New to the two step method and having trouble
Posted: 09 October 2009 06:17 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I have written to Rose about a problem I am having and she has been very helpful.  I thought I would post the issue here.

I’m an amateur baker with a few years of experience. After a lot of effort, I’ve actually come to like the creaming method for baking butter cakes and regularly make basic butter cakes using that method.  But I want to give the two step method a try. I am having a heck of a time with the chocolate cake on page 54 of the Cake Bible, the Perfect All American Chocolate Butter Cake..

I am using Dutch processed cocoa (although for one attempt I did try a cocoa which I think might have been “natural”) The same problems occur regardless which type of cocoa I use, to wit: the layers cook very fast, always under the 25 minute minimum; The height is only an inch and in each of over six attempts, the layers shrink in diameter about 3/4 of an inch all around and collapsed after cooling.  I used cake strips for the last couple of attempts and the results were exactly the same.  The cake rises evenly to the top of the pan and looks great.  Then five minutes out of the oven it shrinks considerably.

The oven temperature is correct. I use a thermometer and have tested it.

I have tested the baking powder and it’s active.  Although the 15 grams of baking powder amounts to more than the tablespoon which is supposedly its equivalent and called for in the recipe.

The butter and eggs are at room temperature, around 68 degrees

I use cake flour and baker’s sugar.

I am timing the mixing exactly and mixing at the speed according to the recipe on page 54

The one way I am not following the recipe is by using pans that are 9 by 2 inches, not 9 by 1.5.  I asked Rose about this and she advised I increase the recipe by a third.  I did and the problems persisted for two more attempts.

My guess is that I may be undermixing the batter or using too much or too little baking powder.  But as far as I can tell I am following the directions exactly.  I have also tested my scale (its digital) and its correct.

Can anyone diagnose the problem?  I thought the two step method was supposed to be virtually fool proof and easier than creaming butter and sugar, but I’ve had no luck so far!

Thanks

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Posted: 09 October 2009 04:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Thanks everyone for the suggestions.

A couple of you wondered whether it craters or sinks in the middle.  As I wrote to Rose this morning, I had that problem when I first started baking with the creaming method but have worked out the kinks with that method.  I should emphasize that is not what is happening now.  Its more as if the cake shrinks, deflates or shrivels (Pick your description)  like air going out of a tire.  It does not dip in the middle.  The layers remain flat.  Its as if upon cooling it becomes a significantly smaller version of what it was when it finished cooking.  For the last attempt I used cake strips and the results were exactly the same as the previous attempts.

I test the cake with a skewer towards the end of the baking time and it comes out clean, but again as I told Rose, to the touch the cake doesn’t spring back.  I am fairly sure there is some structural issue going on.

I am using a Kitchen aid standing mixer and waiting about ten minutes before unmolding.  For the last two attempts I did indeed go with the volume measure for baking powder since the weight measure seemed unreliable.  I also turned the heat down to about 330. 

What is striking is how absolutely consistent the results have been.  I get the exact same results each time (and its been more than a half dozen attempts so far):  The cake seems to cook fast (though the last attempt was closer to the 30 minute mark); it tests done with a skewer but doesn’t have any spring to the touch, the layers rise perfectly to near the top of the pan; And they shrink and collapse dramatically about five minutes after leaving the oven and are dense and heavy when cut.

I have to say that I have come to love creating that emulsion in the creaming method.  It took me awhile to understand and recognize the visual cues and develop confidence.

I think the problem is that I don’t have a feel for the cues in this new method.  I’m pretty sure I am undermixing.  I am going to try once more with a new thermometer, fresh baking powder and longer more thorough mixing and see what happens.

Thanks for your help!

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Posted: 09 October 2009 08:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Roxanne and Carolita

Thanks very much for your replies.

I’m at sea level in California so its not altitude.  I’m thinking the culprit is under mixing, though I won’t know for sure until I try it again.  I’m reasonably sure the oven thermometer is accurate. Its only a few weeks old and has been no where but in the oven.

I am just getting acquainted with the Cake Bible and haven’t really figured out the charts at the back of the book yet.

I may try more baking powder based on Carolita’s observation

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Posted: 10 October 2009 04:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Thanks all.  I"m not assuming the issue is with the two step method.  I’m assuming its that I’m doing something wrong.  I’ve gotten the creaming method down pretty well and enjoy it mostly because it took forever to understand the idea and master it, but want to learn the two step method since its faster and presumably easier and results in a more tender cake, and because its something new to learn. 

