Cocktail stick test


Lee_C

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Quite a few cakes I bake, the cocktail stick comes out clean yet I find the crumb is still not fully cooked. This happened yesterday and today using two different recipes for coffee cake. So how am I meant to know if a cake is cooked if I can't rely on the cocktail stick test?

Also, with both cakes, I'm scratching my head as I'm not tasting any coffee, yet I made up coffee concentrates as per the recipes and added to the batter. I didn't use espresso I used regular instant granules but the recipes said instant is fine. I got a great coffee flavour when I made coffee flavoured icing glaze, but no coffee taste in the sponge itself. Just tastes pretty much like a vanilla sponge to me. Here is the first cake I made yesterday. You can probably see the crumb looks a bit underdone? It's not really fluffed up as it should be, a little on the raw side.
20200218_011624.jpg 20200218_011354.jpg
 
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retired baker

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Quite a few cakes I bake, the cocktail stick comes out clean yet I find the crumb is still not fully cooked. This happened yesterday and today using two different recipes for coffee cake. So how am I meant to know if a cake is cooked if I can't rely on the cocktail stick test?

Also, with both cakes, I'm scratching my head as I'm not tasting any coffee, yet I made up coffee concentrates as per the recipes and added to the batter. I didn't use espresso I used regular instant granules but the recipes said instant is fine. I got a great coffee flavour when I made coffee flavoured icing glaze, but no coffee taste in the sponge itself. Just tastes pretty much like a vanilla sponge to me. Here is the first cake I made yesterday. You can probably see the crumb looks a bit underdone? It's not really fluffed up as it should be, a little on the raw side.
View attachment 2775 View attachment 2776


Quite a few could be's...
cool unreliable oven can cause that, my oven goes out of whack by 50degs F.

But it looks like wet batter, too much liquid in your coffee extract. Its best if you add the least hot water possible,
put the lid on and shake it, the result I look for is a thick syrup. Just a few spoonfulls of water, not half the jar.
Test by bouncing your finger on top very carefully.
 

Norcalbaker59

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Quite a few cakes I bake, the cocktail stick comes out clean yet I find the crumb is still not fully cooked. This happened yesterday and today using two different recipes for coffee cake. So how am I meant to know if a cake is cooked if I can't rely on the cocktail stick test?

Also, with both cakes, I'm scratching my head as I'm not tasting any coffee, yet I made up coffee concentrates as per the recipes and added to the batter. I didn't use espresso I used regular instant granules but the recipes said instant is fine. I got a great coffee flavour when I made coffee flavoured icing glaze, but no coffee taste in the sponge itself. Just tastes pretty much like a vanilla sponge to me. Here is the first cake I made yesterday. You can probably see the crumb looks a bit underdone? It's not really fluffed up as it should be, a little on the raw side.
View attachment 2775 View attachment 2776
Hey Lee_C



Regarding the doneness of the cake:



  • Touch test, Lightly touch the top of the cake with one finger. The cake should slightly spring back some. If the indentation from your finger tip remains the cake is not done
  • Internal temperature of the cake
    • Butter cakes: center of cake internal temperature of 200°F - 205°F is done.


  • Foam, angel food, sponge cakes: 205°F - 210°F is done.
  • Water boils at 212°F. Never allow a cake to go over 212°F as the amount of loss hydration due to evaporation will result in a dry cake.


If the cake sides pull away from the sides of the pan, the cake may be over baked. Let a bakers use that as a gauge for doneness. But that is also a sign of over-baked. And depending on the style of cake, besides me not retract until the cake comes out of the oven. My chiffon layers are baked in an ungreased tin, then inverted immediately out of the oven. So the cake does not retract until it comes out of the oven and begins cool.



Coffee flavor: instant coffee will never impart flavor. If you want to coffee flavor in your cake you’ll need to use a combination of strong brewed coffee and instant espresso powder.





So try this, brew strong coffee. Use the amount per the recipe. Then in addition, add 5% instant espresso powder, calculated based on weight of the flour, to the strong coffee.



To enhance the flavor my chocolate chip cookie, I add Instant espresso powder: 2g per 280g flour or .007



Crumb: The final texture of the cake determined more by mixing method and flour type. Not knowing the recipe it’s hard for me to say what could be the culprit in creating the texture.
 

Lee_C

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Thank you retired baker, yes probably too much liquid


Hey Lee_C



Regarding the doneness of the cake:



  • Touch test, Lightly touch the top of the cake with one finger. The cake should slightly spring back some. If the indentation from your finger tip remains the cake is not done
  • Internal temperature of the cake
    • Butter cakes: center of cake internal temperature of 200°F - 205°F is done.


  • Foam, angel food, sponge cakes: 205°F - 210°F is done.
  • Water boils at 212°F. Never allow a cake to go over 212°F as the amount of loss hydration due to evaporation will result in a dry cake.


