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Thread: Why did my cake flop?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
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    Why did my cake flop?

    I have made this recipe since 1985 with no problems, ever. Tonight I made it and part of it sunk in-just off to the side of the middle. And the edges looked turned in like they rolled over the top. What in the world happened? Of course it is for work tomorrow. I think I will frost it then cut it into servings since I don't know what is under that caved in part. Any ideas? Thanks..Sue

    Editing....it is the Denver Chocolate Sheet Cake from Colorado Cache. Made w/ buttermilk, cocoa, eggs, etc. Baked in a jellyroll pan.

  2. #2
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    I'm surprised that this time would have been any different than any other time you made it for so many years but I do have an idea. I don't have tons of experience with baking but I have heard that if something rises TOO much then it can colapse. Did this recipe include baking soda (is that the one you use with an acid like buttermilk)? If you added a bit more than called for it could have risen too much. Just an idea.

  3. #3
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    Thanks Stacy, maybe it was the baking soda. It could have risen too much at first, which would explain why the sides look like they rolled in. Now I think I better taste it before wasting the frosting on it......maybe I overdid the baking soda. Thanks for the idea. S

  4. #4
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    Several possibilities...

    * Over beaten. You may have blown too much air into the batter and the cake rose too high, then sank.

    * Too much leavening. This will cause the same effect as the above.

    * Opening the oven or disturbing the cake pan at a crucial time. Baked goods leavened with chemicals (soda/powder) rise, then settle as they bake and the proteins firm. At the point where the cake is risen to its fullest height - it's disastrous to open the oven or disturb the pan. Pffffft! Deflation.
    "There's no food in your food!!" Joan Cusack to John Cusack in "Say Anything."

  5. #5
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    Well, I made another cake last night. Since my jellyroll pan was full of cake #1, I used my 9x13. It had a nice look to it at the end of 30 minutes, tested done, and when I took it out it started to sink too. Not as bad as #1 and the sides didn't look funny. I will cut it at work today (holding my breath) and hope that it is ok inside. It is just frustrating because this has been my 'no fail' cake recipe forever. And, thanks Chiffonade-I might have peeked too many times on the cake #2....I was a bit impatient since it was alomost 11:30PM and it still need to cool and be frosted. Thanks for the ideas! Sue

  6. #6
    My guess is it was either the baking soda or maybe not enough flour. Did you use a different measuring method than usual? If you usually scoop but decided to spoon and level, you may have unknowingly used less flour.

  7. #7
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    Would humidity have been a factor at all? I know that whenever I have something go wrong with a tried and true baking recipe, it's always because I forget that it's so humid here!

    Just a thought...don't know how humid CO ever is!!
    ERIKA (a dairy-free, and almost soy-free kind of gal)

    "I don't know where she got her cooking skills from. I barely have the patience or skill to cook noodles. I'll tell you one thing, though, all she ever wanted to do as a kid was bang on pots and pans." - my mother

  8. #8
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    Did you change types of flour, store your flour in the freezer? I always refer back to this article when trying out a cake recipe (and I realize that you have made this before but something has changed). Have you had your oven tested for accuracy? Anyway, here's the article:

    For Great Cakes, Get the Ratios Right

    CookWise author Shirley O. Corriher explains the science behind tender, moist cakes

    by Shirley O. Corriher

    Have you ever wondered how a baker can create a cake recipe from scratch and know that it will work? Unlike a savory chef, who can often use intuition to design a successful dish, a baker must work within defined parameters to produce a cake that will rise, set, and taste the way she wants. Experienced cake bakers would never dream of trying to bake a cake without first "doing the math" to make sure that the ingredients are in balance. Having the right proportions of flour, eggs, sugar, and fat makes all the difference.

    Flour and eggs for structure, fat and sugar for tenderness
    In cakes, the protein ingredients, which are the flour and eggs, are the major structure-builders. They're essentially what holds the cake together. Fat and sugar do the opposite; they actually wreck or soften the cake's structure, providing tenderness and moisture.

    If you have too much of the structure-building flour and eggs, the cake will be tough and dry. If you have too much of the moistening, softening fats and sugars, the cake might not set. It could be a soupy mess or so tender that it falls apart.

