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Cake problems


mkfradin
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I spent weeks developing my favorite yellow cake recipe to raves, and have been baking it for 2 mos. in my bakery w/o any trouble. Recently, though, my sheet cakes have not been turning out well at all, and now the problem seems to be spreading to my 9" rounds and to other cakes as well! Yikes!

The problem cakes have a very soft, light and very holey top part, but the bottom part is rubbery, dense, and without any grain to speak of at all. I am at my wits' end trying to figure out what's going on here. I've tried fiddling with my oven temp., the amount of baking powder (reducing it since I'm using a sheet pan), the amount of batter in the pan, mostly to no avail. Keeping the amount of batter in the pan seems to help marginally, but I'm wondering now if it's that the batter is not properly emulsified, and all the butter is sinking to the bottom. Is this possible? What leads me to think it's a mixing or baking technique rather than a flaw in the recipe is that another yellow-type butter cake that I made today had the very same thing wrong with it. Or maybe it's a weather thing? It's pretty humid here. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.

I'm giving you guys my yellow cake recipe, which I was going to post as my very favorite. However, if these problems continue, I will have to say goodbye to it.

Yellow Birthday Cake

(2 9" round pans)

350 oven

4 eggs

½ c. whole milk

1 T. vanilla

225g./ 8 oz. cake flour

300 g./ 10 ½ oz. sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

½ c. salted butter, softened

1/3 c. vegetable oil

Combine eggs, milk and vanilla. Set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, powder and salt till mixed.

Add butter and blend on 1 with paddle till butter is broken into pieces the size of small peas. Add oil and mix on 1 till blended.

Add 2/3 egg mixture and mix on 1 till combined. Mix on 2 for 1 min. Scrape down sides and add remaining eggs. Mix on 2 for 30 seconds.

Pour into prepared pans and bake till done.

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I spent weeks developing my favorite yellow cake recipe to raves, and have been baking it for 2 mos. in my bakery w/o any trouble. Recently, though, my sheet cakes have not been turning out well at all, and now the problem seems to be spreading to my 9" rounds and to other cakes as well! Yikes!

Ok, you've been baking this particular cake for two months in your bakery....both sheets and 9 inch rounds, and you haven't had any trouble til recently. The first question I'd have would be, if it worked before, and doesn't now, what changed?

Did you get a different kind of flour or sugar?

Any other ingredients change? Did a supplier sub something in?

Did the weather change drastically?

Are you using a different mixer?

Different sized eggs?

Here's a handy site that lists cake faults and their causes.

Maybe that will help.......

:wub: Annie

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Just a shot in the dark, but I would guess your problem is due to the arrival of summer. An increase in your ambient temperature would certainly have an impact on your cake batter...perhaps try refrigerating your sheet pans after you've poured the batter? (Or the batter itself, of course, but I'm thinking it would chill faster on the sheets)

My parents used to own a small "homestyle" bakery in Nova Scotia, and summer always meant workarounds. They didn't have a walk-in, just a few domestic fridges, so summer was a pain in the butt for them (especially given that they had no venting to speak of). Chocolate "swirl" cookies, anyone?

Their cakes were made in small enough batches that they could refrigerate the batter, which certainly helped.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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Ah..........I don't have an answer for you BUT I have had the same darn thing happen to me. I can't bake Margret Brauns black out cake (even with adjustments which were needed because there was a mistake in the published recipe) or one of my old favorites the chocolate cake from the Spago book. Not being able to bake the Spago cake really miffs me.

Same experiences.........I didn't change any ingredients, nothing different other then it won't bake correctly. I used to make the Spago cake all the time, then one day it stopped turning out. That's what lead me onto the search for the perfect chocolate cake recipe.

Both those cakes are very very moist cakes...............but I'm stumped as to why they suddenly won't work for me (but everything else does).

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Just a shot in the dark, but I would guess your problem is due to the arrival of summer. An increase in your ambient temperature would certainly have an impact on your cake batter...

That would be my guess too.

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Just a thought, have you had your oven calibrated recently? Or do you have an accurate oven thermometer in the oven?

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Last friday at work I had to put together a chocolate mousse cake (b-day cake) as a last minute request. All I had on hand in the freezer were some of the cakes I tested from the best chocolate cake thread. Well when I leveled these (I didn't have them labeled but I believe they were from a larger batch-Karens) anyway when I cut into them I could see white lumps. The cakes were overly dense-had some tunneling too.

So I'm thinking it's clumps of either baking powder or soda that didn't dissolve and therefore didn't work to give the cake consistant rise.

