Need Help Troubleshooting A Cake That Collapses After Baking

Decorating By GarciaGM Updated 1 Jun 2012 , 7:11pm by vgcea

GarciaGM Posted 31 May 2012 , 1:21pm
post #1 of 26

Good morning guys. I need some help troubleshooting this cake.

I'm using the Rebecca Rather White on White Buttermilk cake recipe. The cake cooks up nicely and looks beautiful in the oven, but once I take it out, it collapses on me. I just baked a single batch of the recipe in a 14" square pan at 325 for 37 minutes, using the Fat Daddio's heating core for even baking and wet towel strips wrapped around the cake pan as Bake Right strips. The layer is now less than an inch tall, even though it rose to about 2" tall during the cooking process.

Does anyone have any idea what's making this collapse? I'm hoping for some quick responses as I have several more layers to cook today. Thanks!!

25 replies
grama_j Posted 31 May 2012 , 1:40pm
post #2 of 26

Did you test the cake with a toothpick or anything ? I would be baking that MUCH longer......

GarciaGM Posted 31 May 2012 , 1:45pm
post #3 of 26

Thanks grama_j. Yes, I tested it with a knife and it came out clean. I did wonder if it should have cooked a little longer because I sensed a lot of steam still coming from the pan when I took it out, even though the knife came out clean. But I'm typically afraid of overcooking my cakes, so that's why I took it out when I did.

GarciaGM Posted 31 May 2012 , 1:54pm
post #4 of 26

UPDATE...when I tried to flip it out of the pan, it just crumbled everywhere. I'm going with underbaked. Please let me know if any of you have any additional thoughts or suggestions! Thanks!!

DianeLM Posted 31 May 2012 , 2:06pm
post #5 of 26

I agree with grama j. It can't be anywhere NEAR done after only 37 minutes! Even my 6-inch rounds take 50 minutes or more. A 14-inch with bake even strips should take closer to 90 minutes.

Did you stick your knife in the cake or the heating core? The core will test done before the rest of the cake.

How close to the top element is your oven rack? If the top of the cake bakes too fast and becomes crispy, it will clean off your knife as you pull it out of the cake. As if you pulled the knife between your fingers.

For a more accurate test, use a wood or bamboo skewer. And if the top of the cake looks 'done', carve a tiny hole in the top of cake with your skewer so when you pull it back out, it doesn't rub against the crusty top of the cake.

You may also need to move your oven rack down a notch.

Standard advice whenever there's a baking problem - get an oven thermometer. Test the middle and four corners of your oven to learn where the hot spots are. Also test high, low and middle rack positions.

GarciaGM Posted 31 May 2012 , 2:40pm
post #6 of 26

Thank you so much for the input Diane!!

My cake is right in the center of the oven, as centered as I can get it between the top and bottom elements. I'm convinced I underbaked it. I've got Round #2 in the oven right now, so we'll see how this goes.

Another question, and this is part of the reason I thought it would be done so quickly...I'm baking all my layers separately, no torting. So I made a single batch of the WoW recipe for the 14" layer. Because the batter seemed so short to me (in the pan), I thought it would take less baking time, even though it eventually rose to about 2" tall. Should I forget that theory and keep cooking it longer? Maybe that's what screwed me up. I'm so much more accustomed to baking smaller cakes, so these larger layers are tripping me up.

Thanks so much for all the help! I'm still open to any suggestions others might have. It's times like these when I'm really grateful to the CC community!! thumbs_up.gif

GarciaGM Posted 31 May 2012 , 2:49pm
post #7 of 26
Originally Posted by DianeLM

I agree with grama j. It can't be anywhere NEAR done after only 37 minutes! Even my 6-inch rounds take 50 minutes or more. A 14-inch with bake even strips should take closer to 90 minutes.

Wow, 90 minutes...really?? I noticed the Wilton chart recommended 45-50 minutes, but you would advise going to 90 minutes? Do you bake at 325?

Thanks Diane!!

GarciaGM Posted 31 May 2012 , 3:29pm
post #8 of 26

Okay well, I just cooked the second cake and left it in for 60 minutes, and it collapsed before I ever took it out of the oven. The cake rises, but something is making it collapse. Do any of my baking chemistry specialists know what's going on here?

grama_j Posted 31 May 2012 , 4:00pm
post #9 of 26

I usually use a mix so it would be hard for me to judge, but perhaps you should check your baking powder...... sometimes that will mess you up if it is old.......