I have watched most of Rose’s videos on youtube (I made the Orange chiffon cake after watching her make it and it came out perfectly.  I had never made or eaten one—at least not since childhood).

I’ll get another oven thermometer and test it and let you all know.  But as recently as last week I baked a two layer butter cake using the creaming method and it came out well using the oven thermometer I currently have, but only a test against at least one other thermometer will tell.

I will post the results as soon as I have a moment

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Posted: 12 October 2009 09:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Hello all and thanks for the help.  I tried the cake again last night with a noticeable improvement in the results but still not quite to 100% yet.  I will try to get hold of a camera and take some pictures. 

I am using Rumford.

I bought another oven thermometer (Taylor Classic) and tested it side by side with the thermometer I have already and both appear to indicate that the oven is accurate.  I haven’t looked at Rose’s recommendations for oven thermometers yet but will do that next.

For the record I find my thermometer’s accuracy hard to believe.  The oven is an old apartment oven that I’ve had for fifteen years.  Could it really still be accurate?

It still seems to me the oven is running hotter than the thermometers indicate.

Matthew, funny you should mention the oven being off at different heat ranges.  I think I have noticed that with the thermometer I do have and wonder if its not around 350 or so that the miscalibration is occurring.

I want to make the yellow cake (using my 9X2 pans) that Rose mentioned is a good tester for oven accuracy.  Does anyone know if you can scale that one up by 1/3 like she recommended for the chocolate cake I’ve been struggling with?

One last question for now, would baking the layers one at a time have any effect?  I put one in the fridge while one bakes.  For my latest try I baked the first layer at 350 as indicated by the oven dial and the thermometers.  It didn’t shrink nearly as much as it has in the past but was done and shrinking from the edge of the pan at the minimum baking time.

For the second layer I took a guess and reduced the heat by 25 degrees.  The cake rose well and when cooled stayed higher than the first layer but formed a crumbly crust around the edge when it cooled.

Thanks!

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Posted: 13 October 2009 04:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Some interesting developments in the latest effort tonight.  Again I used 9x2 pans, increased the recipe by 1/3,  and baked the layers separately due to a small oven.  I set the oven to between 325 and 300 assuming that both thermometers are wrong.  I used Rumford baking powder. 

The layers rose much better than in past efforts.  The first layer rose to just shy of the top of the pan.  I removed it when a skewer inserted came out clean at about 35 minutes.  It shrank just slightly after cooling. 

Interestingly the second layer rose higher, to flush with the top of the pan or perhaps a shade higher, and I had to let it cook for 40 minutes (It was still jiggling at 35 minutes and the skewer test at the 35 minute mark proved it was still uncooked.

BUT, although neither layer shrank from the sides of pan until after being removed from the oven,  they both developed a couple of cracks, not on the edges but about a 1/4 inch in from the edge of the cake (from where the cake met the pan) in several places around the circumference of the layers. 

Additionally, the layers, especially the second one, are crumbly around the edge and seem to be a bit fragile generally.  (Please note the crumbs taste moist).  The layer baked second (which rose the highest and stayed in for 40 minutes) is especially delicate and crumbly around the circumference.

They are still cooling and I plan on frosting them tomorrow.  They certainly look great.  But I think the miscalibration of the oven means that I’m still leaving them in the oven a bit too long.  I wasl also a little impatient this time and didn’t bother with the cake strips.

So there you have it

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Posted: 11 January 2010 09:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Sadly, I faced the similar problem with the All Perfect American Choc Cake last night - TWICE.  I have only 1 inch of cake!  I did everything according to the book.  My oven temp is correct, my butter and yolks are at room temp, right pan size…  I have also watched it being baked on YouTube - thousands times?!  yah.

I must say while I love the taste, I simply could not get the batter to behave like Rose’s.  But it did rise perfectly well in the oven, both of them, reaching almost 2 inch of height.  When cooling both of them simply deflated and settled at 1 inch.  I baked them separately.  While I do not experienced a sunken or cracked cake, both are beautifully flat but the height of the cake is most appalling!

I am in Malaysia.  We have a totally different brand of flour, baking powder, sugar.. if it is one of the ingredients contributing adversely to the results, I simply would not know where to start correcting now..  If you have any info / tips to share from someone you know from this region who managed to bake Rose’s cake perfectly, I do hope you could help me! 

I will try again tomorrow with increament in the baking powder.  I am cringing with trepidation.  Will report back here on whatever the results.  (not very confident though..)  smile bonniev

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