Sunken Cake

Baking By hvanaalst Updated 20 May 2010 , 2:19pm by LindaF144a

hvanaalst Posted 19 May 2010 , 5:24am
post #1 of 16

I am making a wedding cake for a friend in July. She has a recipe she loves and asked if I could use it. I baked it tonight for the first time and all three layers sunk in the middle. I baked it as per directions and the cake tester was completely clean when i took it out.

I never have sunken cakes so not sure what I may have done wrong. Any suggestions?

15 replies
prterrell Posted 19 May 2010 , 6:04am
post #2 of 16

Did you check the expy date on your baking powder?

Can you post the recipe? Hard to evaluate a recipe otherwise.

keriskreations Posted 19 May 2010 , 6:06am
post #3 of 16

There was a post about this the other day, but unfortunately I didn't save it. It had links to several articles online about what could cause this. What I saw was over or under mixing, oven temperature not being exactly correct and old ingredients. I had a cake sink last week that I've NEVER had problems with. We were having a really bad weather day - rainy, humid (rare for Colorado). The next day - sunny, warmer, baked the same recipe with no problems! It's just enough to make you mad, isn't it? icon_cry.gif

hvanaalst Posted 19 May 2010 , 2:26pm
post #4 of 16

Thx ladies. I was able to level them with out too much difficulty so I can at least make my test layer to see if she likes it. I am concerned tho about using it for an entire cake and having issues with it. This is the recipe

3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups butter milk
1 cup coffee, cooled
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
4 oz unsweetened chocolate squares, melted and cooled


Baking powder is new and not expired. I followed the instructions and baked at 350 for 30 minutes.

keriskreations Posted 19 May 2010 , 4:06pm
post #5 of 16

Hmmmmm...... the recipe sounds simple enough, and if your baking powder is good, well, that would explain a lot. Chef_Stef posted a forum last week about how she might have just had a eureka moment with her chocolate cake sinking. She forgot to add the sugar until the very end. She put it in, and she said it was the first time the cake didn't sink in the middle. She's been doing that for a little while now with great success. Maybe that's the ticket for you with your cake. My chocolate cakes always sink in the middle, but they taste delicious, so it's just something I've dealt with. Next time though, I'm definitely going to try adding the sugar at the end.

LindaF144a Posted 19 May 2010 , 5:17pm
post #6 of 16

Here's my take on this. All, some or none maybe the reason.

First off there is enough leavening for 9 cups of flour. Try reversing it and do 2 tsp of baking powder and 1 tsp of baking soda. That will be enough for 6 cups of flour. I know that cakes are overleavened to avoid the dome top and create a flat surface to work on, but I prefer to keep the leavening balanced. In this recipe that would something like 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp of baking powder. If it raises, you can just level it. You need some baking soda to counter the acidity of the cake, otherwise I would do all powder. But chocolate cocoa powder acts like flour in a cake, so I might be off on the BP amount. Plus you have cocoa and melted chocolate. That must be one rich chocolate cake. I see this happen a lot in cakes that rich in chocolate. Maybe it is meant to do that? Some chocolate cake recipes are meant to sink in the center. I have a book that calls it the sunken cake recipe.

Too much liquid, but I doubt it because it is still lower than the sugar. This is not a real balanced cake recipe.

And lastly, the method you used to combine it may be different. It may be sinking based on the method you used. It's not posted so I can't tell.

I will refer you to Bakewise by Shirley Corriher for balancing of recipes. And I would probably go check out your local library and read some other chocolate cake recipes. Possibly you will find one like this and they can shed some light on the subject too.

hvanaalst Posted 19 May 2010 , 7:08pm
post #7 of 16

Thanks for the insight ladies. I talked to her today and she said she has never had a sunken cake from this recipe. I am working with a brand new kitchen aid that I just got so I was wondering if i over or under mixed it. The dry ingredients are all mixed together and then added to the wet ingredients after they are well mixed. The eggs are also beat by themselves for 3 minutes before anything else is added to them. I was questioning the baking powder and baking soda amounts so I might adjust that a bit next time. It does taste fantastic and is pretty rich so I can see why she loves it. I personally think it is very sweet and am trying to decide what frosting/filling would be nice without being too sweet with it.

prterrell Posted 19 May 2010 , 7:40pm
post #8 of 16

I compared your recipe to my go-to chocolate cake recipe (the Devil's Food Cake in Mrs. Fields I Love Chocolate! Cookbook).

