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How do I keep the top of my cakes from swelling up in the middle and cracking?

Mar 16, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose

Metallic cloth cake strips, available in cake decorating supply places, work very well to keep layer cakes level. Lowering the heat 25 degrees is another solution as is using cake flour or bleached all purpose which have a lower protein content.

Comments

Thanks CharlesT. Now I really do have to make a new batch of cake soon to try out all that I have learned from you and Woody! I really do love using the smaller taller cake tins as the cake looks so alluring somehow when it is in these proportions and so all this info is much appreciated. Now, to get a rose pin... Will get back to you with the results soon.

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Keep in mind that you're using 6" pans, which provides additional structural support for the cake. You may or may not need baking powder adjustments. If the cake sinks, reduce baking powder; if it domes, increase it.

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Dear Woody,

I really do appreciate that you took the time and trouble to clarify further re: my problem of splitting and slightly undercooked cake. It does make me feel better as I was wondering what was going wrong.

I hope you will not feel it an imposition if I ask a few additional questions regarding baking in 3" deep pans:

When using a 3" depth, does this affect the time it takes to bake the cake? Should one lower the temperature more since the cake takes longer to rise to avoid browning too fast?

About Oblong pans:

If using an oblong rather than a round cake pan, would you also have to modify the amount of baking powder as well?

Thank you again, and I want to take this occasion to say how great I think Rose's books and this site are. The support and commitment to its users is unmatched by any other culinary site. I am a bit of a food and cookbook buff and internet surfer. I sample many recipes and own many cookbooks. Rose's are by far the best in recipes and presentation on line and off! She has a great crew too, such as you, Hector, etc. and fosters an atmosphere of sharing among her community of followers.

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Woody Wolston
Woody Wolston in reply to comment from Jenn Em
05/19/2013 02:12 PM

Hi Jenn,
We advise that you look at your convection oven's manual or call the manufacturer for settings for baking. Many convection ovens need to be set 25˚F/15˚C lower for baking.
Virtually all of our recipes for butter or oil layer cakes are baked in 2 inch high pans, because of the problems of the center being undercooked and cracking on the top when baked in taller pans. In Rose's Heavenly Cakes and Rose's next book, we used cakes strips for all of the butter and oil layer cakes to slow down the baking of the sides. As Charles also recommended, a "flower" nail used for forming flower decors or a center core will conduct heat to center.
We have seen that bakers who bake cakes in 3 inch high pans are many times doing this because they: are in mass production, have limited oven space, or have time constraints. They will also slice the taller cakes in half to make two layers. In using the taller pans, they will also modify a recipe designed for a shorter pan(s), which usually includes lowering the leavening. We suggest try lowering the baking powder by 1/4 teaspoon and adjust with further testing.

In most cases, a layer cake batter will need to be modified for leavening and amount of batter to bake properly in a bundt pan. A 9 by 2 inch pan has a volume of 8-2/3 cups. While most of our recipes using bundt pans are designed for 10-cup bundt pans and filling the pans to about an inch from the top of the pan. The leavening is usually reduced because the bundt pan's inner walls provide support for the cake's structure.
Rose & Woody

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Will do. Tkx

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It's only expertise if it works; otherwise, it's "garbage I read on the internet". :-) Please report back.

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Wow. Thanks for sharing your expertise and answering so instantaneously again -- very, very interesting. Re: the Flower pin, ah, yes. Got it now. Was thinking it was for a real flower... :)

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Baked items which rise do better when heat comes mostly from the bottom. The convection feature effectively raises the temperature of the surface of the baked item and causes it to dry out faster, which is why a reduction in temperature is recommended.

Any metal reaching from the exterior of the baked item into the interior can help. A flower nail is a cake decorating tool that is simply a small metal disk with a stem attached; it looks like a nail with a very, very wide head on it.

You can improvise bake even strips by wrapping wet paper towels in aluminum foil.

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Thx Charles for your advice.

Great idea of using a "flower nail", though not sure what that is. I suppose it is similar to the concept behind using metal skewers on kebabs or baked potatoes to cook the center better. I suppose I could use a metal skewer if I can find a way of supporting it straight with wire on top of the pan?

I was always under the impression that using a convection oven was good for baking cakes as it distributes heat evenly throughout the oven for even rising?

Yes, I will have to find a way to get more of Rose's strips. Wonder whether I can improvise for now by using ironing board metallic fabric?

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Probably need to reduce the temp a bit, particularly if you're using the convection feature, which isn't recommended. You can also use a flower nail in the center to improve the conduction of heat into the center of the cake. You should consider using the bake even strips around the exterior of the cake. You can reduce any doming by increasing the baking powder.

