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What's wrong with my cake?


OR... common reasons why a cake can fail


So we are in lockdown again and I know a lot of you are back in the kitchen baking cakes. Judging by the questions I've received, a number of you are also having a few problems so, as a follow up to my previous post, this time I'm looking at reasons why your cake can fail.



Baking is a science, after all, and there are a number of reasons why your cake doesn't always turn out how you expect it to:

  1. Unbalanced recipes.

  2. Faults in the making up of the batter: mixture being too cold, not enough creaming, overmixing before and/or after adding the flour, causing toughening of the mixture.

  3. Incorrect baking: oven too hot or too cold, not enough protection around tins and frames (baking belts can help here).

  4. Insufficient steam in the oven (you can increase the amount of steam by placing a tray of water in the bottom of the oven. This is particularly useful for fruit cakes and other types of cake that take a long time to bake).

  5. Unsuitable ingredients: flour too soft or too strong (read about the different types of flour here), unwashed fruit, wet fruit, too much liquid (fruit juices, milk, etc), weak eggs, etc.


Here is a list of the more common faults and the most likely reasons why they happen:


Underbaked streak under the top surface of your cake


Most probable cause:

  1. Oven too hot

  2. Not long enough in the oven

  3. Knocking the cake before it's properly baked


Streak at the bottom. Can also have collapsed Sides


Most probable cause:

  1. Too much liquid - added fruit juices, milk etc

  2. Insufficient sugar (see my post about the role of sugar in baking here)

  3. Flour too soft (read about the different types of flour here)

  4. Insufficient egg or eggs too weak in strength (I cover eggs here)

  5. Too little baking powder


Collapse in the centre, dark crumb and crust


Most probable cause:


Excess baking powder





Collapse in the centre, white spot on top


Most probable cause:


Too much sugar






Rounded shoulders, small volume, cauliflower top


Most probable cause:

  1. Flour too strong (read about the different types of flour here)

  2. Oven too hot

  3. Too much egg (I cover eggs here)

  4. Not enough steam in the oven. You can increase the amount of steam by placing a tray of water in the bottom of the oven. This is particularly useful for fruit cakes and other types of cake that take a long time to bake.

  5. Not enough sugar (see my post about the role of sugar in baking here)


Fruit Sinking


Most probable cause:

  1. Fruit too heavy - being washed and not dried properly before mixing

  2. Weak flour (read about the different types of flour here)

  3. Too much sugar (see my post about the role of sugar in baking here)

  4. Too much baking powder

  5. Not enough egg for binding (I cover eggs here)

  6. Cake batter too light (overbeating)

  7. Insufficient mixing

  8. Baking temperature too low


Open wild texture

Coarse and crumbly


Most probable cause:


  1. Not enough creaming

  2. Mixing too cold so curdling when adding eggs (all ingredients should be at room temperature before you start)

  3. Insufficient aeration

  4. Over mixing

  5. Adding mixture to tins in several lots, trapping air between layers. Mixture should be added in one lot - try and avoid scrapings put on the top layer


I hope this has helped you with your baking conundrums but if you really are struggling I am always happy to bake the cake for you. There is a page on my website dedicated to everyday cakes and for those of you who are trying to lose some of the extra padding that you've gained during the festive season, why not try my Skinny Bakes. There's a selection of these available in the website shop too.


So, go on, treat yourself. You really CAN have your cake and eat it!


Sharing the cake love!

Julia



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