Baking Questions Answered

May 26, 2009 78 Comments

Baking Questions Answered

Answers to Some of Your Baking Questions

Every day I receive emails from visitors with questions about a cooking technique or a recipe. I can’t get to them all but I try to get as many responses out as time permits and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll ask one of my chef friends. Here are a couple I’ve received that deal with baking, a subject I am not that comfortable with, so I sent them to my friend Chef Jenni Field who is a great baker and pastry chef.

Cracks In Cake

This one comes from Debbie who says,

I tried the apple cake recipe, it is fantastic except for the part about the cracks in the middle of the cake. In fact, I had the same problem with other cakes as well, can u let me know what is the probable cause of this?

Here’s how Chef Jenni replied,

My first thought is that, with fruit in the center, you’re bound to get some cracking as the fruit boils and then settles down upon cooling.  I’m not sure how much cracking you’re getting, but with a “homey” dessert like an apple cake, I’d just hit it with some powdered sugar and eat up!

If you’re getting cracks in other cakes as well, it could be from over-mixing or from using the wrong flour.  Depending on where you live, flours can be very different from one another.  In the US, stick with a nationally available all purpose flour for the most consistent results.

In regard to over-mixing the apple cake, try folding in the dry ingredients rather than trying to beat them in.  (In cakes using the creaming method – adding dry and wet alternately after creaming the fat and sugar, mix until just combined after each addition).

Also, check your oven temperature–if the oven is too hot, it could cause things to rise and peak, creating cracks in the cake.  This is great for muffins, but not what you want with cake.  If you don’t have one, get an oven thermometer to check the temperature.

All Purpose Flour

Here’s another baking related queston I asked Chef Jenni to help with:

Anna says,

I have tried using natural unbleached, all purpose flour to make a layer cake and have been unsatisfied with the texture.  I tried using 2 tablespoons less of the all purpose flour (which I read is the equivalent of cake flour).  I have tried replacing some of the all purpose flour with corn starch.  None of the things I’ve tried have given me the light, airy cake that I get when I use the package mix.  I do want the cake to be all natural.  Any suggestions?

Chef Jenni replies,

I bet it’s their mixing method and not their flour that’s messing them up. Mass-produced cake mixes contain emulsifiers and tenderizers that are not available to the home baker.  So, generally speaking, a home-baked cake will most likely not be as light as a cake mix cake.  Notice I said “not be as light,” not “not be better.”  I stay away from cake mixes because of all the additives.

If you’ve tried using different flours and even using less all purpose to stand in for cake flour, I would consider buying some cake flour.  It is more finely milled than all purpose flour, and so your results tend to be a lighter, finer texture.  If you’ve tried cake flour already and still aren’t satisfied with your results, I would look to your mixing method.

If you are using the creaming method, make sure that all of your ingredients are at cool room temperature (about 68-70 degrees F) and that you thoroughly cream the fat and sugar until it is very light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat each one in thoroughly before adding the next.  Then, thoroughly whisk together all the dry ingredients and add about half to the batter.

Mix until incorporated on medium-low speed.  Add half of the liquid and just mix in.  Follow that with half of what’s left of the flour, the rest of the liquid and then the rest of the dry.  Mix just until incorporated after each addition and scrape the bowl frequently.

Following this procedure should result in a well-aerated cake that is fairly tender.

More About All Purpose Flour

Cher asks,

What does all purpose flour have in it? Any baking powder or baking soda?

Chef Jenni says,

You are not alone in your confusion over flours.  There are a wide variety of flours on the market, and it seems like more are introduced every day.

All purpose flour is a blend of high and low protein flours.  The manufacturers blend the flour so that there is enough gluten in it to make a reasonable (often excellent) loaf of bread but not so much that you will end up with a chewy birthday cake.  This is why they call it “all purpose:” it is good to use in a variety of baked goods.

When you ask about baking powder and soda, I assume you mean self-rising flour.  All purpose flour and self-rising flour are not interchangeable, because self rising flour does contain leaveners and salt.  Self rising (or self raising) flour is one of the first “baking mixes.”  Rather than having to measure out all purpose flour, baking powder and salt separately, a cook can just measure the self rising flour–everything else is already in there.

Last modified on Thu 31 July 2014 10:19 am

Comments (78)

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  1. Marlene says:

    If I forgot baking powder in my recipe will it effect the taste

  2. nadia says:

    1.what is the preparation before i make cookies??

