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Cake Baking Tips - Common Cake Problems and Cures

External Cake Appearance

Symptom Causes
Crust too dark - Oven too hot.
- Excessive top heat.
Cake too small - Scaling weight too low.
- Oven temperature too high.
- Batter temperature too high.
- Batter temperature too low.
- Incorrect amount of water.
Cake burned on top - Oven temperature too hot.
- Incorrect amount of water.
Crust is shiny and sticky - Oven temperature too cool.
- Not baked long enough
- Too much sugar in recipe.
Crust too thick - Excessive baking time.
Cake falls during baking - Excessive jarring or moving of the cake during baking.
- Oven temperature too low. Excessive mixing of the batter.
Top of cake peaks and cracks - Oven temperature was too hot. (the outside of the cake baked to form a crust too quickly. As mixture in center of the cake continued to cook and rise, it burst up through the top of the cake.)
- Cake wasn't baked on the center rack of the oven.
Cake shrinks - Excessive liquid.
- Batter too cold.
- Oven too hot.
- Improper mixing procedure.
- Baked too long.
Cake rose unevenly - Flour was not blended sufficiently into the main mixture.
- Temperature inside the oven was uneven.
- Oven temperature too high.
Cake stuck to the pan - Improper greasing/flouring of pan.
- Layers were cooled too long before trying to remove them.


Internal Cake Appearance

Symptom Causes
Coarse and irregular grain - Improper mixing procedures.
- Stiff batter.
- Careless or poor depositing in the pans.
- Oven too cool, (baked too slowly).
Dense grain - Excessive liquid in the batter.
- Improper mixing procedure.
Off-color cakes - Improper mixing procedure.
- Oven too cool, (baked too slowly).
- Unclean equipment.
If raisins, nuts or dried fruit sunk to the bottom - Pieces of fruit were too large and too heavy.
- Sugary syrup on the outside of the fruit was not washed off- causing the pieces of fruit to slide through the mixture as it heated.
- Washed and dried fruit was not dusted with flour before being added to the mixture.
- Cake mixture was over beaten or was too wet so it could not hold the fruit in place.
- Oven temperature was too low, causing the mixture to melt before it set to hold the fruit in place.

General Cake Faults

Symptom Causes
Batter over-flowed the pans - Wrong adjustments to recipes (too much liquid, flour etc.)
- Wrong size pan used. Mixture should fill 2/3 of pan.
Poor flavor - Improper mixing procedure.
- Improper cleaning and greasing of the pans.
- Faulty baking conditions.
- Improper cleaning of the equipment.
Cakes too tough - Excessive mixing.
- Batter too stiff (insufficient water).
- Batter too thin (excessive water).
Lacks body/structure - Excessive mixing
- Insufficient liquid.
Dries out too soon - Excessive baking time.
- Insufficient liquid.
- Improper mixing procedures.
- Cooled in a drafty location.


Baking Hints for Cakes

Symptom Causes
Baking - Set your ovens about 20 minutes before baking. Use an oven thermometer to test the temperature inside.
- When you use a spray release agent on your cake pans, be sure the spray contains flour, or if it doesn’t, light dust your own flour over the sprayed pan.
- Bake cakes at 350 to 360 degrees in regular oven.
- Bake cakes at 330 to 335 degrees in convection oven.
- Handle the cakes carefully when removing from the oven.
- Place cakes on the center rack in the middle of the oven.
- Pans should not touch the sides of the oven.
- If your oven bakes unevenly on one side, do not pick up the pan, but rotate it about 2/3 into the baking time.
- Make sure the batter is level in the pans.
- Cakes will spring back when touched, when they are done. The sides will shrink slightly away from the pan and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Baking times will vary with pan size and batter weight.
Mixing - Batter temperature should be 70 to 75 degrees.
- ALL equipment should be clean and grease free.
- Make sure your measuring cups and spoons actually hold the same volume if you are using them from different sets.
- Measure all ingredients as accurately as possible.
- Pans should be greased properly.
- When using a stand-up kitten mixer, use a paddle (not a wire whip) to mix the batter.
- Use a rubber or soft plastic spatula to scrape the sides of the mixing bowl after each addition of ingredients. (Scraping ensures proper ingredient distribution.)
- Follow the formula exactly as to mixing times.
- Always use fresh, high quality ingredients.
- Follow the formula exactly as to method. Use precise mixing times. If not, disaster may result!
Handling - Cool cake in pan 10-15 minutes before loosening the edge and turning it onto a wire rack.

Hint: To easily remove a cake form the pan, place a double thickness paper towel over the wire rack. The towel prevents the wire bars from breaking the crust or leaving imprints on the top of the cake

- Turn hot cakes out gently.

- Cool cake at least 1 hour before decorating.

Hint: When frosting a cake, chill the cake before spreading filling and/or frosting. (Cake will be much easier to work with.) Also, apply a thin layer of frosting to the cake and then refrigerate until it is set before applying the final, heavier layer of frosting. This will seal in the crumbs and ensure a clean final appearance.

- Make only enough to last 3 or 4 days.