3 cups sugar --- almost twice as much as in my recipe, this is the first thing that jumped out at me, even before I grabbed the cookbook, this is way too much sugar for the amount of flour and fat in this recipe, I'd cut it down to 2 cups

2 1/2 cups flour --- I'm guessing this is AP flour since it doesn't specify? You didn't accidentally use self-rising did you? That would absolutely cause a cake to fall because it already contains baking powder and too much leavener causes a cake to fall. Otherwise, it's about the same amount of flour as in the recipe I use.

1 cup cocoa --- same

2 tsp baking soda --- same

1 tsp baking powder --- not used in my recipe, and frankly, I don't see the need for it since the recipe contains buttermilk and cocoa powder which both react with the baking soda to create the leavening needed, I would omit this and add another 1/2 tsp of baking soda instead, to maintain the 1 cup to 1 teaspoon ratio of flour to leavener.

1 tsp salt ---- 4 times as much salt as my recipe, you can cut this down to 1/4 tsp, there's no need for a whole tsp!

3 eggs --- hmmm, 1 less than my recipe, I'd add an egg, especially since your recipe calls for 1/4 c less liquid than does mine

1 1/2 cups butter milk --- not included in my recipe, but is great in chocolate cakes and reacts w/ the baking soda to leaven the batter

1 cup coffee, cooled --- my recipe actually calls for plain water

3/4 cup vegetable oil ---- a LOT less fat than the recipe I use, plus, the cake I make uses butter, which I believe produces a better crumb. As written, the recipe I use calls for 10 ounces of unsalted butter (that's 20 tbsp), but I actually prefer this cake a little denser, closer to a chocolate pound cake, and double that to 20 ounces (so, 1-1/4 lbs of butter).

1 tsp vanilla --- that's an okay amount, but half of the recipe I use, especially w/ the buttermilk and coffee, I don't think this amount of vanilla is playing it's supporting role to the fullest, I would increase to 2 tsp or even all the way to a tablespoon.

4 oz unsweetened chocolate squares, melted and cooled -- 2 oz less than the recipe I use, but fairly close

Also, I noticed that your recipe has you cool the coffee and melt the chocolate separately. I suggest that you chop the chocolate and then add the hot coffee to the chopped chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes, then add the cocoa powder and stir until smooth then allow to cool. This will produce a much better chocolate flavor. Since you're only using 1 cup of coffee, this is going to produce a very thick almost paste, but it will still work.

Also, I never bake cakes at 350 anymore. 325 produces a much more even rise.

Oh, and the PP that stated your recipe has enough leavening for 9 cups of flour is off. The rule of thumb for cakes is 1 tsp of leavening per cup of flour. I do agree with her that this is not a balanced recipe, which is one of the reasons I compared it to a recipe that is balanced.

Hope my notes help!

hvanaalst Posted 19 May 2010 , 7:47pm
post #9 of 16

That is great, thank you. I too thought the amount of sugar was really high. This is why I wanted to bake it ahead of time. It is her absolute favorite recipe and other than the sunken middle has turned out quite well and tastes great but I would like to try it with less sugar for sure.

I think once i ice it and fondant it and she tries it she will agree it is much too sweet.

JohnnyCakes1966 Posted 19 May 2010 , 8:13pm
post #10 of 16

I agree with the changes suggested here, but here's the thing.....the bride asked you to use HER recipe because she loves it...it's her "absolute favorite recipe"...and making any changes would NOT make the cake she loves. Plus, you will spend a fortune trying to tweak her recipe until you make it work. I would suggest making YOUR go-to chocolate cake that you know works for you and see if she likes it just as much as hers.

LindaF144a Posted 20 May 2010 , 3:15am
post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by prterrell



Oh, and the PP that stated your recipe has enough leavening for 9 cups of flour is off. The rule of thumb for cakes is 1 tsp of leavening per cup of flour. I do agree with her that this is not a balanced recipe, which is one of the reasons I compared it to a recipe that is balanced.

Hope my notes help!




Actually I was right. icon_lol.gif You are close. The amount of leavening depends on which type you are using.

Referencing Bakewise by Shirley Corriher:

1 tsp of baking POWDER per cup of flour for leavening,
1/4 tsp of baking SODA per cup of flour for leavening.