    2.how should i know my cookies are ready??

  3. Jenni says:

    Nadia, It won’t effect the taste, per se, but it will certainly effect the texture. Your end product will be dense with a very tight crumb. Also it will not (or just barely) rise. All this is dependent upon how much baking powder the recipe called for and what mixing method you use.

  4. Jenni says:

    Nadia,

    If I understand your questions correctly, you are asking about mise en place–getting everything set up and prepared before baking. For cookies made with the creaming method, make sure all your ingredients are at about 68F. This means you’ll have to get the butter out of the fridge at least 30 to an hour before baking, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

    I’d go ahead and mix all the dry ingredients together, have all of your mix-ins (chocolate chips, nuts) if using, and put the sugar together with the butter.

    Then, it’s as easy as 1-2-3:
    1) cream butter and fat (then, add egg, if called for)
    2) add in dry
    3) stir in mix-ins

    Depending on the type of cookie you’re baking, there are different ways of knowing when they’re done. Look at the bottoms to make sure they are deep golden brown–this is a good way for basic chocolate chip, oatmeal and peanut butter cookies. Some cookies aren’t supposed to brown (Mexican wedding cookies, shortbread, etc) so just check to make sure they are firm.

    When in doubt, take one out of the oven to sacrifice for the cause. Eat it. If you like the texture, it’s done.

    Best of luck to you:)

    Oh, that first comment up there was directed at Marlene. Sorry!

  5. jaime says:

    can you freeze zabaglione and defrost it without it changing in texture?

  6. Rosie Wester says:

    I just made chocolate chip cookies for the umteenth time and they are flat and get hard when cooled. I rechecked the ingrediences and measurements, nothing wrong. Could it be the oven temperature? I wanted them thick and chewy.

  7. RG says:

    Hi Rosie,
    Can you post the recipe along with the oven temperatures so we can try and help you figure out what went wrong?

  8. Carmella says:

    How can i make very HIGH muffins like Perkins? If I put more batter in the cups, it just spreads out all over the sides. Does it need more baking powder to rise more quickly? I would really appreciate your input. Thanks, Carmella

  9. CHEF JEFF says:

    I am having trouble with my cheesecake splitting on the top. I have a Cheesecake Factory recipe that is great. The taste and texture are good. I have cooled it down in the oven with the oven off and I have put it on a cooling rack. How do they get their tops so perfect with no cracking?

  10. Cathy says:

    I am attempting to make an apple strudel and it the recipe calls for 3.5 oz. sultans. What is this and is there a substitute if I can’t find it in the store? Thanks.

  11. Cathy says:

    Never mind. I just found out that sultans are sultanas which are golden raisins! Dumb question. Thanks anyway.

  12. robert johnson says:

    i have a question if i don’t put enough baking powder in a cake how much will it rise smaller or bigger?

  13. shelly says:

    how can i get my homemade bread to be like store bought , mine comes out course and tough , how do i get it to be soft and fluffy ,ty

  14. Sheran Viecili says:

    This is the third time I have tried baking , the first was chocolate chip pan cookies and I tried making cranberry bread twice. All three times, the batter just stayed liquid, it did not bake. Could this be the Oven? I am using a thermometer and it just a little higher than the oven thermometer. I would appreciate any help. Thank you

    Hi Sheran, I would need a little more information including the recipe to be able to help. – RG

  15. art becker says:

    How do you keep bananas from turning brown in banana cream pie?

    Hi Art,
    The old brown banana cream pie dilemma. You can go a couple of ways. First, you could roast the bananas. This will deepen the banana flavor and caramelize them somewhat. The texture will be softer than fresh, and they’ll be brown-ish to begin with, but the depth of flavor will be lovely. Plus, they won’t get any more brown because the heat will have killed off the enzymes that cause browning. Second, dip the banana slices in acidulated water – water w/a bit of lemon or lime juice in it.

    Either way, banana cream pies tend to get soggy fairly quickly because of the moisture content. Ultimately, the best way to keep your bananas from browning is to invite a crowd and eat the whole pie on the first day!

  16. ole says:

    when i bake muffins or bread the oven works fine,but when i try to bake a casserole it never gets hot, even after an hour it’s still cold inside. Why is this?

