not the correct temperature, hot enough. Or were the egg whites possibly overwhipped?

#4 K8memphis

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 07:25 AM

Did you do that in that order??? It's kinda backwards. Wouldn't your egg whites be deflated after all that extra curricular activity?
We had a whole big deal going about egg whites & cakes in this other thread.

Melting the butter strikes me as a problem too for some reason.

Edited by K8memphis, 19 September 2006 - 07:29 AM.


#5 Tweety69bird

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 08:24 AM

I had a similar problem with one of RLB's white butter cake recipes sinking in the middle when I was making it and I wrote to Rose to ask her about it. Her reply said that perhaps I should develop the gluten a bit more, and also to try reducing the baking powder a little. Well, I let the mixer go for a full minute more than I have in the past, and I'm a little light handed when measuring the baking powder, and I haven't had a problem since her advice. Maybe one of these suggestions (or both) may help you out.

...although, I agree with K8 too, adding melted butter to whipped eggs seems to defeat the purpose....
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#6 cognitivefun

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 09:33 AM

Hmmm. But when I've made a genoise, it seems to me that I recall I've whipped eggs (over a bit of heat, just a bit) to three times their volume and then I've added melted butter. I'm confused as to why this is a bad idea...

I don't mean to change the topic, so just to tie back in...there is a possibility that this has to do with the eggs somehow...

Perhaps the temperature was too low in my oven. I do have a big stone in there and perhaps for baking delicate cakes, it throws the themostat off and then, the cake cooks too slowly, resulting in time for the interior to sag but meanwhile the perimeter has set...

Sounds plausible :wink:

Edited by cognitivefun, 19 September 2006 - 09:39 AM.


#7 miladyinsanity

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 10:00 AM

How did you add the melted butter?

Though, I've had genoise issues aplenty, and usually the problem was that I didn't fold it in properly, but it never sunk in the center.

What size pan did you use?
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#8 K8memphis

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 10:04 AM

Perhaps the temperature was too low in my oven. I do have a big stone in there and perhaps for baking delicate cakes, it throws the themostat off and then, the cake cooks too slowly, resulting in time for the interior to sag but meanwhile the perimeter has set...

Sounds plausible  :wink:

View Post


You are right. It is the occupational hazard of being a cake. That is easily fixed. Use an upside down rose nail or a heating core or a piece of aluminum foil stuck in there. Fold it flat like 4"x1", cut one end making two 'feet' than can be folded in opposite directions & plant that securely into the middle of the cake batter. To remove after baking, slide a butter knife down each leg to 'unfold' and remove.

Did you clarify your butter??? What is the formula??

Edited by K8memphis, 19 September 2006 - 10:07 AM.


#9 cognitivefun

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 10:06 AM

How did you add the melted butter?

Though, I've had genoise issues aplenty, and usually the problem was that I didn't fold it in properly, but it never sunk in the center.

What size pan did you use?

View Post


I used an 8 X 8 pan, pyrex.

I added the butter with the mixer paddle attachment on low and mixed just enough to combine, as the recipe instructed.

#10 miladyinsanity

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 10:14 AM

The recipe specifically gives instructions for adding it with the mixer on?
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#11 cognitivefun

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 10:22 AM

The recipe specifically gives instructions for adding it with the mixer on?

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yes, on slow speed. Is this unusual?

#12 Squirrelly Cakes

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 11:05 AM

Hmmm. But when I've made a genoise, it seems to me that I recall I've whipped eggs (over a bit of heat, just a bit) to three times their volume and then I've added melted butter. I'm confused as to why this is a bad idea...

I don't mean to change the topic, so just to tie back in...there is a possibility that this has to do with the eggs somehow...

Perhaps the temperature was too low in my oven. I do have a big stone in there and perhaps for baking delicate cakes, it throws the themostat off and then, the cake cooks too slowly, resulting in time for the interior to sag but meanwhile the perimeter has set...

Sounds plausible  :wink:

View Post

You probably already knew this but I am throwing it in in case someone doesn't. When baking in glass (pyrex) ware or in dark teflon coated pans, you should reduce the temperature by 25F.

And yes, it is also possible that the baking stone created additional problems with this particular recipe.

#13 SweetSide

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 12:33 PM

Ah, but to throw a wrench in the works -- I specifically added a baking stone to my oven to keep my genoise from deflating. It kept the heat more even, as long as I preheat the oven for a LONG time before baking so the stone can absorb the heat.

But then had problems with another cake -- after experimentation I found it was that I wasn't whipping my egg whites perfectly. My flaw was with the baker, not the oven or recipe.

Could it be that the butter isn't mixing in thoroughly -- it can tend to sink to the bottom. When doing a genoise I was taught to take some of the egg foam, add it to the butter and stir until it was well combined. Then fold that mixture back into the rest of the foam to make the folding easier. Would that process work for this cake?

