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why are my chocolate chip cookies so cakey?

  • j

Help! I am not a baker by any means, but thought I'd give the recipe off of the Nestle Tollhouse chip bag a try since my fiance is in town and he has a big sweet tooth. Aren't the recipes off of the bags supposed to be foolproof?? Well, I tried this recipe TWICE and the results were the same: cakey cookies! It worked better when I smooshed the cookie dough and lessened the cooking time (thereby underbaking) but the cookies really never flattened. The oven was set to 375, as instructed. Is that too high? A friend thought the baking soda was too old, maybe that's the culprit. Or was the sugar ratio off? I also used a Silpat sheet on a dark cookie pan...does that do anything?

As you can see, I am a novice at baking and have no idea what affects what, so please help! I don't want to be known as a bad cookie maker!

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  1. I don't know why they would be cakey, sorry. But when I make the tollhouse cookies, I always use 1/2 butter and 1/2 crisco for the shortening.

    2 Replies
    1. re: marycarol

      I am also no baker, but I know that the type of flower you use makes a difference. They have different properties (cake v bread v all purpose)

      1. re: marycarol

        I do the same thing: half butter, half shortening and I use the butter flavored (it's one of my dirty little secrets). I never get 'cakey'.

        Cookies come out best on a shiny, metal serface. They will not burn and spread out beautifully. You can get gorgeous and cheap pans from a local restaurant supply store that will last forever. I threw away all of my non-stick sheets and never burned my cookies again!

      2. Maybe you used a little too much baking soda. It sounds like an effect from the baking soda.

        And, using a silpat for cookies is not ideal in that it often decreases the crispy edges desired on some cookies; another slight effect to make them "cakey."

        Adding a little more oil or butter will decrease cakiness a bit, too.

        Be sure you measured exactly and not "almost" just by sight.

        1. It might be one of a few reasons....

          1. too much baking soda, they rise higher (maybe decrease it slightly from the recipe)
          2. too much egg (sizes of eggs differ at times) and too much egg in a recipe tends to make things "cakier"
          3. maybe the silpat is not letting the cookies "crisp" on the bottoms, I bake my cookies directly on a metal cookie sheet
          4. over baking - I tend to take my drop cookies out when they are just slightly golden around the edges and still "raw" looking in the center, they set nicely as they cool, let them cool on the pan for a minute before transferring to a rack
          5. not enough sugar (I like to use dark brown and solidly packed into the measuring cup) sugar affects texture of baked goods, usually less sugar = tougher not as soft baked goods
          6. over blending butter, sugar & eggs with a hand mixer. I've read in one of my cooking magazines (Cook's or Fine) something about overblending sugar & eggs for too long sort of "cooks" them. Something with about about a chemical breakdown in the proteins. I'm not 100% on the 411 but I think that might be a culprit too?

          I hope this helps.

          1. Too much flour in proportion to the butter/sugar mixture might also be the culprit. You might (working in small batches) cutting the flour back by 1/4 to 1/2 cup (proportionately) or more.

            1. I would bet on not enough sugar. A quarter cup more white sugar can make a huge change in how crisp things are - the more sugar the drier, thus crisper, cookies.

              1. I, too, have had this problem, quite a few times. When I take the pan out of the oven, I give it a WHACK! on the counter, and it deflates the puff in the cookies quite a bit.

                My neighbor makes great toll house cookies, and she says she uses melted butter. I'm sure that would change the results significantly.

                2 Replies
                1. re: heidipie

                  My favorite choc. chip cookie recipe uses melted butter. The cookies are soft and chewy -- not cakey at all.

                  1. re: heidipie

                    That made the difference for me, I forgot to melt the butter once and they turned out too high and cake like.

                    Also, up here at altitude, to keep the cookies from going too flat, we lessen the sugar. Maybe you could use a little more sugar?

                    There is no way he'd think of you as the lady who makes bad cookies...he'll probably see you as the love of his life who learned how to bake just for him.

                  2. Hi Jennifer-san,

                    Quick question...does the recipe on the package of chocolate chips match the recipe that I've linked to below?

                    We will figure this out!!!


                    Link: http://www.verybestbaking.com/recipes...