    Hi Ole, could be your oven, could be the temperature you’re cooking at. Without a recipe, it is hard to tell. – RG

  17. connie says:

    can sweet roll dough be shaped into rolls & refrigerated overnight, then allowed to raise in the morning?

  18. Jenni says:

    Hi, Connie.

    Good question. The answer is Absolutely! Shape and refrigerate, then take out about an hour before baking and you’re good to go. You will want to give the dough a first rise the day before, then punch down, shape and chill.

  19. Jeff says:

    Last night I baked a white pizza that I saw on Food Network by Claire Robinson. I made it last week and it was fabulous, so this time I decided to add a few toppings of my own to jazz it up. It was good, but there was a distinct “lemon” flavor to the pizza and I can’t for the life of me figure out which ingredient may have caused this.
    Here are the ingredients I used:
    1 lb. store bought fresh pizza dough
    3 cups mozzarella cheese
    1/2 cup ricotta cheese
    olive oil
    The following ingredients are the ones I added this time:

    grilled chicken
    mushrooms
    bacon
    garlic powder
    paresan/romano blend (grated)
    tomato slices
    fresh basil

    It almost tasted like I had put lemon zest in the recipe somewhere. It wasn’t bad. Nice summer taste, but it was unexpected. Where did it come from? The basil? Maybe because I used a different brand of olive oil this time?

    I’m guessing it is the basil. Maybe you purchased lemon basil, a hybrid between basil and African basil that has a strong fragrant lemon scent. Did you like the outcome or was the lemon flavor to overpowering? – RG

  20. Jeff says:

    The flavor was good, just not expected. Come to find out, it was the olive oil. I sauteed mushrooms last night for the eggplant parm I was making, and I tasted one of them before I put them into the dish. Again, not a bad taste, just unexpected. I will, however, go back to using my normal EVOO instead of the high end specialty stuff. Thanks for the response. I thought it had to be the basil and thought maybe i had bought lemon basil. Glad I figured it out.

    Congratulations on your deductive powers. – RG

  21. Laurie Koch says:

    New question—
    Can I prepare a carrot cake at 8 in the morning, put it in a 9X13 pan, put it in the fridge, and then take it out and bake it at 8 p.m. at nite? If not, why not? The consensus is it needs to be baked right after it is prepared and in the pan, but no one can tell me why?? My husband is hoping to save on electricity costs and heating up the house. My response, “tough!!”.
    Thanks for responding.

    Hi Laurie, great question so I asked my friend Chef Jenni Field for her opinion. Her response is at Carrot Cake Recipe Question

  22. Catherine says:

    I was always told that when one bakes anything in a casserole or sheet pan with sides, you never place it on another pan to prevent drips. EVERYONE on the Food Network places their pans on larger baking pans- is this a good idea?

    Hi Catherine, I asked my friend Pastry Chef Jennifer Field your question and here is what she had to say,

    I’m all for following directions, but I like to know “why” I should follow directions. The only reason I can think that you would be advised not to put a pan underneath a casserole or jelly roll-type pan is maybe that the heat circulation might be impeded. Honestly, though, whatever food/batter is actually touching the sides of the pan will be the hottest. If you are concerned about that, you can always place another pan on the rack below whatever you are baking, leaving space for air to circulate around the entire pan. Another option is to line the bottom of your oven with aluminum foil–either the non-stick kind or regular. Reynold’s also makes foil trays designed to line the oven floor. If you have an electric oven, you simply have to raise up the coil and slide the tray in. If you’re baking in a gas oven, all you need to do is set the pan directly on the bottom of the oven.

  23. Jacqueline says:

    I would like to learn how to make cakes or cupcakes from scratch. How do you know the right portion amount with all ingredients?

    Hi Jacqueline, thanks for writing. I’m not sure if I have a cupcake recipe on my site but there are plenty of baking techniques described. If you do a search on my site for baking, you can learn what you need to bake a cake or make cupcakes and there are thousands if not tens of thousands of recipes on the internet. Good luck. – RG

  24. Eileen Costanzo says:

    how can I make my red velvet cake turn out more moist ?

    Great question for my friend Chef Jenni, a professional baker and contributing writer. I’ll ask her to respond. Thanks for writing. – RG

  25. Linda says:

    my lemon curd (for pie filling) has a metallic taste even though I am using a stainless saucepan to cook the curd. can you tell me what might be happening?

