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first time user…need help with white chocolate whisper cake
Posted: 07 March 2009 09:45 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hi everyone,
This is my first post. I appreciate anyone who can help me. I just bought The Cake Bible and tried to make the White Chocolate Whisper Cake. I weighed all my ingredients, tested my baking powder (which was brand new—just bought today and does not contain aluminum) and followed all the instructions to a T. The batter tasted slightly bitter as if the baking powder measurement is too high, but it wasn’t. Anyhow, the cake took 55 minutes to bake even with using the baking strips. (I use aluminum pans not the dark non stick) When the cakes came out the tops of the cakes were over the pan and very hard and crunchy. I have to press hard to even get the cake tester to go through the top of the cake and then it broke through one cake and made an indention in the center. Now one layer has a small cavity in the center. My oven has a thermometer so I know the temp. was exactly 350. I got the ingredients exactly right (as, like I said, I weighed them) so I don’t know why these problems are occurring. I also tried the downy yellow cake and it required a longer time also and the batter seemed slightly bitter and not sweet. I have never had any problem baking scratch cakes from other recipes. Can any one give suggestions to why this is happening. Thanks.

P.S. Oh, and when I used the extra batter to make cupcakes (6 of them) they baked in 20 minutes and were perfect….Please help.

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Posted: 07 March 2009 11:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Hi Belasuna,

Just a couple of points as it sounds like there is a lot going on here, so maybe someone else can chime in with more.  Many oven thermometers are inaccurate, so if your cake took that long to bake, you definitely have a problem with your oven temperature, and therefore, also your thermometer.  Are you using the correct size of pan for this recipe?  It shouldn’t spill over the top of the pan. Also, make sure you do not weigh your baking powder unless you have an extremely accurate scale.

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Posted: 07 March 2009 11:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thanks Matthew! (from your posts and comments all over the site I can tell you are a good baker.) To be more specific, I did weigh all the ingredients except the baking powder and vanilla.  I used measuring spoons for those.  I might have overfilled the pan which is why it rose higher than the pan edge, but it did not spill over. The cake taste fine and is very moist, I guess I was just wondering if the cooking times in the recipes were off and if it is normal for this cake to have such a hard/crunchy top. I do agree with you about the oven thermometers. I think I may indeed have a problem with my oven.

Thanks again for the reply. I appreciate your help.

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Posted: 08 March 2009 01:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Thank you Belasuna. I have made this cake a few times, and the timing is fine in the recipe. Also the top should not be crunchy.  I’m guessing when you say it took 55 minutes, you started testing after the time specified time?  I ask because it sounds like the top got overdone (but the inside was still wet?); I wonder if somehow heat is not getting properly to the center of the cake. What were the pan sizes again that you used?  Maybe the flower nail trick would help.  Sometimes the crunchiness can be a sign of too much sugar, but doesn’t sound like that would be a problem here.

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Posted: 08 March 2009 01:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I haven’t had any trouble baking this cake either.  Did you bake it in the center of the oven, or the upper half?

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Posted: 08 March 2009 02:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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BELASUNA:
  Good morning & welcome to our culinary club. Sorry to learn of your cake baking problem. Very good questions were asked of you..like did you use the correct pan size & which part of the oven di you bake the cake as well as possible oven temp. problem.
All these items play a very important part.
  I do not know why you suffered the baking problem as you mentioned…but I can tell “IN GENERAL”  what is associated with the problems you mentioned. Please remember I wasn’t in the kitchen watching as you baked. Inproper mixing can cause your baking problem & oven way to hot as well as baking the cake in the upper portion of the oven,why, because heat rizes & while it stays on top of the oven the temp is more intense. I would use a portable type of therm & check in 25 degree increments from 300 to 375 degrees.
  Now then, Bela I strongly suspect a sugar problem. , 2, questions I have for you, any chance did you use a bag of sugar that isn’t say a brand name. Did you use extra fine sugar in your recipe???. question
  Till then Bela, Good luck in your baking & enjoy the rest of the day.

  ~FRESHKID.

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Posted: 08 March 2009 07:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Hi all,
Thanks for the replies.

Matthew-I baked the cakes in 8X2 inch pans and made the necessary adjustments with the baking powder per the ratios in the back of TCB. Also, I made 1 1/3 times the recipe as Rose recommended if using a 2 in high pan. I made sure to fill the pans only 1/2 full. Also, I have a new expensive portable oven thermometer from Crate and Barrel, so it should be accurate. I also have a 2nd thermometer in the oven and they both read 350 at all times while the cake was baking. There might be a problem with heat circulation in the oven.  Because when I checked the cakes after 25 minutes, the outside was done but the inside was wet just like you guessed. How would I use a cake nail, and how does it work?

Patrincia—I did bake the cakes in the middle of the oven.

Freshkid—I did use G&H baker’s sugar, which is a fine sugar but not a superfine. Rose seems to recommend fine baking sugar so it should be okay to use, right? As far as improper mixing, what might have gone wrong? And what kinds of problems would have arisen? However, I did follow the instructions exactly, but even Rose’s youtube videos say if you mix longer than the indicated times, you can’t really overmix using her technique. Is this true? And as I explained to Matthew, the oven was consistently at 350, and as I explained to Patrincia, I baked the cakes in the middle of the oven. So I am at a loss. Maybe the 8 inch pans size makes a difference.

