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Cakes... Why can't I get the buggering buggers right?

(22 Posts)
Graterater Sun 16-Nov-14 05:02:10

I'm a really good cook. Honestly I promise., I can make pies, bread, biscuits, pastry etc but cakes manI'm horrible at them. My baking powder is fresh, have tried plain or self raising, I cream the butter and sugar really well, don't over mix once flour is added etc. where am I going wrong?? The only thing I can think of is that I don't have a sieve and I use value flour. But surely that can't be it can it?

rootypig Sun 16-Nov-14 05:06:18

What goes wrong with them? we must have the symptoms for a proper diagnosis grin

Graterater Sun 16-Nov-14 05:28:00

Sorry yes. The main issue is that they never rise. But today I made one that was just atrocious, it was more like a pancake. Seriously.

Largely I think my problem is that I am not a recipe follower and I know baking is a science and I really ought to. But the pancake cake I thought I had followed the recipe (smitten kitchen yellow cake) really closely. With that one though my scales had run out of battery so I was doing it the American way measuring in cups (i do have proper measuring cups) so perhaps that had something to do with it. What should raw cake mix look like consistency wise?

Interestingly though last year a friend who is a great baker made a cake at my house (using my ingredients and equipment) and it was pretty shit and didn't rise either..

rootypig Sun 16-Nov-14 05:51:40

Oh my lord there's so much wrong I don't know where to start grin

Cakes are chemistry, so you must always measure.
Did you do the conversion to cups yourself? Cups are a measure of volume, and weight is a measure of, well, weight. So the conversion is different for every different ingredient. Also beware: English and American cups vary slightly. This will matter in a recipe that calls for a certain number of eggs, as the eggs must be in the correct ratio to other ingredients.

Buy batteries for your scales. They will be cheaper than all these wasted ingredients. Buy nicer flour (ditto) - plain, and add baking powder. Sieve it. Use Stork, not butter (yes!). Do not refrigerate your eggs, or at least bring them to room temperature before using. Make sure your oven is up to temperature (buy a standalone oven thermometer if you're not sure. Again, less than the ingredients of a failed attempt).

Consistency of batter varies from really quite thick to a more dropping consistency - depends on the recipe. <helpful>

Graterater Sun 16-Nov-14 05:56:18

Ok so I need to buy a sieve and batteries.

I do have oven right temp and don't keep eggs in fridge.

I didn't do conversion as was from an American recipe.

What flour shall I buy?

Should I be using large eggs? I usually use medium.

Thanking you kindly

rootypig Sun 16-Nov-14 06:02:41

I have just googled the smitten kitten cake. Looks like new fangled nonsense to me grin

Yes large eggs. I usually buy supermarket own brand flour, just not the value stuff, which seems rather....dense.

Failsafe vicky sponge
Beat 8 oz stork with 8 oz caster sugar until pale and fluffy (I get marvellous results by hand, actually). 4 room temp large free range eggs into a measuring jug, whisk with a fork, then beat into the marg mix half an egg's worth or less at a time. If the mixture curdles, take a spoon of your 8oz plain flour and sprinkle that over and beat in. Sieve 8oz plain flour and 2 teasp baking powder, or 8oz self raising flour over the top, and fold in (I like a large metal spoon). Splash of hot-ish water from the kettle. Into two lined tins (do NOT drop from any height, or flatten or level the mixture - it should be loose enough to sort itself out in the heat) and into a nice hot 180 oven, or 190/200 if it's sluggish. Don't open the door for at least 20 mins, it'll probably take 23. ish. grin
Slather with jam and cream no matter the outcome.

Bolshybookworm Sun 16-Nov-14 07:12:44

I have the same problem and I think it's my oven. I have no problem making cup cakes and loaf cakes but the big round cakes come out flat. I used to make great sponge cakes so it's very frustrating! It's a new (to me) oven so still trying to work out what's going on but think it's a combination of a very strong fan (I'm going to try turning it off) and not being able to see through the door. This means I have to open it to check the cake - if you do this too early the cake deflates.

I've tried about 5 different recipes, it's driving me up the wall!

Graterater Sun 16-Nov-14 07:21:02

Ooh this night be my problem to as am also fine with cupcakes and loaf cakes. I think the smitten kitchen disaster was borne out of my insecurity and therefore trying something unnecessarily funky.

LizzieMint Sun 16-Nov-14 07:36:08

I'm going to disagree with a couple of things rooty said - but your main issue is going to be not being accurate. You must follow the recipe exactly, or it just won't work. Anyway, the bits I disagree with are that I always use (room temp) butter - the taste is just far far better than using marge. And I bake at a low temp (150) for much longer (1 hour +) it gives a moist cake without a big dome in the middle.
And the easiest Vicky sponge recipe is - weigh your eggs in the shells. Weigh everything else out to the same weight.
You can either go for the creaming together first method as rooty says, but all-in-one works well too, just add half a tsp of baking powder to give a bit more lift. I use a 50/50 mix of sponge flour and normal sr flour - sponge flour makes it much lighter and fluffier but using just sponge flour makes it taste quite bland IMO.
DON'T OPEN THE OVEN once it's in, until at least 2/3 through the baking time.