    Let me ask Chef Jenni, a contributing writer and professional baker to respond. – RG

  26. Jenni says:

    @Eileen: I’d be happy to try and help, but I really have to see your recipe before I can tell you how to fix it. Please post here, or ask RG to forward the recipe to me, and I’ll see what I can do for you!

    @Linda I’m glad you specified that you’re using a stainless steel pan–it really does make a difference. As with Eileen, I’d like to see your recipe, but the first thing I can think of is that you need to add some salt to your curd. Salt will help to round out the flavors and “fill out” the flat, metallic taste you describe.

  27. Eloisa Davenport says:

    I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives great information .

    Thanks Eloisa – RG

  28. KK says:

    I cook from scratch more often than not, and would love to create my own recipes. I would like to know how to decide, when baking, whether to use baking soda, baking powder or both. Are there any “golden rules” about this?

    Great question and I will ask baking and pastry chef Jenni Field for a response. – RG

  29. Jenni says:

    The question of whether to use baking powder, baking soda, or both in a recipe is a question of pH balance. Ideally, your batter will be neutral, with a pH closer to 7. This means it doesn’t contain many (if any) acidic ingredients: coffee, yogurt, sour cream, non-alkalized (regular) cocoa powder, molasses, citrus juice, etc. In this case, the general rule of thumb is 1 teaspoon of baking powder (its pH is neutral) per cup of flour. So, 3 cups of flour will require 3 teaspoons baking powder.

    Baking soda has a high pH (over 7), which means that it is a base. It is used to leaven and to neutralize acidic ingredients. The rule of thumb here is 1/4 teaspoon baking soda per cup of flour.

    Most modern recipes use a mixture of both baking soda and baking powder, the powder to leaven and the soda to neutralize. My rule of thumb is the same 1 teaspoon of powder per cup of flour and about 1/2 teaspoon soda per cup of acidic ingredient.

    There are many variables to consider when developing your own recipes, not the least of which if pH. I can recommend two books that are very helpful with this. Bakewise, by Shirley Corriher, can help you figure out how to balance your recipes so the pH is pretty neutral. Micheal Ruhlman’s Ratio offers standard ratios for almost any baked good you can think of. It’s invaluable as a launching place for any new formula you’re trying to come up with.

    Good Luck, KK!

    Thanks Jenni and be sure to check out Jenni’s blog, Pastry Methods and Techniques to learn everything you need to learn about baking and pastry making. – RG

  30. Michael says:

    Summarize the biscuit method of mixing?

    Hi Michael, are these homework questions you are asking? This method of mixing is explained on my How to Bake Page in some detail. Please take a look there for an answer. – RG

  31. Stella says:

    After baking pound cake, the top and sides are crusty to the point where I can actually peel this off instead of being buttery and soft. What am I doing wrong? I sifted the cake flour and really creamed the cream cheese, butter and sugar well.

    Hi Stella, interesting dilemma. I asked Pastry Chef Jenni Field to respond to your question and wrote a separate post for it at Pound Cake Recipe and Crust Fix. Hope this helps – RG

  32. KK says:

    Can you tell me the difference in polenta, grits and just plain cornmeal? And can they be interchanged in recipes? I make fried cornbread often, but it is not “gelled” first like with fried or grilled polenta.

    Great question KK. I asked my friend Chef Jenni Field and here is what she told me – “As far as I know, in the case of grits/polenta, it is a matter more of cooking style than it is of actual substance. Cornmeal is more finely ground than grits/polenta. Otherwise, all three are pretty much the same thing. I have subbed grits for cornmeal in cornbread before. It works okay, but of course the final product is more…abrasive…in the mouth because of the larger grind of the grits.

    Does your fried cornbread have egg in it? If so, it doesn’t need to gel before frying since the egg proteins will hold it together. Polenta or grits need to set up in the fridge before frying since neither generally contain eggs.”

    Hope this helps – RG

  33. Michael says:

    What two elements does a proofing cabinet control?
    Describe how to activiate the following types of yeast: Compressed, Dry active, quick rise dry.
    Contrast batters and doughs?

