Carrot cake disaster
Posted: 16 October 2011 02:09 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I had a problem with a carrot cake I baked: it was perfectly level when I refrigerated it, but it seemed to grow a lump on the surface once it came to room temperature.  I didn’t realize that the “lump” was actually an air pocket until it deflated when the candles were inserted. I’ve not made that many frosted cakes, but I’ve not had this happen before.
The cake is Rose’s carrot cake. I doubled the recipe and baked it in 3 9” pans. They baked up flat so I didn’t level them. The frosting is vanilla cream cheese. I applied a crumb coat once I stacked the layers and refrigerated several hours before applying the final coat of frosting. The cake was then refrigerated overnight and was allowed to come to room temperature inside a sealed cake carrier for about 3 hours. (It was being transported to a different site). Weather was cool (14C) and dry. I didn’t take a look at the separation of frosting from cake once the cake was cut so I don’t know if the air pocket formed within the cake, within the frosting or where the two met.
Any theories?

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Posted: 16 October 2011 04:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Wow, Sophia, that is a mighty delicious disasater!!  I’ve made this cake several times before and I’ve never had that happen.  The cake does bake up very level.  I really can’t think of much else other than what you’ve considered.  If I remember correctly, the top crust is somewhat detached from the cake…did you scrape this off?  I wouldn’t call it leveling, but just removal of the top crust so it doesn’t become soggy.  I suppose it’s possible that an air bubble formed there.  I also know that it’s possible to get a buttercream bubble, but ususally they are smaller, and can be popped with a pin.  I have heard of cakes covered in fondant getting a giant bubble and that usually happens once a cool cake comes to room temperature (air gets warmed up and rises)—so it’s possible that happened in your case as well.  I’ll take the “bubble” slice if no one wants it!  smile

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Posted: 16 October 2011 04:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Sophia - 16 October 2011 05:09 PM

Any theories?

This is a fairly common problem…I’ve seen a number of threads on the subject on various cake forums.  Never having had the problem I haven’t paid much attention.  The only theory that I can recall is that the cold air in the cake starts to expand once it warms up, so if the cake has been frosted in the meantime, the expanding air lifts up the frosting.  If this theory is correct, perhaps leaving the crumb-coated cake too long in the freezer is a possible cause.

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Posted: 16 October 2011 04:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’ve made this cake—and many others—cooled, crumb-coated, refrigerated, frosted (and composed completely) and then either (A) refrigerated for several days before serving or (B) froze for up to two months, thawed in the fridge for at least 24 hours, and brought to room temp.  I’ve never had this problem, so my opinion is that the refrigeration has nothing to do with it, but maybe there is another variable I’m not considering that could cause it to happen during refrigeration.  It’s so odd!!!  I can’t think of what could do it!

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Posted: 16 October 2011 05:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Call me crazy, but here’s my theory.  Maybe it has to do with there being three layers, so that the weight of the layers compresses the cake and sort of squashes out some air.  The cake becomes softer as it warms up so the air is able to migrate to the top.  I would suggest filling between the layers and stacking with the cakes at room temp, then allow the stack to settle a bit (wrapped, of course) before crumb coating/chilling. 

Let us know if you ever figure it out!

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Posted: 16 October 2011 05:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I have to say that when I read your headline and saw the cake, my first thought was that there couldn’t be a disaster, it looked great!

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Posted: 17 October 2011 02:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Seriously Sophie, how do you manage to get such picture perfect sides? Is the buttercream cold when you frost it or something?

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Posted: 17 October 2011 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Sherrie,
Being one of Rose’s cakes, it was delicious. I didn’t remove the top crust of the cakes….perhaps this contributed to the ease with which the frosting lifted from the cake.

Charles,
I have since done a little more research on the subject and I think that what you suggested may be the cause. Normally, I refrigerate the crumb-coated cake for 30-45 minutes, just enough time to chill the thin layer of frosting. After 8 hours in the fridge, the cake layers would have been very cold. Other forums suggest allowing a cold cake to sit at room temperature for ~30 minutes before applying the frosting, something I didn’t do.