If the cake sides pull away from the sides of the pan, the cake may be over baked. Let a bakers use that as a gauge for doneness. But that is also a sign of over-baked. And depending on the style of cake, besides me not retract until the cake comes out of the oven. My chiffon layers are baked in an ungreased tin, then inverted immediately out of the oven. So the cake does not retract until it comes out of the oven and begins cool.



Coffee flavor: instant coffee will never impart flavor. If you want to coffee flavor in your cake you’ll need to use a combination of strong brewed coffee and instant espresso powder.





So try this, brew strong coffee. Use the amount per the recipe. Then in addition, add 5% instant espresso powder, calculated based on weight of the flour, to the strong coffee.



To enhance the flavor my chocolate chip cookie, I add Instant espresso powder: 2g per 280g flour or .007



Crumb: The final texture of the cake determined more by mixing method and flour type. Not knowing the recipe it’s hard for me to say what could be the culprit in creating the texture.
Norcalbaker, awesome, you're back! :D How are you? I'm guessing you've been very busy helping with your brother's business?

Thank you for your advice. Right, so it looks like the answer to getting a coffee flavour is espresso powder. The recipe I followed uses espresso and she says instant coffee is ok too. But maybe she never tested instant coffee to find out that it doesn't actually work. Here's the recipe. I didn't add walnuts.


It says:
1 1/2 tablespoons (6 grams) instant espresso powder (or instant coffee) dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water

Shall I make that with espresso as my strong brew? The recipe uses 225g flour, so 5% is 11.25g. Do I then add 11.25g of espresso powder into my already made up brew and no extra water?

About instant espresso powder. Does this one look good?

It says,
'Savour a strong, rich taste with every cup. Topped with a smooth, velvety crema for that finishing touch'

I don't know what that means, if it has milk in it or not. But other instant espresso powders I've read about all say the same.

One other thing I'll mention. That recipe uses 2 x 8" tins. I now own 2 x 8" Wilton aluminium tins, and I bought 2 Wilton baking strips. :) I also bought a lovely 8" x 3" deep springform tin and a 3" deep PME baking belt. So I've got some quality bakeware now. I didn't want to make a sandwich coffee cake like in the recipe, so I used just one Wilton tin for all the batter. For two tins it says 20 minutes baking, but I had to judge how long to bake it for which was more like an hour. And I probably should have used the deeper springform tin.
 
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Lee_C

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I found out that crema is not cream or milk, it's just the froth that it makes, so I've bought a jar of it.
 

Norcalbaker59

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Thank you retired baker, yes probably too much liquid




Norcalbaker, awesome, you're back! :D How are you? I'm guessing you've been very busy helping with your brother's business?

Thank you for your advice. Right, so it looks like the answer to getting a coffee flavour is espresso powder. The recipe I followed uses espresso and she says instant coffee is ok too. But maybe she never tested instant coffee to find out that it doesn't actually work. Here's the recipe. I didn't add walnuts.


It says:
1 1/2 tablespoons (6 grams) instant espresso powder (or instant coffee) dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water

Shall I make that with espresso as my strong brew? The recipe uses 225g flour, so 5% is 11.25g. Do I then add 11.25g of espresso powder into my already made up brew and no extra water?

About instant espresso powder. Does this one look good?

It says,
'Savour a strong, rich taste with every cup. Topped with a smooth, velvety crema for that finishing touch'

I don't know what that means, if it has milk in it or not. But other instant espresso powders I've read about all say the same.

One other thing I'll mention. That recipe uses 2 x 8" tins. I now own 2 x 8" Wilton aluminium tins, and I bought 2 Wilton baking strips. :) I also bought a lovely 8" x 3" deep springform tin and a 3" deep PME baking belt. So I've got some quality bakeware now. I didn't want to make a sandwich coffee cake like in the recipe, so I used just one Wilton tin for all the batter. For two tins it says 20 minutes baking, but I had to judge how long to bake it for which was more like an hour. And I probably should have used the deeper springform tin.
Well I wouldn’t say I’m back I’ve got a lot on my plate these days so checking in maybe now and then is more like it.

this is a crappy recipe for you to use.

1. she’s American; you’re in the UK. American AP flour and UK plain flour are significantly different in protein content. The domestic wheat in the UK is naturally very low in protein due to the weather and soil. In fact the domestic wheat in the UK is so low in protein content it can’t be used to make bread. The wheat that is cultivated in England that is used for bread is actually wheat varieties that is imported from other countries mainly Australia and Canada. American wheat, like Canadian wheat is also higher in protein. The domestic wheat in the UK is about 9.5%. The wheat in the US that is used in AP flour is about 10.5%.

So why does this make a difference? The protein content of the wheat greatly impacts the absorption rate. The lower protein flour absorbs less water.

