Cake: Disaster recovery and analysis
- danna Jul 24, 2006 03:01 PM
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 greasy...like 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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
Sounds like you added way too much baking powder. Many classic southern biscuit recipes taste metallic because the recipe calls for way too much baking powder; I forget which one, but one of the flour companies recommends 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder per cup of flour. The fact that the cake is sunken in the middle also sounds like too much leavening: in the oven, the batter expands way beyond its holding capacity and collapses before the heat can set the batter.
It might be like you counted the number of teaspoons wrong, or used the tablespoon instead of the teaspoon, or added baking powder to self-rising flour that already has baking powder in it.
re: jerry i h
This just in: baking soda passes test.
Yes, it sure sounds like too much baking powder. Thing is, the fact that I made TWO batches that both behaved the same way has me convinced I didn't use the Tablespoon or double up or anything. The self-rising theory is one I hadn't considered. I don't know how I'm going to investigate that since I toss the flour bags after I dump them in my canisters.
The recipe calls for 3 teaspoons in 3 cups of flour...too much by your ratio, but again, I have made this recipe many, many times.
To Molly - you're right about the pans, but the 2nd batch I baked in three pans, and it still rose high on the sides and fell in the middle.
I'll be giving this thing another shot tomorrow morning, and will report back.
re: jerry i h
AH HA! We have a winner!
When my Mom finally returned from her post-birthday vacation, I asked her if she noticed anything odd about her cake. Silence ensued. She thinks I accidentally used self-rising flour. I think she's probably right (as was Jerry).
I opened a new bag of AP and re-made the cake. Perfect.
Here's a pic (i hope...first photo attempt on new site) of the original cake, after it was cut and pasted and disquised by whipped cream and fruit.
Thanks again, everyone.