DianeLM Posted 31 May 2012 , 4:13pm
post #10 of 26

Without seeing the recipe, it's difficult to offer suggestions.

One thing that can cause a cake to collapse is opening the oven before it's had a chance to rise properly. Especially if you swing the oven door open quickly.

I always open the door a few inches, wait about 5 seconds, then slowly open the rest of the way, regardless of the doneness of the cake, although I resist opening at all from about the halfway to the three-quarters done timeframe.

Touching or testing the cake before it has had a chance to rise properly can also cause it to fall. The cake is relying on hot gases trapped inside to rise. It's kind of like sticking a pin in a balloon.

I don't really time my cakes and I never consult a baking chart. I just bake them til they're done. I set a timer for 50 minutes to an hour, look through the oven window, then reset the timer for anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. Then, check again. Depending on how many cakes I've got going, I may set my timer 5-6 times for one oven-ful.

ibmoser Posted 31 May 2012 , 4:34pm
post #11 of 26

There has been some discussion on this recipe previously, and the pros pretty much said that there is too much leavening in that recipe. Can't fine the topic right now and have no recollection of how to reduce the baking powder/soda combo to correct. I bought several of the books that explain the chemistry, but it just gives me a headache since there seems to be so much conflicting info out there. I love that cake when it doesn't fall - love the taste and texture, but it sometimes just totally deflates on me - probably because I don't measure accurately and make the over-leavened formula worse.

auntginn Posted 31 May 2012 , 4:43pm
post #12 of 26

Don't know this recipe but consulted my resident master baker (my dad, who worked for a big major bakery and I consult him with all the technical issues) lol

On the serious side, he asked about your altitude and the freshness of your baking powder. Are you creaming (beating) your butter / shortening well and do you add your dry ingredients in slowly. Are your eggs cold or room temperature?

In other words the oven might not be your problem.

GarciaGM Posted 31 May 2012 , 4:55pm
post #13 of 26

Okay guys...I left out a BIG detail, and I feel really dumb for it.

The WoW recipe is my go-to white cake recipe, but this person requested a confetti cake. I tested it several months ago by just adding rainbow jimmies to my cake batter, and it turned out fine, but that was an 8" cake and it was only for sampling. I've been analyzing this all morning and I think the jimmies are adding too much sugar and fat to my cake batter. The first three ingredients on the package are sugar, cornstarch and vegetable oil. To me this makes sense because the cake seems oily to the touch. Otherwise, my eggs and butter are the correct temperature, and I think the other pieces of the puzzle are right.

So now my question do I modify the recipe for the rainbow jimmies? I've already decided I can reduce the jimmies to about 3/4 cup instead of the full cup I was using. Do I cut the butter, cut the sugar, add more baking soda and baking powder? It was even suggested that I use AP flour instead of the cake flour that's called for. PLEASE...PRETTY PLEASE...can someone help me???

Here's the link to the recipe I use:

Thank you to all of you who have already responded!! I really appreciate your help!!

auntginn Posted 31 May 2012 , 5:06pm
post #14 of 26

A huh!! ok.. yes reduce your candies and add 1/2 -1c of ap flour. leave everything else the same. Should work out fine.

GarciaGM Posted 31 May 2012 , 5:54pm
post #15 of 26
Originally Posted by auntginn

A huh!! ok.. yes reduce your candies and add 1/2 -1c of ap flour. leave everything else the same. Should work out fine.

Really? You think that's all it will take to make this work? No decrease of the other sugar and butter?

auntginn Posted 31 May 2012 , 6:28pm
post #16 of 26

Well just how oily were the other batches. Basically what you described was you used your tried and true recipe but added 1 ingredient more. Was it so much more? Place some of your 1st batch (if you didn't already throw it out) on a paper towel for 30 seconds. See how much of an oil spot it leaves. If its really soggy then you will need to adjust the butter/shortening.

The adjustments should only have been be to offset the new ingredient not reinvent the wheel.

DianeLM Posted 31 May 2012 , 8:41pm
post #17 of 26

You added a WHOLE CUP of jimmies to one cake layer???? Yeah, that's a HUGE ommission of information. Follow auntginn's instructions. I'm out.

BakingIrene Posted 31 May 2012 , 11:08pm
post #18 of 26

The jimmies don't need to be balanced with butter or anything else because they don't dissolve in the batter. They are FYI just sugar and colour. I can't see anything to change in the original cake recipe except that I personally would use 1/2 cup jimmies.