2. Her crazy measurements on the eggs. Who the hell measures eggs in the shell? I don’t know if any baker or commercial bakery that measures their eggs in the shell. I don’t mix the shell into the batter. You measure the egg out of the shell. And the weight of the egg is significantly important because egg is counted as hydration.

3. Grading of eggs in the UK and the US is different. What the US grades as a large egg is not the same as the UK. Your large egg is equivalent to our extra large egg. And The content of no two eggs we the same. The contents and vary by several grams. The contents of a large egg can weigh anywhere from 48g to 54g. That’s a pretty significant difference Another reason why it was really important for her to actually give the weight of the eggs out of the shell. Every recipe I developed I actually weigh my eggs out of the shell. I establish the baker’s percentage of the eggs.

4. Espresso powder and instant coffee are two totally different coffee products. Advising bakers to use them interchangeably was wrong. Instant coffee is extremely weak. You’re not going to get good coffee flavor from instant coffee. Trust me on this I’ve gone through barrister training. My brother is a coffee roaster. My brother owns coffee farms.

5. She creaming butter and sugar at the wrong temperature. I’ve told you this before, that the proper temperature for creaming butter and sugar is 65°F (18°C). There’s no culinary school that teaches room temperature. No bakery that uses room temperature butter. Creaming butter and sugar is not about mixing two ingredients, rather it is mechanical leavening. Mixing causes friction. Friction causes heat. If you start with room temperature butter you overheat the butter. The butter will then lose its plasticity. Once it loses its plasticity it cannot hold air pockets. And the whole point of cream butter and sugar it so that it will trap air.

ONE REASON THE CRUMB IS DENSE IS THE CREAMING WAS DONE AT THE WRONG TEMPERATURE.

I put that in caps so that you will remember this. Whenever you cream butter and sugar your butter should be 65°F (18°C) or colder. I start creaming my butter cold right out of the refrigerator. When you cream butter you just need to know what you’re looking for texturewise. Trust me I’ve been creaming cold butter for 20 years

Stella parks wrote good an article about this over on Serious Eats. Just google it. Just a lot of visuals and explains more fully what I say here.

What you need is a better recipe. Try this one. It calls for four large eggs. The “standard” if you will among most professional bakers is 50 g/ large egg.


 
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Lee_C

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Thanks Norcalbaker. That recipe looks awesome and it also gives me the excuse I wanted to buy a bundt tin! Recipe requires 10 to 12 cup bundt tin. According to this

Bundt Pans:
7½ x 3 inches = 19 x 8 cm = 6 cups = 1.4 liters
9 x 3 inches = 23 x 8 cm = 9 cups = 2.1 liters
10 x 3½ inches = 25 x 9 cm = 12 cups = 2.8 liters

So it looks like I'd need about 24 to 25cm x 8 to 9cm.
I guess either these two tins would be wrong size for the recipe or maybe they'd work?



Sorry, I'd sort of forgotten about creaming temperatures, I need to go back and remind myself of some of the early advice you'd given me.

Actually though, it's been so cold here, my room temperature has pretty much been 17 to 18c. Although I must admit I let the butter get softer then it should before creaming it. I'll do what you do and start creaming it straight from the fridge.

Hmm, but I'm struggling on converting the recipe's cups of sugar, flour and coffee and sticks of butter to grams. I made a post here a couple of weeks ago where it seems very difficult to know how many grams a cup is.

Regarding eggs, I hear what you say about US to UK size equivalent. So it seems an american recipe using large eggs means I should be using medium eggs. I've only got large (USA extra large) in my fridge and in the shell they're all 65 to 68g, I don't know what they weigh out of the shell. I assume the espresso cake is an American recipe, so do you think I will only need 3 of my eggs?

And about the coffee, just to clarify. Recipe says '1cup hot strongly brewed coffee'. I take it I use my instant coffee for that and then add the espresso powder. But I don't know how much 1 cup of strongly brewed coffee is in terms of teaspoons or tablespoons, and how much water to add. I wonder if you might kindly help me on that. :)
 
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Norcalbaker59

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Thanks Norcalbaker. That recipe looks awesome and it also gives me the excuse I wanted to buy a bundt tin! Recipe requires 10 to 12 cup bundt tin. According to this

Bundt Pans:
7½ x 3 inches = 19 x 8 cm = 6 cups = 1.4 liters
9 x 3 inches = 23 x 8 cm = 9 cups = 2.1 liters
10 x 3½ inches = 25 x 9 cm = 12 cups = 2.8 liters

So it looks like I'd need about 24 to 25cm x 8 to 9cm.
I guess either these two tins would be wrong size for the recipe or maybe they'd work?



Sorry, I'd sort of forgotten about creaming temperatures, I need to go back and remind myself of some of the early advice you'd given me.

