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Suggestions needed - Cake doesn't rise eonugh

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hello All;
I made a new cake today called a "Orange Dream Cake" from the Taste of Home Mom's best Meals 2007 issue and for some reason, each of the two 8" layers don't seem to rise as much as I'd expect. Each layer is about 1/4" thick.

Here is the recipe ...

2/3 cups butter, softened
1-1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup fresh orange juice
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tsp. grated Orange Peel
1 Tsp. Grated Lemon Peel
2 Eggs
2 cups cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

I have a few questions -

Should this cake rise more than it did ?

If so, what could be some reasons why it didn't ?

Is there any way I can modify this recipe and/or procedure to make it rise more without changing the flavor ?

I've made numerous cakes before and have never had a problem so I'm thinking that the procedure is incorrect, or something was inadvertently omitted from the recipe.

I wanted to take this cake in for a function at work tomorrow but don't want to take it in if it doesn't rise any more. If I get some good recommendations, I'll try to make it again this afternoon or evening. Thank you very much.

Oh ... Here's a link to the actual recipe as well as what the cake should look like ... Orange Dream Cake Recipe | Taste of Home Recipes

post #2 of 17
>>1/4 inch thick layers

oops. that did not work out right.

>>what's wrong?
prime suspect: how old is the baking powder?
it does not last forever - I buy a fresh can every six months, whether it's been used up or not....
post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks, Dilbert;
I had no idea that Baking power loses its effectiveness after just 6 months or so. I'm sure mine is over 6 months old.

As I recall, I don't think I use baking power much. I mostly use baking soda and my cakes have more volume like by folding in beaten egg whites, etc ...

By the way, I posted a link to this recipe in my last post but here it is again ... Orange Dream Cake Recipe | Taste of Home Recipes

post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 
I looked at the bottom of my can of Baking powder and it has a date of April 2002 which I expect is either the date of manufacture or the date of expiration. I guess I'll be going out today to buy a new can. If this fixes the problem, I will have learned something.

post #5 of 17

Tim -

well, you could donate it to a cooking museum . . . <g>

once a can of baking powder is opened, moisture / humidity in the kitchen atmosphere asserts an aging effect - ending in "no longer a leavening agent."

whether six months or 11 months is "okay" can be debated - but six+ years is not a good debate.

and now you know - so henceforth you be good baker!
post #6 of 17
I think your problem also lies in the high level of acid in the liquid that you add to this cake.
Even if you had very fresh baking powder, the high acid level in the fresh orange and lemon juice would neutralize the leavening agent in the baking powder even before you put your pans in the oven.
In cakes like this that include fresh juices, a better leavening choice might be baking soda as baking powders are a combination of a base (sodium bicarbonate) and an acid (like cream of tartar). The addition of more acid in the form of citrus juice would quickly overwhelm the rising action of the baking powder resulting in flat or collapsed cake layers.
Another question-
Have you used this recipe before and did it work?
I've had problems with recipes from "Taste of Home" magazine. They rely on readers for all their recipes and they are not necessarily rigorously tested before publication.

After reading the recipe on the link you provided, it's clear that there are a lot of problems with it-mostly in how it's written. It does not follow a standard recipe writing format. For example, effective recipes have ingredients listed in the order in which they are used, but not this one. Additionally, it does not tell you to preheat the oven or prepare your pans until the batter is already made. Did you let the batter sit in the bowl while you did this or worse yet, put the pans into a cold oven? Either one will cause your cakes to come out flat or collapsed. Also, the size of the pans are different in the recipe from what you used. When you use a smaller pan than the one indicated, you will need to use a bit more baking powder than for a larger pan.

In all likelihood, the age of your bp is the culprit, but there are a number of other problems with this recipe that can cause it to fail. Try to find a cake recipe from a more reliable source and you'll have better success.

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!


Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
Your explanation makes perfect sense. In answer to your question - NO I have not made this recipe before.

Your concern about recipes being created by home would-be chefs is a good one and I did consider that though I fell in love with this cake because I like how it used some fruit juice for the sweetner and less sugar which is of great interest to me as I try to eat healthy.

Got a question - do you or anyone else on the forum think that substituting baking soda would noticably change the flavor of this cake ?

I think I am going to do a search for other cakes that use fruit juice and see how they handle the baking soda/powder issue.

post #8 of 17
Hi again Tim

I've been searching through my old recipes and all my cookbooks to find a nice orange cake recipe that I could recommend to you and have not found much. Most recipes for orange flavored cakes follow the chiffon type recipe style with separated eggs and folding egg whites. I have found none that use the creamed butter technique.
I had one that I used to use where you grind orange zest and sugar in the food processor and then blend into the creamed butter and then you proceed to add the eggs, flour mixture and buttermilk. However, I remember having a problem with collapse with that cake too, even when baking it in a tube or bundt pan (usually a good solution.)

