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If I am baking cake or cookies in the oven and I lose power, what should I do?

Does it make to sense to leave the cake/cookies in the oven until the power comes back on, or should I take them out?

When/why would I need to leave them in the oven vs. take them out?

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For cookies, if you are stuck in the middle (too far along to just pull and start over and not far enough along to coast to a finish) take them out, let them cool, break them all up and make a batch of Ice Cream with the bits. It doesn't get you to cookies, but it does get you to tasty ;) –  Cos Callis Apr 9 '12 at 16:01
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Install a gas oven. –  Chloe Apr 9 '12 at 21:16
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Cookie dough is just as nice as baked cookies--just eat it! :) –  jontyc Apr 10 '12 at 0:48
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3 Answers

up vote 22 down vote accepted

Removing things from the oven halfway through is not very friendly to baked goods. In general, they'll collapse as they cool off since the structure isn't cooked and set, and the leavening (baking soda/powder in these cases) will be spent, so there's no way to get what you originally wanted. It might be something like what'd happen if you forgot the leavening in the first place.

The exception is if they'd only just started - not bubbling much yet, just warm. In that case, you could probably get away with yanking them out quickly, and waiting to bake later.

Cookies could probably survive this by leaving them in, though. They don't have very long baking times - somewhere in the 5-15 minute range. Your oven won't cool off all that much in that time without power. So if you leave them in for a little bit longer than the original baking time, they'll probably be fine. If your oven has a window, look in with a flashlight to check on them - you don't want to open it to check them.

A cake is iffier. If it's 15 minutes into a 45 minute baking time, you may just be out of luck. I think I'd still leave it in, hoping that the power comes back within 5-10 minutes, in which case it'd probably make it. As I mentioned earlier, if you lose power early and for long enough, the cake will have spent its leavening and collapsed. You could finish baking it, but it'll still be collapsed - it probably won't have a terribly palatable texture (definitely dense, maybe chewy).

The only time this has actually happened to me was with some cornbread muffins, around 2/3 of the way through their baking time, and the oven didn't have a window. I wildly guessed how much extra time to add, pulled them out then, and they were great. So there is hope!

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Leaving cookies in will work okay. I had a friend who was baking cookies with a ladyfriend, and got distracted by other activities. However they had the foresight to turn the oven off. Both of them swear the cookies tasted better than normal, and having tried one I'm inclined to agree. –  BobMcGee Apr 10 '12 at 15:24
    
"A cake is iffier. If it's 15 minutes into a 45 minute baking time, you may just be out of luck." Thanks for the answer. What will happen to cake if the electricity comes after an hour? –  TheIndependentAquarius May 23 '12 at 4:37
    
@AnishaKaul: If you lose power early on when baking a cake, and it stays out for at least say 15-30 minutes, it's going to collapse since it's not fully cooked and doesn't have the strength and structure to hold up. You won't be able to salvage it later; you can cook it the rest of the way, but it'll still be collapsed - the leavening is spent. –  Jefromi May 23 '12 at 6:57
    
No I meant, what would happen to it if I leave the cake "inside" the oven and electricity doesn't come in one hour. –  TheIndependentAquarius May 23 '12 at 7:01
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@AnishaKaul: Texture means the internal structure. Cakes normally have at least some air in them; there's the whole range from dense things like pound cakes to very light things like angel food cake. When I say collapse, I do mean it won't be light and fluffy, and it will be flattened - and that means the texture inside won't be what you wanted. How bad it'd be of course depends on how much too soon it stopped baking, but it could end up being pretty dense and chewy. –  Jefromi May 23 '12 at 17:36
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My main considerations would be:

  1. How long does the power regularly go out for? I live in an area where power outages are typically quite short, but once in a while they're hours or days long; as the power typically comes back on within 5-10 minutes, I'd leave everything in the oven.

  2. How much time is remaining? If it's just a few minutes, leave it in, and check on it a few minutes after you think it would be take, as when you open the door, you're going to let the remaining heat out.

  3. Do you have some alternate way to cook it if you take it out now? For example, if it's cake and you have a grill or firepit and the right tools, you might try one of the camping suggestions. But I'd leave it in the oven to continue baking while you prepared the alternate cooking source, so it's not coooling off (as much) before you transfer it.

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I had to say something about power outages in my area ... today's was ~3 minutes. (and they haven't been as frequent since Pepco did a major tree-trimming campaign last year) –  Joe Apr 9 '12 at 20:33
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I just had put a dish in the oven when the power went out. Now the dish is warm, but I don't think the cooking had started. So it's better to take it out immediately and put it in the fridge to stop cooking, then when the power's back on, bake it again.

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but the gluten formation will being, and the resultant cake will be hard? –  TheIndependentAquarius Aug 3 '12 at 9:03
    
And the fridge will also have lost power, thus getting warmer.... –  No'am Newman Aug 4 '12 at 18:18
    
Yes, probably not a good idea to open the fridge when power is out. Leaving the door closed will let it hold the temperature better and maybe throughout the outage. –  citizen Oct 3 '12 at 1:19
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