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I am trying to perfect a nice lemon bundt cake recipe that uses lemon juice and zest for flavor. I have achieved the flavor profile I want, but the cake does not rise much and comes out a little too dense. I figured it was the acidity of the 5 lemons I juiced into the batter. Is there a way I can keep that much acidity in the batter and still have a good rise on my bake?

Thanks in advance.

UPDATE

I completely forgot to post the recipe, sorry about that. I am going for a moist and dense cake texture with a vibrant lemon flavor that slaps your mouth. I am a beginner baker though...

  • 3 cups sifted cake flour.
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder.
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt.
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar.
  • 2/3 cup butter or margarine.
  • 4 eggs (4 yokes .
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 pkg lemon pudding mix (ideally i would like it to be a completely from scratch cake but 1 step at a time.)
  • 5 lemons ( juicing and zesting all the lemons)
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    You need to give us the full recipe. Particularly we need to know what raising agents you use. You may need to use bicarbonate of soda instead of baking powder, for example. – Chris H Dec 10 '16 at 14:59
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    That is a ton of lemon.... The recipe I use is significantly less and has great flavor. Why so much? – Catija Dec 10 '16 at 17:37
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    not directly related to the collapsing, but on getting more lemon flavor into a cake, see cooking.stackexchange.com/q/28047/67 ; cooking.stackexchange.com/q/20701/67 and cooking.stackexchange.com/q/56726/67 – Joe Dec 10 '16 at 18:10
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    @TheCodeNovice : yes, but your rise is off because of how you're increasing the lemon flavor. If you can't solve the rising problems with the existing recipe, then you should step back and use a cake that does rise, but use answers from those other questions to get it back to the desired lemon flavor. – Joe Dec 12 '16 at 18:39
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    I guess this is the reason that the most common lemon cake applied the majority of the flavour after the sponge is baked. I always wondered why lemon Drizzle was a thing. – Spagirl May 22 '19 at 14:59
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I think your fat-to-flour ratio for that kind of flour might be too high. Cake flour can't handle a lot of fat. As another answer suggested, try a higher protein flour--start with all-purpose (AP) flour and, if that isn't enough, use bread flour but remember to barely stir it together or you will make a mess. I would mix everything together except the flour first, then carefully stir it in.

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Does the batter type used rely on gluten development? Acids and enzymes from very concentrated fruit juices can weaken gluten - if it would be strong enough to tenderize meat (denature protein), it is not unlikely to break down or influence (even already developed) gluten (which is a protein).

Using a "stronger" flour than normally recommended for cakes, or adding extra gluten, or adding an additional binder could help.

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  • so I should go for a bread flour? I added my recipe to my post if that helps? – TheCodeNovice Dec 12 '16 at 15:38
  • I can only suggest leads for experimentation here... – rackandboneman Dec 12 '16 at 16:03
  • -1, since gluten is strongest at pHs of around 3.5 and something high (10?), and ascorbic acid is one of the ways to make much stronger gluten in bread. I doubt that the problem comes from the gluten at all, but if it does, it is not made weaker through the lemon juice. – rumtscho May 21 '19 at 9:08
  • 3.5 sounds like a very optimistic pH for some juices :) – rackandboneman May 21 '19 at 11:12
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I read that adding extra baking soda, like a teaspoon, to the recipe will help counter the effect of the acidic acid on your leaving agent. But, in my case, I zested just one lemon and added the juice of half a lemon, to brighten the flavor. you may need to add a whole tablespoon in your case?

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I think the issue with this recipe is simply too many lemons! You were blaming the acidity of the lemons for your issue: this explains the problems at least partially. This blog post bakes cakes with different amount of acid and explains the results. In summary, excess acidity will inhibit browning and impede rising. While adding baking soda can neutralize the cake, too much simply tastes bad.

Lemon bring a few other properties to the mix. As one of the comments mentions, lemon juice is mostly water. The excess moisture will leave your cake with less structural integrity; it may collapse. You could possibly fix this by adding more flour or starch, but it sounds difficult.

If you are not attached to your recipe, I recommend you just use a battle-tested and well-reviewed lemon cake recipe. The lemon bliss cake from King Arthur Flour looks like a good candidate. To avoid the issues caused by lemon juice, they use other techniques to incorporate lemon flavor:

  • Lemon zest: the zest of a lemon has a ton of flavor but no acidity or moisture.
  • Lemon oil (optional): much like zest, adds flavor without changing the chemistry of the cake.
  • Glaze: a lemon juice-spiked glaze is applied after the cake is baked. This way it does not effect the baking process, but adds lemon flavor and moisture.
  • Icing: after the glaze, a lemon juice icing adds even more lemon flavor.

But if you really wanted to modify the recipe you gave above, you can still try to learn from the lessons in the KAF recipe. You can use less juice and more zest, you could add a glaze, you could use lemon oil. Anything to remove excess lemon juice from your cake will likely improve the texture. Also adding 1/4 tsp of baking soda could counteract some of the acidity.

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