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Thread: sunken cake question

  1. #1
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    sunken cake question

    Last week for my birthday, DBF made me a cake...his first from scratch! He was so proud of himself, and so was I. It was delicious, but he was disappointed that when he took the pans out of the oven, the center of each layer was a bit sunken and dense, even though they were cooked through. I've never had this problem. I know that over-mixing or too-hot an oven will cause a cake to mound up in the middle. What would cause the center to sink in?
    Connie

  2. #2
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    Did he open the oven mid-baking? Also, take a look at baking911.com, I used that when my lemon sponge cake wasn't rising (altitude issues )

  3. #3
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    I know you said it was cooked through, but what you describe does sound to me as though the cake was just a bit underdone. not raw, but maybe could have used 2 more minutes? not sure.

  4. #4
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    Maybe he didn't cream the butter and sugar enough. That can cause cakes that don't rise as much and fall a bit after cooking.
    If loving me is wrong, you don't want to be right.

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    JB

  5. #5
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    Yes, Baking911.com is a great resource for all sorts of baking and sweets-making. Here's the link to the "sunken center" section on her "What Went Wrong" page for cakes: http://www.baking911.com/cakes/probl...unken%20center

  6. #6
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    Did the cake have an ingredient (such as fruit) that was really moist and heavy? I've encountered this phenomenon with cakes that contain chunks of fruit. Most recently, made a Cajun cake that contained pineapple chunks and it sunk a little across the middle, but was delicious nonetheless - especially with the coconut pecan frosting on top.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for all your responses!
    Here's what baking 911 had to say:

    Oven too cold (baked too slowly). Preheat oven for about 20 minutes.
    Sugar and fat under-creamed. Follow my Creaming Steps.
    Batter undermixed
    Too much baking powder.
    Not enough liquid
    Too much flour
    Used all-purpose flour instead of cake flour.
    Careless or poor depositing in the pans.

    *I know the oven wasn't too cold...turned it on myself; it was preheated
    *sugar & butter could've been undercreamed, but I'd be surprised. He was getting a kick out of using my KA heavy duty mixer.
    *batter undermixed...possible, but not likely (he asked me to check on incorporating dry & wet ingredients)
    *perhaps too much baking powder. The recipe called for a tablespoon. I've never made this particular cake before, and I thought that seemed like a lot.
    *Liquid & flour looked about right and cake flour was used
    *He was careful placing batter in the pans.

    Val, it's possible it could've used a couple more minutes, but I think it still would've been somewhat sunken in the center.

    Shihtzux2, there was no fruit in the cake, but that's good information to know for future reference!

    Thanks again for all your advice!
    Connie

  8. #8
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    Sometimes it's just the recipe, and a tablespoon of baking powder does sound like a lot.

  9. #9
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    How did he measure the flour? If he scooped it in the measuring cup that would effect the actual amount used.

    Maybe if you posted the recipe those of us in the baking mood could give it a try...
    Well-behaved women seldom make history!

  10. #10
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    How old is your baking powder?
    If loving me is wrong, you don't want to be right.

    Don't touch the hair!
    JB

  11. #11
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    Actually, I measured the dry ingredients for him because he was on a tight schedule & I had the time. When he got in from work, all the ingredients were out & the dry ones had been measured, so I know that they were measured correctly.

    My baking powder is practically new...I think I got it a couple of weeks ago.

    The recipe is a plain vanilla layer cake with mocha frosting from Mary Englebreit's Celebration cookbook. I will try to post it tomorrow for those who are interested in trying it.
    Connie

  12. #12
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    Sorry it has taken me so long to post this recipe. My computer's been giving me trouble lately.

    Creamy Mocha Layer Cake
    from You’re Invited, A Cookbook for Special Occasions, by Mary Engelbreit

    MOCHA FROSTING
    1 ½ C heavy cream
    12 oz semisweet choc., chopped
    ¼ C strongly brewed coffee

    YELLOW LAYER CAKE
    2 C cake flour
    3 tsp baking powder
    ¼ tsp salt
    ¾ C unsalted butter, at room temp
    1 ½ C sugar
    3 lg eggs, at room temp
    1 tsp vanilla
    ¾ C milk, at room temp