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Hi Rose,

I hope this thread is still active... I have made several of the cakes from your Cake Bible, always with great results. Then,recently I made your wonderful White Velvet Cake from the Cake Bible. I baked it in 2 cake tins of the dimensions: 3"High x 6" diameter. The cake seemed to take some time to rise and near the end, as the cake was doming, a few large cracks appeared pushing open and I saw some still uncooked batter beneath. I baked another 10 minutes or so, but the cake was already turning darker golden brown, so I decided to take the cakes out of the oven. The cake tasted great and the texture was lovely,except for these cracks and a slight amount of undercooked mixture in the centre of the cake.

I was wondering whether the cause for this was because I used a deep cake pan and/or whether it was because my oven was too hot?

NOTE: I use a convection oven and I have also found that when I made the Golden Downy Butter cake recipe increased as indicated in the recipe to make into a Bundt cake as a similar thing occurs (I think of it as a kind of volcano effect). The cake tastes wonderful, but cracks appear and there is a small amount of undercooked mixture at the centre. The Bundt cake pan is the Nordic brand and also quite deep. I appreciate any advice you can give. Thanks, Jennifer PS. For years I have been making the Yellow Downy Cake and always trying to find ways to use the leftover egg whites. After making the White Velvet cake for the first time, I now know that it is the perfect complement to the Yellow Downy Cake since it uses only whites.

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Hazel Munze
Hazel Munze in reply to comment from Megan
04/ 9/2011 12:07 PM

I want to bake a round chocolate cake from a box - everytime it looks wonderful and I follow the directions for temp and cooling and remove from the pans after the right of amount of time - then both start to crack right in the middle -- it tastes great but how do I avoid this - really want a round 2 layer cake-- any suggestions??

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Cover with a sheet of foil before it starts to darken.

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how do i keep a larger cake from getting too dark on the top?

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so the structure is weakened thus flattening the top.

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Megan, correction: while generally it's true, since your cake is doming, you will need to increase leavening, so the structure is weakened.

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Megan, this is one of the most questioned questions. The first thing i would try, is lowering the oven temperature 25 to 50 degrees and bake long. Also, i would add cake strips.

Is this cake mix or from scratch? Was the recipe originally for a round 9" layer? And 11x15 pan has a much wider surface area, and you need to adjust the amount of baking powder, wider surface area needs less baking powder.

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I am baking my daughter's birthday cake for this weekend... I NEED HELP!!!!!!!!! I baked it in an 11x15 pan and it rose up really high in the middle and cracked apart. I can't use it like that! Now, I've got to bake another one and I don't want it to happen again... what can I do???
Thanks!

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Charles Sease
Charles Sease
04/12/2009 07:42 PM

I use the Duncan Hines Butter cake mix along with sour cream,butter and sugar.I would like to know why does my cake fall in the middle?

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paula borden
paula borden
01/31/2008 06:22 PM

I madae a bread pudding..it rose wonderfully...I took it our of the oven and afater an hour ita fell in size..what can I do to prevent this????
thanks.....psb

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Rose,

I have a recipe for a dark chocolate cake that I have made for years....I make it in a 9x13 glass casserole. It is delicious, but doesn't always come out the same. Sometimes it rises nice and other times it has a sunken rectangular patch in the center and is more dense in the bottom 1/4" of the cake. I would so appreciate any suggestions as to why this may be happening. The recipe is as follows: 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour, 2 c. sugar, 3/4 c. cocoa pdr., 2 t. baking soda, 1 t. baking pdr., 1 t. salt, 2 eggs, 1 c. strong coffee, 1 c. buttermilk, 1/2 c. oil, 1 t. vanilla. All is combined and the batter is thin. 350 deg. for 35 min.

Thanks!

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
08/18/2007 10:44 PM

Tamara,

We'd have to know a little more about the recipe to understand more about what is happening. You say the batter is great but it looks undercooked. Is that the only problem? That would suggest you're simply not baking long enough or maybe baking at the wrong temperature (perhaps your oven isn't calibrated correctly and it's baking at too low a temp).

Where did the recipe come from? If not one of Rose's, can you provide us the recipe to look at, along with the instructions you're following?

As for egg whites, make sure they're not over beaten and dry.. Fold them gently into the batter just until no traces of white remains, trying to maintain as much volume as possible.


Zach

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Tamara Batory
Tamara Batory
08/18/2007 10:34 PM

I want to know if there are any hints and how do I know how to fold in beaten egg whites just enough, while the dough is quite heavy? I have tried this one recipe 6-7 times, the last stage is folding in beaten egg whites, and the batter looks great, but when it comes out of the oven, it is undercooked all through out. I am going crazy.

