Solving the Cake-Making Blues
Problem: Batter curdles and separates.
Solution: Eggs were not added one at a time and beaten thoroughly after each addition; an electric mixer was set at too high a speed; and/or the eggs were too cold. Try adding 1 Tbs. flour per egg and reducing the speed of the electric mixer.
Problem: Cake didn't rise.
Solution: Too much or not enough fat or liquid in the batter; batter was overbeaten; and/or oven temperature was too high.
Problem: Cake is tough.
Solution: Butter and sugar were underbeaten in the early stages of mixing; batter was overbeaten after the flour was added; not enough sugar; not enough baking powder; and/or not enough fat. Try brushing cake layers with sugar syrup, or filling and frosting the layers with a generous layer of moist frosting.
Problem: Cake crumb is sticky.
Solution: Too much sugar in the batter or sugar was too coarse.
Problem: Top crust is hard.
Solution: Oven temperature was too high; cake was overbaked; and/or cake was baked too close to the top of the oven. Try slicing off the top of the cake layer before frosting.
Problem: Cake sinks in the center.
Solution: Too much fat and/or sugar or leavening; batter was overbeaten; cake pan was too small; the filled cake pan was tapped too roughly on the countertop; the oven door was banged shut; or the oven temperature was too low. Try cutting out the fallen center and treating the cake like a tube cake; or fill the depression with fruit or extra frosting.
Problem: Cake peaks in the center.
Solution: Wrong type of flour was used (contained too much gluten); batter was overbeaten; too little fat and/or sugar in the batter; and/or oven temperature was too high. Try slicing the peaked center off the cake, then frost the cake.
Problem: Tunnels run through the cake.
Solution: Not enough fat in the batter; batter was overbeaten; or wrong type of flour was used (contained too much gluten).
Problem: Crust is unevenly colored.
Solution: Too much leavener and/or sugar in the batter; not enough fat in the batter; oven temperature was too high or too low; oven heats unevenly. Try camouflaging with frosting.
Problem: Cake rose unevenly.
Solution: Cake layers were crowded on the oven rack and heated unevenly. Bake each layer on its own rack. Trim the layers to even them out and camouflage with frosting.