Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Yes, I made a cake that flopped

Yes it's true, even experienced bakers such as myself make cakes that flop every now and then.

This is my failed attempt at this week's Heavenly Cake Bakers selection of the Chocolate Tweed Angel Food Cake from Rose's Heavenly Cakes. I've successfully made many Angel Food cakes over the years. Never had one fall until today.


The recipe started innocently enough - I carefully weighed each of the ingredients.


Whipped my room temperature egg whites to the frothy stage before adding cream of tartar.


Continued beating, adding the sugar as directed. Whipped until the whites reached stiff peaks.


Carefully folded in the flour, salt, sugar mixture.


Carefully folded in the grated chocolate.


So far, so good.


Now here is where I did something I had never done before... I "prepared" the sides of the ungreased tube pan with a thin layer of cake batter (as directed in the recipe). The process was uneventful and I doubt it had anything to do with the cake ultimately falling out of the pan.


A quick run through the batter with a spatula to remove any air bubbles.


I smoothed the batter and cleaned up the edges of the cake pan.


The directions say the cake should bake in the bottom third of a 350F oven for 30-40 minutes, until the batter puffs up, cracks, browns, and starts to shrink back in the pan. Check.

I baked my cake for a total of 35 minutes.


The cake is then immediately inverted over a bottle to cool upside down.
(again, as directed in the recipe)


But less than a minute later, I watched as the cake fell right out of the pan.


I don't know what happened. We've had quite a bit of rain over the last 3 days, and I know egg whites and humidity don't jive, but there hasn't been any rain today and my whites whipped up nicely. The humidity is currently 61% - not sure if that led to the fall or not. I'll quit while I'm ahead and serve this cake as is to the kids when they get home from school. I'm sure they won't mind.

Update - the humidity was 61% when I started this cake 2 hours ago, but I just checked again and it seems the humidity has risen to 78% - thoughts?

You win some, you loose some.
What can I say.



Note - many bakers in the group had no trouble with this recipe, but a few of us ended up with fallen cakes. If you're so inclined to give it a go, the recipe is posted here on NPRs website. I've copied it below.

Chocolate Tweed Angel Food Cake by Rose Levy Beranbaum
Serves 14 to 16

1-1/2 cups, divided superfine sugar
3/4 cup cake flour, lightly spooned and leveled off (or 1 cup, sifted into the cup and leveled off)
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 large egg whites, at room temperature, or 2 cups
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 ounces fine-quality unsweetened or 99% cacao chocolate, chilled, finely grated, refrigerated

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT:One ungreased 10-inch (16 cups) two-piece metal tube pan or 1 long-necked glass wine or soda bottle, or a large inverted metal funnel that will fit into the opening at the top of the pan. (Have this ready before baking and weight it by filling it with sugar or marbles to keep it from tipping)

PREHEAT THE OVEN: Twenty minutes or more before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.

PREPARE THE SUGAR, FLOUR, AND SALT: In a small bowl, whisk together half the sugar, the flour, and salt until evenly combined. Sift the remaining sugar onto a piece of wax paper.

BEAT THE EGG WHITES INTO A STIFF MERINGUE: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. With the mixer off, add the cream of tartar. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Gradually beat in the sifted sugar and continue beating on medium-high speed until very stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. Beat in the vanilla until combined.

MAKE THE BATTER: Dust (lightly sprinkle) the flour mixture over the beaten whites, 1/4 cup at a time (if using cake flour, sift it over the whites). With a large balloon whisk, slotted skimmer, or large silicone spatula, fold in the flour mixture quickly but gently. It is not necessary to incorporate every speck until the last addition. Fold in the grated chocolate until evenly incorporated. Using a long narrow spatula or silicone spatula, spread a thin layer of batter onto the sides of the prepared pan to ensure smooth sides. Empty the rest of the batter into the pan. In a 16-cup pan, it will be 1/2-inch from the top of the rim. Run a small metal spatula or knife through the batter to prevent air pockets and smooth the surface evenly.