I do periodically sift my soda because it tends to clump up. But I never sift my powder because I keep it sealed tightly. Occasionally when I level off my measuring spoon against the lid of my b.powder I'll see a lump, something that doesn't show up when I don't level against another object.

I'm really thinking this is from a leavening problem. I think it seems the most logical over other suggested posiblities. Also, this has been a incredibly rainie spring where I live and the humity levels are just horrible-which would lead to new clumping.

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I sift all the dry ingredients together. I also alternate the dry and wet (about six additions- and only pulse the hobart on and off. I never leave the machine running. At the end of mixing with the machine (with the whip attachment- never the paddle), I take a whisk and do a few folds by hand to make sure that everything is incorporated.

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Thanks for the suggestions and comments. There have been a few big changes. Most importantly is the weather. Our kitchen is incredibly well air conditioned (thanks to our local fire inspector who made me vent my electric appliances and necessitated massive amounts of makeup air which is treated), so it's not the heat, but it's been very very humid and I think the ingredients are absorbing moisture from the air, which is weighting down the cake. Moreover, our eggs were running quite large for a few weeks, and we weren't being as careful weighing them as we should have. Once we started weighing the eggs and trying to omit small amounts (5% or less) of liquid from the batter, it seemed to help. In addition, we have been putting less batter in the pans, so there is less weight for the batter in the bottom to push up as it attempts to rise. Does this make sense to anyone?

Whatever the case may be, I made a large batch today, using probably about half the amount per pan as I am used to. The sheet cakes were magnificent, which relieved me immensely. The layer cakes didn't bake up as high as I would have liked, because of the amount of batter (they were quite light and soft, just not high enough). I am weighing meticulously, both the ingredients and the amounts of batter I'm pouring into the pans. I'm used to just eyeballing them at `1/2 full, and with the thin layer I'm putting in the bottom, it seems way too stingy.

So does it sound like I'm on the right track?

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If it's working again, then your on the right track!

I never found putting less in the pan of these "problem recipes" had any positive effect for me. They still came out the same way. This would happen with the Spago chocolate cake roll in a sheet pan or a thicker round. But if yours is working-thats great. It's only happens to me in very wet cake recipes....

Just the other day I made the old tunnel of fudge cake and noticed the one striking thing about it, it doesn't have any soda or powder to give it rise. And it does not have any tunneling I've seen in these other cakes. It's also filled to a rather high level in the pan about 2/3's to 3/4's.

So what gives the tunneling effect? The air bubbles rise straight up in air shafts or tunnels. The cake batter does not honeycomb into well structured cake.

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Perhaps I'm using the wrong description:tunneling? I've never gotten this type of result that I'm labeling 'tunneling' from something over mixed. Over mixed results I've seen are: dense, tightly crumbed cakes or that seem stale, dry and tasteless even though they are freshly baked.

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I know exactly what you mean about the tunneling in Margaret Braun's cake, Wendy. I have the same problem with it. It is also QUITE dense when I bake it. I still haven't gotten a chance to try the Scott Clark Wooley recipe, but I will probably try it soon. The reason I've been using the Margaret Braun recipe is for the flavor and because everyone I know who makes it seems to rave about it. When I've served it, I've gottten rave reviews, but people have said that it isn't exactly like cake - it's more dense or something. I have had better results when I reduce the liquid slightly, because to me, the tunneling looked like the batter was simmering in the pans, and the air bubbles were getting trapped. However, the tunneling was still there, just less so.

I wonder if I could reduce or even omit the baking soda entirely? I only use dutch processed powder, so maybe I can? I'm not sure. I also find the Margaret Braun cake to be somewhat rubbery. Here's something strange, though: when I heat the cake, like in the microwave, and eat it hot, it is not rubbery. Maybe because the heat relaxes the cake or something? I really can't figure it out. I hope we can find a solution for this, because if the problem spreads to other cakes, I may just go insane!

Katie

Edited to say that I know this problem is not a result of overmixing. I thought it might be at first, so I tried only hand mixing it, and I STILL had the same problem!

Edited by KatieM (log)

"First rule in roadside beet sales, put the most attractive beets on top. The ones that make you pull the car over and go 'wow, I need this beet right now'. Those are the money beets." Dwight Schrute, The Office, Season 3, Product Recall

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KatieM-thats exactly what I experience. It's rubbery with weird tunneling-I can't serve that and call it a cake, to me- a cake has to have some crumb. It doesn't even pass for a flourless cake.......I need to look at a mock up of a balanced cake recipe and do some comparing, Brauns is definately out of balance.