I wonder whether orange juice and zest has some negative chemical effect on the leavening agents. Orange oil is very pungent, caustic as well as flammable leading me to think that maybe orange somehow has a negative leavening effect.

There's a nice recipe for Lemon-Orange Chiffon Cake in Shirley Corriher's new baking book Bakewise. I'll bet that one works nicely.

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!


Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

post #9 of 17
I don't believe your baking powder is too old.
I used to bring baking powder over from the states and keep it for years, and it never posed a problem. Not once. I think for baking powder to lose its potency it has to get damp. If kept well closed in its box in a dry place i really don;t understand how it could deteriorate, it's just two chemicals, and humidity activates them. It's not an organic product, not made of plants or animals, it's not yeast or anything. So time alone should not affect it, only humidity - chemists please help me here.

Everytime someone's cake doesn't come out somoene mentions the baking powder, but i can guarantee you that that is a very rare case (sorry dillbert- maybe because you throw it out after 6 months you never found out that it can last forever. I used to go back home to my mothers and she had the same old can for years and years because she never baked any more, and i baked with it, never had a problem.)

The problem with any cake that doesn;t come out right, IF THE INGREDIENTS ARE RIGHT is the method. And your recipe is not a recipe at all, it's a list of ingredients. Cream butter and sugar? Mix all dry ingredients together and add butter and liquids to them? Beat eggs with sugar and then add butter then remaining dry and liquids? It would appear by the order of listing that you cream butter and sugar, but that might not be.
Another provblem i've had with recipes is that there is too much butter or sugar which makes it heavy. Or the flour is not right. All my cakes came out flat when i got to italy because the butter is fattier and the flour is much much weaker. So i had to reduce butter and add flour.

Another reason could be that if you got it from some home cook site, it's quite likely it's untested, or badly copied.

I used to make an amazing orange cake (and i don;t particularly like orange cakes) from julia child, mastering the art of home cooking. I even have a personal letter from her, because i had trouble with her orange filling and she actually wrote me a reply, in her characteristic style, waxing eloquent about how lucky i was to be in italy with those WONderful little artichokes... (i guess she would reply to anyone, i just had the crazy idea to actually write to her). I don;t have time to dig up the recipe right now, but if you want it let me know and i will.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
post #10 of 17
Maybe the baking powder is not enough, try to add a little baking powder if not the problem is within the egg or you didn't stir the recipe well. I have a tip to share you should mix or stir the ingredients in just one direction to make it fluffy and nice.
post #11 of 17
siduri -

well, no chemists have shown up. it's great that you've had such luck with your baking powder. your experience proves there is a rule for every exception.

baking sites - and explicitly sites not related to makers/sellers of baking powder - do not support the theory of keeping it forever, no problem.

cement. heh, it's a Roman thing. I've got a bag in my basement that's never been near a drop of water and it is fully hardened. it's not animal or vegetable. it is mineral. and the chemical composition is such that it will absorb water from the air and turn into a rock. see: baking powder.
post #12 of 17
hi dillbert,
no doubt it will absorb humidity, but it usually comes in a can which is pretty waterproof, (unlike your cement - usually in a heavy cardboardy paper bag, and in the basement... more humidity than that is hard to get) and if it did absorb humidity, like your cement, you would notice it would be clumpy, no?
I think it's certainly possible for baking powder to lose its leavening capacity, but it's very unlikely if kept closed. If you always throw it out, you'll never know, right?
Instead there are SO many other reasons a cake might not rise, and in my experience it is usually these others - bad recipe, bad technique, differences in ingredients (european flour, butter, etc, substituted for american). Also his OTHER cakes should have come out flat if it was the baking powder.
Still waiting for the verdict of the cooking chemists - yoo hoo, anyone here?
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
post #13 of 17
post #14 of 17
I'm not a chemist, but I play one on TV. Besides, I've already done the homework on baking powder.

Let's start with a couple of caveats before getting to general theory. Not all baking powders are the same. Not all baking powders are based on baking soda.

There are two basic types of baking powder, single and double acting. Single acting is usually composed of baking soda and a dry acid (like cream of tartar). Double acting is usually composed of baking soda, a dry acid, and a pyro-activator.

So... what's baking soda? Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate -- a buffering salt. In the presence of acid the sodium splits off to buffer the acid, while the carbon and oxygen form carbon dioxide gas. It's the gas itself which actually leavens the product.

There are a few problems with baking soda as a leavener. First, you only get as much leavening as you have liquid acid -- and you may not want to use a lot of liquid acid in your recipe. There is such a thing as too much citrus. Maybe.