    Hi Michael, looks like you want RG to do your homework or answer a test question. No thanks but I would like to see how YOU answered these questions. – RG

  34. Mary says:

    No matter what I do or which recipe I try I have trouble baking banana bread. My trouble is getting even baking. Generally the top center is under baked while the sides are a bit too brown. I have tried, stoneware pans, glass pans, not stick metal pans, different recipes, and now have a new oven that can bake convection or traditional methods. It was one of the first things I wanted to try in the new oven to see if it would come out right. Not much change. I’ve tried putting the racks at varying levels too. Any ideas? This is kind of driving me crazy! I’m a baker for years, and this is the one thing I cannot seems to get right! Please help!

    Hi Mary, I would need to see your recipe to be able to help. – RG

  35. Kara says:

    My mom, at 70, has baked her fair share of cookies. Lately she’s complaining that after the first couple of days, her cookies become hard(er), regardless of how she stores them or type of cookie she bakes. Is there an ingredient she can add to the recipe? Or is this simply how it is….cookies are not as fresh after two days.

    Let’s see if I can get Pastry Chef Jenni Field to give you a great answer. – RG

  36. Jenni says:

    Karen, unfortunately, staling happens. The starch granules somehow transform over time, probably due to oxidation (although don’t quote me on that). Regardless, baked goods go stale fairly quickly. I generally store everything tightly wrapped in the freezer. Fortunately, cookies thaw quickly! ;) I know that King Arthur makes a product called cake enhancer that is supposed to increase “shelf-life” of baked goods. Here’s a link: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/cake-enhancer-8-oz I hope that helps.

    Thanks Jenni – RG

  37. Rachael says:

    I baked some Banana and cinnamon muffins on Friday, let them totally cool then put them in a box to keep them fresh-er. I looked Sunday and each one had a squidgy top, they were sticking together and the lid had condensation/water drops in the middle. I checked inside them and all are thoroughly cooked, not dry either, and I don’t know why this has happened, the sponge was cooked perfectly. I have cooked muffins before and the only problem I have had in the past is the paper casings come off (this I don’t know why either as have adjusted cooking time up and down and it doesn’t seem to make a difference) If you could help with my problem at all I would be extremely grateful, also how long does Banana cake keep? Thanks in advance

    Hi Rachael, I asked Chef Jenni Field, a pastry chef and avid contributor to The Reluctant Gourmet. Here is what she has to say,

    “The only thing I can think of about this is that they weren’t totally cool. And even if they were, maybe they weren’t able to breathe in the box. They need a bit of air circulation, because they’ll continue to give off small amounts of moisture. It could also be that the bananas were “wetter” than normal. When dealing w/an agricultural product, they can vary from crop to crop, so this particular batch of muffins may have contained more moisture than previous batches.

    Having said all that, two days closed up in a box is a little long, too. If I’m not going to eat muffins the day I make them, I put them in freezer bags, suck out all the air and freeze them. Then, I heat them up individually in the toaster oven. Since they do contain mashed fruit and are very perishable, I wouldn’t recommend leaving them out on the counter, boxed or not, for more than the day that you make them.

    As to the papers coming “unstuck” from the muffins, I’ve heard of folks having that problem before, but I cannot for the life of me figure out why it happens. Some folks will bake one batch and everything will be fine and then bake more the next day, and the papers fall off. I wish I had some words of wisdom about that, but it just seems like a random thing.”

  38. Josie Metivier says:

    I made apple cake and I completely forgot to put baking powder and baking soda, the result is not really good, what can I do to the cake. I don’t want to throw it. Is there anything i can do to the cake. Thanks.

  39. Joyce says:

    Can self rising flour be used in making home made bread?

  40. Jenni says:

    Joyce–I have seen recipes for biscuits that contain both chemical leaveners (as in self-rising flour) and yeast, but I’ve not ever seen a bread recipe that calls for self rising flour. Maybe in the case of banana or zucchini breads and other breads baked in loaf pans that don’t contain yeast. But nothing will give you the flavor profile in your bread that yeast will. Beer bread, containing self rising flour, beer and maybe a bit of sugar and other seasonings may come closest to “real bread” flavor since the beer was fermented with yeast.

    I did find a bread recipe calling for both yeast and baking powder, so you might be able to sub your self rising flour for the flour/salt/baking powder (which is all that self rising flour is) in the recipe. http://www.instructables.com/answers/do-you-still-need-yeast-if-you-only-have-self-risi/

    I hope this helps.