                    1. Below is Alton Brown's recipy for chewy cookies. If you go to the Food TV site you can also get his crispy one. Notice he says to use bread flower in this case. He uses all purpose I believe for the crispy but you should check.

                      Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                      1. Alton Brown did a Good Eats episode where he made three versions of chocolate chip cookies -- thin ones, puffy (cakey) ones, and very chewy ones. There are a number of differences in the recipes worth noting (link is posted below).

                        However, for my cookies I usually use the (fake) Mrs Fields recipe that you can easily find by doing a Google search (it is also on www.topsecretrecipes.com). The change I make is to substitute 20% ground up Quaker oats (using a spice grinder) and 20% cake flour for equivalent amounts of AP flour. The cookies never come out cakey - except for one time where I mistakenly added 1.5x the amount of baking powder specified.

                        Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/show_...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: cornflower

                          This is a link to the actual transcript from the Alton Brown episode where he does the 3 versions of chocolate chip cookies. This, in addition to the 3 recipes from the Food Network website that cornflower posted, should give you tons of info on making chocolate chip cookies the way you want them. I found this episode enormously helpful in my efforts to get a "cakey" cookie, which is what my grandmother used to make, so I prefer cakey to the thin and crispy.

                          Link: http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/GEFP/i...

                        2. I would use a little less flour--maybe reduce it by about 1/4 cup to start with. Having a higher butter-to-flour ratio will give you flatter, crispier cookies.

                          1. Well, all sorts of things can affect cookie recipes, but I believe the #1 cause of puffy cookies with the back-of-the-bag recipe is overbeating. If you aerate the butter by beating for a long time with the sugar, then beat in air further by beating the butter/sugar/egg combo, you will end up with cookie that are ckey. After all, you're doing what you do to a cake intentionally to get that airy texture. I like the Cooks Illustrated chewy cookie recipe which uses melted butter and different ratios of sugar, flour and so on, but you can get good results from the Toll House recipe. Just get the butter warm, and mix by hand, rather than with a mixer.

                            If you're sure that you didn't overbeat, I would look at the Silpat sheet next. The baking soda would cause the opposite problem - baking soda gives rise, so if it were old, the cookies wouldn't puff. Oh, and you might want to make sure you weren't using self-rising flour, which has baking powder added, or cake flour, which doesn't have the gluten you want. Plain old all-purpose is the way to go, preferably unbleached.

                            1. Always use the back of bag. Room temp & pretty soft on the shortening, stingy on the flour, and mixing just to incorporate on the dough yields the flat crispy ones. If I want rounder, puffier cookies I chill the dough well before baking.

                              1. Alton Brown did a cookie show on three types of cookies (thin, puffy, chewy). If you read his episode transcript (below), it helps understand what's going on.

                                Link: http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/Season...

                                1. I add an extra egg yolk and melt the butter halfway down and they never come out cake-like. I like my chocolate chip cookies just like you guys do, as close to Grandma's chocolate chip cookies as possible. I learned in culinary arts school that even baking the best possible cookies, deserts and doing it with fun and as an art, can't help but cheer you and the entire family up, on a rainy cold day :-)

                                  1. I'm on the over-beating theory bandwagon. Just let the butter come to room temperature, then cream it BY HAND with the back of a big spoon, and cream the sugar in the same way, and the flour mixture by hand as well. (If this doesn't fix your problem, I would be happy to eat the cakey cookies. ;)

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: visciole

                                      another vote in the cream-with-wooden-spoon camp. This is becoming a lost art! Everybody has KitchenAids now and things get beaten to a pulp. Like killing an ant with a sledgehammer.

                                      Gentle creaming softens and smooths without whipping in air.

                                      1. re: toodie jane

                                        "Like killing an ant with a sledgehammer" = nice simile!

                                        Also, look at it this way, if you have a gas stove you can make cookies if the power goes out, you're not wasting electricity, and you're exercising your forearm muscles. Plus easier clean-up. If you make cookies by hand with room temp butter you can throw them together in 10 minutes and have only one sticky bowl to clean.

                                        I don't own a Kitchenaid, and I bake all the time. I use my hand-held mixer only for cakes.

