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Chocolate butter cake problem. PLEASE HELP!!!
Posted: 06 March 2013 04:44 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Hello All!

I am fairly new to the cake world. I have a lot of knowledge but little experience.

I bake a lot but I’ve only made one other wedding cake. I used a recipe I found for altering boxed mix to be the right texture. It turned out pretty good for my first cake. So, now I have been asked to make my friends wedding cake. I’m planning on making the usual 12”, 9”, 6” tiers.
She asked for chocolate cake with vanilla filling and fondant finish. I would like to do a custard filling but I’m not confident enough in my skill having never made a custard or Bavarian Cream and the pre made stuff they sell in the store seems pretty thin and I don’t want to risk having an unstable cake, so I’m planning on making a vanilla bean Neoclassic butter cream for the filling.
The first time I tried making the NBC it didn’t come out right because I didn’t heat the sugar/syrup to the right temperature. The second batch came out much better smile

I thought I’d give you guys a little background info, but anyway, down to my issue!

I tired the chocolate butter cake recipe (from The Cake Bible) as a test batch. I believe I calculated everything correctly for two 6” rounds worth of batter. I weighed the ingredients but some of the ingredients didn’t have the correct weight to volume ratio based on what the book says. For example, according to the book I should multiply the base recipes 3 tbsp. + 1 1/2 tsp. cocoa powder by 2 (for a 6” cake) which gives me 6tbsp. and 3 tsp. The book says this should equal 1.5 ounces or 42 grams but my scale said it was more like 66 grams. The cake flour also seemed to be off but other things like the eggs were dead on at 50 grams each.
Once mixed the texture seemed to be good.. but if I let it sit for too long without stirring, it looked like it was just beginning to curdle?

So when I baked the cakes I put bake even strips around the pans (should I use those on such a small size pan?) and the batter filled them both just about 1/2 full. They both seemed to be doing fine… until about 2/3 of the way through baking, one of them split open just above the top of the pan and batter started pouring out over the side while the other one still looked good. I checked it about about 3-4 mins later and the second one had caved in on itself :(
What am I doing wrong?

The wedding is next Saturday (the 16th) and I need to get this recipe down. PLEASE HELP!!

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Posted: 06 March 2013 11:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Hi, Foxetta!

And welcome!

Actually, you sort of have the weight/volume thing reversed.  Weights are given because volume is inconsistent—you and I could each measure a quantity of something into a measuring spoon or measuring cup, and they could be totally different weights.  How compacted or fluffy the stuff was—even if we measured the same way (dip and sweep, spoon and level, etc.).

The weights are given to get rid of all these variables.  So if you ignore the volume and simply weigh, you will have consistent results and, providing all else is well, your recipe should bake as intended.

That said, baking powder, baking soda, salt and other tiny quantities, which are difficult to weigh accurately with out a super-mondo scale, should be measured by volume. 

Hope that’s helpful, and, once again, Welcome!

—ak

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Posted: 06 March 2013 12:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I’ll echo what Anne said. You know the old saying “A man with two watches never knows what time it is.” Trust the weights. I weigh even the baking powder, salt, etc, because I have a small jeweler’s scale that’s accurate to .01 of a gram.

As for the problems you described, I can only throw out some possibilities. The cracking in the top is often a symptom of a very hot oven. Have you verified that your oven temperature is correct by using an oven thermometer? The collapse of the cake is very strange for a 6” round. It sounds like an insufficient amount of structure, which could have a variety of causes…insufficient mixing, too much liquid, and too much leavening. If you’re measuring these by volume, I guess it goes without saying that you need level teaspoons, etc, rather than heaping. (That, however, was a revelation to me years ago, because I grew up with parents who had no concept of precision measuring….they used heaping everything.)

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Posted: 06 March 2013 01:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I agree with Charles and Anne regarding the use of a scale.  However, if your scale is off—perhaps batteries low, etc. it could be disastrous for your cake.  Have you calibrated your scale or checked it’s accuracy?  Ideally you’d want to use special weights designed for this purpose, but even tossing on a pound of butter to see if it’s even close to the actual weight is worth trying (obviously if a pound of butter weighs in at 350g—there’s likely a problem!!).  I still use accurate measuring spoons since my scale isn’t accurate for small weights.  Keep plugging on with this as I would never return to volumetric measuring for baking!

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Posted: 06 March 2013 01:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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My area is fondant and decorating, then baking, in that order.  How are u decorating this cake ?

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Posted: 06 March 2013 02:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Have you calibrated your scale or checked it?s accuracy?

To do this, I have the weights of my various mixing bowls written on the bottom (in case I forget to tare), so every now and again, I check them to make sure I alway get the same result!  For example, my Blendtec blender container weights 20.5 ounces, and I always double-check it every time I put it on the scale so I know my scale isn’t crapping-out on me.

I’ve had my scale for about 2 years, and I’ve never had to change the batteries yet!!!