Actually though, it's been so cold here, my room temperature has pretty much been 17 to 18c. Although I must admit I let the butter get softer then it should before creaming it. I'll do what you do and start creaming it straight from the fridge.

Hmm, but I'm struggling on converting the recipe's cups of sugar, flour and coffee and sticks of butter to grams. I made a post here a couple of weeks ago where it seems very difficult to know how many grams a cup is.

Regarding eggs, I hear what you say about US to UK size equivalent. So it seems an american recipe using large eggs means I should be using medium eggs. I've only got large (USA extra large) in my fridge and in the shell they're all 65 to 68g, I don't know what they weigh out of the shell. I assume the espresso cake is an American recipe, so do you think I will only need 3 of my eggs?

And about the coffee, just to clarify. Recipe says '1cup hot strongly brewed coffee'. I take it I use my instant coffee for that and then add the espresso powder. But I don't know how much 1 cup of strongly brewed coffee is in terms of teaspoons or tablespoons, and how much water to add. I wonder if you might kindly help me on that. :)
The cake should be baked in a tube pan to prevent it from collapsing. The center tube provides support for the cake as it rises.

But if you decide to bake it in a regular cake pan you can use a flower nail as a support. Just push the flower nail through the parchment paper. I’ve done that many times for cakes that are meant to be baked in a two pan with good results.

use the baker’s grease to grease the pan.

This recipe has a button at the top to convert it from volume (cups) to metric weight. do not need to make the conversion yourself. Look where it says “INGREDIENTS” and then next to it it says “US”
and then it says “METRIC” . Just hit that metric button and it will convert everything. The amount of strong coffee you need is 240 mL. I’ll convert everything for you.

Oh except the eggs it’s still gonna say four eggs. Weight the content of eggs— it doesn’t matter what size eggs you have in your refrigerator. Just break and separate of your UK eggs.

average large US egg without shell: 50g

average large US yolk: 18g

average large US egg white: 33g

yes I know 18 + 33 = 51. But 50g is an average.

For four large eggs, separate and weight out 72g yolks and 132g whites.

It takes a while to unlearn bad practices that these bad bakers promote. And the room temperature phrase just drives me crazy. There’s no such thing as room temperature. I’ve never seen a thermometer with a reading on it that says room temperature. And even the recipe that I recommended doesn’t give a temperature, it just says chilled butter. It should state a temperature. But at least the author of that recipe knows not to use warm butter.

 

Lee_C

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Thanks NCB. Yes, I didn't notice the metric conversion button before. Excellent, that really helps! I've googled sticks of butter and apparently I'll need to use 226g. And I've got a new batch of bakers grease ready as per the recipe you gave me a while ago. It's amazing stuff, works every time.

I just took one of my eggs which weighed 66g in the shell and separated it. I got 34g white and 17g yolk. That works out about the same as a US large egg. Interesting, I was expecting higher weights given that my large egg is supposed to be equivalent to a US extra large. But anyway, that'll work out fine with 4 eggs.


Just two more questions before I can go ahead and make the cake.

I just measured out 240ml of water and that perfectly fills up my regular mug that I drink coffee from. Normally I would add 1 teaspoon of instant freeze dried coffee granules for a normal strength cup of coffee to drink. So to make it a 'strong' brew for the cake, (and obviously before I add the espresso powder) would you recommend I add 3 teaspoons of instant coffee granules?


You mentioned 'tube' pan. And the recipe says Bundt pan or fluted tube pan. It looks like Sarah Beth has used a Bundt pan. I defintely prefer the look of the cake with a Bundt pan. Are you regarding a Bundt pan as a tube pan? I didn't want to use a tube pan with smooth sides like this one:


But I'm struggling to find a pan with the correct dimensions to match a 10 to 12 cup size tin. I like the style of this John Lewis Bundt tin, it's as close as I can find to the one in the Sarah Beth photo.
We don't have as much choice as in the US, and the Nordicware tins are more expensive here than in the US.


A reviewer for that tin says the printed measurements on the website are wrong, that the box says it's 26cm x 9, and that actually measuring the tin he got 23cm! I make that to be about a 9 cup pan and wondered if you think I might get away with fitting the batter into that size tin?



I so want to make this cake and show you the result! :D
 
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Lee_C

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I've got a pan now and filled it with 3 litres of water (using 12 fills from my 250ml cup) to the very brim which means it's the right size. Now greased with my homemade bakers grease :) I'm now preparing and sifting my ingredients.

20200225_213912.jpg
 
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Norcalbaker59

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I've got a pan now and filled it with 3 litres of water (using 12 fills from my 250ml cup) to the very brim which means it's the right size. Now greased with my homemade bakers grease :) I'm now preparing and sifting my ingredients.

