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Lemon cake problems

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I have a vegan vanilla cake recipe that I turned into a great tasting lemon cake by leaving out the vanilla, adding lemon zest, and replacing part of the water with lemon juice. It came out a bit flat so I added an extra ounce of flour and the problem was solved. I have since tweaked the recipe for my vanilla cake to make it more tender with a finer crumb (substituted an ounce of the flour with cornstarch) and it's worked out well. However it doesn't translate with the lemon cake at all. I've tried mixing it a bit longer to develop more gluten (which worked well for a chocolate cake recipe I was having problems with), but it doesn't work,it just made the cake gummy. It comes out significantly shorter than my layers of other flavors. I've tried to treat this more like a vanilla cake by leaving out the lemon juice so that acid is messing with things and just adding a lot of zest, but I guess the added acid from the lemon oil in the zest still reacts with the leavening and leaves the cake flat. Without giving out the recipe, what other common factors contribute to this problem?
post #2 of 19
Ah Ha! A challenge.
Questions first:
1) Does it rise then fall?
2) What flour are you using?
3) What do you use for shortening?
4) Which mixing method?
post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
Just to add, the last three times I've made the lemon cake, I did it as usual and I'm getting the same results. I haven't changed a darn thing. Same brands of everything.

Now to answer your questions:
1) Does it rise then fall?
Doesn't rise much, then when it cools, it shrinks A LOT. Pulls away from the side of the pan too.
2) What flour are you using?
3) What do you use for shortening?
Canola oil
4) Which mixing method?
Blending dry, then adding wet with the whip attachment.
post #4 of 19
It seems like the lemon juice is relaxing the gluten, and therefore can't handle the leavening. Maybe you can try zest in the batter, and soaking the cake in lemon instead.
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
I did try it with just zest and 1/4 t. lemon oil (ran out of lemons) and I still had the same problems. *sigh*
post #6 of 19
I have a troubleshooting book, so you don't need to give out the recipe---
just read these possible causes of excessive shrinkage:

-Overbaking, cold oven, high leavening content, overmixing, flour too strong, not enough batter in pan, eggs are overbeaten.

Causes of lack of volume:

-Too much shortening, insufficient leavening, , overmixing, excessive moisture, flour too strong, not enough batter in pans, oven is too hot.

Maybe that'll help.
post #7 of 19
just curious, does the recipe call for baking soda or baking powder? if you haven't tried subbing the soda for the powder? that might do the trick. something to do with the chemical interaction with the baking soda and the acid in the lemon.
post #8 of 19
Good point!
post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 
I will try that! Thank you! It calls for 1-1/8 teaspoon baking soda (and 2-1/4 teaspoon baking powder too)... should I just leave the soda out and use 1-1/8 powder or use more/less powder?
post #10 of 19
it's been a long time since baking 1, but i think you should leave the powder out and up the soda, not sure of the exact amount. the soda needs an acid and liquid to cause the leavening reaction. baking powder is a combination of baking soda and a chemical acid and needs just a liquid to cause the leavening action. so you have too much of a reaction with the powder and lemon juice. so it's overkill. double acting powder actually has 2 acids in it, one to work with the liquid ingredients and one that reacts to heat.
hope this helps,
post #11 of 19
Trying to bake a cake with oil, all purpose flour and wild acid. You're brave. You didn't mention if you have any emulsification. I'm guessing this cake will hold very little air as you have no plastic fats to trap the air. Do you have very large irregular size air bubbles? The batter probably has a very high specific gravity (over 1.00). Also, keep in mind, this is a cake batter, we are not developing gluten here so be careful with extended mixing. Could you replace part of the oil with a plastic fat such as Crisco? Could you get your hands on some cake flour. I would leave baking powder in. It is your only source of repeatability as far as leavening is concerned. Baking powder is balanced so that both the acid and the soda are mostly gone when baking is done. Uping the soda is risky. If the soda is not all used up you will eventually taste it. Excessive water in the formula can also cause shrinkage. Good luck.
post #12 of 19
just curious, how does the lemon cake come along?
How about the texture of the cake? Day 1? Day 2? Day 3?????
post #13 of 19
Did you ever get it worked out? You received some good feedback here.
Just curious why apf? concerns: overmixing, the protiens are not really developing. The whip to incorperate the liquid. I'm thinking the paddle all the way.
post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 
Opps, forgot all about this! I made it once and reduced the baking powder and it helped A LOT. The layers weren't as high as they used to be, but the texture was like old times and at least it didn't turn into a flat piece of rubber. I'm still going to play around with it and see if I can get it back to how it used to be. If nothing works, I'll just make more batter for taller cakes.
post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hi Jeff,
This recipe is based off of another recipe and it called for APF. I tried to use cake flour and it never turned out. I used to use pastry flour, but I'm not able to get it unbleached/unbromated white pastry flour anymore without ordering several 50# bags or paying too much for postage. Also, I did try the paddle, but the cakes weren't baking right. Maybe I will try the paddle at least for the lemon cake. The whip works well for the other flavors.

Thanks to everyone for their help and suggestions!
post #16 of 19
Thread Starter 
Almost missed your post!

I'm using a vegan egg replacer. It actually works surprisingly well once you get to know it (the suggested ratios are worthless). I did toy with mixing times and nothing seems to work. Hmmm... excessive water... even though the amount of liquid in it never affected it before, who the heck knows what's going on with this recipe so I will also try reducing the liquid a bit. Thank you for your input.
post #17 of 19
Hi LCS, you have my support, and good luck.
post #18 of 19

Another Suggestion

Sorry I didn't weigh in earlier, I'm new to the site.
My only suggestion after reading all the other posts is to try going back to your original recipe and simply substituting lemon extract for the vanilla extract. Most grocery stores should have it...if they don't you can get some from The Spice House located in Evanston Illinois.


This is a great site for just about any spice or flavoring you could want.
post #19 of 19
Thread Starter 

Praise (the kitchen) God!

It appears that the problem is SOLVED! I tried every combination of what could be contributing to the problem and I am very happy with what came out of the oven 30 minutes ago. I used lot less lemon juice (2/3 less) and to compensate, added even more lemon zest and a small amount of lemon oil. I also further reduced the baking powder to the point where there's less than half of what the original called for. Then I remembered when I first made this cake- I used to whisk it by hand until just incorporated (less gluten) because that's when my arm started getting tired. So "until just incoporated" is what I did today as well. So between all those things, normal looking layers came out. They've been cooling for 30 minutes and no sinking, shrinking, flattening, or guminess! HURRAH! I have no idea how or why the original recipe stopped working, but at this point, I don't even care anymore! I finally have it down! Thanks to everyone for their input! :D
In my original post, I mentioned that I already left out the vanilla because it took off the tangy edge of lemon that I like so much. On a side note, I don't like to use lemon extract because it leaves an alcohol after taste.

BTW, welcome to the board! :)
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