Problems with Cakes (Common Cake Faults) : Baking Basics

Honestly this was supposed to be a post for F and I forgot about it and I was telling O that this is what I wanted to publish for F and he said call them problems no? And well they are in a way :P so here it is

Problems with Cakes (Common Cake Faults) : Baking Basics

I get many reader emails and FB messages on baking and if I have to create a pie chart on what the questions are, the two prominent ones would be which oven to use and the ones asking me why did the cake collapse, why does my cake have so many cracks on the top, why isn't my cake moist. Basically troubleshooting the cake fail.

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Though a lot of times pinpointing on the right reason of the cake problem is difficult online without really knowing what the reader did and what steps were followed in which recipe, I thought putting together a list of common cake faults or problems that arise while baking a cake might help you readers understand it better. This is actually a whole module in my baking basics class and one of the most treasured ones too

Collapsed or Sunken cakes - Cake sunken, specially in the center, more often than not the reason with this is the imbalance in the recipe.

  • Too much sugar
  • Too little liquid
  • Too much baking powder
  • Knocking in the oven before the cake is set, by knocking in I mean the physical knocking while the cake is rising. The rising stage in the cake baking happens the first and if during that time one opens the oven, the temperature drops and the cake gets a knock it is likely that the cake will sink

Cake with peaked top -

  • Too strong flour, which means a flour high in gluten, great for bread baking but cakes need a softer flour
  • Insufficient aeration or beating
  • Overbeating or tough batter
  • Oven top hot specially the top heat which leads to the crust forming before the cake sets and the steam then cracks and peaks the top

Cracked crust/Too many cracks

  • Too hot oven
  • Cake tin too small
  • Cake batter standing too long before baking

Wet/Dense Streak at the base of the cake

  • Excessive liquid in the batter
  • Too little baking powder

Tunnel like holes in the cake

  • Inadequate mixing
  • Lumps of unmixed fat in the batter
  • Mixture being poured in the cake tin, little at a time instead of continuously hence forming air pockets

Fruits falls to the bottom of the cake

  • Too thin batter
  • Too much sugar
  • Too much baking powder
  • Fruit is wet and hence heavy (coating the fruit with a little flour helps)
  • Low baking temperature, I know this does sound counter intuitive since most fruit cakes are baked at low temperatures but too low temp will lead to sinking of fruit

Sugary top or white spots on the crust

  • Too much sugar
  • Not enough liquid or hydration
  • Sugar too coarse, this is specially true in India since the granulated sugar is too fat. Always give a whizz in the mixie before using it
  • Batter standing too long before baking

Cake too dense

  • Insufficient baking powder/leaving agent
  • Excess liquid
  • Excess sugar
  • Oven not hot enough

Coarse or irregular cake

  • Too much baking powder
  • Improper mixing
  • Insufficient liquid
  • Insufficient eggs

Cake too tender/crumbly for cutting

  • Overmixing of the batter
  • Too little egg
  • Too much sugar

Crust too thick

  • Too much sugar
  • Too little liquid
  • Incorrect oven temperature (both too hot and too cold can lead to this)
  • Cake standing too long before baking

Curdled cake batter - This is usually not too huge a problem but it freaks out most people who are not regular bakers and more often than not can be solved by throwing in a tablespoon of flour and continue baking

  • Eggs are added before the fat and sugar have been creamed enough
  • Eggs are too cold when added, the eggs always need to be at room temperature
  • Eggs are added in too large amounts. Remember there is a reason to add eggs one at a time

And with that I hope this post helps you in making baking easy. If you have any other fault you will like to know about or any other baking basic you would like me to cover leave a comment or drop me an email.

Happy Caking

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