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May 9, 2011 09:44 AM

in Baking...what causes the baked goods not to rise...

As high as should be? I just recently started baking. So far, I've made chocolate chip cookies and a tres leche cake. Both were good, but the cookies were pancake thin and the cake was not a big as it should have been either. Anyone know why that may be? Also, I noticed the cake batter had a bunch of bubbles in it. The online did not when the woman made it. What causes the bubbles too? I'm doing something wrong.

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  1. Check the expiration dates on your baking powder and/or soda.

    1. You might have overbeaten the cake batter to get the bubbles. There are different reasons baked goods go flat--usually the ratio of butter/liquid to flour is too high but it could also be that your butter is too soft. It can help to refrigerate the cookie dough first. How are you measuring your ingredients, especially the flour and sugar?

      5 Replies
      1. re: chowser

        All very good suggestions. I am especially focused on the overbeating possibility.
        Also, remember that flour and eggs provide structure, sugar is a liquid ingredient so the more sugar you add the less structure you'll get.
        I see that you're a resident of "Los Angeles", but not all of that area is at sea level. What elevation do you cook at? If you're higher than 2500 feet in elevation that could affect the rise in your baked goods.

        1. re: chowser

          Interesting! For the cake, I know I probably beat the batter too long, I got distracted while I was doing it and I wondered if it mattered how long I beat it for. I made this cake recipe,
 it doesn't have any butter. Where she says to gently mix the egg white mixture, I can't remember if I did that. Could that have played a part too?

          For the cookies, I microwaved the butter, I think it was liquid... I didn't know it mattered.
          Also, I was unsure when I was measuring how to measure the flour and sugar. I used measuring cups like these - but I was unsure if I fill them, then scape off the top and pack it tight or loosely pack it. I think I loosely packed them. Thank you all so much for the info.

          I have no idea what my elevation is. How can I find out?

          1. re: LuluTheMagnificent

            The recipe actually says to WHIP the egg whites on HIGH until soft peaks form. If you didn't do this, then you would have problems with height.

            If you microwave butter until it melts, you will not be able to "cream" the butter and sugar together.

            Both melted butter and unwhipped egg whites are the same problem of not enough aeration, so you will end up with denser, flatter products.

            1. re: LuluTheMagnificent

              In that tres leches cake recipe, there were lots of opportunities to make things go very wrong.
              1. That recipe called for "creaming the eggs and sugar". This is where you mix the two together in a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer until the egg gets lighter and the sugar dissolves but it also aerates it and starts building bubbles that your leavener (baking powder or baking soda) expand. If you didn't mix it well and form those bubbles, your cake would be flat.

              2. The recipe called for egg whites to be beaten eventually to hard peaks. If the bowl or whisk had any grease or egg yolk in them, the eggs wouldn't whip well and would cause the cake to be flat (relatively)

              3. Sooner or later you have to "fold" the egg whites into the batter. If you stir them in without being very gentle, the bubbles dissipate and the cake doesn't rise well.

              4. Once you put liquid (milk) into the flour, it starts forming gluten. Gluten makes a cake tough. you need some to hold the bubbles in but if over beaten, the cake will be tough, comparatively.

              I have a suggestion about baking. The most accurate way to measure most ingredients is by weight. Unfortunately, most recipes call for cups and tablespoons. At least for the flour and the sugar, use these weights instead. 7 ounces for a cup of sugar and 4.5 ounces for a cup of flour. The weight of flour can vary but not by much. When doing it by weight, it doesn't matter how tight you packed it. After you have the right amount be sure to sift or whisk it while it is dry with the leavener and the salt. This aerates the flour and makes certain that the leavener is mixed throughout the batter. Another reason your cake might not have risen.

              Second, use fairly soft but not melting butter. It is better to use butter that is too cold rather than butter that is too warm. The action of the beater will warm it.

              Some of these suggestions will hold true for the cookies too. The best trick I know for thick cookies is to make the batter, roll it in a tube, wrap it in plastic and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes then cut the cookies in slices rather than scooping it. This gives the cookie a little extra time to rise before the butter melts.

              Ok, I've done it again. I wrote a book to give an answer.

              1. re: LuluTheMagnificent

                The tres leches cake is a sponge cake and you do have to gently fold the batter into the egg whites or the cake will deflate/not rise. Those were good pictures Bree posted. There should not be bubbles. For cakes, especially, but also cookies, you don't want to overbeat the mixture once you've put flour in it.

                For cookies, there are recipes that call for melted butter (and I prefer them actually) but they account for it being melted. Flour will absorb the butter faster and lead to a flatter cookie. You want it soft enough that you can indent it w/ your finger but not too soft. If I can find a picture online (I've seen them before but can't find it now), I'll post it.

                For measuring, I like to "fluff" the flour (I have it in a tupperware container so I tip it upside down and right side up), dip the measuring cup (yours look fine), use a knife to scrape off the top. Weighing can be more accurate but I've weighed mine, after measuring, and was surprised at how accurate the fluff and scoop method is.

                If you bake one batch and find it spreading, for the rest of the batch, refrigerate until cool, bake at a higher temperature for about 5 minutes to set the cookie and then lower it. You'll have to keep an eye on it for time.

            2. Thank you all so much for the advice! You guys know your stuff!