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Baking experts - help! Cake undercooked but also cracked on top??

(13 Posts)
JoanLewis Thu 10-Oct-19 15:20:57

I'm baking Nigella's buttermilk birthday cake for the first time for DC's birthday. I also moved house recently, so this is the first time baking a cake in this oven. Baked for required time (40 mins at 180). Looked ok coming out - although cracked on top. It was springing back and a cake tester came out clean.
It sank upon cooling. Turned out, when I cut into it, that it was still un/ undercooked at the bottom. It has quite a thick 'crust' on it though...

I'm not sure whether, on the next go, to simply increase the baking time or to both lower the temp (to avoid cracking/ thick crust) and increase the time (a lot). I don't have an oven thermometer and the oven light isn't working, which isn't helping...
I only have enough ingredients, and v. limited time, to have one more try - so I need to get it right next time!

(p.s. I am a relatively experienced baker, but the cracking + undercooked combo has thrown me!)

moonlight1705 Thu 10-Oct-19 15:31:54

I don't think just increasing the baking time will work as you will still have the cracking issue. I would lower the temperature and allow longer for it to cook - possibly put baking paper over the top for a bit of the time as well. Not sure how you would test it if it came out clean the first time though.

Did you measure the baking powder & bicarb carefully as that sometimes can make it rise too quickly and crack?

JoanLewis Thu 10-Oct-19 15:35:31

Thanks. Yes - I really think I did measure everything carefully.

The only other thing I can think of is that the oven wasn't up to temp when I put the cake in - apparently this can cause cracking too.

ChicCroissant Thu 10-Oct-19 15:41:40

New ovens always take a bit of getting used to, you have my sympathy OP!

Strange frustrating that the cake tester came out clean, normally I'd say it was too hot if the top has crusted/risen too quickly but I wonder if it would have done better in a wider, shallower tin? Agree with moonlight that you could cover the top to prevent overcooking, I haven't made that cake of Nigella's so have no direct advice tbh.

Did you cook it in a silicone mould? If so, could try a metal tray underneath it.

ChicCroissant Thu 10-Oct-19 15:42:44

Also, check that the oven was correctly set - is it a fan oven? Mine has settings for fan, top heat only, bottom heat only and both top and bottom - confusing, but make sure that the heat isn't top only!

JoanLewis Thu 10-Oct-19 16:34:13

Metal tin. A tiny bit smaller than the prescribed one, but not enough to make a difference I don't think. Unfortunately I don't have another, larger tin in the right shape (square).

Oven only has one setting - straightforward fan. I hadn't noticed the temp being particularly off when using it for regular cooking...

JoanLewis Fri 11-Oct-19 09:54:43

Well I tried it again last night - measured v carefully. Was careful not to overmix it. Baked lower temp for 20 mins longer. Still flat as a pancake and stodgy at the bottom. I watched (using a torch!) through the oven door and it seemed to rise well for about 3/4 of the baking time, and then the top cracked and the whole thing collapsed. I have no idea why it was such a failure. I've never had this happen with a cake before, and definitely not with a recipe that so many people seem to rave about.!

PaquitaVariation Fri 11-Oct-19 09:57:41

I would guess that the temperature is off in your oven, that it’s not actually at the temp it says it is. Fan ovens aren’t brilliant for cakes. The combination of things you describe going wrong usually means the oven is too hot.

NotSureYet Fri 11-Oct-19 10:21:44

Drop the temp on the oven to 160. Low and slow is always safer than hot and fast.

Also try soaking a tea towel or Wilton Bake Even Strips and wrapping them tightly around the cake pan. It'll slow the cooking of the outside of the cake. Results in a more even bake and a nice flat top.

4merlyknownasSHD Fri 11-Oct-19 11:03:05

How big is the cake tin? What sort of cake mix? If it is a large sponge cake, then it is quite possible for the outside to become cooked and crisp before the middle is done. A light open sponge acts as an insulator and prevents the heat getting in to the middle. A round cake has heat coming in to the middle evenly from the side of the tin, but a square cake has it coming in slower from the corners which are further away from the middle than the middle of the sides.
We conducted tests at work doing a 12" square madeira cake and it is very difficult to cook it evenly.

CapturedFairy Fri 11-Oct-19 11:07:27

You definitely need an oven thermometer to check the oven temp and move it from one side to the other, we had a very uneven oven once.

I only do round cakes as I had heard square tins were more difficult to bake with and I am a relative novice baker.

JoanLewis Fri 11-Oct-19 12:03:47

Thing is, I'm not sure it is the oven as I later baked a basic sponge (albeit in a round tin) and it was fine!

I blame the recipe! I'm going to revert to a sponge traybake (I'm doing a number birthday cake, for which a round cake won't work).

JoanLewis Fri 11-Oct-19 12:04:37

But thanks for all the suggestions. Unfortunately I don't have time to get an oven thermometer, different pans or anything else if I'm going to get this done in time for the party.

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