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FoodWhat went wrong? 12 Tips for Better Baking

What went wrong? 12 Tips for Better Baking

Sometimes disaster strikes in the kitchen.  We’ve all been there.  So I’m here to help with tips for better baking. That way next time you’ll know how to avoid it and more of your baking will be as good as it could be!

a selection of baking utensilsa selection of baking utensils

Cracks & peaks in cakes:

If your cake or has a badly cracked or the top has peaked, you may have added too much raising agent (baking powder & baking soda). You also could have overfilled the pan, or the cake may have cooked too quickly due to being either too high in the oven or the temperature was too hot.  

Always bake your cakes in the center of the oven and remember that all ovens are not created equal and maybe the temperature may inarticulate.  

It’s a good idea to invest in an oven thermometer.  You can get the one I have on Amazon here (#paidlink).  I like mine because it could either be hung on the wrack of the oven or paced right on it.


Cakes that sink:

There are all kinds of reasons why the top of your cake may sink. You may have over-creamed the butter and sugar, used too much raising agent, over-beaten the mixture after adding the flour or egg,  had the oven on too low a temperature, or under baked the cake.  I often add the flour by hand to avoid over mixing it.  Another cause of cakes sinking is slamming the oven door so be gentle when closing the oven.

Cakes sticking to the side of the pan:

Make sure that you use a good quality pan and grease it really well or your cake may stick to it, making it difficult to remove.  Don’t over grease it though because this can cause the sides of the cake to crisp too much.  I swear by Wilton’s Cake Release which you can also get on Amazon (#paidlink).

Cakes being too dark or pale in color:

If your cake is looking a bit too brown, it is probably because you have over-cooked it, or the oven was too hot.  You can always cover the top of the cake with foil if it is starting to look a little bit too dark before it’s cooked through. It could also be because there is too much sugar in the recipe.

If your cake isn’t dark enough it’s likely to be because it is undercooked or the recipe didn’t have enough egg or sugar in it.

Sinking fruit in cakes or muffins:

This can happen when the fruit is syrupy, or high in sugar, or added to the batter before it’s fully dry. To avoid this, wash the fruit to get remove the syrup, dry it well and cover it in flour. Do not open the oven door too soon to check on the cake.  It’s a good rule of thumb to never open the oven door before the cooking time has reached the halfway mark.

Uneven cakes, cupcakes, or muffins:

This can be caused by the oven not heating evenly.  To avoid this, I always wait until the halfway mark in the baking time and rotate the pan.  Never open the oven before the halfway mark.  It can also be caused by the rising agent not being mixed in well enough.  To avoid this, sift it in with the flour. Sifting better incorporates them, ensuring an even rise.

Speckled Cake Tops:

This can occur on the top of the cake if too much sugar is used, or if the sugar nor fine enough.  I almost always bake with superfine sugar (AKA Caster sugar). You can also try sifting the flour and sugar well to prevent speckles in cakes.

Curdling batter when using the creaming method:

When using a creaming method in a cake batter, the mixture can often curdle.  This can happen when the beaten eggs are added to the sugar & butter mixture too quickly, causing the mixture to separate. This can cause the air to escape and the finished cake will be heavier and sometimes cause large holes to appear in the cake. It can easily be fixed by continuing to beat the mixture until it becomes smooth (before adding the flour).  To speed up the process, you can wrap a warm damp dishtowel around the bowl as you re-beat the mixture.  Don’t worry though –  If it does curdle, the cake won’t be as light but it’s not a total disaster.

A baked cheesecake that doesn’t set:

In a baked cheesecake, a common problem with it setting is that the cream cheese is low fat.  Reduced and non-fat cream cheeses have extra ingredients that keep your cheesecake from properly setting.  You can also run into problems if you are using whipped cream cheese. Whipped cream cheese has too much air and will also cause problems with setting.

Brownies are too cake-like:

This happens when the brownies are over mixed after adding the flour.  I always mix the flour in by hand with a wooden spoon.

Dense or heavy scones:

You could have over handled the dough before it was baked or you may have used too little raising agent. It could also be caused by the oven being too cool.

Cookies that are too flat or cake-like.

This can happen when the butter in a cookie melts too quickly.  To avoid too much spread, try refrigerating the dough for an hour (or even overnight) before baking.  Also beating together butter and sugar is almost always the first step in a cookie recipe.

Start with butter that’s softened and use a mixer or food processor to beat in the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. This usually takes about 5 minutes, but keep mixing until it’s no longer grainy when you rub it between your fingers. As you cream the butter, you force in air, which creates the structure in the dough.  Later, this will help the cookies to rise.

Cake like cookies can be caused by over mixing the flour into the dough.  Only mix just until the flour is completely incorporated into the dough and stop there.


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