Try the Wooley recipe, it's definately superior to the Braun. I could never go back and serve the Braun recipe and hold my head up. It's all a learning curve-when you find/learn better, you do better. Clarks recipe will get you the raves too!

I think the only attraction to Brauns is it's a blackout cake, very dark and richly flavored with cocoa-but it just can't be called a cake.

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You're right that chemical leavening can also result in tunneling, particularly if the batter is very liquid. A lot of cakes are overleavened, so you could probably reduce the baking soda a bit.

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  • 5 weeks later...

I wanted to ressurrect this topic because I thought I had the problem beat and then it came back, and now I know definitively what the cause is but not what to do.

I ran out of cake flour a day or two ago and couldn't get any more on short notice so I went to the supermarket and got a few boxes of Swans Down. As you guys probably know, the flour is wrapped in plastic (i.e. airtight), and my yellow cake was perfect. I purposely broke my own rules and overfilled my pan and it was still perfect, so the recipe's good, it's the stupid chicago humidity that's killing me.

Has anyone had trouble with cake flour just sucking up the water from the air? It isn't happening with any of my other flours, and they're stored in the same place. My only thought on this is to keep te flour in an airtight container, which in this case would either be cambros, or to put it in 10 pound or so units in plastic bags where they'd be airtight till they're used.

I would welcome suggestions,war stories, horror stories, etc. I guess I feel better at least knowning what the problem is, but I hate the thought of buying my flour at the supermarket every summer!!!

Marjorie

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Oh yeah, the humidity can really effect your flour. I worked at a country club positioned feet from lake michigan..........where I discovered there were certain recipes I had that wouldn't bake properly there. It makes you think your nuts or doing something wrong, but your not.

I kept everything in sealed plastic bins..........but that doesn't really work in the long run. As you work with your flour during the day humidity sneaks into the flour. You can't seal it as tight in a bin as those air tight packets come....it's a loosing battle. I never kept extra flour on hand, buy it in regularly. You could try running a dehumidifier near your bins (I've never done so) that might help a little.

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Just had to comment on the Braun blackout cake.... Wendy, ever since you gave me that time on the change in the baking soda amount, I've never had a problem with it, there's no tunnelling or rubberiness of any kind. I'm perplexed how the same exact recipe can produce such different results! I love that recipe. Actually, I really love that recipe that won the "best chocolate cake" thread too, but in a taste test I conducted, they were found to be so similar that my guests were basically splitting hairs to choose one. So, I end up using the blackout one just because it is a bit simpler in that there's no wrapping and timing, etc.

Anyway, very strange these recipe inconsistencies!

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  • 1 year later...
I spent weeks developing my favorite yellow cake recipe to raves, and have been baking it for 2 mos. in my bakery w/o any trouble.  Recently, though, my sheet cakes have not been turning out well at all, and now the problem seems to be spreading to my 9" rounds and to other cakes as well!  Yikes!

The problem cakes have a very soft, light and very holey top part, but the bottom part is rubbery, dense, and without any grain to speak of at all.  I am at my wits' end trying to figure out what's going on here.  I've tried fiddling with my oven temp., the amount of baking powder (reducing it since I'm using a sheet pan), the amount of batter in the pan, mostly to no avail.  Keeping the amount of batter in the pan seems to help marginally, but I'm wondering now if it's that the batter is not properly emulsified, and all the butter is sinking to the bottom.  Is this possible?  What leads me to think it's a mixing or baking technique rather than a flaw in the recipe is that another yellow-type butter cake that I made today had the very same thing wrong with it.  Or maybe it's a weather thing?  It's pretty humid here. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.

I'm giving you guys my yellow cake recipe, which I was going to post as my very favorite.  However, if these problems continue, I will have to say goodbye to it.

Yellow Birthday Cake

(2 9" round pans)

350 oven

4 eggs

½ c. whole milk

1 T. vanilla

225g./ 8 oz. cake flour

300 g./ 10 ½ oz. sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

½ c. salted butter, softened

1/3 c. vegetable oil

Combine eggs, milk and vanilla.  Set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, powder and salt till mixed. 

Add butter and blend on 1 with paddle till butter is broken into pieces the size of small peas.  Add oil and mix on 1 till blended.

Add 2/3 egg mixture and mix on 1 till combined.  Mix on 2 for 1 min.  Scrape down sides and add remaining eggs.  Mix on 2 for 30 seconds.

Pour into prepared pans and bake till done.

Oh, my goodness! I am so glad that I came across this thread. I baked a very similar recipe TWICE and received the same results!! I am sitting here searching for answers on what the heck I did wrong. I guess I will bake it again using a brand new pack of flour! :blink:

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