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I've tried making this three layer cake twice in the past two days. I think the issue is too many wet ingredients. It’s from a cookbook I trust for the most part, but after two failures, I’m not sure what else to change.

If the issue is too many wet ingredients, how do I substitute or alter the recipe to remedy this?

For reference, it calls for:

  • 2.5c AP flour (12.5oz)
  • 2t baking powder
  • 1/2t salt
  • 3/4c room temp unsalted butter
  • 1.75c sugar (12.25oz)
  • 1/3c maple sugar
  • 1/3c canola oil
  • 1t vanilla
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 eggs
  • 1c milk room temp
  • Approx 1/2c “burnt sugar” syrup (mixed in with room temp milk

I started typing this last night and have now discovered that my pans are also an inch too wide, but I’m almost positive that additional batter will still be somewhat too dense. Is that the issue or do we think it’s the high proportion of liquid to dry?

Attaching photos for reference:

The flat cake from my second attempt (first picture), and then what the cookbook says it should look like (second picture)

second attempt very flat cakes what it should look like

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    I have difficulty understanding the problem. Is it only that you expected the layers to be higher at the end? Or are they also unpleasantly dense when eating? Is the second picture your own cake (which looks perfectly fine), or a picture from the cookbook? As for the 1-inch difference in pan diameter, that should account for 15 to 30% difference in height, depending on the diameter you were supposed to use. – rumtscho May 6 at 14:56
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    Yes I was expecting them to be probably 50% higher. The second pic is of the cake in the cookbook (apologies for not specifying there). Even so they seem kind of dense for the height they bard at (and now I’m trying to figure out if it’s from the excess of wet ingredients or the pans being 1” too wide in diameter. – user68196 May 6 at 14:57
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    Process - could you include the preparation method in the post and are you reasonably sure you followed the instructions well enough? – Stephie May 6 at 15:15
  • @Stephie I feel fairly sure it’s not a process issue. It’s pretty standard beat sugar and fats (+ the maple syrup) slowly mix in oil and vanilla, mix in eggs on at a time. Then alternate adding flour with milk until combined. Bake at 350 for 28-30 minutes. Mine have been done by 25 though. – user68196 May 6 at 15:19
  • How old is your baking powder? I believe the shelf life is only about 6 months. After that it stops working – Rick May 13 at 1:23
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I would suggest viewing it a different way: the recipe did not fail. It is most likely performing exactly as expected by its author.

First, there is the matter of the different pan. You might intuitively think that 1 inch is not much of a difference, but you have to remember that the height of the cake will vary proportionally to the pan area, not to the pan diameter, which means a quadratic relationship. At typical cake sizes (if you went from 8 to 9, or from 9 to 10) you will have ~25% more height if you use the smaller pan. The exact area numbers from 8 to 11 inches are: 50/63/78/95 square inches.

Second, you are correct that a cake of this type, with milk and oil, and additional egg yolks, is going to rise less than other cake types. This doesn't mean that the cake is rising improperly, it means that you have chosen a cake which doesn't fit your needs (assuming you have a reason for creating a high cake). This doesn't mean that there is a simple way to get this cake recipe to rise more though; the amount of work you would have to invest is the same as in creating a new recipe from scratch. And if you succeed, the taste and texture will not be the same as the cake from which you started. So, the typical thing to do is to choose a recipe which produces higher cakes, and stick with it.

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  • Thank you - I think you’re right. I was fully invested in the wet ingredients bit, but what you’ve said confirms that the additional dense ness is related to the wrong pan size. I appreciate the insight! – user68196 May 6 at 15:21
  • If the taste/mouthfeel/etc. of the current recipe is something @user68196 likes, but just wants more height, then there are at least another couple of options than just choosing a different receipe: A) use more batter per pan, making each layer taller, but may require cooking adjustments (the cooking has already been inherently adjusted by using a larger pan); or B) just use more layers. There's nothing that prevents having a 4, 5, 6, or more, layer finished cake. It all comes down to taste and what is desired as an end result, but the basic thing is: does the current recipe taste as desired. – Makyen May 7 at 1:26
  • @Makyen indeed! I was assuming that the OP intends to change the recipe, and I was saying that a different recipe would be the way to go. Using more of the current batter, as you suggest, either per-pan or as more layers, will also produce a taller cake overall. – rumtscho May 8 at 19:24

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