  41. Teresa says:

    I have a great recipe for blueberry muffins and the recipe has a yummy crumb topping. I put the topping on after I scoop the batter into the muffin cups. But while baking it seems to come off as the muffin raises. I am wondering how to keep more of the topping on so it looks professional.

  42. Jenni says:

    I would try packing on a pretty thick layer before baking–don’t just sprinkle it; kind of press it into the batter just a bit. If pieces still fall off, pile them back on with just a couple of minutes left in the baking time. Also, make sure your crumb topping is in small pebbles rather than larger chunks. None should really be any larger than the size of small peas. Hope this helps.

  43. louis colagreco says:

    why is it when i make Jewish apple cake it goes down and settles when i take it out of the oven, i put the right ingredients thanks

  44. ken says:

    While at my Mom’s house, I was going to bake a pound cake with a tried and true recipe (her recipe that I have use for years). I was not paying enough attention and used self-rising instead of regular flour. What a disaster! About 3/4 of the way through I noticed it didn’t look like it usually does, but I ignored that warning. It wasn’t until I was cleaning up her oven from the momentous over-spill that I retraced my steps and realized what I had done; but that was just when my sister and nephew came along to enjoy what I had done. There are plenty of pictures…

  45. ken says:

    What I was really wondering: Why do recipes call for an alternating between the milk and flour?

  46. Jenni says:

    Ken, first of all, I can imagine you did have an interesting mess on your hands! But to your question: the reason the creaming method calls for adding eggs gradually and then alternating the wet and dry ingredients is to keep the emulsion stable. You are starting with an emulsion of fat (butter) in a sugar/water solution (the minimal amount of water is from the butter and from what water the sugar attracts). The rest of the procedure is designed to keep the emulsion from breaking into a soupy mess. So, you add a little dry to tighten up the mix, then a little wet to loosen it–but not so much that it breaks. When you add the dry, you’re adding to the structure. Then, when you add wet, you’re increasing gluten formation (structure) and thinning the consistency of the batter so it will rise up beautifully. A too-heavy batter will result in a too-heavy cake. So, the whole idea is to perform a balancing act, alternating adding two opposing forces to achieve the right balance of structure and tenderness. Hope that helps! :)

  47. Jenni says:

    @Louis, it sounds like you might be underbaking. Without more information, it’s hard to tell, but if the cake looks well risen in the oven and then deflates when you take it out, it sounds like the structure hasn’t completely “set” in the oven. And that means that the dough can’t hold itself up, which means a flat cake out of the oven. To make sure, try taking the internal temperature of your cake before removing from the oven. You’re shooting for around 200F. If you are concerned about over-browning, just tent your cake w/some foil during the last few minutes of baking.

    Thanks Chef Jenni – RG

  48. richard says:

    have experienced huge holes in cooking gluten free mud cakes. No such problem when I use normal flour, only when I use maize or rice flour. Any tricks to solving this problem?

  49. Jenni says:

    Hi, Richard. I am not a GF baker, so I can’t really speak to your issue specifically. I would recommend running/swirling a thin knife through your batter to break up any potential air pockets. Short of that, I would check with a GF baking website for more expert advice. Good luck with it.

  50. Honorene says:

    I need recipe for old fashion cheese cake, ones made before Philadelphia Cheese was in existence. It was baked on a sheet pan (with elevated sides) and cut to order, and weighed. It was very moist, nearly melted in your mouth, and delicious. Can you help me??

    Hi Honorene, I asked my friend Chef Jenni about your question and here’s what she came up with. Hope this helps. – RG

    I found this–it’s baked in a spring form pan, but it could just as easily be scaled up to bake in a sheet pan and “sold by weight.” http://whatscookingamerica.net/LizKrause/ItalianRicottaCheesecake.htm It’s not very sweet, which makes me think it’s fairly authentic to Italy or to early Italian immigrants to the US.

  51. anne says:

    I’ve been making lemon bars, and the last batch the crust ended up on top of the filling. Any ideas how this could happen? I did nothing different.
    Thanks

  52. Irene Cavanagh says:

    I would like to make a chocolate lava cake for my grandson. Since you should eat these cakes warm, is it possible to, say, make one and save the batter in the fridge for a day or two before using again?

  53. Kristina Park says:

    I’m making a basic apple pie and a pumpkin cream pie with gingersnap crust for thanksgiving. The only time I have to make them is the Tuesday morning before. Will the taste and texture still be good? Any techniques to help them stay fresh?