View attachment 2778
just remember with that dark colored metal you have to reduce the oven temperature. Dark metal will conduct heat much more intensely.

Looking forward to seeing the results
 
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Lee_C

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just remember with that dark colored metal you have to reduce the oven temperature. Dark metal will conduct heat much more intensely.

Looking forward to seeing the results
Yes I'd thought about that and recently have been baking at reduced temperatures including baking belts. However, this time I risked baking at the recipe temperature of 176c. After 50 minutes, I tested it. Given that it's a deep cake my cocktail sticks are too short so I used a chopstick which came out with a bit of wet batter from near the bottom of the cake, or technically the top of cake. I baked for a further 12 minutes and that seemed the right amount of time.

The visible part of the cake (the bottom of the cake) did dome a bit and I was going to slice it off but it sits fine on the plate.

Using my trusty Thermapen, I creamed the butter straight from the fridge and that was at 8c/46f. I worked as fast as possible and the temperature fairly quickly rose to 65 then 66 then 67f. Towards the end of beating the butter and sugar the maximum temperature was 68f/20c so I think I might have gotten away with it!

When I measured out 20g espresso it really looked like way too much powder to me, that's over 4 tablespoons, not to mention it's being added to a strong brew. Other recipes I've seen only use 2 tablespoons of espresso or ground coffee without a brew. Then when I converted from metric to US it says 3 tablespoons which works out at 13g, not 20. So I went with that. The cake definitely smells of coffee. I hope it's not overpowering :p

I followed her recipe for the glaze but wasn't happy with the way it looked, it was watery and too dark. I clearly did something wrong. I threw it and just mixed an icing sugar glaze with a small amount of espresso and water.

That bakers grease is amazing. I don't know why anyone would use butter and flour. The cake slid out, I didn't need to tap or put a knife around the edges. Took me about 2 hours to make, an hour to bake, another hour or so to cool completely and a few minutes to glaze. It's far from perfect but here is my espresso cake. :)

20200226_230756.jpg
20200227_102423.jpg
20200227_090232.jpg
 
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Norcalbaker59

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Yes I'd thought about that and recently have been baking at reduced temperatures including baking belts. However, this time I risked baking at the recipe temperature of 176c. After 50 minutes, I tested it. Given that it's a deep cake my cocktail sticks are too short so I used a chopstick which came out with a bit of wet batter from near the bottom of the cake, or technically the top of cake. I baked for a further 12 minutes and that seemed the right amount of time.

The visible part of the cake (the bottom of the cake) did dome a bit and I was going to slice it off but it sits fine on the plate.

Using my trusty Thermapen, I creamed the butter straight from the fridge and that was at 8c/46f. I worked as fast as possible and the temperature fairly quickly rose to 65 then 66 then 67f. Towards the end of beating the butter and sugar the maximum temperature was 68f/20c so I think I might have gotten away with it!

When I measured out 20g espresso it really looked like way too much powder to me, that's over 4 tablespoons, not to mention it's being added to a strong brew. Other recipes I've seen only use 2 tablespoons of espresso or ground coffee without a brew. Then when I converted from metric to US it says 3 tablespoons which works out at 13g, not 20. So I went with that. The cake definitely smells of coffee. I hope it's not overpowering :p

I followed her recipe for the glaze but wasn't happy with the way it looked, it was watery and too dark. I clearly did something wrong. I threw it and just mixed an icing sugar glaze with a small amount of espresso and water.

That bakers grease is amazing. I don't know why anyone would use butter and flour. The cake slid out, I didn't need to tap or put a knife around the edges. Took me about 2 hours to make, an hour to bake, another hour or so to cool completely and a few minutes to glaze. It's far from perfect but here is my espresso cake. :)

View attachment 2779View attachment 2780View attachment 2781
Yes!!! Lee that looks like a winner!!! And yes that baker’s grease is amazing stuff. and I agree I don’t know why anyone would bother with flouring a tin. You must report back on the flavor of this cake. I hope it doesn’t disappoint you.
 

Lee_C

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Yes!!! Lee that looks like a winner!!! And yes that baker’s grease is amazing stuff. and I agree I don’t know why anyone would bother with flouring a tin. You must report back on the flavor of this cake. I hope it doesn’t disappoint you.
Thanks NCB! And thanks for the recipe. It tastes great! And the sponge is lovely and tender. :D Also, I shouldn't have questioned the amount of coffee powder. There's no doubt it's a coffee cake but it's still on the subtle side, though the icing definitely compensates for that. So yes, what I thought was too much espresso at 20g would have been perfect, perhaps even a little more. So I've put that in my recipe notes for next time.

Ok, now for the not so great things. As a sort of debrief, I wonder if you might help troubleshoot a couple of things that didn't go quite right.

