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asked October 4th 2012

sinking chocolate cake, an old question but need a new answer!

Hi,

Well, I'm pulling my hair out. I have made more chocolate fudge cakes than I care to remember, all perfectly OK (a bit of a crusty top, but that's not a problem). Then I made an 8" square cake and the middle sank after taking it out of the oven. I've never had that before. So, I made another one doing everything exactly as I have always done. I also checked the oven temp with a guage, no probs there. And I didn't open the oven door. This one also sank in the middle. And when I say sank, I mean sank to the extent that even when turned upside down, it just sank from the other direction. I've Googled it extensively and none of the reasons for cakes sinking applies.

The only possible explanation is that I've used Country Life unsalted butter (because it was on offer) instead of my usual butter (although I've used Country Life occasionally before and had no probs) and I've used McDougalls instead of my usual Homepride (I've also used this before with no probs).

I read once about a person having cake problems and finally found out that the manufacturers of Stork (which she usually used) had changed the formulation. She switched to another margarine and all was OK. I've Googled Country Life to see if they've done the same, but nothing's come up of that nature. I also Googled McDougalls, nothing there either. So it's probably not a problem with either of them, I just clutching at straws. I also have a fridge full of darned Country Life to use.

I have orders I need to fulfill so need to get this sorted out asap, plus it's a dear do to keep on having these failures!

Any ideas would be gratefully received!! Thanks

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Hi loobianca

I can't say I have too many problems with sinking cakes and I'm not a careful baker. I've read here and on other sites the lengths people go to with double lining their cake pans, brown paper on the outside heating cores and baking strips. I just line the tin with parchment and bung it in into my rubbish oven! I do find though if my baking powder or soda is getting a bit old that does affect the bake. I don't know whether your recipe uses either of these leavenings. Believe it not, outside temperature can affect baking, so open windows and back doors could influence the oven temperature. Sounds like cluthching at straws, but these are factors to consider. The type of sinking you have described is usually because the cake has not cooked sufficiently in the middle. Try using a flower nail next time. It isn't as big as a heating core so you won't get a hole in the cake, but enough to spread the heat to ensure an even bake. You could use two or three small nails towards the middle of the batter. I'm sorry to hear you have this problem, I know it's expensive and frustrating. G'd luck.

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Thank you MIWL,

I've never had a sinking cake with this recipe before and have used this recipe trillions of times (well, a slight exaggeration!) It's Lindy's chocolate fudge cake recipe. The bicarb isn't old, the doors and windows weren't opened and the cakes are definately cooked in the middle. I also lag the tins as suggested on Lindy's site. Goodness knows what's caused this to happen the last two times but I'm really hacked off about it!

I'm just looking at Jane Hornby's recipe, that other people to seem to like, thinking maybe I ought to try a different recipe. It doesn't mention the size of tin the recipe is for, presumably a 12" square looking at the amount of ingredients? It doesn't say whether the eggs should be medium or large either?

By the way, while I'm on, I usually use Lindy's chart for upsizing or downsizing cakes - I came across the one you and your husband developed today - absolutely brilliant, far more precise, well done! Unfortunately even though I corrected the slightly wrong measurements of ingredients with the second cake today, it didn't solve the sinking problem - but I will definately continue to use your chart, very good indeed!

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Jane's recipe is my always first to go to. It is for a 12" round, I've baked this one, well, I don't know how many times. Don't know what sort of success you've had with Paul's recipe. I bake it quite a lot with very few problems, but I know other members have had issues with it. The only other thing I could suggest is using equal quantities of plain flour and self raising and adding a teaspoon of baking soda if the recipe has butter milk or soured cream. I don't get on with any of Lindy's recipes. I baked her maderia which is really heavy on ingredients and it was a disaster. Have a look at Fiona Cairns chocolate celebration cake as well (12" round springform) very fudgy.
Thank you for your lovely comments for the ready reckoner, I'm so pleased it has helped. Please post with results. x Oh, Jane's recipe I use large eggs, it does need the liquid, make sure you use the BIGGEST, BIGGEST bowl you've got, this is a very large cake!

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Thanks again. No I haven't tried Paul's cake, when I scaled down the ingredients to the tin I wanted they were less than the recipe I usually use, so I was concerned the cake wouldn't end up 3" high. I've meant to make it using the ingredients for the next size up but haven't got around to it. I've tasted Paul's cake because I've been on one of his courses. It's very nice. I don't know how he manages to get is without a crispy top though, the one's he gave us to work on had slightly wrinkled tops but not at all crispy.

Also, I do use equal amounts of plain flour and self raising flour and also the soda - so the problem isn't that either, unfortunately! I'm running out of hope! I also have a bucket (new and washed I might add!) to mix very large cakes in, even my biggest bowl isn't big enough for those cakes!

That's funny you can't get to grips with Lindy's recipe, I always use her madeira recipe. One of her associates did add a bit of extra info about how to bake them successfully - lagging the outside of the tin, putting the tin on a tray with newspaper on, putting a tray on the shelf above with a bowl of water on and finally spooning out the centre of the mix when it's in the tin (right to the bottom of the tin) and spreading that around the edges. It ends up looking like a ringed donut when it goes in the oven! However it produces a perfectly flat top cake and at least 3" high, perfect for client's cakes! Before she added that info it didn't work for me.

Thanks again for your help, much appreciated! x

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I have been inspired to make Paul's designer cake for a friend's birthday so had a go at Paul's chocolate cake.I have just baked cake number 2 as the first one sank a little in the middle when it was cooling, not a massive amount which i can correct with ganache. So not being one to give up I baked another one today and it came out perfect. I double checked the oven temp with a oven thermometer so i knew it was 130 deg and cooked it for 2 hours 20 mins. I hope this helps and unfortunately now i have to eat the first one !!!
By the way it smells gorgeous !!!

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Thanks for your feed back bakinqueen54. It's great to hear you have had two successful bakes. The cake freezes beautifully. You could slice the first one up and freeze individual pieces for later consumption. We eat it as dessert with a dollop of creme fraise or clotted cream. Warmed up, it's fabulous with a splash of your favourite liqueur.
For many more hints and tips from the site community please also check out the following thread:

‘Paul’s moist chocolate cake’ My feed back


The are several pages of comments and tweeks which may be useful in the future. The page numbers are sandwiched between the first and second comment and not at the bottom.
Enjoy your cake!

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Hi I use Paul's recipe all the time, I had the same problems a great number of times but loved the tast so much so persevered. After many attempts and reading through the many (many!) comments regarding this I now use 2/3 of the sugar of the original recipe and this works perfectly every time! Still with the same great taste and texture, I always add glycerine in mine too. Hope this might work for you if you try it, good luck x

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Hi fi28

Thanks for leaving your very useful feed back, the more the merrier! All feedback helps other members who may be experiencing problems with the recipe. I'm so pleased you read through the many, many member comments, hints, tips and tweeks which have led to satisfactory outcome for you. Thanks again!