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Posted: 06 March 2013 02:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I should add that cocoas notoriously are different in weight.  You should search the forum as I know there have been previous discussions about this.  Some people prefer to measure cocoa by volume—I can’t recall the details of why this is so…but I do know that the fat content can vary significantly (and it does make a difference BTW).  So, the cocoa discrepancy actually makes some sense.

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Posted: 06 March 2013 03:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Excellent! Thank you everyone for the responses. I will be trying a new batch today and I’ll make sure to measure everything I can and I’ll let you know how it turns out. I do have some calibrating weights so I can make sure my scale is working properly. And to answer your question CharlesT, I do not have an internal thermometer for my oven, but from my experience it runs a little hot so I usually cook things for the lowest recommended time and continue from there if its not quite done. Aside from buying a thermometer (which I will probably end up doing) is there another way I can be more accurate with temp and cooking time?


I’m using Ghirardelli dutch processed cocoa powder so I will have to look into the weight differences as Sherrie mentioned.


Thank you prettycake for the decorating inquiry.. that actually brings me to my next question…

I will be using MMF to cover the cake. I hear you should never refrigerate a fondant covered cake because the moisture inside after removing it form the fridge could cause the cake to fall apart. BUT the NBC I will be using to fill the layers says it should only sit at room temp for about 6 hours…
I’m planning on making the cakes the night before and covering them the day of the wedding. The ceremony is at 5:30 pm, if I cover the cakes in the morning will they be okay by the time it’s served? and will the butter cream filling hold up?

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Posted: 06 March 2013 04:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Also, I’m using the whisk attachment for my stand mixer. Could this possibly be making a difference in consistency? Should I be using the batter attachment or is the whisk okay?

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Posted: 06 March 2013 05:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Hi, Foxetta!

I don’t use a stand mixer, but I usually see directions specify the wisk attachment when they want it used, so I would tend toward not using it. However, I’m sure the experts will weigh in here!

—ak

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Posted: 06 March 2013 05:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Foxetta - 06 March 2013 08:19 PM

Also, I’m using the whisk attachment for my stand mixer. Could this possibly be making a difference in consistency? Should I be using the batter attachment or is the whisk okay?

It’s possible you’re mixing too much air into the batter; this would act like extra leavening. Most recipes specify the use of the paddle.

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Posted: 06 March 2013 07:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Anne in NC - 06 March 2013 06:07 PM

Have you calibrated your scale or checked it?s accuracy?

To do this, I have the weights of my various mixing bowls written on the bottom (in case I forget to tare), so every now and again, I check them to make sure I alway get the same result!  For example, my Blendtec blender container weights 20.5 ounces, and I always double-check it every time I put it on the scale so I know my scale isn’t crapping-out on me.

I’ve had my scale for about 2 years, and I’ve never had to change the batteries yet!!!

Good idea and WOW—no battery change.

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Posted: 06 March 2013 07:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Foxetta - you said when the batter sits - it curdles?  Why is it sitting.  You should go from mixing bowl to pan to oven in as little time as possible.

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Posted: 06 March 2013 09:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Let me just say.. thank you for all your help everyone!

Well, Renee, it doesn’t really even have to sit… Let me be a little more specific.

I weighed everything correctly this time and used the paddle attachment instead of the whisk. I made sure that the chocolate and water mixture cooled to room temperature this time. This mix looked good. Consistency seemed right… but when I add the egg/chocolate/vanilla mix it starts to look like its separating. I followed the book to a T and added it in 3 parts mixing 20 seconds between. By the time the last of the eggs are added the mixture looks odd and the consistency is slightly curdled/separated (not sure how else to describe it). When I say “let it sit” I’m referring to the 20-30 seconds it takes me to grab the pans and start pouring… but even before I’m done mixing.. the batter is off.

I’m pretty sure the butter was the right temp so I’m not sure if that could be the problem.

So I wrapped the Bake Easy strips around the pans just till they met so there wasn’t much of an overlap and I filled them just under 1/2 full. They baked up better this time even though the batter was funny. The only thing I noticed was that the sides and bottom were very moist and crumbly… is this because I didn’t bake it long enough?
In case you’re wondering, I used the method Rose recommends of greasing the pan then adding parchment to the bottom and greasing and flouring over that. I dropped the oven temp to 340 F just to be sure (my oven runs a little hot) and baked it for about 35 mins… would bumping up the cooking time to more like 40-45 mins seal the bottom and edges better?

This may be a stupid question.. but would it be possible to pop these layers back into the pan and bake them a little longer or would that just lead to a disaster?

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Posted: 06 March 2013 09:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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If you bake another cake, you might consider posting a picture of the batter. Perhaps your “curdled” is our “normal”. grin As for the crumbly edges, you might post a photo of it, too. Rose’s cakes are very tender and they do generate more crumbs than many recipes do, so maybe what you see is to be expected.

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Posted: 06 March 2013 09:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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It is totally OK to refrigerate cake covered in fondant. That is what I do w/ mine. But cover it losely in plastic wrap. Fondant get hard when cold. When u take it out of the fridge, it will sweat, but that is normal. After a few minutes, it will dry up. Fondant is like a helmet to cake. I have done this a thousand times.

good luck and show us your wonderful cake grin

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