Faultless baking everytime!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Faultless baking everytime!
Cracked Buttercake

Cake baking can be quite the challenge. Here we run through common mishaps and how to avoid them when baking cakes at home...

Sunken buttercake

  • Sinks in centre after removal from oven: This generally means that the cake is undercooked.
  • Sinks in centre while still baking: If the mixture is forced to rise too quickly because the oven is too hot, it will sink in the centre.
  • Sugary crust: Butter and sugar have not been creamed sufficiently. White specks on top: Undissolved sugar, or insufficient creaming. In a light butter cake, it is better to use caster sugar, which dissolves easily.
  • Excessive shrinking: The oven being too hot has caused cake to overcook.
  • Crumbles when cut: Mixture may have been creamed too much, or eggs added too quickly.
  • Sticks to pan: Too much sugar or other sweetening in recipe. If a recipe contains honey or golden syrup, or if you're using a new pan, it is wise to line the evenly greased pan with greased baking paper.

    Cracked buttercake

  • Rises and cracks in centre: Cake pan too small or oven too hot. Most cakes baked in loaf, bar or ring pans crack slightly due to the confined space.
  • Collar around top outside edge: Cake baked at too high a temperature. Pale on top, brown underneath and sides: Too large a pan, or lining paper too high around sides of pan.
  • Colour streaks on top: Insufficient mixing of ingredients, or bowl scrapings not mixed thoroughly into cake mixture in pan.
  • Uneven rising: Oven shelf not straight, oven not level on floor, or mixture not spread evenly in pan.
  • Holes in baked cake: Mixture not creamed sufficiently or oven too hot.
  • Crusty, overbrowned, uncooked in centre: Cake baked too long or at too high a temperature. Cake pan too small, causing top to overcook while cake not cooked through completely.

    Cream mixture curdles

  • Creamed mixture curdles: Eggs and butter not at room temperature to begin with, or eggs not added quickly enough to creamed butter and sugar mixture, or eggs used are too large for mixture to absorb the excess liquid. If eggs used are larger than 60g in weight, omit one of the number shown in ingredients list, or add only the yolk of one of the eggs. Curdled creamed mixture could cause the finished cake to crumble when cut.
  • Sinks in middle: Self-raising flour used, or too much bicarbonate of soda. (Usually only plain flour is used in rich fruit cake, but sometimes a small portion of self-raising flour is added). Cake may not have been baked properly. To test, push sharp-pointed knife through centre to base of pan; blade surface helps distinguish between uncooked mixture or fruit and cooked mixture. Test only after minimum specified baking time.

    Sponge cakes

  • Small white specks on top: Undissolved sugar; sugar should be added gradually to beaten eggs and beaten until completely dissolved between additions.
  • Shrinks in oven: Cake baked at too high a temperature or for too long.
  • Shrinks and wrinkles during cooling: Insufficient baking time, or cooling the cake in a draught.
  • Flat and tough: Incorrect folding in of flour and liquid. Triple-sifted flour should be folded into mixture in a gentle, circular motion.
  • Pale and sticky on top: Baking at too low an oven temperature, or wrong oven position.
  • Crusty: Baking at too high an oven temperature, wrong oven position or pan too small. Using high-sided cake pans protects the cake mixture. Sinks in centre: Pan too small, causing cake to rise quickly, then fall in the centre.
  • Streaks on top: Scrapings from mixing bowl not mixed into sponge mixture; scrapings are always slightly darker than the full amount of mixture.
  • Sponge rises too quickly: Oven temperature is too high.
  • Sponge is undercooked: Oven door may have been opened during first half of baking.
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