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.