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I’ve been trying a UK recipe that worked for me last year (I live in Canada). It’s a simple:

220g butter
220g caster sugar
4 eggs (220g weight in shells)
220g self raising flour 
lemon zest
3-4 tbsp elderflower cordial

For 6” tins at 350F for 40-45 mins in middle of oven. I’ve also tried to scale it up to 9” tins. The issue I’m having is, 1) the creamed butter and sugar either curdles or is on the verge of curdling with the last egg addition, despite beating the batter really well between additions; 2) the cakes deflate in the middle to form craters during cooking (so before I even take them out of the oven); 3) after removing the outside rings to level the cakes, they are obviously dense, but the flavour is great. I’ve checked my oven temp with an oven thermometer, I’ve tried adding a little less egg, I’ve tried beating the butter and sugar for longer, only just incorporating the flour to avoid over mixing, adding a little extra baking powder and cooking for less time. STILL the cakes sink in the middle and come out dense (I get that this type of cake is more dense anyway, but I can’t stop the middle sinking)! Any ideas or advice would be amazing! I’m trying to make a friends wedding cake with their fave recipe that I made last year! But it’s stressing me out that I can’t seem to fix this :( Thanks so much. enter image description here

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    Could be a few variables at play here. 1) are you creaming in the egg yolks one by one and waiting for them to be completely incorporated before adding the next? 2) Are you somewhere affected by our current heat waves? That plus the humidity can really affect cakes. 3) Self-raising flour can be hit or miss, but you've tried adding baking powder already, hmm. – Sebastien Jul 31 at 15:20
  • Hi Sebastien. Thanks for your reply. The recipe calls for lightly beating the eggs first then adding in small amounts and beating the mixture before adding the next. So I’ve tried that and also tried adding whole eggs one at a time. If I use slightly less egg I can get to a nice batter consistency without the curdling. It is fairly hot and humid where I live. But we central AC so the house itself isn’t overly warm. But I have also wondered about the humidity. Yeah I thought the same for self raising flour. But the extra baking powder didn’t fix it :( – John Kelly Jul 31 at 15:28
  • did you rest the cake upside down to cool down? youtu.be/b2O3x5xK3Fg?t=458 – Max Jul 31 at 15:33
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    Hi Max. This isn’t a light angel cake, it’s a more heavy butter sponge so it would just fall out of the tin when inverted upside down. Plus the middle sinks during cooking, not after I take it out of the oven. – John Kelly Jul 31 at 15:38
  • @John, you might get better responses if you change your title to reflect that this is a pound cake. The textbook definition of pound cake is equal proportions of the ingredients, which is what we have here. – aris Aug 1 at 1:57
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So there are a lot of things that can make a cake collapse, and from reading the comments, I see you've done the basic research. Unfortunately, the best I think anyone can do is make suggestions for how to determine whats wrong.

**Make sure you are weighing your ingredients. Your recipe is in grams, so I assume you are, but it's worth saying.

My first step would be to eliminate the self-rising flour since it is hit-and-miss. You can easily add leavening and salt to regular flour and thus know exactly how much of each you're using, and that eliminates variables.

Since you're taking the time to properly emulsify the butter and eggs, I'd even make a small batch without any chemical leavening and see how that turns out. Too much leavening has the same effect as incorporating too much air and can cause your cake to fall. Chemical leaveners are a fairly recent invention, and technically aren't required for a lot of traditional cakes.

Also, when doing the initial beating, you really want to spend the most time beating the sugar into the butter, and then beat the eggs until just combined. Overbeating the eggs doesn't just risk incorporating too much air and inducing collapse, but can cause your cake to feel dry or crumbly even when it seems a-okay on the outside. I know your recipe says otherwise, but unless you're relying on the egg/butter emulsion for leavening, it seems like an unnecessary risk.

The other thing I notice in your picture is that the outer edge obviously cooked first, and my first impression is that those cakes are rather tall. I've found in the past that the deeper my cake batter, the more prone it is to failure. You could try baking your cakes across more tins. That will help the center set faster compared to what you have now. The edges will still set more quickly, but the difference might not be so great that the whole thing collapses. My mom is a fan or torting her cakes, but I personally find it easier to just bake separate layers for a shorter amount of time.