BAKE THE CAKE: Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown, a wire cake tester inserted between the tube and the side comes out clean, and the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center. (A wooden toothpick will still have a few moist crumbs clinging to it.) During baking, the center will rise about 2 inches above the pan, but it will sink to almost level with the pan when done. The surface will have deep cracks, like a souffle.

COOL AND UNMOLD THE CAKE: Invert the pan immediately, placing the tube opening over the neck of the bottle to suspend it well above the countertop. Cool completely in the pan, about 1-1/2 hours.

Loosen the sides of the pan with a long narrow spatula and remove the center core of the pan. Dislodge the cake from the bottom and center core with a metal spatula or thin sharp knife. (A wire cake tester or wooden skewer works well around the core. To keep the sides attractive, press the spatula firmly against the sides of the pan, moving the spatula up and down as you go around it.) Invert the cake onto a flat plate covered with plastic wrap that has been coated lightly with nonstick cooking spray and reinvert it onto a serving plate. Allow the cake to sit for 1 hour, or until the top is no longer tacky. Then cover it with a cake dome or wrap it airtight. It keeps for 3 days at room temperature and for 10 days refrigerated. Freezing toughens the texture. The cake is also lovely decorated simply with a light sprinkling of cocoa or lacy drizzles of melted chocolate. Do not serve this cake with sauce as it would fall apart.

49 comments:

  1. Hum? Since others had similar problems with the cake falling perhaps you needed to cool a bit on a rack before inverting it onto the bottle? I usually take my angel food cakes out and put them right on the bottle so I am not sure that really was the problem. Could it be the chocolate? Now I am curious and thanks for taking the time to post the recipe but I will pass on this one as I myself have had two major disasters in the kitchen this past month and I don't have the patience for my 3rd flop:)
    Joyce

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  2. Hi Joyce - the recipe specifically states, "invert pan immediately". I've never had a problem with the step before, so I'm at a loss.

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  3. Oh no!!!! Yours is pretty brown so it couldn't be underbaked. You didn't even use a non-stick pan (which is all I have but used successfully in the past). So weird!!! How long did you end up baking it for? I hope Rose can shed some light on this.

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  4. Hi Hanaa - it was in the oven for 35 minutes. I used Wondra flour as the recipe in the book prefers. I see Wondra was not included in the recipe from NPRs website.

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  5. Hmmmm... interesting point. I bought Wondra just for this cake. I haven't made this cake yet. If I had time I'd make one with Wondra and one with cake flour. All my previous AF cakes were made with cake flour (all 2 of them! ha ha).

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  6. I just updated my post - the humidity was 61% when I started the cake, but it has risen to 78% since then. I'm pretty sure that had something to do with the fall.

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  7. I agree. That's more plausible. It looks salvagable though. I see a trifle in your future :o)

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  8. Patrincia, I've been there- my first chiffon cake fell out of its pan during cooling, too. And it ended up looking much worse than yours!

    Not sure I know why it did that, but two possibilities are a draft, or too much egg white. You did mention that you weighed everything, though, and it's not likely that you had the windows open at this time of year, right? so I'm stumped.

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  9. No matter the state of the cake ... I would enjoy breaking pieces of it, popping them into my mouth and asking for more!

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  10. I would blame it on the fat in the chocolate pieces. At high temperatures, it has potential to spread itself around and become a lubricant. You can see from your photos that the cake did not attach itself to the edges of the pan (which normally is how it rises) instead, it fell slightly during baking.

    Humidity can not really be to blame if the cake fell from the pan almost immediately- it would take a little bit longer for the the cake to soak up that extra humidity and cause problems.

    Even though this seems like a very delicate and tender cake, I bet it still tastes good!

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  11. I'm thinking if it didn't work for you, I have no chance. I'm thinking for my baby steps into baking, I'm going to keep trying my one brownie mix until it comes out perfectly. One day, maybe, I can do angel food cake which is one of my favorites.

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  12. Julie - I weighed the egg whites to the exact gram, so no chance of that being the problem. Also, no drafts.

    Helen - you're right... it tasted great regardless.