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fay, please do a search on the blog for flour and crossing the atlantic by cookbook. i explain why plain flour which is unbleached will always cause cakes made with solid as opposed to melted butter layer cakes to fall in the center.

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Okay, so if my scratch cakes always fall in the middle, which leavening am I adding too much of? This recipe calls for 2 cups plain flour, 1 tbsp baking powder, and 1 tsp baking soda. It's my grandmother's carrot cake recipe, and it always tastes good, but the layers ALWAYS sink in the middle! :)

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
06/ 3/2007 01:08 PM

Ann Marie,

Sounds like you've got too much leavening in your batter, which can make it sink in the middle.

Yes, Rose addresses these issues somewhere on this blog, so do a search. She also addresses it in the Cake Bible, if you have that.

Zach

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Ann Marie - are you sure your cake isn't under baked? What kind of flour did you use? You can use the search box on the top left side of this screen to look for past postings and responses relating to your situation.

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Ann Marie Stroud
Ann Marie Stroud
06/ 3/2007 12:11 PM

my scratch cakes are falling in the middle....why?

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Hi Kristie - Zach and Matthew are soooo correct in saying that a cake from scratch is far superior in flavor and texture than a boxed mix, especially if you try a recipe from the cake bible.

Besides the superior flavor and texture
of Rose's cake recipes, here are some
not-so-nice qualities that I have noticed when using a boxed cake mix:

1) boxed mixes are quite "spring-y", which makes them hard to decorate (they move around too much while you're trying to frost them). That same springy quality also makes them hard to cut because the cake sort of resists the knife (even a really sharp one).

2) boxed mixes are more crumbly, which again makes them hard to decorate.

3) large tiers that are made from boxed mixes have a tendency to compress after they are decorated, which turns what was once a nicely decorated cake into one with a "belly bulge" kind of appearance.

Hope you'll give one of Rose's recipes a try. You won't be disappointed - the difference between her recipes and boxed mixes are like the difference between night and day!

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I agree with what Zach wrote. There are several factors that could weaken the cake's structure including too much liquid, not enough beating, low oven temperature. Also, are you compensating for the additional fat and liquid in the sour cream and pudding by removing some from the normal cake recipe?

The only real time that cake mixes save is the time spent measuring dry ingredients (which should be minimal anyways). I would encourage you to bake something from scratch, especially since this is for a special event--and something from the cake bible would be wonderful. It really shouldn't take you much more work than a mix, and the results are so much better.

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Hi Kristie,

I will address this question for Rose while she is in France until May 1.

I'll start with this comment from Rose to someone else on the blog who had a similar problem:

"Cake mixes are designed in order to have "tolerance." What this means is that you can add things to it, up to a point of course, under beat it slightly, overbeat it slightly, and it will still work. In all probability it is the cake mix that has changed. I encourage you to try baking from scratch. This gives you a lot more control over getting which you want in flavor and texture."

So given this, it's very hard to determine what is happening except that by adding these additional elements, you are upsetting the balance of this pre-mixed formula; the cake's structure cannot support what you're adding. Your best option is to create a wedding cake from scratch, and Rose has full-proof recipes in The Cake Bible. The amount of time you'll spend trying to workout problems by using a mix and adding to it will far outweigh the amount of time spent making one from scratch -- and the flavor and texture you'll get from baking from scratch will be far superior.

Hope this helps!
Zach

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I am working on a wedding cake recipe. I use a Duncan Hines cake mix and add sour cream, vanilla instant pudding to it, but it always falls in the middle. What could I do to prevent my cake from falling?

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lina your concerns are well-grounded. batters don't mix the same or well for that matter when too large. i would do them in about 5 batches.

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for large-scale baking of Rose's chocolate "bread," (by this I hope you mean the pound cake that is also in the Cake Bible as well as the Bread Bible, not a yeasted bread) the high-ratio mixing method works very well. Your usual pitfall for making big batches of things is overmixing that would toughen gluten, but with the high-ratio mixing it is not as worrying as long as you scrape thoroughly along the bottom and sides.
The most important thing: Weigh, do not use volume measures! I would calculate doing three separate batches of 15 -20 each, if you are making 50 standard 9x4 loaf pans, for the capacity of a 30-qt mixer. HTH!

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Hello,

I have a question about multiplying recipes that does not seem to have been posted before.

I would like to make fifty "Chocolate Bread" loaves from Rose's Bible for a fundraising event in my town. The community college will lend us their kitchen, with a 30 quart mixer and ovens but we need to supply the ingredients and know-how.