The cake is higher on one side. I'm not sure why. You can see from the photo below that the left side is more 'swollen'. I've marked it in yellow. Also, you'll notice that the base of the sponge cracked on the same side as the swollen area. I've marked it with a yellow arrow.

20200227_173609.jpg

I've checked my oven baking rack with a spirit level and it's not absolutely 100% level, I think maybe I need to order a new one from Bosch. I don't know if that's causing the problem. I did what I could to level the batter in the pan before putting in the oven.

And finally, some of the sponge has a nice fluffy crumb, and some of it looks slightly underdone. I've marked the good side with a smile and the not so good side with a frown, lol.

20200227_173824.jpg


What I noticed is that the slightly underdone sponge seems to be in the same area of the cake as where it's swollen and cracked. I suppose with hindsight I could have baked it for an hour and a half. But do you have any suggestions for me to get a perfectly level cake with no cracks and no underdone bits of batter?
 

Norcalbaker59

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Thanks NCB! And thanks for the recipe. It tastes great! And the sponge is lovely and tender. :D Also, I shouldn't have questioned the amount of coffee powder. There's no doubt it's a coffee cake but it's still on the subtle side, though the icing definitely compensates for that. So yes, what I thought was too much espresso at 20g would have been perfect, perhaps even a little more. So I've put that in my recipe notes for next time.

Ok, now for the not so great things. As a sort of debrief, I wonder if you might help troubleshoot a couple of things that didn't go quite right.

The cake is higher on one side. I'm not sure why. You can see from the photo below that the left side is more 'swollen'. I've marked it in yellow. Also, you'll notice that the base of the sponge cracked on the same side as the swollen area. I've marked it with a yellow arrow.

View attachment 2782

I've checked my oven baking rack with a spirit level and it's not absolutely 100% level, I think maybe I need to order a new one from Bosch. I don't know if that's causing the problem. I did what I could to level the batter in the pan before putting in the oven.

And finally, some of the sponge has a nice fluffy crumb, and some of it looks slightly underdone. I've marked the good side with a smile and the not so good side with a frown, lol.

View attachment 2783


What I noticed is that the slightly underdone sponge seems to be in the same area of the cake as where it's swollen and cracked. I suppose with hindsight I could have baked it for an hour and a half. But do you have any suggestions for me to get a perfectly level cake with no cracks and no underdone bits of batter?
Given that the cake is cracked where it appears to be under done your problem is over mixing.

What type of mixer do you have a stand mixer or handmixer? If you have a stand mixer use the paddle attachment. The instructions say to use cold butter so you’re fine with the butter temperature.

The speed of the mixer should be medium speed. Never cream at high speed.

If you have a handmixer you unfortunately have beaters no paddle. So it’s very important that you cream at a medium speed. It’s going to take longer to get through the process but you do not want to over beat.

It’s also very important that you do not over mix once you add the flour. Mix the flour in at the lowest speed, and mix until it’s just incorporated into a batter.

Gummy streaks is usually a sign of over creaming the butter at too high a speed and over mixing the batter, too stiff a batter, too much protein in the flour

Cracking on top, and essentially that is the top of the cake, is caused by several things: overmixing, too high an oven temperature, and/or not enough sugar in the batter.

There’s enough sugar and liquid in this recipe. The dark metal might be conducting a bit too much heat. Also, I believe you have a countertop oven which has a smaller oven chamber; given the large deep pan you might want to reduce the oven temperature slightly and increase the bake time.
 

Lee_C

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Thanks NCB. Addressing your points, I don't know if it was overmixed but it's certainly possibly.

Yes I used a stand mixer with paddle attachment. The flour was added in 3 portions on the lowest speed alternating with the coffee and I was conscious of beating it just until incorporated. But maybe I still beat it a bit longer than I should have. The lowest speed on my stand mixer isn't really that slow, certainly not as slow as I've seen on a kitchen aid stand mixer.

For the butter, the recipe actually says cream on high speed in a stand mixer with paddle attachment until smooth, so I did it on the highest setting.

You're correct that I have a counter top oven and yes it's not that big. To fit two 8" tins in it they don't sit side by side, one will always be pushed slightly more in front.

I agree, the dark tin might have conducted too much heat so next time I'll bake at 160c for at least an hour and a half.

Seeing as the cake is a bit sloping, I can't help thinking that more batter is filling part of the tin on one side than the other and taking longer to bake through. Do you think that's a possibility or should it not really matter that much if a cake tin isn't sitting exactly at 0 degrees horizontal? Maybe I should turn my cakes someway through the baking, but I might risk deflating it.
 
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Norcalbaker59

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Thanks NCB. Addressing your points, I don't know if it was overmixed but it's certainly possibly.

