PROBLEM SOLVED

How to solve common baking problems

Cake fails are not unheard of, even among skilled professional bakers.

In Summary

•Owning a thermometer designed for use inside an oven is a sure bet that allows one to check what their oven temperature is without relying solely on any indications that the oven itself may give you.

•If your cake is still soft and sticky in the middle, it means it is under baked.  This is one of the most common telltales that the cake hasn't been  baked long enough. 

An image of a burnt cake
An image of a burnt cake
Image: Courtesy/reddit.com

Baking is fun and artistic but it does have its twists every once in a while.

Cake fails are not unheard of, even among skilled professional bakers.

Sometimes it's not even your fault rather than a piece of equipment or maybe even an ingredient you chose.

Below are some common baking mistakes that might occur, what might have led to them and how to avoid/ deal with them.

The burnt cake even if you followed the stipulated time correctly.

A leaking oven door seal, poor calibration or an ageing thermostat, can all be possible culprits of failure when it not only comes to reaching but also maintaining a consistent oven temperature.

The best way of knowing if your oven is running hot hence overcooking your cakes is to use an oven thermometer

Owning a thermometer designed for use inside an oven is a sure bet that allows one to check what their oven temperature is without relying solely on any indications that the oven itself may give you.

Followed the recipe, but the cake hasn't risen

If this happens, there's a good chance that the baking powder you used has lost its leavening power which can happen if it's expired.

To confirm if it's still okay, drop a teaspoon of the powder into a small bowl of hot water.

If it bubbles immediately, then the baking powder is still fine for consumption. If it doesn't, that's an indicator that the powder has expired and needs to be replaced. 

Cake has spilt over the sides of the tin

This happens when the baking tin is small.

Just like how rice swells, most pastries behave the same way, especially cakes. If the tin you use is smaller than the mixture you poured in it'll most definitely spill over once it rises as it has no space.

A half filled baking tin to avoid the cake spilling over when it rises.
A half filled baking tin to avoid the cake spilling over when it rises.
Image: HANNIE PETRA

It's always best to use the tin size stated in the recipe if following one, or avoid filling the tin more than 3/4 full if you have no source of reference so as to give it room.

Gooey centre

If your cake is still soft and sticky in the middle, it means it is underbaked.  This is one of the most common telltales that the cake hasn't been baked long enough.

The easiest, most reliable method before taking out the cake is to insert a metal cake tester into the centre. If the cake is well cooked, the cake tester should come out clean.

It's also advisable to adjust the baking time accordingly if following a recipe and taking the guesswork out of the process 

The cake is stuck in the tin

Thoroughly greasing the baking tin before pouring in the mixture helps ensure this doesn't happen.

After greasing the tin, sprinkle some of the baking flour around the tin and gently shake it to ensure it goes all the way. This will prevent the dough from sticking to the walls of the tin.

Also, it ensures the cake doesn't absorb too much grease during the process.

Waiting for the cake to fully cool before transferring it to a rack also helps.

These tips ought to help you understand where you previously went wrong and do better on the said area next time you embark on a baking spree to ensure perfect pastries.