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I just pulled an Italian specialty cake out of the oven and was disappointed to see that it has sunk badly in the middle. It's not to be frosted or layered, so it might still be quite good, but what could have caused the sinking? Here's the recipe, but I deviated considerably in the making of the puree. Orange Olive Oil Cake

EDIT: It wasn't pretty, but it was awesomely good! Maybe the best tasting cake I've ever made. My guest loved it too. It was very orangey, but not too sweet. Moist and dense, but not heavy. It was sublime.

EDIT #2: Here's a picture of a slice that shows just how badly the cake sank. I can't complain too much since the flavor and texture was so spot-on great, but I'd still like the final evolution to be pretty and tasty.

cake

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Was the middle fully cooked? –  Mien Jan 23 at 23:10
    
@Mien It appears to be, I did the toothpick test. The sinking started long before I declared the cake done and took it out of the oven. –  Jolenealaska Jan 23 at 23:11
    
What things did you change in this run? –  SAJ14SAJ Jan 23 at 23:13
    
@SAJ14SAJ I made a VERY flavorful puree using just the zest from 6 small oranges (cut with a vegetable peeler) and the supremed segments from those oranges. I used about the same volume of puree as last time, and I drained it from most of the syrup, so I'm fairly confident that my changes in the puree are not what caused the sinking. The cake sank a little bit last time too, but not as badly. –  Jolenealaska Jan 23 at 23:21
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Could you have overleavened? This is a common cause, if you use too much leavening and it fills up with more gases than the cake structure can support. –  rumtscho Jan 24 at 11:59

3 Answers 3

I made the cake from the recipe, and had no problems with leavening. I first cooked a marmalade of the whole oranges (including the pith) and all the sugar and then followed the recipe as given.

But during the marmalade cooking step, the whole thing cooked down a lot. I started with 950 ml of water and 225 g of sugar, and cooked to 107 Celsius, which means that maybe close to 800 ml of the water evaporated. The rest was very saturated. I don't know how exactly you made your puree, but you mention draining it, so I can imagine it will have been quite dry.

Now, if you look at a classic pound cake, the ratio is 1:1:1:1 for flour, fat, eggs and sugar. We have 225 g of sugar here and a similar amount of eggs. But we are using much less fat. It is common to use a fruit puree to partly replace fat, but if we are staying with the original recipe, even after 30 min of cooking, we will have much more added water and fruit pulp than the missing 160 ml of fat. So the authors seemed to have adjusted the recipe for the additional moisture by increasing the flour to 325 g.

What I did was to add only half of the flour I had measured out, and then a bit more baking powder as I had already mixed the leavening agents under the flour. If you didn't adjust the flour but cooked down the puree a lot, you might have ended up with a very heavy, floury cake, which couldn't leaven and collapsed under its own weight. My advice would be to try reducing the flour next time and go by feel until you have reached a proper batter consistency.

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Awesome that you made the cake! I have just enough puree left to make one more cake, so I'll try tweaking with your recommendations. Thanks! –  Jolenealaska Jan 29 at 0:11
    
The recipe interested me since the first time you mentioned it, and now I had an occasion to bake. But I haven't tasted it yet, will bring it to work tomorrow and cut it there, so we'll see if I like it enough for a second baking. I'll also tell you if the pith makes it overly bitter (but be aware that I have a higher bitterness tolerance/affinity than most people). BTW, for the marmalade cooking, I used Alton Brown's method from the video linked in the answer to your previous question about the cake. –  rumtscho Jan 29 at 0:12
    
I'll be interested to find out. I very much liked the tweaking I did with the puree even though it was a lot of work. The flavor was fabulous but the sinking disturbed me a bit. I still have a slice left, so I'll post a picture with my question. I'll wait to "accept" your answer after I make cake #3. :) –  Jolenealaska Jan 29 at 0:18
    
Sure, bake it and report the results. I am not sure that this was your problem, just something I noticed during baking and thought it might be related to your case. I cannot promise that it will help (but hope that it will). –  rumtscho Jan 29 at 0:25

A possibility would be that your cake ended up being too moist with liquid. Note that @rumtscho reduced most of the water out in her attempt.

If I recall correctly (it's been years) Bakery Master, Joanne Chang said something to the effect of:

It's not that cake collapses in the middle, it's that the cake holds on to the form better on the outside.

This the same reason that some cakes go the other way and dome up in the centre and why the bunt form has a hole in the centre.

What possibly happened to your cake was that the cake had a nice chance to 'cure' around the outside since heat was more accessible. In the centre, however, being the most buffered part, the cake remained mushy long enough to let gases escape before the protein structure formed strong enough to hold it up.

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As others have said it can be because it is too liquid rich and therefore the liquid/flour ratio is not right. The other reason can be that the oven was opened too early. The rush of cold air can cause a good cake to collapse. Try leaving the cake for a bit longer before opening the oven and the structure should stay.

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