LizzieMint Sun 16-Nov-14 07:38:34

bolshy , an easy way of seeing if your cake is nearly ready without opening the oven is just to wait until you can smell cake throughout the house - it honestly works. I can't see through my door either (light went and haven't got round to replacing it) and never set a timer, I just wait till I smell it.

addictedtosugar Sun 16-Nov-14 07:39:22

I do very similar to rootypig but would use SR flour (supermarket brand, unseived), and a sprinkling of baking powder. Milk in place of her hot water.

Are you sure the tins aren't too big? I would but 3 eggs into a single 20cm tin, and cut in half, but thats what suits us as a family. I also use cocoa to make it chocolate.

imo, marge rather than butter is the secret. Flora in this house, but I've heard good reports about stork.

Rosa Sun 16-Nov-14 07:59:08

You have cups .
2 cups SR flour
1 1/2cups sugar
100g ( use the dividers on the butter ( unsalted) packet ...butter needs to be room temp
1 cup and 2 table sp whole milk
2 table sp cocoa
1 tea sp bicarb
Pinch salt
Throw all in mixer and beat hard for 2 mins
Then add 2 eggs and beat for another 2 mins

Divide either into 2 20cm tins ( lined or greased / floured) or one big one.

Oven for 20-40 mins depending on the size of the tin. Often I get a bit of an uneven bake when its in the small tins but I flip over when icing.

Make a simple chocolate butter cream and sandwich or just cover the top if using a big tin.
The only time it diddn't work was when dh used plain flour !

Bolshybookworm Sun 16-Nov-14 08:15:11

Ooh, I'll try that Lizziemint, Thankyou! It's a really heavy door which doesn't help.

JadedAngel Sun 16-Nov-14 08:36:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

generousfdudgy Sun 16-Nov-14 09:39:23

you also need to be sure your baking powder measurement is exact...a sniffle too much and the cake will rise too quickly and then sink in the middle. And relax and put thoughts of previous failures out of your mind before you start...I swear you can taste emotion in Baking!

FamiliesShareGerms Sun 16-Nov-14 09:49:48

Are your cake tins too big? If they are the cake will always be a pancake because it's going outwards not upwards

PolterGoose Sun 16-Nov-14 10:08:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

IndridCold Sun 16-Nov-14 16:49:30

From what you say about your baker friend, it sounds like your oven is the real culprit here. There can sometimes be quite a big discrepancy between the temperature you think you have set, and the actual temperature inside. It can also vary a lot between shelf levels. There might also be a draught getting in around the door.

Can you get an oven thermometer to check?

rootypig Sun 16-Nov-14 16:53:59

Butter.......nooooo. I love butter, but it makes an unpleasantly heavy cake.

Beware using too much leavening agent too, this can backfire and make your cake collapse, as generous says.

grin at the fear factor

Bunbaker Sun 16-Nov-14 17:08:30

I always use Stork. Mary Berry uses Stork. I did a blind taste test between some Stork fairy cakes and ones made with butter and my lot preferred the Stork ones.

I weigh 3 eggs and use the same weights in SR flour, Stork and sugar, add a bit of vanilla paste and about half a teaspoon of baking powder. I then use the all-in-one method as I find it more reliable, and mix for about a minute. I divide the mixture between two 7 inch tins and bake at gas mark 4 (fan oven 160 deg) for 25 - 30 minutes.

My cakes always rise and are lovely and moist. I deliberately chose a gas oven because I am fond of baking, and I believe a fan oven can dry cakes out a bit.

Key points to remember when baking cakes:
1. Always use exact measures
2. Make sure your oven is at the right temperature
3. Use the correct tin size
4. Make sure your eggs are at room temperature
5. Don't open the oven door until the cakes are ready or nearly ready

4merlyknownasSHD Mon 17-Nov-14 08:58:40

Everything said above seems to be pretty well on the mark as far as I can tell. Just be careful with the eggs. Weighing them is the best way, but if you don't weigh them, use UK Medium eggs. The same size egg is called "Large" in the US and Australia, where a UK Large egg is called an "Extra Large". Basically, a UK Medium egg approximates to 2 ounces or 55gms.

HappydaysArehere Mon 17-Nov-14 15:40:38

It's a science. Make sure you get the air in and you don't knock it out. That means beating butter/stork until creamy, adding eggs which have also been beaten and then carefully adding SIEVED flour in the lightest folding method you can manage. The mixture should be a light dropping consistency and not stiff which means you have too much flour. Remember eggs are a rising agent. Too few eggs and less rise. Also if the oven is too hot it will bake before the cake has a chance to rise. Lower temperature gives it a greater chance of allowing all that rising to take place. All ovens differ. Perhaps try putting on a lower shelf. Also, decent SIEVED flour does make a difference. Home pride self raising works well for me for sponges etc. Plain flour is better for heavier fruit cakes as it has a stronger structure. Good luck. Ps a quick look in the oven after an appropriate period of time and a quick push down with a finger. If it springs up it should be baked.

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