BTW, I think you all wonderful for trying to help me.  I just love this forum and find it sooooo helpful!!!

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Posted: 09 March 2009 03:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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i am so sorry to hear about this challenge, how much baking powder did you calculated for two 8x2 pans?

we are talking here a conversion from two 9x1.5 pans to two 8x2 pans.  I believe the ratio of baking powder is the same for a 9 and a 8 pan, regardless if one is 1.5 and the other 2.  The baking powder ratio should be the same (just multiply by 1 1/3 as you say).

did you use cake flour?  a stand mixer?  how many minutes did your really mixed?

did you open the oven door one too many times?

how did you cool the cakes?

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Posted: 09 March 2009 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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BELASUNA:
  Good morning. Thank you for the prompt reply. Bela, Let me repeat what you posted…you increased the ingredients in this recipe to 1.333% because you employed different pan sizes than called for. If so Bela, just to double check why don’t you post the weight of the ingredients that you used. question
  Your question to me about the extra fine sugar doesn’t make that much of a differance. I feel that your increase in the recipe may be incorrect…there is a answer for your problem. Oh yes Bela, as far as increasing the leaveners just 10% would suffice.
  Till then Bela, enjoy the rest of the day young lady.

  ~FRESHKID.

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Posted: 09 March 2009 01:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Belasuna, was the batter overbeaten?  Because of Rose’s excellent method of mixing, her cake batters are far less susceptible to overbeating, remaining tender.  However, while your cake will still work when overbeaten, it may not be a totally perfect result.  Were there vertical tunnels or large holes near the top?  After cooling, was the top of the cake peaked or flat?

As for the bitter taste of the batter, I’m not sure- did the baked cake taste good?  Rose’s cakes are full of flavor and well balanced for sweetness, but not overly sweet (thank goodness!).

Did you use a good quality white chocolate with only cocoa butter as the fat, and with a small amount of lecithin?  This cake is designed to be emulsified by the white chocolate, if that didn’t happen that might explain some of what’s going on.  Was the texture very fine-grained and fluffy?

Rose’s suggestion to increase batter by 1.33 for 2” deep pans is for when you are still using 9” rounds (changing only the depth from 1.5 to 2”).  You may have had too much batter for a smaller diameter.  I see that you made cupcakes, so you must have had batter left over, but I still suspect overfilling of the pans.  A too-deep layer would take longer to bake, and the sides/top would get a little overbaked while waiting for the center to get done.  Also, with overfilled pans the batter would be more likely to rise above the rim, which would subject the crust to direct heat (was that crunchy crust well browned?), as it is no longer shielded by pan sides.  An overbaked top crust can be a crunchy top crust. 

Lastly, you said the cupcakes were perfect- were they peaked or flat (when cool), and did they sit out on the counter while the cakes were baking?  That information might provide some clues as to baking powder problems.

What do you think?  Do any of these ring a bell?

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Posted: 09 March 2009 03:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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WOW! Thanks for all the wonderful help. I truly want to be a great baker like all of you pros on this forum.

I will try to address all the questions as best I can.

Freshkid (love the name btw):  as I do not have the book in front of me right now, I will have to get back to you with the weight of the ingredients I used. But I can tell you I divided the weight of each ingredient by 3, then added this amount to the total weight. EX: for flour I divided 10.5 by 3 and got 3.5, then added 3.5 + 10.5 and got 14, so I used 14 oz. of sifted cake flour.

Hector (I think your cakes are marvelous): I did use cake flour, and I sifted it before weighing it on my scale. Also, I used the bp ratio for 8x2 in pans (from the base recipe in the back of the book—the one that said ??? tsp per base—sorry I can’t remember the exact amount right now) and muptilied it by 4 since I was doing a standard recipe with 10.5 oz flour plus an extra .333). I used a hand mixer since my new KA stand mixer had not arrived yet. I mixed the dry ingredients with the butter and 3/4 milk until just moist then I started the timer and beat the batter on high for probably 1 minute 45 seconds. Then I added the eggs in 3rds and beat each time for only 20 seconds. Then I added the white chocolate and beat for about 30 seconds until just incorporated. So maybe it was overbeaten? I did open the oven after 25 minutes to check and it was not done so I set my timer for 10 minute increments and opened it briefly, then again after another 10 minutes.  I took the cakes out after 55 minutes and cooled for 10 minutes in the pan then took them out and cooled on wire rack.

