Why Is This Happening? Pls Help!

Decorating By Wildgirl Updated 25 Jan 2012 , 11:32am by MimiFix

Wildgirl Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 7:55pm
post #1 of 28

First the yellow cake (sw's) was collapsing in the center, the top edges caving in and the bottom layer undercooked. (In a 9x13 w/flower nail @350 for 47 min's)

So I decided to shelve the yellow cake 'til later and start baking the chocolate hershey's cakes. Done that a million times - foolproof, right? I actually knew this was going to happen. Because I now have 5 days until the wedding. Of course I can't even bake a hershey cake. What's weird is that the exact same thing as the sw's is happening - collapsed, top edges drawn in, and the bottom layer undercooked. Baked about the same time too. The hershey's site even says to bake 35 - 40 mins so at 47, it can't be underbaked.

Dh is picking up new baking powder and baking soda and an oven thermometer right now for me.

What could it be? Please help! Why now.

(this is the same hershey's cake I bake, froze, took on a plane across the country, had it slide down and smoosh in the luggage, decorated it and it turned out deliciously perfect - now I have a mess.)

27 replies
jgifford Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 8:26pm
post #2 of 28

Since you've used these recipes before, I would say it's your oven. Sometimes the thermostat will get funky before it goes out. You said dh was after a thermometer so sounds like you suspect this also. Good Luck!

Wildgirl Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 9:34pm
post #3 of 28

Well, the oven temp was slightly over, but I wouldn't think it was enough to make this kind of difference. I am trying yet another hershey's cake, this time with new baking soda/powder and NO flower nail. I don't think my soda/powder is old, but who knows. Have new just in case. But what about the flower nail? Could that be doing this? It was only with these recent cakes that I've ever tried using one - never did before with the successful cakes.

All I know is that I should have a stack of finished cakes right now, and I have none. I am trying to hold it together. If this cake doesn't come out, I honestly don't know what I will do. I was asked to make these wedding cakes because I have a reputation as a great baker. If they only knew what I've been going through with all of this.... icon_cry.gif

Ok, let me ask you guys - how long do you typically bake a 9x13? Is that with a heating core or flower nail or without? It seems like I typically bake for 40 - 45 min's, my carrot cake 50 - 60. And that was with an oven that was slightly higher than 350.

jgifford Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 9:41pm
post #4 of 28

I personally have never used a flower nail. My oven won't handle anything larger than 16 inch, so I don't see any need. If you don't typically use one, I wouldn't start now. If it's not broke, don't fix it. icon_wink.gif

AnnieCahill Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 10:24pm
post #5 of 28

Adjust the temperature as necessary if the oven is baking hot. I always bake my cakes on the middle rack of the oven. I did a 9x13 Hershey's cake and I didn't use a flower nail, and it baked perfectly.

Next, make sure your measurements are spot-on. I know this is a big "duh," but it's worth mentioning.

Also, how soon are you checking the cake? I NEVER open my oven door until about 15-20 minutes before the earliest time on the recipe. If you are not using cake strips, you might want to give those a try.

Wildgirl Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 10:31pm
post #6 of 28

MIddle rack. Checked at 35 min - toothpick still coated with batter. 40 min, still coated. 45 min, less, but still a bit of batter. 47 min just a tiny bit of brown on toothpick. and 47 seems to be the typical time they seem "done. I am measuring super carefully. What's frustrating is that I think I used to be more careless until I started reading cake books and studying threads here. Now that I'm more "educated", my talent is flying out the window.

Well, cake #543 (feels like) came out of the oven. (no flower nail this time) It is still pulling away from the sides, but not as much. The center is lower than the sides, but not as flat as the last batch. It's still not like my big beautiful cake. I think I will trim off just a bit of the edge to test - otherwise I'm thinking that I must use this cake. It has to work!!! I just hope it doesn't sink more...

LisaR64 Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 11:33pm
post #7 of 28

I had a similar problem, and for me, it turned out to be that I was putting too much batter in the pan. As soon as I cut back just a bit on the volume of batter, the cake came out perfect.

Wildgirl Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 11:48pm
post #8 of 28

I'd wonder if I hadn't already made this cake many times with success. This is driving me insane. I'm so glad I don't do this for a living. I would've thought it would've been the oven temp. The thermometer and the oven setting are both right on though. But how is it that I consistently need to bake for longer than what it specifies? Actually, I've always needed to do this, but even so, the cakes used to come out fine.

I just took out 2 9" rounds to see how they'd do. We'll see how much they sink as they cool.

Cakery2012 Posted 23 Jan 2012 , 11:58pm
post #9 of 28

Just a thought . I know you said oven temp is ok . but would your heating element be going out ? I think it causes uneven heating. I changed mine myself 15 yrs ago .simple and cheap . how old is your oven ?

