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Troubleshooting Butter Cakes  

Sometimes our butter cakes don't turn out the way we expected.  Maybe they are domed, or sink in the middle, or are too heavy, or have holes.  There are many reasons that cakes fail and understanding these reasons will help to prevent the next disaster.  To find out more about the techniques used in making butter cakes go to the Butter or Shortened Cake page.

When baking butter cakes, as with all baking, it is very important to accurately measure or weigh all your ingredients.  Having too little or too much of any one ingredient will affect the outcome of the cake.  Also, the correct oven temperature is paramount to a wonderful cake.  A perfectly measured and mixed batter will fail if your oven temperature is incorrect.  Therefore, if you find your cakes are done before the specified time, invest in a good freestanding oven thermometer to accurately measure the temperature of your oven. 

Proper mixing of the batter will also affect the outcome.   With the creaming method, creaming the butter and sugar develops air cells in the batter, which helps give cakes their volume and texture.  Sifting the flour with the baking powder/soda prevents uneven distribution of the leavener which can cause holes in the finished cake.  When adding the flour to the batter, do not overmix or it will produce too much gluten.   Too much gluten causes a cracked and domed top.

Some common problems and their causes are:

DOMED or CRACKED SURFACE and/or TUNNELS -

- batter over mixed

- wrong type of flour or too much

- too little baking powder/soda or sugar

- oven temperature too hot

CAKE SINKS IN THE CENTER -

- batter over mixed

- too much fat and/or sugar or leavening

- not enough liquid

- oven temperature too low

CAKE DIDN'T RISE (COMPACT TEXTURE)

- improper mixing

- butter and eggs wrong temperature

- too much or too little fat

- too little baking powder or baking powder is too old

- oven temperature too hot

- wrong pan size

TOP CRUST IS TOO DARK OR HARD

- over baked

- wrong oven temperature

- too much sugar, baking powder/baking soda

COARSE GRAIN AND DRY

- oven temperature too low

- too much baking powder/baking soda

- too little liquid

CAKE FALLING APART

- too much baking powder/baking soda, sugar, or fat

- improper mixing

- oven temperature too low