    Stephanie - thanks for your insight. You may be right. I'll have to try this recipe again, minus the chocolate. Rose supplied a vanilla variation in the book.

    :)
    ButterYum

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  13. Hmmm, I'm really intrigued as I've used Rose's books for years and never had less than excellent results. I'm inclined to try it with the cake flour. Maybe Friday...
    Thanks so much for the info and clear step by step of what you did. I agree that it seems to have happened too soon for the humidity to be the problem

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  14. @Stephanie Marie, I'm not sure I can buy the argument that the chocolate kept the cake from attaching to the pan...or at least not as the sole cause. My cake, also made with the chocolate, rose very little, looked about like Patricia's coming out of the oven, yet didn't fall out of the pan. Maybe it's some combination of factors...

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  15. Oh! So sorry your cake fell :(
    I will say that I used Wondra flour, baked it in my non-stick angel food pan (WHY do they make non stick angel food pans?), inverted immediately, and there was no falling out. Also, the humidity Sunday night when I was cooling the cake was about 93%, so.....the mystery continues.

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  16. Thanks for sharing your story Patricia. I'm sure it tasted good. At least it fell out of the pan in one piece and not a million little pieces.

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  17. I just noticed-is there an amount for the chocolate?

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  18. A & P - Good catch.... the recipe on NPRs website omits the amount of chocolate.

    The answer is yes, 2 ounces (56 grams). I updated the post. Thanks so much!

    :)
    ButterYum

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  19. ECL, I have a "non-stick" AFC pan too. I wondered about that also, but it does work better for things like monkey bread, and the AFC still seems to stick to the pan.

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  20. My first chiffon cake flopped too! And I did manage to pick up some bits and pieces of it which is still good :)
    Your angel food cake still looks airy and fluffy though :)

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  21. I'm sorry the cake fell, but DANG it was perfect all the way along. (Great pictures!)

    What a disappointment, but you can bet it would never see the trash bin at my house. :D

    I'm with Helen, I would love to take little pinches from it to enjoy with tea or coffee. I hope your children loved it, and I'm sure they did! xo

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  22. Hi Patricia, I do not have as much experience baking as you. The recipe looks yummy, even the fallen cake, but I don't think I can give it a try, the same or worse will happen to me, I know it!

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  23. Oh Noooooo! I'm so sorry to hear your cake flopped! I didn't prepare the sides of the pan - actually i don't remember reading that part either. I didnt know angel food cake can dropped out like that until i read Marie's & your post. I must have beginner's luck. Plus i used a non-stick pan...

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  24. ב''ה

    Sorry your cake fell. :(

    From the picture above it looks like the sides of the cake after baking were very much separated from the sides of the pan and only still attached in the middle. Perhaps there is a limit to how much it is supposed to back off from the sides before you take it out?

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  25. Sorry it fell.....but it still looks good!

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  26. Oh, no! I'm feeling very lucky that my cake left the pan when it was supposed to. BTW, it still looks delicious!

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  27. Oh Girl you mean all angel food cakes don't do that ha ha!! I have some that has broke in 2 and pasted them with icing back together ha ha!!! Hugs and smiles Gl♥ria

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  28. Oh, Say it aint so! Not you! You are my baking hero!!! And looking at the final product- I would have called this a fabulous success,put it on a fancy cake plate and made my family throw accolades at me. As you can see I am not a baker. But since I've been addicted to your blog, I am actually baking more.
    I say hack it up and make a triffle! I bet it tastes yummy anyway.
    Yvonne

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  29. Your story reminds me of the chocolate angel food cake I baked years ago that ended up on the kitchen counter in pieces. I served large chunks with a chocolate sauce. Everyone thought it was very good.

    Onwards and upwards!

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  30. It looks gorgeous though! Really, it would have made a beautiful trifle. Rose should add a sidenote in the second printing on how to turn naughty cakes into trifles. It would have been spectacular layered with the whipped cream mixture and mini chocolate chips "pelted" over the top.