                                        1. re: toodie jane

                                          Exactly. If using a mixer, you rarely have to go past low speeds to get a good result. I've never actually gone past 8 or 9 even whipping egg whites (Cuisinart model) and it goes up to 12...

                                        2. re: visciole

                                          This is what I do -- cream and mix by hand. I use the toll House recipe with one change -- I use a cup of brown sugar and a 1/2 cup of white instead of 3/4 of each. The dough should be at room temperature when baking, and it doesn't hurt if there is a little less than the 2 1/4 cups of flour.

                                        3. I always use all butter. A friend used to use all crisco, and hers were cakey, while mine were chewy. If all the the other ingredients were measured correctly, could this have been your issue?

                                          1. I **like** mine cakey!!!

                                            1. Hi Jennifer. I just realized this thread is over 6 years old, but since it has resurfaced, I'll go ahead and reply...... I had to laugh about your title, because I posted the exact opposite thread awhile back ("why are my choc chip cookies flat?!"). LOL

                                              The quick answer is that It turned out to be the pans I used. I used Airbake pans which allowed the cookies to spread before they finished baking.

                                              My mom and I use the exact same recipe (back of the Nestle chip package) with no changes. Our mixing methods are identical (cream in our KitchenAids). But, her cookies were always cakey and mine were flat. I use Airbake pans w/parchment (mostly just because I have three of them so can rotate through quickly and easily) and my mom uses a regular cookie sheet (single metal layer vs. Airbake's double layer design) and her pans are darker than mine. I did an experiment with the one flat/darker pan that I have and voila! My cookies were cakey, like I wanted.

                                              Hope that helps - it's an easy fix!! and btw, I don't do anything complicated with these cookies. Just follow the directions right off of the bag and use my KitchenAid to cream and mix them up, scoop onto the pans and away we go. Easy.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Scirocco

                                                You're right about that...the Airbake DEFINITELY yield flat cookies. I have a really ancient dark cookie sheet that sounds like yours which I use to make mine cakey!!! I also make sure to have the dough nice and cold when I put it into the oven (for cakey). I would think room temp would be better for flat. And...for flat, go with all butter. For cakey you want more margarine\ / oleo.

                                                1. re: jbsiegel

                                                  Yup. It was such a difference. Amazing. re: the fat though, I used all butter both times. And I did experiment with dough temps and it didn't change them much. For me, it was the pan that made all the difference.

                                                  1. re: Scirocco

                                                    I also tend to be a bit "generous" on the amount of flour I use (to the point where I have to add a tablespoon or so of water to get it all mixed). That helps too!

                                                2. re: Scirocco

                                                  I am soooo happy to read this! I have been about to go crazy trying to figure out why my choc.chip cookies are always cakey! I don't like cakey, I want flat with the chips poking out of the top like in the pictures that the Nestle Tollhouse ones look like!! I always follow the recipe on the back of the choc chip bag to a "T", with the same old "cakey" results. My dad uses the exact recipe and his are always flat. He even came over once to "guide" me how he does it. They still turned out fat and cakey and even he was perplexed. We thought it might be my oven or old baking soda or numerous other things that so many people have suggested. But now I know....it's not the butter, or the temperature, or the flour, or the baking soda, the eggs, or even the stirring....It's GOT to be the pan! I have always used a dark, thin baking pan (and sometimes a stone). I will be purchasing an Airbake pan and look forward to no more cakey cookies. Thank you so much "Scirocco" and To all of those that replied & confirmed this! Finally the answer I"ve been searching for all this time :)

                                                3. Okay - had the same problem - wanted the old fashion flat and gooey toll house cookies from my youth. Tried the air pan - still Cakey - tried mixing the butter sugar by hand with wooden spoon then adding the flour mixture by hand - IT WORKED!!!! Finally cookies were as remembered. I used the recipe on the package and used salted butter in case you were wondering.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Goodqueen

                                                    All you need to do it use melted butter rather than the creaming technique. Underbake a little. Get the cookies off the pan as soon as they come out of the oven. I use an aluminum pan with a parchment sheet. Air pans are horrible unless you WANT cakey cookies. Shirley O. Corriher's
                                                    "Cookwise" has a valuable chapter on fine-tuning chocolate chip cookies. I have not gone through this entire long, and old, thread so apologies if these points were already made upthread.