Sugar_Plum_Fairy Posted 9 Oct 2009 , 1:25pm
post #1 of

Yesterday I made a chocolate cake using a recipe from McCall's Cook book (an old book that I believe it out of print currently). I haven't made this cake in quite a few years, but whn I did in the past it was always a hit. I threw away the one I made yesterday, but it's bugging me as to why it came out so bad.

First thing, I usually make three 9" x 1.5" tall layers and yesterday I made two 8" x 2.5" tall cakes. Both cakes had a sunken center and appeared darker than usual. When I was leveling them, I tasted it (thank goodness!!) and after a short time there was such an aftertaste that I had my husband taste it too. He agreed. So I have to remake this cake (will use a different recipe), but it's left me wondering: what happened?

I checked the dates on my ingredients, especially the cocoa, baking soda and baking powder and they're all fine. Does anyone have any ideas? I'd like to know what might have happened so that I can avoid this problem in the future (even thought this is the first time it's happened so far).

Thanks.

29 replies
nonnyscakes Posted 9 Oct 2009 , 4:48pm
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Do you think one of your eggs might have been bad?

Sugar_Plum_Fairy Posted 9 Oct 2009 , 4:54pm
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I guess it's possible, but wouldn't I have smelled it? I do break my eggs in a small bowl and then add them to my batter just for that very reason and also to prevent any sneaky pieces of egg shells that might try to get by me.

l_m_mena Posted 9 Oct 2009 , 5:30pm
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Did you use canola oil? I have read that canola oil gives a weird taste to chocolate cakes, to use vegetable or corn oil instead.

nonnyscakes Posted 9 Oct 2009 , 5:46pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sugar_Plum_Fairy

I guess it's possible, but wouldn't I have smelled it? I do break my eggs in a small bowl and then add them to my batter just for that very reason and also to prevent any sneaky pieces of egg shells that might try to get by me.




Sometimes you can smell them and sometimes you can't. I ruined several cakes a while back and have since gone back to an old test my grandmother and mother taught me. Get a bowl or cup of water deep enough to cover an egg standing on it's end (about 3 to 4 inches). Put the egg in the water. If it lays or stands on the bottom, I use it. If it floats, I throw it out.

cabecakes Posted 10 Oct 2009 , 12:16am
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I use canola oil for my cakes with no flavor issues. In fact, I like the canola oil because it seems like my cakes are more moist with it.

bevcakes Posted 10 Oct 2009 , 9:03am
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I made a cake yesterday that had a sunken center, and when I torted it hours later I discovered the middle was undercooked. Could that be it?

KitchenKat Posted 10 Oct 2009 , 9:30am
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Describe the aftertaste.

Sulfuric, sourish, slightly salty - bad egg

Rancid, moldy, flat - bad oil or shortening

Too much or undissolved leavening agent (baking soda or baking powder) - chemically, metallic, tinny

spoiled dairy - not discernible in finished product but spoilage could be easily caught at the first whiff of the raw ingredient (scary!)

I know this because in university for our food science class we had to make and evaluate food products made with the most common subpar or spoiled ingredients. We had to look, smell & taste, but thankfully not swallow! YUCK but one of the best lesson learned. 15 years on and I still remember it, down to the adjectives we used to describe them.


As for sunken center, the most likely culprits to me are undissolved leavening, too much leavening, too hot an oven and underbaking.

JanH Posted 11 Oct 2009 , 7:03am
post #9 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by KitchenKat


I know this because in university for our food science class we had to make and evaluate food products made with the most common subpar or spoiled ingredients. We had to look, smell & taste, but thankfully not swallow! YUCK but one of the best lesson learned.

15 years on and I still remember it, down to the adjectives we used to describe them.




Wow, I'd say that's one lesson you'll never foget! icon_eek.gif

Thanks for sharing! thumbs_up.gif

nonnyscakes Posted 12 Oct 2009 , 3:29pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by JanH

Quote:
Originally Posted by KitchenKat


I know this because in university for our food science class we had to make and evaluate food products made with the most common subpar or spoiled ingredients. We had to look, smell & taste, but thankfully not swallow! YUCK but one of the best lesson learned.

15 years on and I still remember it, down to the adjectives we used to describe them.



Wow, I'd say that's one lesson you'll never foget! icon_eek.gif

Thanks for sharing! thumbs_up.gif




Amen to that!!! We need an emoticon for YUCK!!!!
Thanks also for sharing. That is good information to have!

cakebaker1957 Posted 13 Oct 2009 , 3:47pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by BevsBakeshop

I made a cake yesterday that had a sunken center, and when I torted it hours later I discovered the middle was undercooked. Could that be it?




Had the same thing happen to me, But it was Butter Pecan , The center wasnt really sunken in but where the nail had been it was undercooked, doughy like, Oh well

Sugar_Plum_Fairy Posted 14 Oct 2009 , 5:50am

So sorry I didn't respond again sooner than now. For some reason I never received notice by e-mail of any replies....oh well, I'm here now. lol

I'll try to do this in order:
Nope, no canola oil. As a matter of fact this recipe did not call for oil and when a recipe does I always substitute the oil for apple sauce.