    1 C bitter orange marmalade

    1. Prepare the mocha frosting: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chocolate. Let sit 5 minutes, and stir to combine. Stir in the coffee and mix until blended. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
    2. Prepare the layer cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8” round cake pans and line them with parchment paper. Butter and flour the parchment.
    3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In an electric mixer at high speed, cream the butter until pale and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sugar gradually, mixing at medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and continue to beat until the batter lightens, about 2 minutes. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
    4. Combine the vanilla and the milk. Fold the sifted dry ingredients into the butter mixture one third at a time, alternating with the milk. Begin and end with the dry ingredients. Divide the mixture between the prepared pans and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
    5. Cool the layers in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove them from the pans, remove the paper, and allow to cool completely on the racks.
    6. Assemble the cake: In the large bowl of an electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat the frosting until thick. Place one cake layer top-side-down on a cake plate. Spread the orange marmalade over the cake. Top the marmalade with the second cake layer, top-side-up. Spread mocha frosting over the sides of the cake and then over the top.

    SERVES 8
    Connie

  13. #13
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    Connie,
    I made the cake this morning and while I had my suspicions just from reading the recipe I followed it exactly. the problem is in the method and the fact that it uses butter (and you probably used American style butter). Butter has poor emulsifing abilities because it's high in water, with American style butter being higher than European style.Mine did sink very slightly in the center but I haven't tasted it yet so I don't know if the same area is dense.

    This recipe is actually a high-ratio cake and a different method of mixing the batter should have been used, that and shortening. The eggs, sugar, cake flour, salt and baking powder should be put in the bowl together and mixed into a paste then the whipped shortening is added and whipped at high speed for about 2 minutes. Then the milk and flavoring is added and whipped for one minute longer.

    I may try this again with the non-hydrogenated (palm oil) shortening that I have and see how it goes...
    Well-behaved women seldom make history!

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by ccooney
    Last week for my birthday, DBF made me a cake...his first from scratch! He was so proud of himself, and so was I.
    That is adorable - he sounds like a keeper!
    "If you aren't living on the edge, you're taking up too much space."

  15. #15
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    I was going to say what GingerPow just said.... I'd focus on the fact that he baked the cake, regardless of the sunken center.

  16. #16
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    We just had the cake for dessert and it was very good. Nice and moist crumb and I didn't find the center to be dense. The frosting is very rich, I didn't use the marmalade but used some of the chocolate frosting between layers but it was way too much for an 8" cake (and I love chocolate so that was a surprise reaction for me).
    Well-behaved women seldom make history!

  17. #17
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    Sounds like a keeper to me too - a guy that will bake you a cake is a great start! Aside from the chemistry of cakes (a science in itself of which I am a tad ignorant) would it help to put a ring of wet newspaper around the pans before baking? Take a couple of sheets of newspaper, get them wet but not dripping - fold fold fold - until they are the same width at the pan is high, circle the pan (outside) and secure by folding inside the ring. This works to keep cakes from crowning but it might work to slow down the cooking of the outer layer so that the middle can cook longer without turning the outer part to crispy critters.
    Anne

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by GingerPow
    That is adorable - he sounds like a keeper!
    Yep! He is such a sweetie. I'm not at all worried about his baking abilities...his heart's always in the right place. He was just a bit disappointed about his results & I said I'd ask the BB what their thoughts were. It was nice to be able to tell him that it probably wasn't his fault that the cake came out as it did.

    Sneezles, thanks for the info & advice. I'd never heard about that alternative method for mixing. What does it mean when you say it's a high-ratio cake? I will try the alternative method next time I make this particular cake.

    Perhaps I'll try the newspaper trick, too, Anne!
    Connie

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by ccooney

    Sneezles, thanks for the info & advice. I'd never heard about that alternative method for mixing. What does it mean when you say it's a high-ratio cake? I will try the alternative method next time I make this particular cake.

    Perhaps I'll try the newspaper trick, too, Anne!
    It has to do with the recipe having a higher portion of sugar than flour by weight. It is also used because the amount of liquid ingredients (including the eggs) is proportionally larger than in a foam (sponge type cake) or those that use the creaming method (the one in the directions for the recipe you posted).

    I don't think the wet newspaper would work, it works to prevent doming but I don't think it would work to prevent the sinking, JMHO.


    BTA: I did want to say that it took me 2 minutes to add all the sugar to the butter, that all my ingredients were at 70° and that the eggs were mix together in a small bowl and then added a tbs at a time.
    Well-behaved women seldom make history!

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