Did you open the oven door too soon for a peek? Another detrimental move to some cakes....
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#14 reenicake

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 02:12 PM

with foam cakes the sinking is usually caused by either underbaking or deflation from overmixing. Other causes: your formula may have too much liquid to form enough structure; if you've made it before and it came out good, I'd blame overfolding.

#15 miladyinsanity

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 02:44 PM

The recipe specifically gives instructions for adding it with the mixer on?

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yes, on slow speed. Is this unusual?

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You can get different results from pouring it in directly and folding it in like Sweetside described.
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#16 chefpeon

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 02:44 PM

I would like to point out that Cog never said anything about beating egg whites.

I made a spice cake last night. You whip eggs and sugar until very light, add melted butter and then alternately add sour cream and the flour/spices/leaveners. Then into the oven.


The eggs are whole, beating them with sugar til it ribbons, most likely.
This cake mixing method mimics a genoise, for sure.

I'm fairly sure it has nothing to do with a baking stone in your oven, as I've baked cakes successfully in all kinds of ovens.....including pizza deck ovens, which are solid stone on the bottom.
It's either an oven temp problem or a mixing problem; the latter being more likely.

When it comes to cakes that are "genoisey", I do fold the butter and the flour in by hand literally. It helps to fan your fingers out a bit so that you can incorporate the ingredients better and use less folding action. :smile:

#17 sanrensho

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 02:47 PM

When it comes to cakes that are "genoisey", I do fold the butter and the flour in by hand literally. It helps to fan your fingers out a bit so that you can incorporate the ingredients better and use less folding action. :smile:


Do you also fold by hand at home, when working with small volumes?

Edited by sanrensho, 19 September 2006 - 02:47 PM.

Baker of "impaired" cakes...

#18 chefpeon

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 05:01 PM

Do you also fold by hand at home, when working with small volumes?

Yep! I sure do. What works for large, works for small as well! :smile:

#19 Pam R

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 06:44 PM

Are you sure the cake was done?

#20 JayBassin

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 11:27 AM

I made a spice cake last night. You whip eggs and sugar until very light, add melted butter and then alternately add sour cream and the flour/spices/leaveners. Then into the oven.

The middle sags. High on the outside part of the cake, low in the middle.

What causes this?

View Post

You also may have too much leavener. The leavener could react too quickly and puff the center before the structure is set by the heat. How much leavener did you use? You could try cutting down the baking powder.

Added note: if the oven temp is too high, you could have the sides cooking too fast. Try using damp kitchen cloths wrapped around the cake pans.

Edited by JayBassin, 20 September 2006 - 11:28 AM.

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#21 devlin

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 12:31 PM

My first thought too was whether the cake was actually done. Did you test the center before you took it out of the oven?

Another observation from my own cakes: I have a baking stone in my oven and have for several years now. It's never had an effect in terms of the issue noted here, and in fact it seems to distribute the heat overall in the oven, or something. I've just noticed everything bakes more evenly and consistently with it in. I only discovered that after I got tired of putting it in and then taking it back out again every time I baked bread.

#22 cognitivefun

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 12:54 PM

it started sagging in the oven...before it was done.

#23 sanrensho

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 01:54 PM

When it comes to cakes that are "genoisey", I do fold the butter and the flour in by hand literally. It helps to fan your fingers out a bit so that you can incorporate the ingredients better and use less folding action. :smile:


Do you also fold by hand at home, when working with small volumes?

View Post


Thanks for the reply. I guess my question was whether you used your hands due to large volumes in a production environment.

My kids will think I'm nuts, but I'll try your method next time. I can certainly see how hands would be better. I've never been completely satisfied with folding in egg whites using standard methods.

Edited by sanrensho, 20 September 2006 - 01:55 PM.

Baker of "impaired" cakes...

#24 cognitivefun

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 02:05 PM

When it comes to cakes that are "genoisey", I do fold the butter and the flour in by hand literally. It helps to fan your fingers out a bit so that you can incorporate the ingredients better and use less folding action. :smile:


Do you also fold by hand at home, when working with small volumes?

View Post


Thanks for the reply. I guess my question was whether you used your hands due to large volumes in a production environment.

My kids will think I'm nuts, but I'll try your method next time. I can certainly see how hands would be better. I've never been completely satisfied with folding in egg whites using standard methods.

View Post


yeah, I think it's a cool idea! I use my hands when I make bread, why not for folding in egg whites? I like it!

#25 ninetofive

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Posted 31 May 2007 - 08:50 AM

Just adding to the library of knowledge here -- I had this problem earlier this week and came to this thread for guidance. I was doing everything right: not overbeating the eggs, folding in the butter and thrice-sifted cake flour gently, baking in a calibrated oven, etc. but still got sunken middles.

The culprit? I was using a smaller pan than called for. Going from an 8" to 9" pan resulted in a perfect genoise with no sinking or doming. The pan was also a bit darkened, which I think helped to set the center along with the sides.

Hope this helps someone down the road!
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