I'm really lending creedance to the egg theory as I remember at some point, there was an egg (don't know if it was in this cake or one of the other three that I made) where I saw a small red "thing" that I removed right outside of the yolk. Looked almost like a burst blood vessel. But it was a container of 18 eggs (Eggland's Best) and, as I already mentioned, I used the eggs from this same container for another two or three cakes.

As for the taste; I would say it was a bitter chemical-like taste. I checked the dates on my baking soda and baking powder and they were fine (plus I used them in other cakes). The pans aren't old, nor are they new. Probably about a year old or so.

The toothpick came out clean and they didn't seem burned or overdone when I took them out of the oven, but the color did seem darker than normal. I just don't get it. It's been a while since I made this recipe, but I have made it quite a few times in the last 18-20 years (I know I've been making it at least 18 years because this was the recipe I used when I made my (at the time) future sister-in-law a cake the day she and her newborn son came home from the hospital). icon_wink.gif

Okay, I just got the recipe. It's McCall's Cooking School's Perfect Chocolate Cake. It contains 1 c sifted unsweet'd cocoa, 2c boiling water, 2-3/4 c sifted all purpose flower, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp, salt, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1c butter or regular margarine softened (I use unsalted butter), 2-1/2 c granulated sugar, 4 eggs, 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract.

In med. bowl, combine cocoa with boiling water, mix with wire whisk til smooth. Cool completely. In separate bowl sift flour with soda, salt & baking powder. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease well and lightly flour three 9x1-1/2" layer cake pans.

In large bowl of electric mixer, at high speed, beat butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla, scraping bowl occasionally, until light - about 5 minutes (I do this less since the photo shows a hand mixer and this book was from circa 1973 or so). At low speed, beat in flour mixture (in fourths), alternately with cocoa mixture (in thirds), beginning and ending with flour mixture. Do not overbeat. Divide evenly into pans; smooth top. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until top springs back when gently pressed with fingertip. Cool in pans 10 minutes then cool on racks to room temp. Yadda, yadda, yadda.


Feel free to try it. When it doesn't sink and come out with a funky after-taste, it really is good. Oh, they also give a recipe for whipped cream filling and chocolate frosting, but I'm sure you all have your own. icon_wink.gif

redpanda Posted 14 Oct 2009 , 6:24am

What kind of cocoa did you use? Regular or Dutch Process? If it was the Dutch Process, which is darker, and the recipe called for regular, the acid/alkaline balance would be off, which could cause the falling, and maybe an off taste. Since the recipe was old, it would definitely have the assumption that you would be using the "normal" cocoa.

Cakechick123 Posted 14 Oct 2009 , 8:38am

I have had a cake taste funny and figured out it was the baking soda, it had a very soapy chemical taste. Did you use the same baking soda for the next cake as well?

The colour and rising problem might be the different cocoa as redpanda says. I dont know if it would make a huge difference in taste tho

Melnick Posted 14 Oct 2009 , 10:50am

I had a cake collapse in the middle. It was a chocolate mudcake. I opened the oven and tested it with a skewer about 3/4 of the way through (my oven is a bit fast). Anyway, evidentally I have since learnt that if you open the oven early and pierce the cake of a mudcake before it is finished cooking you cause it to collapse in the center (and the center never seems to cook properly and seems like it is undercooked) I wonder if the same thing happens if you open the oven too early with your cake?

Sugar_Plum_Fairy Posted 14 Oct 2009 , 1:29pm

I used regular cocoa powder (Hershey's, to be exact). This is what I've always used when making this recipe. As for the baking soda, I had my hubby do a run to the supermarket to pick up a fresh box (just in case). The baking powder is not old at all. Besides I used it in the other cakes and they all turned out well, including the new chocolate cake I made to replace this icky-tasting one.

I'm thinking it might have been either one of the eggs, maybe I overbeat the mix (though I guess that wouldn't account for the taste), or the baking soda (even thought the date on the box said it was good for another month and I store that box in a plastic container).

LGL Posted 6 Nov 2009 , 4:12pm

I wonder if the amounts for baking soda/baking powder is wrong. Typically, you have more b. powder in a recipe than baking soda.

majka_ze Posted 6 Nov 2009 , 4:23pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by redpanda

What kind of cocoa did you use? Regular or Dutch Process? If it was the Dutch Process, which is darker, and the recipe called for regular, the acid/alkaline balance would be off, which could cause the falling, and maybe an off taste. Since the recipe was old, it would definitely have the assumption that you would be using the "normal" cocoa.