You could also try reducing your oven's temperature a bit. All oven temperatures fluctuate, and sometimes the oven thermostat will go out of whack (I had a hard time with my landlord for over a year because of a malfunctioning thermostat...). I found a blog post that talks about the changes temperature can bring in a cake: to summarize, cake baked closer to 300 is lighter and fluffier, while cake baked closer to 400 is denser and has more caramelization. After 45 minutes, any cake would be caramelized, so lowering the temperature might be worth a shot. Check out the pictures: https://thecakeblog.com/2015/04/baking-temperature-comparison.html

Those would be my initial tests, and I wouldn't do more than a half-batch of anything while you're experimenting. I'm sure butter is expensive where you live too. And if you really want to be careful, remember: it's best to only change ONE variable at a time. I know it's frustrating, but if you're really at a loss, it's better to make small batches and small changes.

Other things I might try if I can't get the results through ANY of those ideas would include those edge-insulating strips (I've heard you can fold wet paper towels in foil and wrap them around your tins to encourage even rising), and even reducing the amount of cordial by microwaving it or something in case that amount of liquid is messing up the pound cake chemistry.

On a different note: I don't know how much time there is before the wedding, but you could try making a different cake or two and soak it with an elderflower/lemon syrup to get that same kind of flavor. It can be mind-numbing to keep trying the same recipe over and over, especially if something's not going right. If you need a break, or need to prove that you can bake a cake, d*****, try a yellow cake or something, make a nice syrup and ask your friends to try it for comparison. As @aris said, pound cake isn't necessarily the best for a wedding cake. You don't have to think of it as a failure, but let them sample the pound cake and another option or two if you can, and let them decide. Is that particular cake everything they remember, or was it the elderflower cordial that they really loved?

Hope things turn out!

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    Thanks so much for the in depth comment and suggestions @kitukwfyer! I tried another batch last night (I’m stubborn) but replaced some of the self raising flour with all purpose and the cake turned out a bit better. It collapsed a bit but way less than before and kept much of its height. I think the self raising flour is the main problem. I should have switched to all purpose sooner! But I’m slowly figuring it out. I was also wondering about the pan strips - I might try that next time too. Thanks again for he suggestions. – John Kelly Aug 1 at 12:35
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I used to have a rich fruit cake sink in the middle like this.. I reduced from 350 to 325 and baked a little more time to fix the issue. Sinking is almost always due to cake rising too much too fast and then structure not being able to support it.

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A traditional french sponge cake is typically done by beating the egg with sugar (over a bain marie if you are doing it by hand). Then mix in your zest/flavorings. Then the flour is carefully folded in. Then the melted butter is folded in. If your eggs are starting to curdle when beating then your heat is way too high.

If you want a cake that is large enough to be a wedding cake, you might consider changing the cake type. I think you are pushing your luck with a pound cake in a round pan. If you change the cake type to a sponge, you can still flavor with the lemon zest and cordial (the cordial perhaps is better added after the cake is baked via syrup).

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    Thanks Aris. I haven’t been using heat/Bain Marie. I’m just creaming butter and sugar with lemon zest until light and fluffy at room temp, then beat in eggs (at room temp). Then I add 2-3 tbsp of cordial after I fold in the sifted self-raising flour to get it to a “dropping consistency” and bake right away. I’m not sure whether there’s enough moisture/too much in the batter (have I added enough/too much liquid?), whether I’m beating it too much (too much air?) or not enough. I try to reduce gluten formation so only fold until flour is incorporated. I’m at a loss as to why they keep sinking :( – John Kelly Jul 31 at 18:38
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    @John, the creaming method you're using is not the way that sponge cake is made. If you are going to cream the butter with sugar, you will end up with something like a pound cake. If your goal is sponge cake, you must do it the standard french way, as described in my answer. Alternatively, you can do it as an angel food cake with just whipped egg white. – aris Jul 31 at 19:56
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    As for why it collapses in the middle, perhaps you have noticed that pound cakes are always cooked either in loaf pans or in ring pans? That's your situation. You have a pound cake that is being cooked in a round pan. If you like the texture and flavor of the cake you've baked, then switch to a different pan and your problem of a collapsed center is solved. But this is not the right type of cake for a wedding cake, so you will have to figure that one out. – aris Jul 31 at 20:00
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    Thanks Aris. But there are numerous recipes that make the cakes this way. Maybe it’s not a sponge as I mentioned, but it has definitely been done in round tins. I even made it work last year but can’t understand why it’s not working this time. This is the recipe I’ve been trying to follow: cygnetkitchen.co.uk/2015/07/05/… – John Kelly Jul 31 at 23:19
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    @John, as you can see in the photos on that page, the round cake is very small, maybe less than six inches across. What is the diameter of your pan? A larger round pan is very unlikely to work for this type of cake (though you could get lucky I suppose). Try searching about pound cakes and round pans and that should give you some more info. – aris Aug 1 at 0:17

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