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I am trying to make marble cake. I guess I used the ingredients in the correct proportion, but when I take cake out, I found the cake hard.

This is the recipe I followed:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour,2 teaspoons baking powder,1/2 teaspoon salt,1 cup white sugar,1/2 cup butter,2 eggs,1 teaspoon vanilla extract,1 cup milk,2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)

  • Place flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, and milk into mixing bowl. Beat slowly to moisten, then beat with an electric mixer at medium speed for about 2 minutes until smooth
  • Stir cocoa into the 3/4 cup reserved batter.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes.
  • -

Am I missing some ingredient? Is there any issue with oven temperature? How do I fix hard cake?

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The first thing to check is if you are using the correct measurements. When a volumetric recipe says "cup", it usually doesn't mean "any cup in your cupboard", it means "a unit of measurement that is exactly 236 ml". This is so commonsense in the USA that nobody tells you about it, and for people from other countries, it comes as a great surprise. While using the wrong cup might scale the recipe proportionally, you still have the eggs to worry about here.

The second thihng is that measuring by volume has a lot of leeway. Try weighing your solid ingredients instead. The conversion to try would be: 250 g flour, 100 g sugar, 115 g butter, 240 ml milk. Sift the flour before use.

The third thing is to bake until done. Hard cakes often result from overbaking, and the time given is just a guideline. Test the cake every now and then, and take it out as soon as the tester shows no stickiness. Don't wait for the full 35 minutes (if they haven't happened yet) and don't let the cake stay in the oven for longer, even if you already turned it off.

If you still dislike the results, turn to a cake recipe with less liquid, something that is closer to a traditional pound cake, with only a little extra liquid, or none at all.

  • 2
    Also worth mentioning that even with the correct sized cup, how you use it to measure affects things, too. (scooping into the flour vs spooning the flour in the cup, shaking vs. scraping across the top to level, etc.) – Joe Oct 13 '18 at 23:18
  • @Joe yes, thank you for mentioning that. It was the reasoning behind me suggesting first converting to weight, but I never wrote it into the answer itself. – rumtscho Oct 14 '18 at 11:16
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My guess would be a problem with the method. Most recipes have you cream the butter and sugar first, before adding the remaining ingredients. Others will have you beat the eggs with sugar and melt the butter.

I don't see anything immediately off about the proportions or temperature and baking time. My recommendation would be to cream the butter and sugar first, the add the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture well and and then add the remaining ingredients. This should give a fluffier texture.

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Here are a few more variables not yet mentioned:

  • oven temperature: Consumer ovens are notoriously inaccurate -- even if you set yours for 350°F, you might actually get 400°F or even higher. Baking at too high a temperature will of course lead to over-baking.

  • baking powder: Baking powder has a limited shelf life; once you open the can, it starts to absorb moisture from the air, and eventually it becomes less effective. It's not a fast process, but if your baking powder has been sitting in your pantry for a few years it might not be giving your cake as much lift as you want, and that can result in a dense cake.

  • mixing: The way you mix the ingredients can have a big effect, and the method in your recipe seems unusual: normally, you'd cream the butter and sugar together, and then add the eggs, milk, and finally the dry ingredients. For example, here's a Martha Stewart marble cake recipe that has nearly the same ingredients, but where the ingredients are mixed as I've just described. Putting everything in the bowl at once and mixing until smooth wouldn't develop the batter the same way and might be contributing to the problem. Also, know that stand mixers are a lot more powerful than handheld electric mixers, so judge how long to mix by what the batter looks like rather than relying on the 2-minute time estimate.

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Most recipes want you to put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix, but in my experience, this sets you up for failure. First you want to mix all of the dry ingredients completely Especially when dealing with baking powder. Baking powder and egg gives you the rise you need in your cake, but if a clump of baking soda doesn't get spread througoht your cake, the cake will react as if there is less baking soda and most likely turn out as hard as a rock. Or close given the ratio that was there. I use a sifter to evenly mix all the dry ingredients together first. If you are going for a chewier consistency though, sugar and butter can be mixed together and then the dry ingrediants sifted next, followed by the eggs and the rest of the liquid ingredients.

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