Julie (thanks for your ideas): There were no tunnels in the cake but there were a few small bubble holes (about the size of a small pea) at the top when I leveled it. Does that mean I did overbeat it. Perhaps my handbeater is not good to use for this cake.  And you are right, the cake top was very brown and crunchy, so I most definitely overfilled the pan since it also rose above the top by 1/16 inch. The cake top was very flat and the texture, however was fine and fluffy. The cupcakes did sit in their cups while I baked the other cakes (so they were sitting out on the counter—I forgot to refrigerate—for about 55 minutes). They came out with flat tops. I tested one cupcake immediately (not waiting for it to cool) and it was moist and delicious. However, when I ate the cake and the cupcakes (which had been wrapped and refrigerated) the next day they all seemed a little dry, but still very fine and fluffy in texture. I did buy good quality chocolate from whole foods (brand escapes me, but it was not the 365 whole foods brand) and it did contain mostly cocoa butter and a little lecithin. I also have Lindt white chocolate, Green & Blacks as well as Ghiradelli—I was going to make a cake with each to see which I liked better). Maybe you are right about the pan size and I may have to buy 9 inch pans, since it seems the 8 x2 are too deep and require too long to bake, creating a dry cake with the other problems mentioned.

Is there any site or book you can recommend where I can learn additional info on the chemistry of baking. TCB was very informative, and now I am interested in learning more.  I also am having my oven checked, just to make sure it is not an oven problem. My KA stand mixer came today, so I will retry the cake using it.

Sorry for taking up sooo much of your time. I do want to figure this out. I never liked not being able to solve a problem and I can talk about baking/cooking issues forever. I am normally a good cook and amateur baker so this lack of success is truly troubling me. Again, I do greatly appreciate all your help. Perhaps there is still hope for the aspiring baker in me.

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Posted: 09 March 2009 04:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I just wanted to reiterate that if these cakes took 55 minutes to bake, then I think the problem must be primarily with either oven temperature or proper heat circulation. Since you have two thermometers giving the same reading, I would tend to think that it is not the temperature, but heat circulation. Did the cakes seem crowded in your oven? If you have a convection feature, that might help.  Also, regarding the flower nail trick, search the main blog for information.  It seems like it could help here. Basically, you put a flower nail in the center of the batter to draw heat there and help it cook evenly.

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Posted: 09 March 2009 05:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Matthew - 09 March 2009 07:52 PM

I just wanted to reiterate that if these cakes took 55 minutes to bake, then I think the problem must be primarily with either oven temperature or proper heat circulation. Since you have two thermometers giving the same reading, I would tend to think that it is not the temperature, but heat circulation. Did the cakes seem crowded in your oven? If you have a convection feature, that might help.  Also, regarding the flower nail trick, search the main blog for information.  It seems like it could help here. Basically, you put a flower nail in the center of the batter to draw heat there and help it cook evenly.

Thanks Matthew. You are probably right on target. The cakes did not seem overcrowded but my oven space is not large. There is no convection feature—its a cheapo oven that came with the house when my husband and I bought it. I want to get a new and better oven. In the meantime I am having my oven checked. I will also try the flower nail.

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Posted: 10 March 2009 12:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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BELASUNA:
  Good morning. Tes, Bela your math is correct for the flour. I had already completed the math before I even posted to you. So, I am going to just post it to you only for you to compare to your math. I will state the amounts in the order that is in the recipe.

8, oz
6.333, oz
11.375, oz
14, oz
11.375, oz
6.,oz
 
  Bela, I omitted the leavener amounts. If your math isn’t the same as mine let us re~discuss it so that we can get to the bottom of your baking mishap. By the way Bela your mishap isn’t caused because you changed baking pans…I do this all the time never a problem. It is a violation of a baking science rules (Mixing).
  Bela, when you re~do this recipe using your new electric stand mixer I think you will succeed. Why, because I posted to you in my 1st post..“improper mixing”. Your mixing technique didn’t create the necessary gluten strength & failed to promote the gases internally so in order for the leavener to enlarge them. As you know leaveners do not create the gases but only enlarge them once they are create fully. cool hmm
I look forward for your re~doing of this recipe. I know you will succeed. Enjoy the rest of the day Bela.

  ~FRESHKID.

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Posted: 10 March 2009 01:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Belasuna, after you double-check amounts with freshkid, focus on what Matthew says (he’s always right, and very talented- have you seen his pies?), oven temp and heat circulation.  I know in my oven that if I bake on more than one shelf at a time the less-than-optimally placed pans never turn out as well.  I do use the convection option because I have a pretty bad hot spot, and for some weird reason, the regular bake function allows the heat to drop way, way below the set temp, whereas the convection feature does not.  I never learned all the idiosyncracies of my oven until I started baking cakes! 

You might also try baking one recipe with the exact correct pan size and cake strips. 

Doesn’t sound like the cake was overbeaten, you used a good white chocolate (and got that beautiful fine, fluffy texture), and you weighed ingredients.  And both cupcakes and cake had flat tops, right? so the baking powder amount and structure sound OK.

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Posted: 11 March 2009 01:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Hi all you wonderful cake counselors,

The oven man came and looked at my oven today. It seems that my oven is 25 degrees too hot. And my thermometers weren’t giving me an accurate reading. So I had been cooking the cakes at too high a temperature. With this new knowledge, I made a few adjustments to my oven temp and tested out the the sour cream butter cake.  It baked in 35 minutes and was perfect! Well it seems Matthew gets the prize for being right once again. But thanks to you all for all your advice. I will keep them all in mind as I continue on my baking binge. I am going to try the Whisper cake this weekend and I anticipate success.  YEAH!!!

~belasuna

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