Julie,
As the baker and a newbie in the world of decorated layer cakes, it was a disaster in my eyes. My daughter thought my reaction was hilarious and managed to sneak a few, albeit blurry, photos of the “disaster”.
In my research, I did come across the recommendation to allow a stacked cake to rest/settle at room temperature for as long as 24 hours before frosting…something else I’ve never done!

Thank you all for your theories/suggestions. It looks as though I’m going have to bake this cake again to put them all to the test!

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Posted: 17 October 2011 11:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Sharon Vinod - 17 October 2011 05:30 AM

Seriously Sophie, how do you manage to get such picture perfect sides? Is the buttercream cold when you frost it or something?

I try to keep the temperature of the buttercream at ~20C/68F. The trick, courtesy of forum member Patricia, is to use a bench scraper to smooth the side. I heat the scraper, passing it briefly over a lit burner on the stove (I think Rose recommends running it under hot water and wiping dry to heat it), for a final pass over the frosted cake.

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Posted: 17 October 2011 03:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Sharon Vinod - 17 October 2011 05:30 AM

Seriously Sophie, how do you manage to get such picture perfect sides? Is the buttercream cold when you frost it or something?

That is some perfect looking smoothing on the sides, isn’t it….

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Posted: 17 October 2011 03:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Yes, is that Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting - Cream Cheese, Butter and Confectioner’s sugar .... or something else?  It’s so smooth

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Posted: 17 October 2011 04:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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CRenee - 17 October 2011 06:06 PM

Yes, is that Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting - Cream Cheese, Butter and Confectioner’s sugar .... or something else?  It’s so smooth

It is just those few ingredients plus vanilla. I do beat the cream cheese until perfectly smooth before beating in the butter and then the sifted sugar. The recipe I use is from Bon Appetit magazine. It’s not as sweet as most and it seems to be more temperature sensitive than others I’ve tried - probably because it has less sugar/cornstarch - but it’s my family’s favourite. I’ve included the link if you’re interested.
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Red-Velvet-Cake-with-Raspberries-and-Blueberries-108256
I don’t recommend the red velvet cake recipe that’s included…it was the first I’d ever tried and it doesn’t come close to Rose’s.

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Posted: 17 October 2011 05:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Sophia - 17 October 2011 07:25 PM
CRenee - 17 October 2011 06:06 PM

Yes, is that Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting - Cream Cheese, Butter and Confectioner’s sugar .... or something else?  It’s so smooth

It is just those few ingredients plus vanilla. I do beat the cream cheese until perfectly smooth before beating in the butter and then the sifted sugar. The recipe I use is from Bon Appetit magazine. It’s not as sweet as most and it seems to be more temperature sensitive than others I’ve tried - probably because it has less sugar/cornstarch - but it’s my family’s favourite. I’ve included the link if you’re interested.
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Red-Velvet-Cake-with-Raspberries-and-Blueberries-108256
I don’t recommend the red velvet cake recipe that’s included…it was the first I’d ever tried and it doesn’t come close to Rose’s.

Thank you, Sophia…I do prefer when it is less sweet.  Not so certain I like the idea that it may be more temperature sensitive. Re: the Red Velvet, I still have Red Velvet testing experimentation to do.  I like Rose’s Red Velvet, but a lot of folks I know who are Red Velvet fans seem to prefer the cake made strictly with oil and no butter….. so I have to form a taste panel.

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Posted: 17 October 2011 06:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Your cake looks awesome and delicious to me.

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Posted: 18 October 2011 10:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I think it looks great…disaster?  not

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Posted: 18 October 2011 10:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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In 10 years of professional baking I can say this type of thing has happened to me only once - about a year or so ago; and it was an air pocket (bubble) that formed on a previously smooth side.  There was nothing different about the cake, we use scratch recipes for cake and our house buttercream is Italian meringue so I was at a loss for what or why, other than when I put a toothpick through the bubble, it deflated, I resmoothed it and it was fine.  So my theory is that it was trapped air (between the coats of buttercream) which expanded at some temperature and created the bubble.  Almost like a “perfect storm” of time and temperature!

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