    I thought for certain mine would be a complete flop. We're on out TENTH straight day of rain.
    I noticed the bottom of the cake was super moist when it's cooling time was finally up. I think the only thing that saved it from falling out was being stuck good and tight to the sides and center tube. I didn't know about that shrinkage bit.

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  31. Professional Baker for years but, have been away from it for 17 yrs....wouldn't the fat content in the choc. affect it?

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  32. Cindy - That's what a baking friend and I were thinking. I used Belgian chocolate which didn't specify the cocoa percentage.

    :)
    ButterYum

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  33. Patricia! You read my mind! I just posted a failure cake too! =)

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  34. Patricia - This is such an interesting experience to follow. I know that you will bake this cake again, and will discover what caused it to fall. This is a great puzzle for us all, and you are my mentor so I know the answer will soon appear. lol. joan

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  35. oh...no....
    :(
    :(
    ah well,
    pass a fork please :) :)

    i applaud your strength to blog "mini boo boos"

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  36. Oh thank GOD! You make me feel like we are both human! Things dont always go perfectly right in the kitchen for any of us!! So hats off to you for showing everyone a slice of imperfection!
    We all have these mishaps in the kitchen!

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  37. Ouch.

    I have no words of advice, because I have never baked an angel food cake in the proper pan. (Otherwise I would no doubt have photos that echoed yours!).

    Great separation from the pan though! And it still looks perfect to eat... nothing that a little whipped cream couldn't mask. Call it a stunt cake.

    I bet the next time you make this it will be perfect.

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  38. Thanks! I'm going to give it a whirl and I'll update with the results

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  39. Oops- Was saying that I thought it was sad that you put in all that work and it didn't turn out, I hate that! Love blogging and finding new recipes... Will you try this one again soon?

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  40. Thanks for the post...I'm sure this will find a way to happen to me as well. Although it's usually very dry here, so I may have that in my favour! I love the Clearly Canadian bottle...it's been years since I've seen one and I'm in Canada!

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  41. The only time this happens to me - and it has - is when my pan is not completely grease free. Years ago we were directed to never use the pan used to bake an angel food cake for any other reason. I, of course, do, but I always rewash the pan before using. I wonder here, if the fat in the chocolate might be the problem. Others are having the same difficulty. Be of good cheer! In the light of eternity it's a small thing. I admire your honesty. Blessings...Mary

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  42. Thanks Mary - perhaps it was the chocolate. I used Belgian Chocolate that was brought to me from a trip out of the country. No fat content was disclosed on the packaging. Will try the vanilla version next time and see if there is a difference.

    Sherrie - I love that Clearly Canadian bottle too. I've been using it to cool my angel food cakes for at least 15 years... maybe longer. Every time we move, the movers say, "Uh, do you want to keep this empty bottle?". My answer is always, "Oh yes, I need that bottle".

    :)
    ButterYum

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  43. This angel food cake trickiness had me curious.
    Baking 911 has a chart with angel food cake problems. I'm sure I got beginners luck. After reading her page, I may never make another one!
    http://www.baking911.com/cakes/problems.htm

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  44. Haha that's funny but a shame to let such a good looking cake go to waste. Thanks for the comment on my blog. I'll be following you.

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  45. Oh, what a shame! Hopefully you still got to enjoy some cake, though.

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  46. I teach baking in a high school and have the same problem periodically. This week we had 10 turn out perfect- not this recipe though. But sometimes your result is my result with no clear cut reason also.
    I'll be watching to see if someone has another idea. Interesting!

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  47. Just found your blog, you are talented in so many ways. I read the recipe and found that Rose recommended coating the sides of the pan to make the sides of the cake not stick. I noticed that you also coated the bottom which probably kept the bottom of the cake from adhering to the pan and might have added to it releasing so quickly once you inverted the pan.

    Thank you for sharing, you are amazing!

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  48. Now you make me curious to try this out.
    1 out of 20 of my chiffon cakes fall out for no reason. I have always wondered whether was it that I overbeat the egg whites. Cos it's the same recipe, but at times it stays or it falls sometimes.
    The humidity here (Malaysia) is pretty much the same, at about 60+ most of the time.

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