Cake Failure?

Decorating By Gerle Updated 26 Jan 2014 , 9:09am by MBalaska

Gerle Posted 25 Jan 2014 , 3:03am
post #1 of 13

I'm baking a 12" cake for the first time.   I'm using Cake Love's chocolate butter cake.  I baked one 12" layer and just used the recipe as written, but put the entire batter in one 12" cake pan.  I'm not used to baking this size cake...largest I've ever baked was a 10" and it turned out fine.  I followed the recipe exactly, put it in the oven, and when it came out of the oven, it looked fine.  But as it cooled, it sank in the middle.  I used a heating core (I think that's what it's called) in the middle and I also used the baking strips on the outside.  The recipe as written in the book calls for 9" rounds and to bake for 28 minutes.  I baked it the 28, then 5 more because it was not done in the middle.  Did I possibly overbake it?  He recommends that you let the cake cool in the pan for 25-30 minutes then take it out so that's what I did.


The reciipe is: 7 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour

                     2 ounces unsweetened cocoa powder (he recommends actually using Dutch Processed)

                     1-1/2 tsp baking powder

                     1 tsp salt

                     1 cup half-and-half 

                     2 T brandy

                     1 T vanilla

                     6 oz unsalted butter

                     14 ounces extra-fine granulated sugar

                     4 large eggs


I was going to make a 2-layer 12" with a 2-layer 9" on top of it, so am baking the 2 12" layers separately because I didn't know how to adjust the recipe to accomodate a12 instead of  two 9s.  I supposed that could be my problem, too.  By the time I torte the cake, it's only going to be about an inch or so high, so baking the cake the way I am, if they continue to come out this small, I'll have to bake 4 separate recipes to get a decent sized cake for the bottom layer.  Any suggestions, other than learning how to adjust batters for larger cakes?

12 replies
MBalaska Posted 25 Jan 2014 , 3:41am
post #2 of 13

So you baked a 12 inch cake for approx. 33 minutes and the middle wasn't cooked.

hmmmmm.  When you use baking strips it takes longer to bake, so no you didn't overbake it.

DeniseNH Posted 25 Jan 2014 , 3:47am
post #3 of 13

I've had this happen before and found that adding a bit more flour to the batter seems to solve it.  About a half cup.  And also with scratch cakes, the batter tends to be a bit heavier so you may need a longer baking time.  The bake even strips may be preventing some of the heat away from the cake.  If you have a newer oven that goes on and off frequently to maintain temps, you may not need the bake even strips.  I know it's a pain but baking four cakes is the safest way in your case.  Oh, and using a toothpick in the center will determine whether or not the cake is baked fully.

SPCOhio Posted 25 Jan 2014 , 3:53am
post #4 of 13

AThe sugar measurement seems a bit high, and possibly the baking powder too. I wonder if "spreading out" of the batter provided more surface tension for the bubbles produced by the baking powder to burst and then cause your cake to sink? I have baked several 12 inch cakes without any problems, but as I sit here and think about it, I think all of those cakes were white cakes rather than chocolate. Did you use Dutch process cocoa? If not, the acidity of the cocoa might have cause some chemical mayhem.

Gerle Posted 25 Jan 2014 , 4:26am
post #5 of 13

MBalaska, the middle was done after the 33 minutes, but not at 28. 

SPCOhio, I used the Dutch process cocoa because he recommended it and I've used it in this recipe before with no problems.

DeniseNH, I may try the extra flour and see what happens.  I have one of those cake testers so that's what I use to test the doneness.  It came out with wet batter after the 28 minutes, so baked it for another 5 and it came out with just a few crumbs on it.


I've baked this particular cake as both an 8" and a 9" without any problems at all, so my first thought is it might have something to do with being a 12" pan.  But as I stated, I have no experience in baking 12" cakes so wasn't sure what to do.  I thought that if I put all of the batter in the one 12" pan it would be ok, but so much for my thinking!!


Well, I just took the 2 9" layers out of the oven and so far they look fine.  Will see what happens after they cool for the 30 minutes he recommends.  I also noticed with all 3 layers (the 12 and the 2 9's) that they don't rise up to the full 2" height of the cake pan.  It reminded me that this particular recipe does seem to make a smaller sized cake when I bake the 9"; the 8" is fine.  Will have to measure to see what it does come up to.  My family really likes this chocolate cake recipe so I don't want to change to another one, but I just might try some others and see if they come up to the 2" height or not and see if the family likes them.


Thanks for the suggestions I've received so far but will definitely welcome other ideas as well.

SPCOhio Posted 25 Jan 2014 , 4:54pm
post #6 of 13

AOk, Gerle...this plagued me all night long. :) The first thing that came to mind is that I have always used three flower nails disbursed within my 12 inch cakes when baking. I gave up on the heating core, which only really takes care of the middle and also displaces a HUGE chunk of cake, a long time ago. So, this morning I consulted my How Baking Works book (which I have been baking my way through) to sort of corral the thoughts I have been having.

