This is my walnut sponge egg cake with Dulce de Leche filling.
When people talk to me about baking a cake, most of them have some complaints and think that baking is either very hard or a mystery. The most common complaints they tell me are: “My cake doesn’t rise enough!” or “Why do my cakes always turn out uneven?”. So, I decided to dedicate this post to all you guys who have this problem when trying to bake a cake. On this post I’ll be giving you some tips on how to make your cake look even. For the ones who have other kinds of problems, don’t worry. I’ll give other tips in the next posts that may be just what you need.
For my beautiful cake I needed exactly 46 grams of all purpose flour. Respecting weigh makes a huge difference in the final results.
If your cake rose unevenly what probably could have happened was: you didn’t weigh exactly one of the ingredients, there was a processing mistake or both. You didn’t weigh and had a problem in processing some steps. But don’t panic, let’s figure it out.
These are the basic mistakes that can make your cake become uneven:
1) Too much sugar: Weighing the ingredients is a very important step of the recipe and must be weighed carefully, that’s why I prefer scale rather than cups or spoons. When you add more than the necessary sugar your cake can become very heavy and it gets unable to rise properly.
2) Too much baking powder: Believe it or not, if you add too much baking powder it has the opposite effect. While in the oven, the cake rises beautifully. It rises so much that you feel proud of yourself, but when you take it out the oven it falls immediately, right? Not anymore! Weighing the baking powder carefully may be effective and solve your problem.
3) Little liquid: Liquid can be any ingredient which contains water in its composition like milk, for example. When you start mixing the ingredients you always have that little thing called conscious in your mind telling you something like: Oh, that’s too much flour, this recipe must be wrong or I’m gonna put a little bit more of this ingredient, etc. If you do so, that’s the reason why your cake gets uneven. Trust the measurement required in the recipe and don’t worry if the batter isn’t the way you expected it to be. Little liquid can make your cake uneven because, like too much sugar, the batter becomes very heavy and unable to rise.
4) Not enough blended or beaten: Usually all purpose flour is added at the end of the recipe, so if you don’t blend or beat the batter well it will fall during baking. It happens because you don’t give enough time for all purpose flour to be incorporated into the batter. You know, some things take a little extra time to be achieved, like this step.
Can you see those lumps in the cake batter? You have to get rid of them otherwise your cake will fall. Mix the batter well and gently to ensure the lumps won’t be there anymore.
5) Oven temperature: If you preheat the oven, but it doesn’t keep the same temperature from the beginning to the end of the baking process the result is tragic. One very common mistake is opening the oven to check if everything’s ok. If you do that the temperature will fall drastically. If you’re not sure whether your cake is cooking well or not wait at least 15 minutes (or two thirds of the time required in the recipe) before you open the oven, this will prevent your cake being uneven. Never change the oven temperature after putting the cake in because it messes the rising process up. Remember that each one of you know (or should know) your oven well. It means that 180ºC can be as hot as hell and 280ºC can be as cold as Alaska. It depends if your oven is new, old, home or industrial. You’ll only know your oven well after using it a couple of times.
This is considered low heat, so your cake will rise slowly and perfectly.
6) Rotate the tray: Some ovens have different temperatures according to where you place the tray. So, rotating the pan will prevent it from rising only one side. Don’t forget that you have to open the oven after at least two thirds of the amount of time the recipe requires.
I hope you keep baking delicious cakes no matter what: rainy day, relieve stress, receiving a friend at home, or any other special reason. If your cake doesn’t rise be calm and try it again in another time or day; never give up. I’m sure that the ones who eat it would be really sad if you don’t give it a trial. And only one more thing: in case your cake falls don’t waste food by throwing it away, instead cut it into small pieces and bake for more 10 minutes or so. Now you have delicious cookies to eat in your tea time.
Sources: Escola de Chefs – Chef School Joanna Farrow, London, Hamlyn – 2009 (p. 214 – 222)
Pastry – Senai 4th Edition São Paulo, SP – 2012 (p.16)