  54. Jenni says:

    To Kristina–You should be okay w/the pumpkin pie for a couple of days. Wrap it very well to prevent any off flavors from the fridge, and you might even want to change your box of baking soda just to make sure:)

    I’d consider putting the apple pie together on Tuesday, freezing it and then baking it on Thanksgiving day. I’m just afraid that your crust will get soggy, and part of the joy of an apple pie is the contrast between crisp top crust and soft apples.

    Hope that helps.

  55. Jenni says:

    To Irene–You can certainly do that, or you could bake them all and then reheat to serve. Either way should be fine–just bring them to room temp and reheat at about 300F for maybe 5 minutes for individual cakes. This should be long enough to reheat w/o continuing to bake and ruining the gooey center.

  56. Jenni says:

    To Anne–Wow, that’s a new one on me! I have read recipes for a cake called “impossible cake.” As it bakes, it separates into a custard layer and a cake layer. Kind of like a pudding cake. I’m wondering if your filling was maybe a bit too warm and caused this to happen. Would be interested in seeing your recipe and doing a little troubleshooting with you.

  57. charles berrard says:

    I recently picked some persimons and pureed them with sugar. I’d like to make a moist cake, or a brownie like tart. I can’t find a recipe. Any suggestions as to how to incorporate the puree into one of the above. I could wing it and see, but i’ve done that before with little success. What proportions of puree to flour, how many eggs, etc. Can you help before the by the 20th.

    Thanks, CB

  58. Paul Oechsle says:

    In a home I bake pecan pie for 50 min at 350. If I put 2 pecan pies in what temp and how long do I bake them.
    Paul Oechsle

  59. Mike Leonard says:

    What is the differnce between “soda” and “baking soda” in the cookie recipe I have for Soft Molasses cookies? It comes from a VERY old Watkins cookbook. And there are several recipes that call or both.

  60. Jenni says:

    @Mike

    Good questions. Sometimes names change over time. For all intents and purposes, they are the same thing. It may be an early form using “soda ash,” but regular baking soda should work just fine in a molasses cookie.

    @Paul You probably will notice a slight increase in baking time, but as long as there is plenty of air circulation around each pie, it shouldn’t be a significant amount. I’d keep it at 350 and then check when your one pie would normally be done. If both aren’t done, drop it to 325 and cover w/foil if things are starting to brown too much. Depending on how “undone” they are at the “one pie done” mark, check quickly after an additional 5-10 min and in increments of 5 min until they’re done. Write down the total time so that next time there won’t be any guess work. :)

  61. Debbie Liggett says:

    I make Spritz Christmas cookies every year, they look great coming out of the cookie press onto the cold cookie sheet. However, when they bake they spread out and loose their distinct shape? How can I fix that, so when they are baked they keep their shape?

  62. Jenni says:

    @Debbie: I have honestly never met a spritz cookie that doesn’t puff and spread a bit. It’s just the nature of the dough: it has to be lose enough to be extruded through the press. You can probably minimize the spread by freezing the pan of spritzed dough until the cookies are solid. Then, bake them from frozen. This should help them keep their shape a bit, but you’ll never get the sharp edges or points on the Christmas tree shape, for example, unless you do a rolled cookie and then cut out the shapes. Even then, the points will certainly soften a bit. You could also try maybe subbing some shortening for some of the butter–the shortening has a higher melting point and will help the cookie hold its shape a bit longer in the oven.

    @Charles: I’m sorry I didn’t see your question until now. What I would do is sub the persimmons for mashed banana in a banana cake recipe. At the very least, this would be a very good starting point for your experimentation. Use your favorite banana bread recipe–or maybe an applesauce cake, instead–and then swap the bananas or applesauce for the persimmons. You may have to adjust the sugar depending on how much you used in the puree, but I think this would be your best bet.

    I like that you are interested in proportions and the ratios of different ingredients to “build” a cake/brownies with the texture you’re looking for. You may want to pick up a copy of Michael Ruhlman’s “Ratio” cookbook. That’s what the entire book is about: ratios of ingredients to get what you want. Shirley Corriher’s “Bakewise” also goes into a lot of that as well.

  63. Richard Calderon says:

    The last two pecan pies I baked resulted in the center being soft or watery. What causes this to happen?