Baking soda is used in a cake that has some acidic ingredients to it. Although Cakelove has a chocolate cake that is leavened with baking powder only. This will work depending on what type of cocoa you use.

So for three cups with the acidity of buttermilk and chocolate, you could use something like 1/2 tsp of baking soda(takes care of 2 cups of flour) and 1/2 tsp of baking powder to take care of the last 1/2 cup of flour. But there is also the acidity of the cake that you don't want to totally neutralize. I have not figured out that part of the science of baking yet. But just keep in mind that that are numerous ways you can tweak the baking soda/baking powder combination to get what you want. You could do 1/4 tsp of baking soda and then 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder too. If you use plain whole milk, you can leaven with nothing but baking powder too

Why are cakes made with both? I haven't figured it out yet. My best guess is right now there are a whole lot of cake recipes that are variations of recipes. Also I think that some recipe creators just throw it all in for a just in case.

Then there is that some recipes are over leavened so that they will raise and then settle after cooling creating a flat surface. So possibly you won't want to mess with that at all.

I had a cake fall once, but I knew ahead of time I over mixed it. My intuition told me 4 minutes was too long, but I did it anyway. Sure enough it fell. I was not in the least bit surprised. I redid the recipe but mixed it 2 minutes. Made all the difference in the world.

The other thing -

I would caution you about melting your chocolate in the coffee. Water makes chocolate seize. Melting in butter will be okay, or like ganache, using cream. There is something about the fat that will prevent the seizing. But water is death to chocolate without some fat in there too. At least that is how it has worked for me in the past.

HTH

LindaF144a Posted 20 May 2010 , 3:19am
post #12 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnyCakes1966

I agree with the changes suggested here, but here's the thing.....the bride asked you to use HER recipe because she loves it...it's her "absolute favorite recipe"...and making any changes would NOT make the cake she loves. Plus, you will spend a fortune trying to tweak her recipe until you make it work. I would suggest making YOUR go-to chocolate cake that you know works for you and see if she likes it just as much as hers.




I agree here. You could spend weeks tweaking her recipe.

prterrell Posted 20 May 2010 , 3:19am
post #13 of 16

Um, I melt the chocolate in hot coffee/water all of the time. It's not something I made up, it's part of the recipe I referenced in my PP. If there's enough of the liquid, it won't cause it to seize.

LindaF144a Posted 20 May 2010 , 3:21am
post #14 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by prterrell

Um, I melt the chocolate in hot coffee/water all of the time. It's not something I made up, it's part of the recipe I referenced in my PP. If there's enough of the liquid, it won't cause it to seize.




Like I said, at least this is what has happened to me. I have not had enough experience to know when the amount of water overwhelms the chocolate which prevents seizing.

hvanaalst Posted 20 May 2010 , 4:41am
post #15 of 16

I think I probably over mixed it. Otherwise it was great. I took the layer to her tonight and she loved loved loved it. The SMBC with the khalua in it was a big hit and because it isn't very sweet it was really nice with this cake being so sweet. I guess I will stick with it since she loved it and just try mixing it less next time. I am sure by July I will have worked out all the mixing tricks with my new KA.....so much different then using a hand mixer.

Thanks again ladies, you were most helpful. I am inclined to still make it with a bit less sugar, so I might bake it again before then just to see how it is with less.

LindaF144a Posted 20 May 2010 , 2:19pm
post #16 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by hvanaalst

I think I probably over mixed it. Otherwise it was great. I took the layer to her tonight and she loved loved loved it. The SMBC with the khalua in it was a big hit and because it isn't very sweet it was really nice with this cake being so sweet. I guess I will stick with it since she loved it and just try mixing it less next time. I am sure by July I will have worked out all the mixing tricks with my new KA.....so much different then using a hand mixer.

Thanks again ladies, you were most helpful. I am inclined to still make it with a bit less sugar, so I might bake it again before then just to see how it is with less.




If you are switching from a hand mixer to a KA then this could definitely contribute to it. What speed did you mix it at. I'll have to go back over the recipe directions, but you would use a less speed than you would normally use for your hand held mixer and for a shorter time too. All things aside about the balance of the recipe, I bet you getting used to the mixer will help the cake tremendously. And you get to eat some happy accidents along the way too. icon_wink.gif

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