My favorite chocolate cake recipe is the Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate cake...the one on the back of the cocoa tin. I've made it a hundred times and always get excellent results. This is the cake in question today.
Tomorrow is my sister's 25th anniversary. We're throwing a surprise party for them. 6 weeks ago I offered to make the cake, thinking that I ought to have enough skill to pull of a cake for family by the time the party arrived. I'm already pretty nervous about being able to pull it off. Then the chocolate cake issue through my anxiety into overdrive.
I'm doing three tiers - 10", 8" and 6". The top and bottom are the aforementioned chocolate cake filled with chocolate ganache. The 8" is a yellow butter cake with strawberry cream filling. The 8" is turning out just fine - my only fear there is keeping it cold enough for the filling to keep its form.
I started baking cakes earlier this week. For some reason, the chocolate cakes first of all took about 15 minutes longer to cook. The tester was clean, the top bounced back. They looked good coming out of the oven (I did a 10 and a 6 in the oven). I turned my attention to them again after 10 minutes to get them out of the pans. Both had sunken in the middle and shrunk away from the sides so bad that they didn't even have a shape any more. Into the garbage they went. I had enough batter to make my other 10 inch layer, so I popped it in. It took almost an hour to cook. When I took this one out, same thing, but it didn't shrink/sink as badly and I kept it, thinking that it wouldn't be too misshapen after being torted & layered with another 10".
Last night, I rebaked the cakes. I used baking strips this time along with the flower nail hoping it would help. Everything looked great, then it just deflated like a sad balloon. Down to about 1/4" high. It looks like a tart. The 6" turned out decent enough so I kept that one. I tried to think of anything that was different. I realized I did buy the baking spray to use instead of greasing & flouring. So I nixed that and greased/floured. Baked the 6". It turned out pretty decent but still shrank a little bit.
Bolstered, I baked yet another 10" this morning and greased/floured the pans. It looked gorgeous in the oven. Still took about 50 minutes before the tester was clean & cake bounced back. Low and behold, when I turned to take it out of the pan, the SOB collapsed again! When I flipped it out, it was incredibly moist/dense, but it did not look underdone. The sides were very crumbly and the cake was quite heavy. Again, tester was clean (I poked it around in a couple of spots near the center & it came out clean in all spots). I cooled it for a while and popped it in the freezer while I torted/filled/crumb coated all the other cakes.
I leveled/torted/filled the bottom 10" layer and it seemed fine. I took the new 10" out of the freezer. I was concerned with the crumbly sides so I decided not to torte it. It leveled okay. When I put the cake lifter under it to slide it onto the bottom layer, it was HEAVY. Definitely didn't slide as easily as other cakes. I managed to get it on & crumb coat. I stuck it in the freezer to try to get it to hold its shape a little more solidly before I put a final coat on.
I just don't know what I'm doing wrong with these cakes! I have an oven thermometer - I monitor the temp, I don't open the oven to check until 35 minutes have passed...I don't understand why this week they aren't coming out! I'm also worried about that heavy 10" layer. Is it just super moist? Could it be underdone, even though the tester was clean? I'm feeling a lot of pressure to get this right tomorrow, and I'm feeling like my first big cake is going to be my first big fail.
Two of my three layers are waiting to be smoothed and then I'm planning to do a diamond impression with silver dragees, a silver ribbon border on the bottom and just white roses on top with a silver '25' (I made the roses yesterday so at least they're done). I thought it was a simple design to try, but now my confidence is shaken and I'm thinking I was way overambitious.
Phew, sorry for the novel...I just needed to get that off my chest before I dive back into the fray!