First, the short version because this post is quite long: I do not get enough structure during preparation of the batter and while baking. During preparation the batter is too fluid, and while baking the middle of the cake sinks towards the end of the baking time. Also, the bottom layer of about half an inch thick is not fully done.
I am getting desperate. I bought The Cake Bible because Rose is very precise, and I hoped this would avoid the failures I had with other baking books. But I have baked the all-occasion downy yellow butter cake dozens of times now, and the results are still not what I had hoped for.
Note: I use two-thirds of the ingredients because I only bake with one pan that is at least two inches high at a time:
- 75 gram egg yolk
- 161 gram milk
- 6 gram vanilla
- 200 gram flour
- 200 gram sugar
- 19.5 gram baking powder (cream of tartar and 150% of recipe, see below)
- 3.3 gram salt
- 113 gram butter
I measure everything by weight. I usually use two scales, which are off by a few percent. The flour and the sugar are weighed on the large scale, and the rest on the precision scale. I also weighed everything with the precision scale once, but did not notice differences.
I went over the list of ingredients multiple time to research the differences between American and Dutch versions of the ingredients. I have made some, in my opinion, small changes (for example: Using vanilla extract instead of vanilla sugar), but could not find major differences.
I tried multiple flours from the Netherlands and one from Belgium. There are differences in the results, but the only real difference is usually the height. For some cakes I replaced part of the flour with corn or potato starch, but again this mostly affected the height. Although I can get American all-purpose flour (no cake flour unfortunately), I have not tried it yet because I figured it would be the same as Dutch all-purpose flour when I was at the store.
What is different from the cakes in The Power of Flour articles, is that those cake are all completely done. No matter what flour is used, only the height is affected. I see the height differences too, but my cakes also won’t bake correctly.
I used two types of baking powder: heat-activated and fluid-activated (cream of tartar). Lately I have exclusively used the baking powder containing cream of tartar. When using this baking powder I increase the weight by 50%, because that was mentioned on some ingredient substitutions pages I found.
I used to bake in an electric oven, but after a test with the microwave oven combo of my brother I decided to buy another oven. Because it has a setting specifically for pasty (bottom heating element + convection) I decided to get the Rowenta OC7868. I use the pastry setting at 175 °C (= 347 °F). This really helped to get a more even color:
I also switch from a cheap springform pan to a Chicago Metallic, and then to a Fat Daddio’s pan. I only use the Fat Daddio’s pan since I got it. Each switch to another pan improved the result. And I put Magi-cake strips around the pans:
Recently I found the video of Rose making the cake, and saw that her batter was much thicker than mine. So I figured I added too much liquid, and tried to bake with less milk: 30 and 60 gram instead of the specified 120 gram added to the dry ingredients (+ 40 gram mixed with the egg yolk). The cakes rose very well with hardly any bubbles on top, so I was excited that the cake might finally come out good. But they still sunk in the middle while still in the oven. And even when adding only 60 gram to the flour, the batter still ended up smooth, i.e. I don’t get sharp ridges when handling the cake with a spatula.
Here are some picture of one of the cakes. This one was made with the normal amount of milk. If you ignore the bubbles it looks pretty good, but the cake does not spring back when pressed at 25 and 30 minutes. At 30 and 35 minutes, you can see the dents made by my finger. Between 25 and 30 minutes the cake starts to shrink (because it was not done yet and the oven door was opened?). After 35 minutes I took it out because that is the maximum baking time. I was really happy with the color, thickness and softness of the crust. But as you can see in the last picture, the bottom half is not completely done yet:
My current hunch is that the flour over here behaves differently. I have gone over all the other ingredients, and don’t see how those could be the issue.
What am I doing wrong? What adjustments do I have to make for ingredients sold in the Netherlands? Thanks in advance for your tips.