Cake FAQ

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

a) Why didn't your cake rise?  »
Short answer: Because you did not follow the recipe.

Long answer:
  1. Egg whites were overwhisked and inextensible.
  2. Whisked egg whites, kept waiting too long, deteriorated and became inextensible.
  3. Eggs/yolks were underwhisked. Didn't have enough air bubbles.
  4. Whisked eggs deflated when mixed with oil/melted butter and dry ingredients.
  5. Not enough eggs/whites/yolks.
  6. Not enough non-fat liquids, so not enough steam to help the cake rise.
  7. Batter was too thick. Thick batter was too heavy to rise well.
  8. Batter was too thin. Thin batter allowed air bubbles to escape easily.
  9. Too little baking powder/soda.
  10. Baking powder was stale.
  11. Too little acid. Baking soda couldn't activate.
  12. Too much acid. Batter was set before it could rise.
  13. Wrong flour type.
  14. Batter was kept waiting too long before it was baked, allowing air bubbles to escape, and the baking powder and whisked egg whites to deteriorate.
  15. Oven wasn't hot enough. Without enough heat, air bubbles couldn't expand, water couldn't convert to steam, and double-acting baking powder couldn't activate.
  16. Oven was too hot. Batter was set before it could rise.
  17. Wrong pan type, which affected the heat transfer. 
  18. Pan was too wide. Shallow batter was set before it could rise.

b) Why did your cake crack?   »
Short answer: Because you did not follow the recipe.

Long answer:
  1. Egg whites were underwhisked and too extensible.
  2. Too much egg white. 
  3. Too little flour.
  4. Oven was too hot.
  5. Top of oven was too hot. The crust hardened too quickly, then ruptured when the batter underneath puffed up.
  6. Too much baking powder/soda.
  7. Too much non-fat liquid.
  8. Wrong pan type.
  9. Pan was too narrow.

c) Why did your cake collapse/sink/deflate?  »
Short answer: Because you did not follow the recipe.

Long answer:
  1. Egg whites were underwhisked and provided poor structural support.
  2. Oven was too hot. Cake rose higher than it should, so it came back down due to insufficient structural support.
  3. Too much baking soda/powder.
  4. Too much acid. Strictly speaking, the cake didn't sink. The sides rose but the centre didn't, so it looked like the centre sank.
  5. Uneven mixing.
  6. Too little flour.
  7. Underbaked.
  8. Cooling down method was wrong. Fragile cakes need to cool down inverted and stuck to the pan or they would sink.

d) Why was there a hard layer at the bottom of your cake?  »
Because the batter set too slowly, allowing starch to separate and sink to the bottom of the pan, where it hardened.

Why did the batter set too slowly?

Short answer: Because you did not follow the recipe.

Long answer:
  1. Oven wasn't hot enough.
  2. "Bathtub", if there was a water-bath, wasn't metallic.
  3. "Bath water" wasn't hot enough.
  4. Not enough acid.
  5. Not enough eggs.
  6. Not enough flour.
  7. Not enough starch.
  8. Not enough cream cheese.
  9. Wrong type of cream cheese, that didn't have enough starch.
  10. Too much liquid.

e) Why did your cake shrink after cooling down?  »
All cakes shrink as they cool down.

Japanese Strawberry Shortcake
(草莓奶油蛋糕; Strawberry Cream Cake)

Monday, 9 December 2013

Japanese strawberry shortcake is a layered sponge cake filled and topped with whipped cream and strawberries. It is what I call a ménage à trois made in heaven, because each party brings out the best in the other two.

The red and white cake is very popular in Japan, especially for Christmas. I guess having the same colour scheme as Santa Claus wins a lot of votes during the Yuletide season.

Honey Castella (Kasutera) Cake (蜂蜜蛋糕)

Thursday, 14 November 2013


The traditional mould for baking Castella cake is a bottomless wooden box frame.

Where to get a Castella wooden mould?

Fluffy Chocolate Sponge Cake (巧克力海绵蛋糕)

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, please meet my seized chocolate cake:

Seized?

Don't worry, I haven't seized anything from anyone. It's cocoa powder that's doing the seizing, not me.

Pandan Sponge Cupcakes (班兰海绵杯子蛋糕)

Thursday, 26 September 2013


I like my pandan sponge cupcakes very much. Made with pandan juice and coconut oil, the little cakes are very fragrant and the green colour is totally natural. The crumb is soft and fluffy, and it's still moist the next day.

Vanilla Sponge Cupcakes (香草海绵杯子蛋糕)

Friday, 30 August 2013

The cake is fluffy, moist and not too holey. The buttercream is velvety smooth and not too rich or too sweet. The roses look reasonably like roses, and stayed that way without air-condition.

Yup, I'm happy with my vanilla cupcakes.

My sponge cupcakes are made with whole eggs, i.e. the eggs aren't separated. This method is a bit tricky because yolks and whites whisked together deflate easily when you add flour and butter/oil. Deflated batter makes cupcakes that are dense and hard.

Pandan Chiffon Cupcakes (班兰戚风杯子蛋糕)

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Pandan chiffon cake hot from the oven is way better than cold pandan chiffon cake.

That's a bit like saying Bill Gates is rich, or Angelina Jolie has thick lips. We all know that.

So when was the last time you had pandan chiffon cake that was still hot?

WHAT? You've always had PCC stone-cold?

Oh . . . my . . . God . . . . Oh dear, POOR YOU!