My Cakes Simply Will Not Rise
Posted: 05 February 2012 12:46 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hi, all!

I am at a loss and am looking for ideas.  Here’s the deal:  My Cakes Simply Will Not Rise.  It all began, I’d say, in September.

To wit:

In September, I made Rose’s German Chocolate Cake (cake part), and it didn’t rise much.  I was going to make a single-layer torte cake, but it was too flat for that, so I ended up having to make a second one and making a layer cake.

In October, I made the Baked guys’ maple cake, and they were flat as pancakes.  I saw many blog posts on this cake, and it rises.

In November, I made the Pound Cakes (vanilla and chocolate) and the Chestnut Cake, all as mini loaves, and they might have risen—I can’t say the sides were much higher than the 2/3 I filled the pan, though—but they domed well and looked good.

In February, I made the Bobby Flay Coconut cake—it was supposed to be two 9x2” layers that you cut horizontally for 4 layers, but mine were only about 3/4”, so I had to mkae two more non-rising layers.  My friend makes this cake often, and it rises for her.

Recently, I made a batch of cookies (uses only baking soda), and THEY didn’t rise—they had rounded, not flat, edges, but the cookies themselves were, on the whole, flat.  LIke 1/4” rather than 1/2” tall.

My baking powder is always fresh—I never kep “backups” of it (as I do most things).

My mixer is a Cuisinart hand mixer, and I always mix on high and for the longer mixing times specified in RHC for hand mixers.  I’ve tried seeing if using the wisk attachment for would help, but it didn’t.

My oven might be a touch cool, so sometimes I up it by 5 degrees, but teh cakes are always done in the proper time frame.

I have, before this bizarreness, made cakes in this oven with this mixer and they rose perfectly.

Does anyone have any clues that can help solve this mystery????  I am hoping a new can of baking powder might (even though it doesn’t take into consideration the cookies) fix things—maybe the old can was just bad, but I thought I’d cast out a net, just in case.

Thanks!

—ak

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Posted: 05 February 2012 02:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Like you, I’d first suspect the baking powder.  The cookies might have been flat for other reasons, since they can spread out, but cakes can only go up.  We call that a “spurious data point”.  wink  You might mix together a simple batter (water and flour) just to test it out.

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Posted: 05 February 2012 04:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thanks, Charles T.  It’s the only thing I could think of, too, but I’ve never had a bad can of Rumford (or any other BP before), so I was unsure.

Also, the cookies threw a wrench to me because I was very careful to let the (chocolate chip) batter sit in the fridge overnight, make the balls and then let them get cold, and bake them cold on not-warm cookie sheets.  It’s the Joanne Change chocolate chip cookies, and they use part bread flour to help keep them upright and not spread too much.  They were awesome (I added 4T instant espresso powder to the flour mixture), but they were flat flat flat—and, again, blog posts showed taller cookies, except for the ones that didn’t refrigerate them.

Well, unless someone has other thoughts, I’m going to cross my fingers and hope it’s baking powder!!!!!!!!

p.s.  I just love that word, “spurious.”  Someone who used to teach me coding in this program used it frequently, so I have fond memories of it, as I enjoyed the coding a great deal.

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Posted: 05 February 2012 05:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Anne in NC - 05 February 2012 08:33 PM

but they were flat flat flat?and, again, blog posts showed taller cookies, except for the ones that didn?t refrigerate them.

Did they spread, or were they normal diameter with low height?  Overcreaming butter is a possible source of loss of lift; you might check the internal temperature of the butter at the end of this stage.  If it gets too warm, it won’t hold the air properly.  I see that Chang recommends 10 minutes when using a hand held mixer, which is a pretty long time for a cookie.  The first blog post that I encountered for these cookies warns against using Lindt, because the cookies will spread too much, so perhaps there are some other reasons for your problem.  Refrigerating cookie dough has never done a thing for me in regard to how much cookies spread, but perhaps this varies depending on the type of dough.


There’s otherwise not much that can go wrong with products leavened with baking soda.  Baking powder can go bad, but I don’t think that soda does.

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Posted: 05 February 2012 06:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Hi, agai, CT!  The cookies were a perfect diameter, just flat.  I’ll bet it was overcreaming, then, becasue it was 5 minutes for butter + sugar, and then another 3 minutes after the eggs.  My chocolate could have contributed, as well, but I was careful to avoid Lindt, because I saw that blog post, too.

The cookies threw me from my original baking soda theory, since they had none, but I can see now they are an unrelated flatness—the little red herrings.

Well, all I can say is my next cake, with all new baking powder, better rise, or I will have to visit Mrs. De Pass for one of her hideous curse-removal potions.

I wish I still had soem of the old so I could test it, but my I used the last of it making an extra batch of BF coconut cake so I’d have enough layers….

That said, I just did a search, and here’s how to test your baking soda and baking powder:

To test baking soda: Put a few tablespoons of white vinegar into a small bowl and add a teaspoon of baking soda. It should bubble up furiously, and the foaming should take several moments to subside. The more bubbles, the more potent the baking soda. If there is no reaction, or you only end up with a handful of small bubbles, you need to replace you baking soda.

To test baking powder: Put a few tablespoons of warm water (warm tap water is fine, but cold water is not) into a small bowl and add a teaspoon of baking powder. The mixture should make a fizzing noise and, after a moment, the baking powder will begin to fizz and the water will become very cloudy with tiny bubbles. The more bubbles, the fresher the baking powder. Baking powder reacts with liquids and heat, but does not react as well with cold water (even fresh powder won?t fizz much in ice water), so do not use it for this test.

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Posted: 06 February 2012 10:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Anne, it sounds like your pound cakes did well, yes?  And the German Chocolate cake only bakes up to about 1.25 inch per layer, if I remember correctly.  When I want a higher layer of that cake I scale the wedding cake version, which puts a little more in the pan and bakes a little higher.  Once, I tried to make a deeper torte layer of the deep choc passion, and it didn’t seem to rise as well as the regular wedding layer, so I do think there may be a maximum depth for that cake, and it’s probably about the depth of the wedding layers.

The only time I’ve had a problem with the german chocolate rising was when my oven was too hot.  And then it had classic “too hot” looks, short sides and domed in the middle instead of higher sides and flatter.  Does that sound familiar? 

A few things to check:
Ingredient temperature, especially butter and eggs. 60-65 is too cold, 75-80 is too hot.
Oven temp- do you have a thermometer in the oven?
Cake strips?
I’m sure you are, but just checking, are you weighing eggs?

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Posted: 07 February 2012 10:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Another item in the possible, but unlikely category: are your cake pans standard 9x2, straight-sided, with the expected volume capacity? You can check this by adding water by volume or by weight on a scale.

Also, I assume you’re using the recommended, national brand flours and that they are reasonably fresh, but doesn’t hurt to ask.

http://www.realbakingwithrose.com/2005/12/fixing_flat_cookies.html

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