Jo’s Problematic Cake

Jo's Problematic Cake

Jo‘s cake that we had on Saturday. Moist and delicious, chocolate and marmalade yet always depressed. It made me think of Grace Jones, Julianne Moore, and Winona Rider all at once. Aberration creates possibilities and I was heartened by 42n81‘s comments on Flickr:

i used to be an expert on this style of cake, but then i quit baking. however, my experience has been that that sinking feeling means there is more concentrated flavor to savor and all in all it’s balanced

So true, but since I shot my mouth off and said I’d get a solution to this, what can be done?

UpdateThe maker appears!



  1. David’s avatar

    Why not insert a tennis ball into the middle of the cake prior to baking to stop it deflating?

    And naturally it opens the door to a nice game of French cricket once the cake has been consumed.

  2. Santos’s avatar

    cake sinks. cakes sink. for a myriad of reasons: oven too hot, oven too cold. not enough leavening, not enough (or absolutely no) flour. too much fat. too much sugar.

    i think it’s easier just to enjoy it.

    i have a great story about procuring hookers for grace jones in honolulu.

  3. Stephanie’s avatar

    i have a great story about procuring hookers for grace jones in honolulu.

    I gotta hear this!

  4. Anthony’s avatar

    David that’s a marvellous idea. And French Cricket to boot.

    Grace Jones needs hookers? What’s wrong with this world!

    Yes do tell.

  5. deborah’s avatar

    like santos says cakes sink.

    is Jo opening the oven mid bake? why not try to make a slight dome shape when baking so that it all balances out. this was trick i used when my old oven wasn’t behaving itself. im sure there are more technical reasons as to why cakes sink, such as over beating the cake batter, under measuring (or over) the flour to liquid ratio, not creaming butter-sugar-egg combo and sifting the flour in parts (makes for gluggy cake). but mostly it comes down to over temp and allowing the cake to bake in the first half without opening the oven door.

    often flourless cakes get that sinking feeling, so when it comes to the flour to liquid ration, it may mean there is something up with that, or it isnt sifted properly, or folded into the wet ingredients.

    sorry rambling here…

  6. Anthony’s avatar

    That’s marvellous Saffron.

    Were I could ramble so coherently.

  7. bramble’s avatar

    I second(third?) santos’ and saffron’s comments about there being many reasons cakes sink. My experience with flourless cakes, like sacher torte, is that egg size can bugger the whole lot up too. Sorry about merely adding to the list without being any help… If it’s any consolation, my mom and aunt, with over 50 years of baking behind them, still get the odd sunken cake.

  8. Anthony’s avatar

    Thanks Bramble
    I’m actually a cake ignoramus and when I do, it’s usually non-baked cheesecakes, so this is all new for me. Jo may be here a little bit later on for a more detailed explanation but has the legitimate excuse of having had no electricity for 36 hours due to a tornado going through her area.

  9. Reid’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,

    Do you know what proportions of ingredients she’s using? Normally, eggs and baking powder/soda cause a cake to rise. If you can tell me what the recipe’s like, I can try to help. Besides that, she could be mixing the batter for too long a period of time, or not getting enough air into the batter. There are so many things that could be causing the problem…am I trying to sound like Alton Brown? LOL!


    We’re waiting…. =P

    *taps fingers nervously on the table*

  10. Anthony’s avatar

    Hi Reid

    She’s a bit shy so we may have to coax her out so you can do your magic. Clap people! Clap!

    I just found out who Alton Brown is. Does he always look like Thomas Dolby?

    Hey that wasn’t you in Honolulu was it? : )

  11. The Daily Magnet’s avatar

    It’s all guesswork with my baking, but I know what you are talking about with the sinking cakes.
    I usually use something like golden syrup or treacle as the sweetener for the cakes in our household and sometimes they go kerplunk too.
    I think it is something to do with the heaviness of those ingredients – I can imagine the marmalade would/could suffer a similar fate.
    I have found that bolstering dry ingredients, in a low flour cake adding something like desicated coconut, etc is a good way of combatting it.
    Goodluck and if you have any rejects/imperfections – you know where to find me, coz it still looks very yummy ;-]]

  12. Santos’s avatar

    ah. don’t bake before or after tornadoes, typhoons, hurricanes. the barometric pressure drops, the humidity increases radically, and generally atmosphere is hostile for good baking conditions. things come out flatter, denser, harder.

