Ever have a cake that didn’t turn out quite right? Well, here’s some hundred-year-old advice for troubleshooting cake problems (and, amazingly, much of it is still applicable today).
Here’s what Janet McKenzie Hill wrote in a 1919 cookbook titled Recipes for Everyday:
Heavy or fallen cakes are caused by having too slow an oven; by using too much sugar or shortening; by using too little flour; by having such a hot oven that the outside bakes so thoroughly that the inside cannot rise; by moving the cake in the oven before the cell walls have become fixed; or by taking the cake from the oven before it is thoroughly baked.
Thick-crusted cakes are caused by too hot an oven, by using too much sugar and shortening, or too little flour.
Coarse-grained cakes are the result of using too much leavening material, or of having too slow an oven. They are also caused by insufficient creaming of shortening and sugar, or insufficient beating of the batter before adding the egg whites.
A”bready” cake is caused by using too much flour.
A cake rises in a peak in the center when the oven is too hot during the first few minutes of baking.
A cake will crack when it contains too much flour, or when the oven is so hot at first that the outside bakes before the center can rise.
37 thoughts on “Troubleshooting Cake Problems”
Over the years, I’ve managed to achieve every one of those cake conditions. This is a neat summary that I’m going to tuck into my recipe file for the next time I have a troublesome cake.
It’s nice to hear that you found this summary useful. I also liked the summary when I came across it in an old cookbook.
I’m having flashbacks of my mother explaining these things to me when I was bummed about how my latest cake didn’t bake right. She knew all these troubles and what to do about them… the next time I baked. Oh the sadness…
I have similar flashbacks to my mother. It takes practice to learn how to bake tasty cakes that look really nice.
So many possibilities for things to go wrong!
I agree- Until I read this summary in the old cookbook, I hadn’t realized the full extent of things that can go wrong when baking a cake.
Sounds so hard. I’m going to open a box.
It’s really not like for chocolate cake Hershey’s chocolate, use this flour eggs and sugar mix and it’s much better for you. Been baking my own for years. It’s cheaper and you get many many cakes
I also bake my own. Some turn out better than others, but they generally are all tasty and get eaten quickly.
Works for me. 🙂
Good tips even for today! I can see these being important for a new cook especially. One can even blame the oven at times! Around Christmas I had a cheesecake (had made it successfully before) completely flop. I think I beat it too long.
Oh dear – It’s always so frustrating when a recipe is a complete flop, especially when you’ve made it before and won’t be anticipating any problems.
Thanks so much for these very helpful tips. They address a couple of the problems I’ve had with some of my cakes. Next time I bake a cake, I’ll follow your hints and hopefully it’ll turn out better. Thanks again. 🙂
You’re welcome. It’s nice to hear that you found this post useful.
All of it is very useful to know for baking. Great blog post.
It’s good to know that you also found it useful. When I came across this information in an old cookbook, it immediately resonated with me (and reminded me of the many cake-baking issues that I’ve had across the years).
Oh yes I found it very worth while glad you posted about it.
Interesting! Challenging. To tell the truth, I’m glad my baking days are over.
🙂 It’s more fun to eat lovely cakes that others have made than to bake them.
Isn’t it comforting that some things never change? My cakes still misbehave, but grandson Nathaniel’s cakes are perfect.
This guide to cake problems made me realize how much my cakes misbehave. I’ve often thought that a lop-sided cake or one with large cracks wasn’t particularly attractive, but hadn’t realized that it might have been preventable.
You are so fortunate to have a grandson who is an culinary expert.
We hope our culinary grandson will eventually settle near us. Meanwhile, we love it when he is here and is eager to cook.
Oh the science of baking! And then there is the matter of altitude! I’m glad that it wasn’t me that had to figure out all of these details!
I’d forgotten about that one until you mentioned it. This reminds me of how some baking mixes have high altitude directions printed on the package.
Lots of good advice!
Some advice is timeless, and holds true today just as it did a hundred years ago.
I think our cake making is easier,because of our better ovens,can you imagine what it would have been like to work the fire of a wood stove… even with a good oven I still flop a cake every now and then.
You’re absolutely right. I can’t even image what it must have been like to bake a cake in an oven that is heated by a fire, and that doesn’t have a temperature gauge.
Yikes I think I have had all of these issues at one time or another. I should probably have this guide handy in the kitchen!
So have I. This list makes me think that I need to attend to the details a bit more carefully when baking cakes.
What a great post! I’m bookmarking this one for future reference- so helpful!
It’s wonderful to hear that you found this post useful.
What a great share! Thank you!
I didn’t know a lot of this, I guess some things never change over time so it’s good to know all the tried and tested techniques for our cake woes. A nice share
I think that there’s probably lots of chemistry and other sciences behind the causes of cake woes, but I like how the author explained everything in an easy-to-understand way.