Yes I used a stand mixer with paddle attachment. The flour was added in 3 portions on the lowest speed alternating with the coffee and I was conscious of beating it just until incorporated. But maybe I still beat it a bit longer than I should have. The lowest speed on my stand mixer isn't really that slow, certainly not as slow as I've seen on a kitchen aid stand mixer.

For the butter, the recipe actually says cream on high speed in a stand mixer with paddle attachment until smooth, so I did it on the highest setting.

You're correct that I have a counter top oven and yes it's not that big. To fit two 8" tins in it they don't sit side by side, one will always be pushed slightly more in front.

I agree, the dark tin might have conducted too much heat so next time I'll bake at 160c for at least an hour and a half.

Seeing as the cake is a bit sloping, I can't help thinking that more batter is filling part of the tin on one side than the other and taking longer to bake through. Do you think that's a possibility or should it not really matter that much if a cake tin isn't sitting exactly at 0 degrees horizontal? Maybe I should turn my cakes someway through the baking, but I might risk deflating it.
Regarding the creaming of the butter, go over and review Stella Parks article on creaming of the butter. What’s most important is what you’re looking for in the texture. If you start with the 18°C butter, or colder because frankly I cream butter right out of the refrigerator, what you’re looking for is specific change in texture. I believe Park’s article has a video as well. So please review that because you’re looking for texture change. Beating at high-speed during creaming will cause the gummy streaks.

The instructions say to beat until smooth after each addition when adding the flour and coffee. It’s correct that you want to use the absolute lowest speed. But just mix until combined after each addition. Overmixing at this stage will develop too much gluten.


So you see the speed of the mixer at the different stages of micauses different problems.

On other matters:

egg whites:

Beating: use 1/4 tsp cream of tartar to stabilize. Begin beating your egg whites for about 30 seconds. Then add your cream of tartar.

Folding: when folding in the egg whites use the balloon whisk rather than a spatula.

Transfer the batter to a large wide bowl if you have one. Scoop 25% of the whipped egg white in the center. Run the whisk down the middle of the bowl through the egg whites and batter and gently lift up the batter fold it over the whites. Make a quarter turn on the bowl. Then repeat.

Run the whisk down the middle of the bowl through the egg whites and batter and gently lift up the batter fold it over the whites. Make a quarter turn on the bowl. Then repeat. Continue several times until there’s just slight streaks of a egg whites.

Add the remaining egg whites in two additions.

Regarding lopsided cake: I do not believe that the issue is so much the rack. You’ve been baking other cakes in your oven with out an extreme lopsided problem correct? It just looks more obvious with this cake because the depth of the cake is greater. I believe the problem is uneven heating in your oven. And the dark metal just makes controlling the bake more difficult as it conducts heat more intensity. Batter bakes from the outside inward. We are the cake is higher in cracking you have much more intense heat. What is happening is the cake is setting too fast near the outside. Towards the center the batter continues to rise. But that batter that already sets is hard. As the liquid batter continues to rise, the set part cracks. It’s like a volcano.

But the other side of the cake is OK. So most likely uneven heating in the oven.

Reduce the baking temperature by about 15°. You can also try a DIY baking strip
 

Lee_C

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Thanks for those tips NCB, I'll follow those. I like the volcano analogy, makes perfect sense. I'll use some cream of tartar next time, I've got some here. When you say fold until there's some slight streaks of egg white, can it still have streaks showing before going into the cake tin?

Well, as far as lopsided cakes, I've not had extreme sloping but I have noticed some sloping when I've made a sandwich cake, batter didn't rise completely evenly, it would rise a bit more on one side, as though some batter had drifted a little sideways. More so in one tin than the other so the tins aren't sitting as straight as they should. I messed around with the rack the other day trying to bend it straight. I might have made it worse!

But I'm getting more cakes with undercooked batter than not.

I agree that it's most likely more to do with what you said about uneven heating. Hmm, how does one fix that short of replacing the oven. How is your oven, does it keep keep even temperature, or do you ever get any issues with unbaked batter?

Mine's a Bosch so you'd kind of expect it to be spot on. It's 8 years old, maybe could do with a service. I do keep my eye on my oven thermometer which basically fluctuates 10c up and down. If for instance I set the oven to 160c, the needle goes back and forth between 160 and 170; no idea if that's an acceptable tolerance.

I'll reduce my baking temperature by 15c and bake for a fair bit longer, hopefully it will eradicate this recurring unbaked batter issue. Maybe I can turn the tin when I think it's risen enough and perhaps I can put foil on top of the cake to stop it getting hard and overbaked while the inside continues to cook.

I've got Wilton baking strips for my two Wilton aluminium tins and one wider PME belt for my springform tin. However, I don't think there would be a way to put a belt around a bundt tin.
 

Norcalbaker59

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Thanks for those tips NCB, I'll follow those. I like the volcano analogy, makes perfect sense. I'll use some cream of tartar next time, I've got some here. When you say fold until there's some slight streaks of egg white, can it still have streaks showing before going into the cake tin?