  64. Karen Brandes says:

    I have read all the bad press on Canola Oil, etc and am looking for the healthiest oil for baking.
    Can you tell me the safest oil?

  65. Jenni says:

    @Richard not sure what you mean by watery, but it could just be that you underbaked by a few minutes which left the center too jiggly to set up even when cool.

    @Karen It’s really hard to say. It depends on what you’re looking for–the oil with the least saturated fat? The one that lends additional flavor to your baked goods? The one that lends itself well to browning? I would look for an oil expressly labeled non-GMO and the one with the lightest flavor (unless you want the oil to lend flavor as in a lemon-olive oil cake).

    Also remember that when making a cake that contains oil, even if the recipe calls for a cup of oil, if you cut it into slices, you may only be ingesting 1 Tablespoon per serving. Moderation, as is often the case, is key.

  66. Virginia M. Musci says:

    I have a receipe called Strawberry Shortcut Cake. Marshmallows on the bottom, from stratch batter, thawed frozen strawberries mixed with strawberry jello on top. In the past marshmallows would rise to the top and the strawberries/jello would go to the bottom. I’ve tried this twice this past week and the marshmallows stayed on the bottom and burnt and the strawberries stayed on the top. What happened? thanks for your help.

    • Jenni says:

      I have no idea what happened, Virginia. Did you do anything differently from what you usually do? Using any different ingredient brands or have a new oven? If you could provide a bit more information, I’ll try to be helpful!

  67. Marie M says:

    A recipe calls for the pie to be baked at 425 deg F for 30 min followed by 325 deg F for 30 min. Can I just bake it for 375 deg F for 60 min?

  68. Deborah A. Cook says:

    A recipe for shortbread cookies asks for 3/4 lb. of butter. How many sticks is that? I am assuming 3 sticks, am I correct?

  69. Catherine Nolan says:

    In baking oatmeal cookies, it calls for 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of brown sugar. My husband is a diabetic and I would like to bake the cookies for him using a sweetner substitute. When I bake the cookies regularly, he steals them when I’m not looking. Can you help me give him the cookies so that he can enjoy them without his sugar skyrocketing.

    Thank you.

  70. Carolyn Kleinman says:

    I made a carrot raisin bread with molasses it fell in the middle all i had was sides. I used all purpose flour. I live in Utah

  71. Don says:

    I have tried several On-line Recipes for hot dog buns but they seem to be very heavy and also almost have the consistency of a cake. Are these bad recipes or am I doing something wrong?

    Hi Don, hard to tell without seeing the recipes. Email me an example and I’ll see what I can find out.

  72. Yvonne says:

    I’ve made two buttermilk pies with different recipes, and during baking, the butter separates from the rest of the ingredients. What am I doing wrong?

    • Jenni says:

      Absolutely impossible to say without knowing your recipes and procedures, Yvonne. If I had to hazard a guess it would be that the oven is too hot, though. If you’d care to share more information, perhaps I can be a bit more helpful. Thanks!

  73. Frances Jones says:

    Can you tell me why my cup cakes sometimes come loose from the baking cases please?

  74. Jeanne says:

    I have a recipe that I’ve made many times, and the last two times I made it did not work right. I think it’s because they’ve changed the amount of cake mix in a box from about 18 ounces to about 15 ounces. Here’s the recipe for chocolate chip pound cake:
    1 box yellow cake mix
    1 box instant chocolate pudding
    8 oz sour cream
    1 cup water
    1/2 cup oil
    3 eggs
    1 cup chocolate chips
    You mix it all together and bake in a bundt pan (350 for 50 minutes). The last two times it has come out totally squishy and seemingly unbaked in the middle–very different from what it was before. How can I change this recipe to accommodate the new cake mix size? thanks

  75. Casey says:

    I baked pecan cake using 180g of plain flour and 50 gm of high protein flour for 45 minutes at 180 degree Celsius. I was just following the recipe.
    At 45 minutes, the inside is still wet. So I baked for an additional 10 minutes. The inside is now done . But the cake is quite hard especially the top. In fact it is not so much like a cake but something between bread and biscuit. What went wrong? Oh I forgot to mention the high protein flour used is organic. Please advise.

    • Jenni says:

      I would avoid using the high protein flour. High protein flour is better for bread. In cakes you want a more tender crumb. Without seeing your entire recipe and procedure, that’s my best guess, Casey.

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