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Jul 24, 2006 03:01 PM

Cake: Disaster recovery and analysis

Why are so many of my posts disaster related?

Sunday morning, making Mom's birthday cake. I decided to make 2 cakes and freeze one for a b-day 2 weeks from now. Forced myself to make 2 batches, not double recipe. Basic 1-2-3-4 cake I have made a zillion times. The cake is a light texture with fairly large grains.

My first mistake: I wanted my Mom's cake to be 4 layers, so I decided to make 2 layers and split, instead of 3 that the recipe makes. I put most of the batter in 2 pans and put a little extra in a very small pan for the cook. The second cake went in 3 pans.

Cake #1 overflowed the pans and made an unholy mess in the oven. I put the other three in the second, non-convection, oven.

All 5 cakes , when done, were shaped like an inverted dome. That is, very, very high on the sides (thus the overflow) and sunken in the middle. By using my trusty serated knife, I was able to lop off about 1/2 of each layer to make enough flat layers for my Mom's b-day. (Which, BTW, turned out very nice w/ 3 different fruit filling layers and whipped cream frosting...thanks to those who helped me out in the earlier thread. The odd taste mentioned below was not noticeable in the completed cake.)

Not only did these cakes behave unexpectedly, they tasted odd. Metallic, some how, and the butter broke from the batter. The cakes even stuck a bit to the parchment lining, which never happens.

The weird taste has me stumped. It's possible that the overflowing batter that burned on the oven made a nasty smokey taste that imbued itself not only into the cakes in that oven, but the ones in the oven just below.

However, I'm wondering if this could be some sort of baking powder problem...since the cakes rose in such a weird way. Normally, in the convection oven , my cakes dome, not fall. It was the same baking powder i've been using for 6 months or so without a problem.

Other suggestions? What say you?

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  1. Is it possible you accidentally used baking soda instead of baking powder? I did that in one batch of a wedding cake once, and it rose really weirdly, seemed to take longer to bake (???), and even though I really wanted to be able to salvage it, the too-much baking soda taste was just not edible.

    1 Reply
    1. re: babette feasts

      No, I'm sure I used powder...but I wish that was the answer...I have to make this thing again next week and now I'm gun shy.

    2. The only suggestion I can think of is you overbeat the batter. That can cause cakes to rise quickly, then fall which sounds like what you got. Usually the texture is coarse which might explain the odd taste.

      5 Replies
      1. re: cheryl_h

        I did that, the over beating thing, by accident with the chocolate pound cake that I have posted photos of. What a mess in my oven. It really did overflow the pan but no odd off taste. It is so chocolaty and fudgy it would be easy to miss an off note.

        1. re: cheryl_h

          Well, that sure souns like it. By overbeat, I assume you mean beat for too long a time, rather than beat at too high a speed?

          I suppose that's a possibility. I WAS trying to do several things at once. Thanks.

          1. re: danna

            yes, beating too long and incorporating too much air into the batter. It rreally is not noticeable until it bakes and overflows.

            1. re: danna

              Yes, if you beat for too long it does something to the chemistry. I'm sure someone else will have the full answer. I've done this too and usually saved it in the same way you did - a bit of creative sculpture, some ice cream and no one guessed it was a disaster.

              1. re: cheryl_h

                "creative sculpture" Exactly. Plus, I already had my eye on my triffle bowl as plan C.

                BTW, one of my friends says I should ask you experts if you think humidity is a factor in any way? She has had some spreading issues w/ cookies lately.

          2. Did you sift? That can make a HUGE difference in incorporating ingredients. If baking powder gets into little clumps it can leave a horrible metallic taste. Most baking powder has alum (yes, that is aluminum): a metal. I have two suggestions (well, three, if you count sifting)...

            1) get aluminum-free baking powder.

            2) follow cake recipes EXACTLY until you are a more comfortable baker. I'm more of a cook than a baker (in baking, you really can't just throw in a pinch of this and replace A with B; it's a science NOT an art (until you get to decorating, if you are decorating)) and I have to put on a different hat when baking. I think back to chem lab.

            4 Replies
            1. re: MollyGee

              Yes, I sifted. I AM a comfortable baker. I've been making cake since before I could see over the counter. That's why this has me so bumfuzzled. I know what you mean, though. I'm so comfortable w/ cakes , that I tend to experiment now, sometimes to unfortunate results. But in this case...I was not. I'm going to ditch this can of baking powder, just in case, and I will take your aluminum-free advice. Thanks.

              1. re: danna

                Just out of curiosity, isn't there some simple test for baking powder? Of course, your cakes give some empirical datum.

                1. re: yayadave

                  Good point. Upon googling, it appears I could stir a tsp. into 1/2 cup hot water and see if it bubbles. Google also found a word about how humidity will ruin baking powder if you don't keep the can sealed. It's possible I failed to close the lid properly...God knows it's humid here. However, I also found descriptions of what cakes that have too much or too little baking powder. Mine sounds more like too much than too little. If not for the TWO cakes that behaved similarly, I would say I just added the baking powder twice. The mystery remains.

                  Wouldn't my cakes be annecdotal data rather than empirical?

                2. re: danna

                  Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you're an uncomfortable baker! You know- in re-reading your original post -I'll bet a big part of the problem (of the odd rising and overflow) might have been that you used two pans per recipe rather than three. Messing with pan size (and shape) can really throw off a recipe.

              2. The original comment has been removed
                1. I can't help with the problems rising and sticking, but as for the odd taste, is it possible that either your butter or one of your eggs was bad? Or if not actually bad, had absorbed an off flavor from something else along the way?