Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why Do Cakes Fall?

I know that there are a zillion answers to this question, but for me, the answer is always the same.

You are not patient, Beki! Stop checking on your cake 15 minutes before it is ever done! You know this cake takes an hour to bake. Why are you checking it at 45 minutes?!

From my experience, taking the cake out-- or checking it-- too early is the biggest reasons that cakes fall, sink, dip, or cave-in. When you open the oven before the cake is set enough, you change the temperature too much, and it falls. It doesn't help that I not only open the oven, but pull the rack out a little, then poke the cake with a toothpick or cake tester.

I've found that I'm worse about it with dark-colored cakes: Banana Cake, Pumpkin Cake, Chocolate Cake. I think because they are already dark, I can't tell just by peeking through the window of the oven if they're getting close to done. And the banana cake always bakes dark on the outside. It's just how the cake works. You'd think after making it a zillion times, I would know this!

Thankfully, all hope is not lost if your cake falls. You can still make a great dessert out of it.

You will lose some height, but you can always level off the outer ring of the cake...

Snacking on the leftovers isn't all that bad, in the end, but I will admit that I have, in the past, stacked a little of these cut edges up, and set them in the center to help mask the cave-in.

Remember, though, that when you're decorating a cake, the bottom should always be the top anyway. (You should flip the cake before you start icing it. See my "How to Ice a Cake" Tutorial for more on this.)

Sure, I would have liked this Chocolate-Banana Cake to be a little taller, but in the end, it was fine. No one knew - or cared - that it fell in the middle. So, don't fret. If your cake falls, it will still be just fine.

Now, if the cake is just beyond repair-- that's when you just change the plan and Make Cake Pops! I usually toss any of these cakes that fall, or stick, or whatever else, into the freezer, and pull them out when I need to make a batch of cake pops. Perfect!

For the next time, though, here is a list of some other reasons cakes fall:
- Your oven is not cooking at a consistent temperature (or it's cooking too cool).
- You didn't mix the ingredients well enough. (I'm guilty of this from time to time.)
- Your baking powder or soda is too old/ doesn't work.
- You put too much batter in the pan. (Done this before, too.)

But mostly, I would say when students bring in a sunken cake, it's because they were too anxious, and didn't let the poor guy bake long enough-- just like me!

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