Wildgirl Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 12:04am
post #10 of 28

Are there heating elements on gas stoves? I don't have a clue. I can't remember when we bought it, but it is not a new stove. Would the temp fluctuate though if that was it? I've been peaking in with a flashlight (through the door) to check the temp and it seems to stay pretty even.

MaurorLess67 Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 1:11am
post #11 of 28

Wildgirl, I know you are not having an easy time right now- but your posts are cracking me up!!! Love that u have a sense of humor!! Hope you can finally muster up a few cakes to use!! Ha let us know how you make out

luv2bake4u Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 1:25am
post #12 of 28

I use to have problems with my Hershey's choc.cake until someone on this site suggested adding the sugar last before the boiling water,,,sounds weird but I haven't had any problems since

MimiFix Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 1:42am
post #13 of 28

I have occasionally had the kind of crisis you appear to be dealing with. My total sympathies...

Bake time can fluctuate (sometimes I have no idea why that is and I'm a professional!) so I only use time as a guide. I test with a thin knife instead of a toothpick so I can clearly see if there's any batter on the knife, I press the top of the cake to feel for firmness, and most important I look at the cake (dark spot, pulling away from sides). Many times my cakes need a significant increase in bake time.

Also, it's possible the problem is related to your flour. Without my seeing all your results, this is just a guess. I once had a lunatic saleslady (daughter of the bakery supply distributor) who yakked about the best flour for cakes and I was too stupid to challenge her. My cakes began falling apart, especially the chocolate ones. I was desperate and analyzed every damn ingredient and process. It had not occurred to me that it was the flour but then we ran out (because I was baking and tossing so many cakes) and I bought some at the supermarket. And then my cakes were gorgeous again and all was right with the world... Good luck, hon.

Wildgirl Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 5:37am
post #14 of 28

Well, in desperation I called a friend who is on vacation - got permission to go try her newer electric oven. Dragged several boxes of stuff, my kitchenaid, etc over there. Felt confident that this was going to be the fix. And the first cake turned out exactly like all the rest. After I cried, I tried again. This time I decided to do it Sharon Z's way and turn it down to 325 for about an hour. Then, instead of adding all the wet to the dry (per hershey instructions that used to work), I first added the oil and mixed well, added the milk & vanilla, mixed, then added the eggs, one at a time and mixed after each, then added the hot water. And baked an hour. Very minimal pulling away, and it only sank level this time. I can deal with that. Plus when I stuck the toothpick in after 60 min, it was totally clean. And the sides don't look overdone.
I'm holding my breath that this will work again, but I will try. I left all of my stuff there - it is a bit easier to work somewhere without distractions. I really really need to get 16 - no, now 15 cakes baked tomorrow. Ok, maybe the carrot cake (2 layers worth) can wait. So that's 13 then. I'll be bringing all my powdered sugar along to work on the flowers while I'm waiting.

But I do need to ask - and maybe I should start another thread for this - just in case it goes back to sunkenness, what brand/kind of mix should I try? I don't think I've made a mix cake for over 25 years... Would they be more foolproof? If this happens one more time, I will have to cave and go get a case. I kept thinking that I was having a long nightmare and that anytime I'd be waking up... I was envisioning telling the bride that I have no cake for her. And I was thinking about how much money it would cost me to go out and buy cake for her. This was all a gift by the way. All because her fiance is in love with my chocolate cake with peanut butter filling.

FromScratchSF Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 6:18am
post #15 of 28

Wildgirl, I feel SO bad for you! I have been there, believe me I have been there! I was having similar problems with a recipe, I was making it over and over and over and over... my husband stopped me and said:

"You know the definition of crazy? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

LOL! But he's right!

So may people have problems with the Hershey's recipe. Do yourself a favor and try this one:


Trust me, try it. It comes out perfect every time. And you can still use your Hershey's cocoa powder.

Good luck!

Wildgirl Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 6:27am
post #16 of 28

Thanks - just printed it out. I'm wondering if I should stick with the 325 oven temp though.... it took longer but seemed to bake better. This recipe seems to make a LOT more batter too so there would be more to cook....

Of chocolate, I will need two 9x13's, 4 11's, 4 9's, and 2 7's. I need something to work the first time!

FromScratchSF Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 6:50am
post #17 of 28

I don't bake at 325, I do cake at 350 and cupcakes at 375.

Wildgirl Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 7:05am
post #18 of 28

That's what I have always done them at - 350. Just that all of a sudden the outer edge seems to be overcooking, the middle undercooking and falling. What really makes me insane is that in all the years I've been baking (granted not as much as you all have) I have never had a cake fall before. And if my oven is suddenly off, then the new oven thermometer is off too, and my friends new oven is off. Please let me wake up.