  13. Santos’s avatar

    did i just blind you with science?

    oh, all i can really say about grace jones is an office chair and aryan youth were involved. so you’re safe, reid!

  14. Anthony’s avatar

    Great stuff and yes it was extremely good. I thought the depression could just have been filled with cream or clinkers.

    Science! I forgot your firsthand typhoon experience(s) If only we’d known we could have warned people or something.
    “The cake is depressed, we must evacuate the city, why yes I have been drinking, but what’s your point”

    Reid’s not an office chair!?

  15. deborah’s avatar

    Oh and along with the intense flavouring of a sunken cake…I always mix a wonky cake with some ice cream. There is nothing like a rich chocolate cake with ice cream and berries. Add some coffee sauce and you’ve got one of those deconstructed trendy tiramasu thingies.

    All this cake talk is getting me excited. Baking cakes, and then icing is what this girl loves most.

  16. Anthony’s avatar

    Thank you again Saffron

    The cat with no tail has sharp ears.

    As for the joys of baking cakes, I am a stranger, outside, looking in.

    Helloo Jo? Keep clapping people.

  17. Reid’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,


    Is that enough clapping to coax her out of hiding? =P

    Me in Honolulu? What ever do you mean? I live here…

    *scratches head in confusion!*

  18. Reid’s avatar

    And before I forget, I never thought of Alton Brown as Thomas Dolby.

    Santos…office chair huh? I used to see Grace Jones at the clubs in NYC all the time back in the late 80s/early 90s. She was quite the wreck.

  19. Anthony’s avatar


    You are a trooper but not yet it seems.

    Ah confusion comes with this place. I go back and read my archives and I have no idea what I was talking about.

    Do we get a Reid – the NYC years post? Cahhhhhhhhm on.

  20. Reid’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,

    A NYC years post? I was only there for about 9 years before coming back to Hawaii. At my age, I think I’ve forgetten about most of it already!

  21. Anthony’s avatar

    Hi Reid

    9 years! You’re a hard man. I was done after three days.

  22. Rachel’s avatar

    *Is* it a flourless cake? And if it is, isn’t it all about the egg whites? There’s supposed to be such a thing as overbeating, but since I use a hand whisk, I don’t think I can have that problem. On the other hand, egg whites that haven’t been beaten enough will definitely lead to a sunken cake. You got to hold the bowl of whipped whites over your head, and only when they don’t budge can you be certain they’re done–I know, this method requires a lot of backup eggs.

    Also, with very light cakes, I borrow from the angel food cake trick of letting my cake cool upside down.

  23. Anonymous’s avatar

    You’ve coaxed me out.
    The cake recipe comes from Nigells Lawson’s “How to be a domestic goddess”
    125g unsalted flour
    100g dark chocolate
    300g thincut marmalade
    150g caster sugar
    pince of salt
    2 large eggs
    150g SR flour
    Melt butter, take off heat, add chocolate, stir till smooth. Add marmalade,sugar,salt,eggs,stir till amalgamated. Beat in flour. 20cm spring tin. 180 for 50mins.
    I’ve made this cake 4 or 5 times each time the same scenario. Cake, rises cake falls!!
    Oven not opened and temperature pretty acurate.

  24. Anthony’s avatar

    Hi Jo

    Smeg is infallible so what you’re saying is that all Nigella Lawson’s suggestive spoon licking is just a distraction from the fact that her cakes don’t work.

  25. Reid’s avatar

    Hi Jo,

    As far as I know, self rising flour is just all purpose flour with salt and baking powder added in. Since that is the case, please try to use the same amount of cake flour, add in 1 teaspoon each of baking soda and baking powder and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. If the consistency of the batter is really thick, you can also try adding one additional egg. Let me know how it works out the next time….good luck.

  26. Anthony’s avatar

    Hi Rachel
    you got to hold the bowl of whipped whites over your head, and only when they don’t budge can you be certain they’re done–I know, this method requires a lot of backup eggs.
    Ha! Most amusing cake advice ever.

    You’re new secret superhero identity is Cake Man

  27. Santos’s avatar

    this site shows the cake made with a pretty dramatic sinkhole, perhaps it’s really supposed to be that way. if you don’t want to fill it up with cream or tennis balls, maybe changing to a tube style pan is the way to go.

  28. Anthony’s avatar

    Thanks Green Banana. It seems to be destiny for the cake.

    *Apologies all for the “you’re” instead of “your” gack.

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