Second, it turns cocoa red. Ever wonder how the tradition of "red velvet cake" began? Know you know.

Third, once the acid and baking soda mix, you've got almost no time to work with the product before you get it into the oven or you'll lose all the leavening -- plus the product is extremely fragile and it doesn't take much handling to degas the product -- leaving it heavy.

So, some wise guy figured out that if you mixed a "dry acid" with baking soda, the acid wouldn't potentiate the soda until the liquids were added, and any liquid that would dissolve the dry acid would do. Furthermore, the acid wouldn't fully dissolve immediately but would take a little time to autolyse. Moreover the acid to solution process would be made more efficient by heat.

Baking soda + dry acid = single acting baking powder. The dry acid employed is almost always cream of tartar. You can make it fresh at home if you like -- but given the cost of cream of tartar it's not economical. This stuff is very good when it's fresh. But you've still got to work very quickly.

Most modern cooks prefer double acting baking powder. This is often based on some other salt/carbonate than baking powder which works very much in the same way, and is often aluminum based. The typical additions are a dry acid (other than cream of tartar) and a heat activated dry acid (usually a pyro-phosphate). However, there are several different formulations -- partly in an attempt to avoid aluminum.

I should add that no harm has ever been shown from aluminum in baking powder; and that numerous studies show dietary aluminum is NOT associated with Alzheimer's. Furthermore, ALL of the current science indicates "studies" which do purport to show a linkage are poorly done, bunkum or both. Not to put too fine a point on it, the belief is purely superstition.

Whatever. Some double acting baking powders were created to tap into the anti-aluminum market. And a couple of them are VERY GOOD. Which goes to show something, but I'm not sure what.

It would take an awful lot of acid to be so much "acid" that it screwed up a recipe for a modern double acting baking powder. However, it could sure mess up a single acting powder recipe. The usual culprits though are delay and over handling.

Finally, when it comes to over-aging baking powder -- it depends on how it's made and stored. Once it's opened and used -- even if used occasionally it usually gets enough humidity to potentiate some of the dry acid. Also some of the products used as pyro-activators, although not the most common ones, don't age particularly well -- humidity or not.

Rule of thumb -- if it shows any signs at all of clumping it needs replacement. Don't even bother trying. Keep it very dry, it won't clump and will probably work for a very long time indeed. If it doesn't work buy new.

If you're an occasional baker the best thing may be to replace it annually, right around Thanksgiving. For one thing, you should be replacing a lot of your other dry spices annually. For another, most of the spices and baking supplies go on sale then. Cheap is good.

We bake a fair amount 'round here and use just enough baking powder that it's more economical to buy commercial size packages and throw the excess away when it gets old, than buy the individual cardboard tubes.

Hope this helps a bit,
post #15 of 17

Could it be the eggs?

I, too, suspected baking powder to be the problem when both cornbread and the cake didn't rise enough. So, finally out to the store I went to get fresh baking powder.

Alas, I still cannot get the stuff to rise properly--I'm accustomed to a nice crown on my skillet-baked cornbread and it just ain't happenin'. If I remember correctly, the last few times I have purchased eggs has been in a (how do I put this?) very well known "mart" and I wonder if the eggs have been restamped with an expiration date that extends well beyond what it should. Hey, I watch news programs. I KNOW they do this, but I don't want to place blame unfairly. Any thoughts?

Or could it be that the oven is slow? It seems to work ok for most everything I bake.

Very frustrated. Help!
post #16 of 17
Stumbled across this interesting topic. I bake alot and never have any leaveners around for long, so can't help there. I also looked at the recipe and 1. it hasn't been written properly and 2. the amt of leavener is not enough to lift all those ingredients. I try to stay away from magazine recipes as well as those from a well known lifestyle guru. Finally...I started having problems with one of my well used pound cake recipes and went thru my check list and the only thing different was the egg brand. Bought the eggs from WM. I cannot recall offhand what a large, cracked egg should weigh but discovered that the ones I was using were weighing in a bit low. I sent the store an email and by the time the dust settled...AHA! I was right. Got some lame comment about the weight of shell was heavy, causing the plant to be unaware of the insides being smaller. WTF?
post #17 of 17
I've used eggs that were beyond the expiration date w/out a problem in the outcome of the recipe- and if the egg was bad, you'd for sure know it as soon as you cracked it!

I'm the the 'old baking powder' theory here, and the fact that the batter has too much acid for the baking powder to do its work. I checked on a couple of my orange/lemon/lime cake recipes and they all use either baking soda, or a combination of soda/powder.

I've had problems with the 'Taste of Home' recipes, too. Better to stick with a known baker or recipe collection.
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