FromScratchSF Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 7:24am
post #19 of 28

It's probably your flour. Are you weighing? Or do you measure in cups? That can also make a big difference. If it's humid or has been raining/snowing or whatever, your flour will be heavier and take up more volume in your cup making your ratios off.

Do you use bake even strips? Or whatever they are called? It's all I use, weather I'm at home or at the bakery. Makes a huge difference.

MimiFix Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 12:09pm
post #20 of 28
Originally Posted by MimiFix

... Also, it's possible the problem is related to your flour... Good luck, hon.

I went back and read all your posts, and you had the problem with yellow cakes, too. I strongly suggest you purchase a different brand of flour.

I use the Hershey's cake recipe also and it's definitely temperamental. This was my bakery recipe and I learned some important points: AP flour, brand name such as GM or Pillsbury. Never used boiling water and never the full amount. Also, I did not have problems when I made the batter ahead and refrigerated, then baked off while it was cold.

Good luck. Please let us know.

Wildgirl Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 4:06pm
post #21 of 28

The yellow cake was made with some bulk cake flour, and the chocolate cake was made with two different bags - all the recent ones I know were made with King Arthur. I thought that was a good brand. New bag.
I should be over there already - was up so late and I'm actually nervous about trying again. Even if they all work, I will be baking ALL day. Not much time to get them frozen either.
If they don't work.... I won't have access to a computer, but you may hear me screaming.

Everytime I try to look up other chocolate cake recipes I'm going along reading the reviews -- sounds great, sounds great - then I get to the "it fell" "it fell" comments and I cry.

And honestly, I am insane at this point.

MimiFix Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 4:20pm
post #22 of 28

I don't want to diss King Arthur flour; but you MUST buy all purpose flour either Gold Medal or Pillsbury or Heckers. Do NOT buy cake flour. Flour strength is an important component in baked goods.

We'll be thinking about you, good luck today.

AnnieCahill Posted 24 Jan 2012 , 4:46pm
post #23 of 28

Mimi, you don't use cake flour in any of your recipes?

MimiFix Posted 25 Jan 2012 , 1:03am
post #24 of 28
Originally Posted by AnnieCahill

Mimi, you don't use cake flour in any of your recipes?

At my bakery we used cake flour for a very limited number of products where tenderness was an integral part of the product. For pies we used pastry flour. For bread the high gluten flours and whole grains. For most of our other products, however, we used either AP unbleached, or whole wheat pastry flour.

But I am familiar with that damn Hershey Chocolate cake. That's my chocolate cake recipe and it's temperamental. It's hard to diagnose some problems without seeing everything, but from what we were told I strongly suspect that a soft cake flour may have been the problem. I sure hope Wildgirl gets back to us soon.

Wildgirl Posted 25 Jan 2012 , 3:04am
post #25 of 28

I used KA regular all purpose. My first today was the other layer of the hershey's - flat again, but not caved in. Then I switched to Martha Stewarts (thank you whoever told me to try that one) -- I now feel that I CAN bake again. (YAYYYYYYYYYY!) They fell ever so slightly, but are perfectly acceptable. So the entire wedding cake is baked. And one of the sheet cakes. Just two more sheet cakes to go - 2 layers ea so 4 more cakes actually. I think I baked 10 cakes today. I'm tired - but now off to work.

Ummmm... I've always used a gas stove, but I think I like baking on my friend's electric. It seems more even....
Anyway, tomorrow will be the test, when I try the dreaded yellow cake again.

Then, stay tuned, (PLEASE!), for my stacking, finishing of the wedding cake. I'm not so concerned about the sheet cakes, but the wedding cake - yikes. Still have to make more flowers that I hope will be dry enough to place.

I give you guys sooooooo much credit after this!

Oh - I turned on the tv when I got to my friends - turned to my fav channel, foodnetwork. Just in time for a cake challenge! How inspiring. Hmmmm... a special cake for the dreaded scary cake/judge lady - can't remember her name, but she scares me. I really felt for the woman who really botched her cake - I felt like that would've been me and I could hear that judge telling me what an "utter disgrace" I was to the cake world.... Well, hopefully I'll show her. Had a stomachache during that show, but it went away when my cakes came out. icon_biggrin.gif

CarolinaGirlAsh Posted 25 Jan 2012 , 4:24am
post #26 of 28

FromScratch SF-- do you regularly bake cupcakes at a higher temp? I have never heard this but have had some problems with my cupcakes recently.

AnnieCahill Posted 25 Jan 2012 , 11:27am
post #27 of 28

I always bake at 350 or higher for cupcakes. Lower and slower means dried out.

MimiFix Posted 25 Jan 2012 , 11:32am
post #28 of 28
Originally Posted by AnnieCahill

I always bake at 350 or higher for cupcakes. Lower and slower means dried out.

I agree with Annie! This also helps create a dome.

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