    Bakers have formulas that balance these ingredients so their cakes have the strength to hold together but are still tender and moist. These formulas don't have to be followed dead on, but if you stray by more than about 20 percent, you may have problems.

    There are two sets of formulas: pound-cake (or lean-cake) formulas, which have less sugar than flour; and "high-ratio" formulas, which contain more sugar. The general rule is that high-ratio cakes require shortening, whose added emulsifiers help hold the cake together. You can, however, make successful high-ratio cakes with butter if you aerate the butter by creaming it and if you add emulsifiers in the form of egg yolks. Some bakers even make cakes with olive oil, which contains natural emulsifiers (mono- and diglycerides).

    Here are the three formulas for the more popular, sweeter, high-ratio cakes:


    The sugar should weigh the same as, or slightly more than, the flour. Remember that this is weight, not volume. A cup of sugar weighs about 7 ounces, and a cup of all-purpose flour weighs about 4-1/2 ounces. So, if we're building a recipe with 1 cup sugar, we'll need about 1-1/2 cups flour (about 6-3/4 ounces).

    The eggs should weigh about the same as, or slightly more than, the fat. One large egg (out of its shell) weighs about 1-3/4 ounces. If our developing recipe contains 4 ounces butter (or shortening), we could use two whole eggs (3-1/2 ounces). This is a little under, but remember that these rules are flexible, and we're still within 20%.

    But eggs have two parts: whites, which dry out baked goods, and yolks, which make textures smooth and velvety. A yolk from a large egg weighs about 2/3 ounce. One way to balance the eggs with the fat and to get a smoother cake is to add extra yolks. You could use one egg plus three yolks for a total of about 3-3/4 ounces.

    The liquid (including the eggs) should weigh the same as, or more than, the sugar. Our recipe now has 7 ounces sugar and 3-1/2 or 3-3/4 ounces eggs. To get the total amount of liquid to weigh more than the sugar, we could add 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of a liquid, like milk or buttermilk.



    Proper leavening is also critical. If a recipe is overleavened, the bubbles will get too big, float to the top, and -- pop! There goes your leavening, and here comes a heavy, dense cake. One teaspoon of baking powder for one cup of flour is the perfect amount of leavening for most cake recipes. For baking soda (which is used if the recipe has a considerable amount of acidic ingredients), use 1/4 teaspoon soda for each cup of flour. Finally, don't forget a little salt, about 1/2 teaspoon for a small cake like this. It's a major flavor enhancer.

    Once you have a working recipe, you can test it and start making adjustments to taste. I like baked goods very moist, so I would have started with one egg and three yolks. If I decided I wanted a moister cake, I could bump up the sugar, or I could replace some or all of the butter with oil. Oil coats flour proteins better than other fats and will make a more tender, moister product.

    Shirley O. Corriher, a contributing editor to Fine Cooking, wrote the award-winning CookWise (Morrow).


    From Fine Cooking #42, p. 78
    Well-behaved women seldom make history!

  9. #9
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    I had one other thought on the baking soda issue. Baking soda has an indefinite shelf life if kept in an airtight container in the pantry. To test for viability mix 1/4 teasp with 2 teaspoons of vinegar. The mixture should start to bubble immediately. A new box unopened has a shelf life of about 24 months but you've really no idea how long it's sat on the grocer's shelf so you should test before using even a new box.

    Do not be tempted to add more baking powder or soda than a recipe suggests as not only can too much cause the mixture to taste bitter but it can also cause the mixture to rise too rapidly so that the air bubbles grow too large and burst causing the mixture to fall. Having said that, too little baking powder or soda results in a tough end product that has a poor close grained texture.
    Well-behaved women seldom make history!

  10. #10
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    Wow, thank you all for your ideas. I heard another one tonight from the director/owner of a cooking school. She immediately said it was too much sugar. Now, I KNOW I did everything the same as always, but might have been off somewhere. It tasted great though, so all was not lost. Thanks again for the help.....I will have to try it again watching the factor mentioned and see what happens. Sue

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