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I have tried to do cakes many times and I frequently have the problem of my cake not having the bubbly structure I expect, but rather looking like a smooth mass on the inside.

So far I have attributed this to user error, but after my mom also had the same problem I am starting to think if it may be the oven?

What I have noticed is, that I have to frequently bake longer than the recipe suggests until the fork comes out dry. However, when using a thermometer the temperature seems to be generally OK in the oven, although it does seem to fluctuate a bit (+-5°C).

This is what my last iteration looks like: enter image description here

What I expect is something like this, a structure with many bubbles: enter image description here

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    That first photo is too close to really tell what is going on. – moscafj Jan 19 at 22:55
  • I tried different angles and distances, but it always comes out blurry. I will try tomorrow with better lighting. It sort of looks like this: kingarthurflour.com/sites/default/files/blog-images/2014/06/… smooth instead of fluffy. – user1721135 Jan 19 at 23:38
  • It sounds like your cake isn't rising. The ±5°C variability is normal in a gas oven. If you're at a high altitude (1km above sea level), you may need to adjust the recipe. I would also question whether your leavener is possibly old. Baking powder & baking soda lose potency over time. – AMtwo Jan 20 at 3:31
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    What's your recipe? – Tinuviel Jan 20 at 5:58
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    I'd suggest editing your question to add the full recipe, including preparation & baking method, and source. Comments are easily missed. – AMtwo Jan 20 at 13:43
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This is a very vexing case, I douobt that anybody can tell from looking at your cake. So you will have to troubleshoot it yourself by first trying to bake a successful cake by following a traditional recipe and using best practices, and then, if that cake works well, start changing it back towards your preferred recipe one-by-one and seeing what makes the difference. For the test cake, you should bake a very standard recipe that has the best chances of rising well - I'd say that's a pound cake.

So, use following factors:

  • 200 g eggs (4 whole eggs), 200 g white all purpose flour, 200 g sugar, 200 g cow-milk butter, 10 g baking powder (not baking soda!). Do not make any replacements here, and don't add other ingredients (flavors, etc.)
  • make sure the ingredients are all room temperature, and have gotten there slowly. Just leave them overnight, no "Oh I forgot the butter in the fridge, I'll give it 15 seconds in the microwave".
  • use the creaming method. Cream the butter and the sugar together until you see an obvious change in color and volume (can take 10+ minutes), then add the eggs and beat well, only then add the flour and baking powder.
  • Use freshly bought baking powder
  • sift the flour
  • bake in a 175 C oven for as long as it takes to pass the skewer test.

If that works, as I said above, you will have to slowly change the ingredients back to your preferred recipe and see when the change happens.

If it isn't work even for that, there is some hidden factor that is very difficult to guess at. You will probably have to ask a good baker to bake together with you and either show you how they bake, or have them watch how you bake, and see if that person can spot the problem. You can also have them bake in your kitchen and with your oven, to see if they get the same trouble - but if you measured your oven's temperature, there isn't much that can be going wrong there.

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  • Thanks, I will try this process. No milk at all correct? Also is top and bottom heat best or heat + fan? Another symptom I noticed is shiny material, probably oil, on the inside. What might that indicate? Not baked enough? – user1721135 Jan 20 at 15:35
  • I like the freshly bought baking powder idea. But I wonder how exactly it goes bad. – Willk Jan 20 at 16:37
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    You certainly need both top and bottom. If you can have top, bottom and fan all at once, do it. If you have to choose between one-direction heat plus fan, or two-direction heat, take the two-direction heat. And baking powder can react with itself over time, or with the moisture in the air. Shouldn't happen over a few weeks, or even months, but if you are seeing bad performance or using old baking powder, or have stored it somewhere more humid than usual, it can go off quicker. So best to exclude it. There is no milk in pound cake. – rumtscho Jan 20 at 17:03
  • Thank you for this basic recipe, I followed it pretty much exactly, except that I forgot to bring the eggs to room temperature, but overall I didn't have this problem. I will use this as working base to expand. – user1721135 Jan 22 at 22:44
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Are you at a high altitude?

https://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/icooks/article-3-03.html

Low air pressure has two main effects on baked goods: They will rise more easily, and lose moisture faster; liquids evaporate more quickly since water boils at lower temperatures at high altitude. As leavening occurs faster, gas bubbles tend to coalesce into large, irregular pockets in a batter or dough. The result? A coarse-textured cake. Alternatively, the pressure inside a rising batter can become so great, that cell walls stretch beyond their maximum and burst. Collapsing cell walls means the cake falls too.

It can be a challenge to get a cake to rise at altitude.

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  • Interesting. I am not that high though, its about 100-200m where I am. – user1721135 Jan 20 at 8:56
  • I used to work at 1600m and it look me 50 mins to bake a normal lemon drizzle – Gamora Jan 20 at 15:30
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One of the reason could be that you do not whip egg whites or wait too long. You can try to add a spoon of lemon to the egg whites to avoid that. Another reason is that you need to use yeast. The cases depend a lot on the type of cake and the recipe followed (yeast is not always necessary).

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Have you tried measuring the temperature in the oven? It looks to me as though your oven is too cool. Get an oven thermometer and give it a try. I had a fan oven that didn't fan properly, and my baking didn't rise properly. If I made the same recipe without fan (with 10% more heat) it worked fine.

Have you tried the same recipe in another oven?

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  • Yeah I did measure the temp, it fluctuates up and down with 5°C. The fan is working, but I have no idea if anything else might be broken, like the bottom heat. – user1721135 Jan 22 at 20:17

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