Cake Flops: What Went Wrong

Have you ever tried to make a cake, but when it finished cooking it is — um — well — less than desirable? Well here is a quick guide to some of the more common cake problems, so that next time your cake will turn out right.

Cake shrinks or collapses after cooling

The most common reason for this is that there is too much fat or sugar in your recipe. Fat and sugar both weaken the structure of a cake which normally is good, but if you use too much your cake will shrink or collapse, and in extreme cases it will not raise or set at all. In this case you should reduce either the sugar or fat in your recipe. You could also increase the amount of flour you use a little, but use caution because if you add too much flour this will cause a whole other set of problems. The other reason is pretty obvious; the cake did not cook long enough. The easiest way to test a cake to see if it is done is to insert a small object (such as a cake tester, bamboo skewer, paring knife, ect…) into the center of the cake if the object comes out clean then the cake is done.

Cake texture is coarse and holey

This happens either when you over mix your batter or your oven is too cool. If your oven is too cool your cake will most likely shrink and have a coarse texture. If this happens you should increase your oven temperature (usually increasing the oven temperature by 25 F will be enough). If it is only coarse and holey then the batter was over mixed. Reduce your mixing time or use a lower setting on your mixer.

Cake texture is dense or heavy

There are a few different possible reasons for dense or heavy cakes. First thing to check is the expiration date of the baking powder used. When it expires or in some cases is close to expiring it barely works. If your baking powder is not expired then you may need to increase the amount used. Be careful, adding too much baking powder can cause a soapy flavor in your cakes. If you really add too much your cake will rise prematurely causing it to deflate. Then you’ll end up with the same problem, only now it is dense and soapy flavored. Usually 1 to 1 ½ tsp baking powder to 1 cup of flour will work.

A dense or heavy cake could also be caused by your oven temperature being too low. If this is the case there most likely will be other indicators like your cake shrinking after cooling. Another reason for your cake being too dense is that there is too much fat or sugar, or that the fat and sugar were improperly mixed. Some cakes require the sugar and fat to be creamed together before adding any other ingredients. This helps with leavening the cake. If the fat is too warm when you add the sugar you will not be able to incorporate enough air into the cake. The fat should pliable not melted.

Cake lacks volume
This applies only to cakes that use whipped egg whites (i.e. angel food cake, chiffon cakes, ect — ).

The primary reasons for a lack of volume in these types of cake are the egg whites are under whipped or they were not folded into the batter correctly. Egg whites should be whipped to either soft peaks or stiff peaks depending on the recipe. Soft peaks achieved when the whipped egg white foam is lifted up into a peak, the tip of the peak bends over slightly. Stiff peaks are achieved when the tip of the peak stays straight instead of bending over slightly.

Folding the whites into the batter is also critical, the key is to be gentle when folding them in. Also, do not add all of the whites in at once. Mix in a small portion of the egg whites first before adding the rest. This helps to loosen up the batter so the rest of the egg whites will fold in much easier. This will help the batter to much more air in the mixing process. Some other possible reasons for a cake to lack volume is the wrong type of flour is used or the baking powder is bad or old. Cake flour should always be used in these types of cakes. Bread flour and all purpose flour are too strong for these types of cakes.

Cake’s crust is cracked

There are two major causes of cracked crusts. The first is that there is too much flour. To fix this either reduce you flour or add a little more liquid. The other reason is that your oven is too hot. Usually reducing the temperature by 25 F will fix your problem.

Uneven Shape

Aside from the obvious reasons (uneven oven rack, or the batter not spread evenly) this can be caused by the butter or fat not being mixed into the cake evenly. If this is the case, mix your batter a little longer. The other reason is that your oven does not heat evenly. Unfortunately it is not unusual for ovens to do this; hopefully you can remedy this just by rotating your cake half way through the baking process. Never the less some ovens are so uneven even this won’t help.

Hopefully this has helped you figure what went wrong. If you have another cake problem that you would like to have addressed, leave a comment and I will get back you.