For me, this is the reason. Soapy aftertaste is what remains when baking soda is used without acid. This is the reason most chocolate cakes contain buttermilk, sour cream or something similar as the liquid ingredient. In your recipe there isn't any additional acidic part. If you are inclined so, use buttermilk the next time instead water or add some lemon juice or vinegar (1-2 teaspoons) to the water.
For "modern" cocoa the recipe seems to be off.

The soapy aftertaste is baking soda problem, but not the "old baking soda" one. The taste would actually improve with old baking soda in this case - but you wouldn't get enough rise.

Edited to add: I did look up Hershey's cocoa - it actually comes in two different forms - "natural" and "special dark" which is dutch processed. Did you use the last one? It would account for all the problems - darker cake, not rising well, aftertaste...

Sugar_Plum_Fairy Posted 6 Nov 2009 , 11:40pm

Thanks so much for the information. I never really understand all the science to baking (I'm ashamed to admit icon_redface.gif ). No, I only used the regular Hershey's cocoa. As a matter of fact, the last time I tried to buy the dark version, the store didn't have it! But unless they changed the formula over the years, this is the same one I've always used.

I don't know....maybe somewhere during the baking process I had a blond or senior moment - no offense to anyone! I thought I did everything the way I've always done in the past. Guess it's one of those things where I'll never be sure what really happened.

Thanks again for trying to help me out. icon_smile.gif

cabecakes Posted 8 Nov 2009 , 8:43pm

Is it possible that you picked up some kind of metallic taste from your cooling rack. I know once I bought a cheap turkey roaster and it came with rack. The rack actually put a greenish tint on my turkey, and where it touched the turkey it made it have a metallic taste. Lessoned learned. Not more cheap equipment. You get what you pay for. I wouldn't imagine it could be your pans, as you said that you made other cakes just fine. Sorry I can't be of more help and sorry this happened to you. It's always disappointing when something like this happens, especially when you don't know why.

Sugar_Plum_Fairy Posted 8 Nov 2009 , 10:19pm

Thanks, cabecakes, but these are the same racks I've been using for a while - not new or cheap (at least not Really cheap) icon_lol.gif . Besides, in an effort to not have to keep piling things in the sink to be washed later, I've been using a piece of wax paper or parchment paper between the cake and the rack, so there's really no direct contact. Thanks for giving it some thought and giving me another idea as to why it might have happened.

cabecakes Posted 10 Nov 2009 , 12:57am

Just trying to think outside the box. Sorry I couldn't have been more help.

Sugar_Plum_Fairy Posted 10 Nov 2009 , 2:46am

thumbs_up.gif

cheeseball Posted 18 Nov 2009 , 8:50pm

I use that recipe all the time and the only time it got weird was when I discovered my hanging oven thermometer had gone crazy and I was under baking it (which caused it to sink in the center). Even then, it still tasted great. Years ago, my perfect brownie recipe went rogue on me...looked and tasted strange. After several batches, I finally realized the brownies hadn't changed, I had switched the baking soda and salt amounts icon_redface.gif. Is it possible that something was switched?

Sugar_Plum_Fairy Posted 19 Nov 2009 , 3:26am

The only thing I did differently that I know of is that I used two 8" x 3" pans instead of my 9" x 1.5" pans. Hmmmm, wonder if that caused my problems.

cheeseball Posted 19 Nov 2009 , 7:59pm

I don't think so...I split a single recipe between two 8 inch rounds all the time...have you made it since the nasties?

Sugar_Plum_Fairy Posted 23 Nov 2009 , 8:36am

I didn't think that would cause the problem. No, I haven't made it again. I've only made the chocolate WASC cake and that was so good I made that again. Don't know if I'll bother going back to this recipe.

I remember my mother saying something: things don't taste the same as they used to because they change the ingredients all the time. By that she meant that the milk, butter, etc. that you used to buy 10 years ago is different than the stuff you get today and that affects the outcome of your recipes. Oh well.........

Sugar_Plum_Fairy Posted 23 Nov 2009 , 8:39am

I didn't think that would cause the problem. No, I haven't made it again. I've only made the chocolate WASC cake and that was so good I made that again. Don't know if I'll bother going back to this recipe.

I remember my mother saying something: things don't taste the same as they used to because they change the ingredients all the time. By that she meant that the milk, butter, etc. that you used to buy 10 years ago is different than the stuff you get today and that affects the outcome of your recipes. Oh well.........

JenniferMI Posted 13 Dec 2009 , 1:55pm

Oil....flour..... they can go rancid.

Jen icon_smile.gif

Sugar_Plum_Fairy Posted 13 Dec 2009 , 11:43pm

Thanks, Jennifer. I hope you didn't think I meant the oil, flour and some other ingredients when I said how my mother mentioned that things change. lol I was referring to how the manufacturing of certain ingredients change over the years which affect products and thus make the results of baking/cooking different from when you made a recipe using the "old" ingredients. Does that make sense?

I guess a great example would be how Crisco no longer contains the same amount of sat. fat. Can't make frosting that comes out the same as it did when Crisco had the higher saturated fat content.

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