What makes a baked good rise are steam, air and carbon dioxide which result in the expansion of gases. But apparently, you want your proteins to set (i.e. the structure to be built) at about the same time your gases are released to have a nice raised baked good. High amounts of sugar slow the coagulation of proteins and the gelatinization of starches because as they dissolve, they pull water from other molecules causing gases to be released before structure sets, and therefore make a cake susceptible to collapsing. We use baking powder in our recipes to produce carbon dioxide, so the high sugar content in this recipe may be why this recipe also has a higher amount of baking powder than I typically see in a recipe with 7 oz of flour.

So that makes me think that it may be an issue of proper heat conductivity. I know that we have to be careful about reducing temperatures too much because low temps slow the formation and expansion of gases and then your cake can either not rise at all or rise and collapse. Since the 12 inch pan is so much larger, it is possible that the irregular disbursement of heat may be making your structure set at a different time than your release of gasses in different spots of the cake, leading to the collapse. And it may explain why I never had one collapse with the use of three large flower nails disbursed throughout the cake.

And one last quickly after mixing your batter did you put the cake in the oven? If there was a time lapse, your baking powder may have already started its mojo before your structure had a chance to set.

Gerle Posted 25 Jan 2014 , 5:18pm
post #7 of 13

Wow!  That's a lot of good info there!  I put the cake in the oven right after the batter was poured into the pan, so there was no time lapse there.  I'm going to be baking another 12" cake today to see what happens to it.  I'm also thinking of doubling the recipe since I still need 2 12" cakes to layer.  I have already decided that I'm going to use flower nails instead of the heating core.  I did bake the 2 9" layers last night and they came out beautifully, other than it doesn't bake up to the 2" rim of the cake pan like it does in the 8", so they're a little on the short side.  Hubby may be getting the failed 12" to munch on the next few days!  I'm going to have to do some experimenting and will make notes so if I ever make another 12" I know what I did this time.  I appreciate all your help.  And....tell me more about this How Baking Works sounds like it would be a good investment.

Cake That Posted 25 Jan 2014 , 5:35pm
post #8 of 13

AI get sink holes when I open the oven before the cake is done sometimes. I just go by the smell, if you can smell its minutes from being done, and if you peak thru the oven window I can usually see the sides ever so slightly pulling from the sides of the pan. But I would say you most likely under baked the cake

SPCOhio Posted 25 Jan 2014 , 6:27pm
post #9 of 13

AI have the third edition of How Baking Works by Paula Figoni. It explains the science behind baking of all kinds, not just cakes. It is a tome! 499 pages and the book is about the length and height of an 8x11 sheet of paper. At the end of each chapter are questions to challenge your understanding of the text and directions for experiments based on what precedes with a place for taking notes. It is a great resource for the serious baker.

Nadiaa Posted 25 Jan 2014 , 9:45pm
post #10 of 13

That sounds like a fantastic book SPCOhio!! I'll have to hunt down a copy of that one. This has been a great thread for me to read, because I had a sinking cake the other day. I bake mostly gluten free and am playing with a new recipe at the moment. I love the cake, it tastes amazing, but I'm having a few sinking issues after it comes out of the oven. I'm definitely not underbaking it, the cake is done right the way through. But the recipe at the moment has equal quantities of flour, sugar and butter. Do you think that's alright? Or, perhaps I should increase the flour slightly. Hmm, I've got more experimenting to do! 

SPCOhio Posted 26 Jan 2014 , 3:13am
post #11 of 13

AI don't know much about gluten free baking, as I have not done any myself, but I would imagine some of the basic rules of baking still apply...maybe lol. I imagine you are not using wheat flour, correct? What are you using to replace the usual flour? And how are you measuring your ingredients? A cup of flour does not have the same volume as a cup of sugar (the sugar weighs much more), so if everything is the same unit of measure with no attention to volume, that could be a problem for setting the structure of the cake as described above. For typical high ratio cakes, you want your sugar to weigh as much as your flour or just slightly more, and then your leavening is typically about a teaspoon for every cup of flour. Are you using a chemical leavening? What kind?

Gerle Posted 26 Jan 2014 , 5:39am
post #12 of 13

I rebaked the 12" cakes today with advice I got from this thread and the Friday Night thread.  They turned out great and I'll be finishing them up tomorrow or at least by Monday  morning.  I want to thank everyone for sharing their knowledge and experience.  Without it, I probably would have been very frantic!  I also made notes on the recipe so if I ever make a 12" cake using that recipe in the future, I'll know what I did this time.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

MBalaska Posted 26 Jan 2014 , 9:09am
post #13 of 13


Originally Posted by Gerle 

I rebaked the 12" cakes today with advice I got from this thread and the Friday Night thread.  They turned out great and I'll be finishing them up tomorrow or at least by Monday  morning.  I want to thank everyone for sharing their knowledge and experience.  Without it, I probably would have been very frantic!

I also made notes on the recipe so if I ever make a 12" cake using that recipe in the future, I'll know what I did this time.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


Gerle, glad to hear it all went well.:)  It's so thoughtful for those knowledgeable  skilled bakers to share.

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