The cake has sunk, the muffins have peaked and are tough, or the mixture has curdled! What happened, and how can it be fixed?
CREAMED BUTTER AND SUGAR MIX SEPARATES WHEN EGGS ARE ADDED
The butter and sugar were not beaten well enough until light and creamy before the eggs were added. In addition, the eggs may have been too cold, were added too fast, or were not beaten in well enough after each addition.
Solution: Add a spoonful of the flour to bring the mixture back together and beat well. The cake will be okay, though it may be heavier in texture.
BAKED CAKE HAS SUNK IN THE MIDDLE
This can happen if the oven door was opened too early, too much or an incorrect balance
of raising agent was used, too little flour was added, the oven was too cool and the cake has not risen, or the oven was too hot thus appearing cooked when it wasn’t and resulting in not being cooked long enough. It can also happen if the cake tin was too small — if the recipe specifies a 20cm square tin, then do not use a 16cm round one.
Solution: Cut the centre out of the cake and create a ring cake. Crumble the cooled cake and make truffles or use to make trifle.
CAKE IS TOO HEAVY
Not enough leavening (baking powder or whipped egg whites) was used, or too much flour or overmixing, or too few eggs. Alternatively, the oven may have been too cool.
Solution: Serve warm with custard as a pudding, or drench in syrup and serve with fruit and whipped cream.
FRUIT HAS SUNK TO THE BOTTOM
Dried fruits may have been too sticky with sugar or, if washed, not dried thoroughly. Too much raising agent may have been used, or the batter was too soft and during baking the cake mixture was not able to hold the fruit, which ultimately sank.
Solution: Once cooked, invert the cake and surprise guests with fruit at the top. Next time, remember to wash and dry overly sticky fruit before adding to the cake batter.
CAKE BATTER HAS OVERFLOWED DURING BAKING
The baking tin was too small. The mixture should come no higher up the tin than halfway or just above so that it has room to rise (see page 38).
Solution: Cool the oven and clean immediately. Cut off any crusty pieces of cake to make the top of the cake level. Decorate as wished.
BOTTOM OF THE CAKE HAS BURNT
The cake tin’s material is too thin or too dark, or the cake has been baked too close to the bottom of the oven.
Solution: Trim away the dark base. If the cake is dry as a result, drench with syrup or ice and decorate as wished.
TOP OF THE CAKE HAS BURNT
The cake was baked too high in the oven, the oven was too hot or, if the mixture had large amounts of sugar, it was cooked at too high a temperature or for too long.
Solution: Trim off the top and turn upside down to have a level top to decorate. If the cake is dry as a result, drench with syrup.