December 11, 2013 • Posted by Ankita Satija
Baking, like anything else in life, is full of ups and downs. It’s a wonderful feeling when you’ve concocted something delicious, but it can also be disheartening when you run into certain roadblocks. Fortunately, many of these common baking problems are fixable. Here’s how you can skip the moments of aggravation and save your sweet treats from ruin.
1. My cookies keep burning on the bottom!
We’ve all experienced this common baking headache. There are times when we put our cookie dough into the oven, thinking we’ve created little bites of heaven – only to find them blackened at the bottoms.
Why does this happen? There can be a variety of reasons – you may have set the temperature too high. Maybe your rack isn’t correctly positioned, or you aren’t greasing your cookie sheets.
Luckily, you can easily fix this problem by setting your oven timer to the shortest suggested time and checking in on your cookies’ status regularly. As for rack positioning, make sure your rack is placed at the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Use parchment paper instead of relying on greased cookie sheets, which can fail if the cookie sheet is on the older side or has been burnt. Voila – perfectly browned cookies!
2. My cake isn’t cooking in the middle!
This is one of the most frustrating baking problems, and we’ve all been there. The maddening thing is that this can happen because you’re checking on it too frequently! Every time you open your oven door, cool air gets in and delays the heating process. So in turn, your cake might be taking longer to cook because of this. It’s annoying, but you just have to wait. You can try lowering the temperature so that the parts of the cake already cooked don’t burn. But in this baking situation, all you can do is wait it out.
3. My cake isn’t rising!
When your cake isn’t rising as it should or has air bubbles in it, there’s generally a common reason for this – you over-mixed your batter. It can seem like giving your batter a few extra whisks would be a good thing, as opposed to under-mixing, but unfortunately, this is not the case. When you over-mix, your batter tends to toughen and form air bubbles when baked. Your batter toughens because you are essentially forming gluten, which results in your cake not rising well. It can even collapse. So, how to avoid this fate? Start with slow, gentle whisks, and if using an electric mixer, use the lowest setting. This way, you can gauge the consistency of your batter and take necessary action. A few lumps are okay, because they will eventually smoothen out during the baking process. However, over-mixing is not as easy to correct.
4. My cake is lumpy!
The opposite of Problem #3, this generally occurs when you under-mix your batter. As we discussed briefly above, it’s okay to have to a few lumps in your batter as they will even out later. However, you have a consistently lumpy batter when you haven’t beaten the butter and sugar long enough. These are two vital ingredients that make the foundation of a cake, and if you don’t beat them well enough, your cake won’t have that nice, fluffy consistency. So to counter this problem, be sure to beat the butter and sugar for at least three to four minutes.
5. The tops of my cupcakes just cracked!
Uh oh! There’s nothing more frustrating than watching your cupcakes peacefully baking away, only for the tops to crack before your eyes. This baking mishap occurs when you’ve set your oven temperature too high, placed your cupcakes on the upper rack or a combination of the two. The tops of your cupcakes typically bake first. So when they crack, it means that the inside of the cupcake is still cooking away long after the top finished baking. You can prevent this from happening by lowering your oven temperature and placing your baking sheet on a lower rack. This way, you can watch for when the top seems to be done without letting it cook for too long.