I am worried about scaling up the recipe more than a few times and would hate to throw away the ingredients if it didn't work out.

Also, I have doubts about how well the mixing will go. Does anyone have experience with large-scale baking?

Any recommendations (books, articles, people, etc) that could help me learn more about this topic would be appreciated.

Thank you!

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notice i didn't mention culinary schools but mathematics dept!
it's easy to enlarge a recipe if it's just using baking powder but with baking soda is added into the equation it's trial and error. the general principle is that you want about 1 1/3 teaspoons of baking powder or the = for 100 grams of flour. since baking soda is = to about 4 times baking powder, i usually adjust both the baking powder and baking soda. if the cake falls in the center i know i need still less. if it tastes bitter or "soapy" i decrease the baking soda.
you are understanding what i say about decreasing hte leavening proportionately. i explain this in full detail in the book and am not able to rewrite it here on this blog so this is the best guidance i can give you.

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Rose, I just read pg 473 of your book. If i am understanding it a little better, I need to double everything except the soda. And maybe reduce the original amount for a 14" square cake. Does that sound close? Fyi, I contacted TWO local college culinary dept. to ask about this particular topic. They both told me there was no need to adjust the amount of the soda or powder. Boy were they wrong. The taste along tells me that. If I use 1/2 the amount of soda will that be enough to make the cake rise as it should? Am I understanding you to say, the larger the tier, the less soda or powder it needs to make it rise? Alice

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if there is baking soda involved of course you also have to adjust that. as i mentioned in the ingredient section, baking soda is equal to about 4 times the baking powder. either try to do an exact mathematical calculation or just approximate by lowering the baking soda until you get it right but you do have to lower it proportionately for larger cakes.

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i'm not great at math either but all the info for doing this is in the book so i always recommend taking it to a local college or university math dept. and offer to pay a nominal amount to a student who will figure it out within minutes. it's so easy but not wyhen you're trying to do it via e-mail!

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Rose, In your book The Cake Bible, you specifically say that the amount of baking powder needs to be refigured when you are wanting to double or triple a recipe to make a large layer. I am not too swift at figuring out the formula for this and would appreciate if you could help me with understanding how to do this correctly.

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Rose, In your book The Cake Bible, you specifically say that the amount of baking powder needs to be refigured when you are wanting to double or triple a recipe to make a large layer. I am not too swift at figuring out the formula for this and would appreciate if you could help me with understanding how to do this correctly.

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yes. either halve everything including the leavening or double everything including the levening. of course weighing is the most accurate but most scales aren't precise enough for such minute quantities. i weigh.

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
03/19/2006 11:00 AM

Thanks, Rose. I was wondering if the quantity by which you would halve (or double) the baking soda and baking powder would be exactly the half quantity or exactly the double quantity. For example, if I were to have the recipe, all ingredients would be cut by exactly half including the baking soda and baking powder. Because of the properties of these two unique ingredients, I didn't know if the amount by which you would cut or double the quantities would be exactly by half or times two. Does that make sense? As for the "pinch" and "smidgen" measuring spoons, I've been using those for awhile and love them. My mother gave them to me one Christmas awhile back.

Perhaps the best approach to halving or doubling would be to weigh the original amounts of the soda/powder and then cut or double the quantity according to weight.

If you were making this recipe and wanted to double it, would you double those two ingredients by exactly two?

I hope this makes sense. As I write this, I find it difficult to communicate.

Thanks. Have a good flight.
Zach

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p.s. restoration hardware has these spoons and at the chicago housewares show i met a guy who is creating a whole set of spoons with odd sizes along with beakers and bowls that don't drip. it's encouraging to see how the home baking market is growing indicated by the fact that manufacturers are designing so many new things for it.

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zach, you have to halve--is that the word?--the leavening as well as the other ingredients. i know it's awkward with small amounts but these days there are measuring spoons called a pinch a dash and a smidgen that are 1/8, 1/16, and 1/32 which makes it much more easy to do. other -wise you'll have to use the measuring spoon called for and eyeball what half would be

thanks for posting on the blog. rushing to catch a plane and wouldn't have had time to copy, enter the brains of the blog, paste, format, etc.!

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Zachary Townsend
Zachary Townsend
03/19/2006 09:25 AM

Rose,

I posted this comment before, but didn't see a response. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to post; I think I have it now, my fault. :)

How do you go about doubling (or halving) a recipe with baking soda and/or baking powder? I have a chocolate cupcake recipe that includes both but there are times I'd like to halve it and times I'd like to double it. The other ingredients are butter, chocolate, cocoa, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, and salt - all these ingredients I believe can easily be halved.

Thanks! Zach

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