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Coffee Cake Conundrum

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My husband's family always makes coffee cake for holidays. Specifically, the sour cream coffee cake from Joy of Cooking, with the streusel topping on page 721. It's quick, it's easy, it's tasty, and though I prefer my family's traditional cinnamon rolls and poppyseed kolaches, I'm happy to make the coffee cake for my husband.

Our oven broke a few days before Christmas, and one thing snowballed into another, and we ended up doing an entire kitchen remodel. Since DH didn't get his Christmas coffee cake, I promised I would make it as the inaugural item baked in our new double ovens.

The day came, and I made the coffee cake. A standard coffee cake with streusel topping. And it...kind of folded in on itself and the streusel ended up in the middle of the coffee cake. It was still perfectly delicious, but it was strange. I've never experienced anything like it--it's usually a normal coffee cake with streusel topping. I chalked it up to learning how to use the convection oven.

This morning, I made the coffee cake again. No convection function this time. And this time, the streusel migrated all the way to the bottom of the coffee cake. Again, it's delicious. Maybe even better tasting, actually. ;-) But strange! Why is this happening? Anyone have some insight?

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  1. Is your batter the same consistency that it was in the past? Sounds like it is too thin. Coffee Cake batter is usually very thick, have you changed an ingredient? Off on measuring? or a change in your measuring devices?
    Oh, has the oven been calibrated?

    2 Replies
    1. re: chefj

      when i moved last year, and thus began working with a new oven, i had to begin using the rack in a higher spot than in my previous home. both gas ovens, but obviously circulating heat differently.

      have you checked the oven temp as properly calibrated?

      although it does more so sound like a batter issue...

      1. re: hotoynoodle

        Although it does sound like a batter thickness issue, since this is a familiar recipe for the OP, I doubt it. It's very hard to know, even with an oven thermometer (their accuracy wanes), the exact temperature of either oven. If the OP is using the usual recipe and the usual pan, I think it is most likely the oven temp.

    2. I'd have a service guy come and check your oven thermostate. I had to do this when my oven was new.

      Bake other stuff as well in your oven, and see how it goes with those things. It wouldn't hurt to experiment with placement of oven racks, as another poster suggested.

      I find that my convection oven bakes faster than most recipe times say.

      1. I've made the recipe many times, and it's the same thick batter as ever, so I don't think that's the issue. I have a pretty useless oven thermometer, but my suspicion is that the oven runs a little cool. I'll look into calibrating it, and also play around with which rack I use. Other cakes, pies, muffins, etc, seem to behave as expected, so I don't think it's too far off. In fact, my snickerdoodle blondies recipe works gorgeously, and it's a very similar consistency batter with a streusel-like topping. There's just something about the quirks of this oven and the quirks of this one coffee cake recipe that are interacting in just the right way to get some wacky results.

        You know, come to think of it, I did change the ingredients slightly. I only had fat free sour cream in the fridge, so I used that, and added about 2 teaspoons of canola oil to add a little bit of fat content so the cake wouldn't be rubbery. The texture of the batter seemed the same, the texture of the finished cake is pleasant and nice (not that almost squeaky feel you get with fat free quick breads), but maybe something about that modification triggered the tectonic shifts of batter I found in the finished coffee cake.

        3 Replies
        1. re: modthyrth

          You have used the oven to make other baked goodies. It seems to bake a little cool. If you are using convection, then this is strange. Convection baking is supposed to make baking faster, not slower.

          On the other hand you modified the recipe at last baking. But did you modify the recipe in question the first time you baked it in your new oven?

          I know people resist this, but I feel that it is a good investment to have a service person check a new oven out to make sure it is running true. The visit might even be free, since the oven should be under warrantee. I feel having the person out is justified since you sense that the oven runs cooler than you expected, and you are having an odd result with a tried and true recipe.

          Good luck.

          1. re: sueatmo

            It seems to run a little cool when I'm not using the convection fans. It bakes faster, as I would expect, when I turn on the convection function.

            I bought the oven off craigslist, so no warrantee, but it's still worth the investment in a service check, I think. I bought the Thermador double ovens, Thermador 36" gas cooktop, and Thermador 36" hood all for $700 (in fabulous condition, looks like new stainless steel, from a lady who had decided to upgrade her already gorgeous kitchen to Wolf appliances). I saved that much, I can afford a checkup appointment with a service professional!

            1. re: modthyrth

              Information is always good. Congrats on getting a good deal on your ovens. My oven is 13 years old, and like yours, it cooks hotter on convection, and noticeably cooler on regular. I do like the convection. I hope you end up a total believer too.

              I never adjust the temp down when I use it. (Some of the newer ovens do this automatically.) I just cook at the regular temp, and check a few minutes earlier than the recipe states. I have good results with baked products, and with roasting, and with the convection broil.

              I hope you got a manual. If you didn't, there should be one available online. Good luck.