Bundt, chiffon, angel, sponge, carrot, coffee, marble... there is nothing as multifaceted as cake. With so many varieties and techniques, you’re bound to face a few challenges.
From soggy crusts, to poor volume and uneven shapes, anything can go wrong when baking. And with the luck we had in 2020, we don’t need to take any chances. As we look forward to 2021, we plan on leaving all negativity, overthinking and mistakes (baking including) in the past!
In this three-part series, we examined some of the common baking mistakes and the solutions on how best to remedy them. We have already discussed some common mistakes that can happen when baking pies and cookies. We are rounding out this series with cake mistakes and solutions.
1. The cake did not rise properly.
The oven was too hot. When the oven is too hot, the top crust forms before the cake has had a chance to rise. This results in poor volume and can cause the cake to crack or split. The trapped gases will continue to expand after the crust is already set.
Not enough leavening agent was used. The leavening agent creates gases that are trapped in the gluten protein network. These gas bubbles expand and increase the volume of the baked product.
There was either too little flour or too much liquid added to the batter. Follow the recipe and measure everything out properly using the appropriate tools. Using a kitchen scale allows for much more accurate measurements.
2. The cake is tough.
Just like cookies but larger, cakes can be tough for the exact same reasons. They too can be overmixed. To keep it short and sweet (sorry for the pun), make sure to follow the proper steps when making a cake. Mix ingredients until they come together. Usually, the first step is creaming together the butter and the sugar. This incorporates air into the batter, making the cake have a lighter texture.
Not enough shortening was added. Anyone reading these blogs seeing a pattern? Say it with me... FAT IS IMPORTANT AND GOOD!
Too much liquid was used. Remember, we don’t want too much gluten development when making cake. Just enough to aid in the structure of the batter.
3. The cake is too dark.
Too much sugar was added. Sugar caramelizes at high temperatures and will make the cake darker if too much is added.
The oven was too hot. Make sure to preheat the oven to the correct temperature. Also make sure your oven is functional. The last thing you want is to check on your glorious cake and find out it has burned because your oven has hot spots. Use an oven thermometer if you suspect it’s not working properly. On the other hand, if your cake is too light after being in the oven for the correct amount of time, your oven may not get hot enough. Either way test it with an oven thermometer just in case.
It was cooked with an incorrect cooking time. If it’s too dark, it was probably baked for too long. Too light, it was not cooked long enough. Easy fix right?
-Friberg, B. (2002). The Professional Pastry Chef: Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry, 4th Edition. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
-Gisslen, W. (2005). Professional Baking. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.
-Labensky, S. R. (2005). On Baking: A Textbook of Baking and Pastry Fundamentals. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson-Prentice Hall.
Here are some fantastic resources in our collection for stress-free baking.