The other alternative is to use small chips of the candy melts in different colours--chill them and buzz in a FP with a little flour. Again, no need to re-balance the recipe because they do not dissolve in the batter.

Your baking time in the 14" pan is more or less what I get with cake strips--no core.

So here's what you do need to check--your local buttermilk. It sounds way too acid. Try mixing half buttermilk and half milk next time you bake this recipe. Or else you can use buttermilk powder (sifted with your flour) and the same volume of water.

GarciaGM Posted 31 May 2012 , 11:11pm
post #19 of 26

Yes Diane, I did. I know, it's idiotic.

Anyhow, I made the changes and I think this will be a workable solution. Thanks so much for your help guys, and forgive my foolishness today!!

DianeLM Posted 31 May 2012 , 11:18pm
post #20 of 26

Sorry you wasted so much time and ingredients today. I hope you can make cake balls with the fallen cakes. Your owl cake pops are adorable.

auntginn Posted 31 May 2012 , 11:49pm
post #21 of 26

I didn't think it was foolishness. Just stress which we have all been there. Call it Murphey's Law even. We're all guilty of trying to make things work out perfect but when things a wrong we can't see it clearly. It helps to have another opinion to help think it thru.

I for one and I'm sure the others will say they were glad to be there for you during your delimma. It's what this site is all about.

I wish you all the best with your cake and pray your customer is equally pleased.

southerncross Posted 1 Jun 2012 , 1:09am
post #22 of 26

I was having problems with cakes collapsing after years of no problem with my scratch recipes. Like you, I couldn't figure out what was wrong. i kept buying what i thought was fresh tins of baking powder for each cake but that didn't solve the problem either. Then my elderly neighbor suggested that I make my own baking powder from scratch (2 parts cream of tartar to one part baking soda) and that solved the problem. I don't know if that will help you but it sure helped me.

anavillatoro1 Posted 1 Jun 2012 , 1:40am
post #23 of 26

Did you test the oven temperature?

GarciaGM Posted 1 Jun 2012 , 3:25am
post #24 of 26

Thanks everyone for all the input. Diane, I *might* be able to make cake pops out of the ruined cakes if my boys and I would stop eating from the cake scraps bucket. There may not be anything left by tomorrow. icon_wink.gif

Thanks for the info BakingIrene. I looked at the ingredients for the jimmies, and when I saw that two of the top three ingredients were sugar and oil, I thought they may have thrown off my ratios. But you are right, they don't dissolve into the cake batter, although they do add more volume for the structure to support. When this is over, I'm going back to the plain recipe without the jimmies and I will test it to see if I'm having trouble without them, especially if it's the buttermilk.

You know southerncross, making my own baking powder isn't a bad idea. I make most of my own stuff as it is, so that would just be one more thing to have greater control over. Thanks for the heads up.

No anavillatoro1, I haven't tested the oven temperature - yet. Even if that isn't the problem this time around, it's a good "regular maintenance" task I should do from time to time. Thanks for the reminder.

And thanks to you AuntGinn for keeping up CC's spirit of helpfulness!!

I really appreciate all of you guys!

BakingIrene Posted 1 Jun 2012 , 2:21pm
post #25 of 26

Actually, having thought this over during the night, if you want to add jimmies to this specific cake batter, you could try using slightly stronger flour.

Depending on what flour you are using now, how to make "stronger" flour will vary. I am used to baking with KAF (AP and bread machine flour). I would use 1/3 KAF AP and 2/3 your current cake/pastry flour to get the batter right to hold up the jimmies. The buttermilk will tenderize the gluten so don't worry. I would also premix the jimmies with 1/4 cup of your cake flour per cup of jimmies.

I think your oven temp is close to being right, maybe try 25'F higher for the first 15 minutes and then lower it back to the setting you are using now. I bake up to 15" pans without a heating core, just the magic cake strips. FYI the strips have a coating that keeps them wet longer than just strips of towels--well worth the investment if you get them on sale. Mine last for a couple of years of constant use.

I use the "nutritional info" on labels to see just how much of the jimmies might be sugar and how much would be oil. I think the oil is used to waterproof and to help coat with the food coloring, rather than being an integral part of the mass. When you get them really wet, they look just like white balls of sugar.

I have found that baking larger cakes is a good way to magnify any problems like the buttermilk etc. You baked a testing layer that turned out just fine---it's the biggie that is in need of a little help. Or else the buttermilk culture has become more sour at the dairy.

vgcea Posted 1 Jun 2012 , 7:11pm
post #26 of 26

I had asked a question about leavening in the recipe forum.

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