Well, as far as lopsided cakes, I've not had extreme sloping but I have noticed some sloping when I've made a sandwich cake, batter didn't rise completely evenly, it would rise a bit more on one side, as though some batter had drifted a little sideways. More so in one tin than the other so the tins aren't sitting as straight as they should. I messed around with the rack the other day trying to bend it straight. I might have made it worse!

But I'm getting more cakes with undercooked batter than not.

I agree that it's most likely more to do with what you said about uneven heating. Hmm, how does one fix that short of replacing the oven. How is your oven, does it keep keep even temperature, or do you ever get any issues with unbaked batter?

Mine's a Bosch so you'd kind of expect it to be spot on. It's 8 years old, maybe could do with a service. I do keep my eye on my oven thermometer which basically fluctuates 10c up and down. If for instance I set the oven to 160c, the needle goes back and forth between 160 and 170; no idea if that's an acceptable tolerance.

I'll reduce my baking temperature by 15c and bake for a fair bit longer, hopefully it will eradicate this recurring unbaked batter issue. Maybe I can turn the tin when I think it's risen enough and perhaps I can put foil on top of the cake to stop it getting hard and overbaked while the inside continues to cook.

I've got Wilton baking strips for my two Wilton aluminium tins and one wider PME belt for my springform tin. However, I don't think there would be a way to put a belt around a bundt tin.
Wow, if your oven is fluctuating up-and-down 10° while baking you definitely want to get that thing checked and calibrated. Electric comes up to temperature a lot slower, but it should hold the temperature more accurately than a gas oven. So something is definitely not right if you are seeing the thermometer routinely fluctuate 10°.

Bosch makes very good appliances. All I’ve never had one of their ovens, I’ve had their dishwashers, and they’re definitely superior to other brands I’ve had.

I have a freestanding gas range with oven. I preheat my oven for a good 30 - 35 minutes before I begin to bake. Once my oven comes to temperature it does hold pretty steady.

Heat is energy. Energy does not rise contrary to what people say/believe. The air in the oven chamber heats. The air closest to the heating element, which is usually in the oven floor, will heat and it will then displace the cold air in the oven chamber, forcing the cold air in the upper part of the chamber down.

This process takes some time. to ensure the air in the oven chamber is fully heated preheat your countertop oven at least 25 - 30 minutes before you begin to bake.

Yes the slightly lopsided cakes in your regular cake tins is also from the uneven heating. Imight be slightly unlevel but that rack is not going to cause that much of a lopsided cake. Trust me it is the uneven heating in the oven chamber; it might be slightly unlevel but that rack is not going to cause that much of a lopsided cake.

Part of it is the size of your oven chamber. Part of it is the type of metal and coating of the cake tin. Part of it is the heating element. And part of it is just having tins in the oven itself. The hot air gets displaced by the tins. So just having the tins in the oven changes how the air circulates around the oven chamber.

Oh I forgot to ask do you have fan assist? If yes, can you turn it off? Or if not, is it adjustable? If it is turn it down to the lowest setting.

If your crumb is consistently under baked that is simply not baking the cake long enough. Try going by temperature. I’ve given you temperature guides on different types of cake. So instead of inserting a toothpick, do the touch test them check the temperature for doneness.

When you fold in the last addition of egg whites you want to get all of it folded in. But the first two additions just fold until you see a few white streaks. That way you don’t overmix the batter.

You would have to make a baking belt out of wet paper towels and aluminum foil for the Bundt pan.

edit: try these other things before you attempt to rotate the cake pan while baking. Rotating the pan during baking is problematic for a couple reasons. One you open the oven door and release all that heat. And your oven is pretty small. Two you risk collapsing the cake by jiggling it around before starch gelatinization has completed.
 
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Lee_C

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Thanks very much NCB, awesome instruction and advice as usual. I think you're right that I should get an oven engineer to check my oven over. Maybe the heating element needs replacing. I think initially I'll buy another oven thermometer. I've dropped mine a couple of times and although it seems to work, it displays the temperature that I set a few minutes after the oven light goes off. That's the oven light that says the oven has supposedly reached the correct temperature. I want to see if a new thermometer performs differently and if it also fluctuates.

I usually preheat the oven until the oven light goes off, this takes about 15 to 20 minutes I think. And then I wait some more until the thermometer says it's at the set temperature.

Yep, my oven is fan assisted. But this is a great suggestion you just made. Maybe switching the fan off, and I'm pretty sure my oven has a non fan setting, will bake my cakes better. If I turn the fan off, how should I adjust baking time and temperature? Still reduce by 15c and bake for longer?


Do you think baking on the lowest shelf instead of middle shelf would see any improvement or make things worse?
 
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