Flawed Cake Recipe

I have tried to make my dad a cake from one of his mother's recipes on several occasions now, but every time the cake comes out wrong. Usually, the cake (loaf) will be slightly overdone on the edges but gooey in the middle. It appears and tests done when I take it out, but after a couple of hours, the middle will fall, causing the gooeyness and a very hollow cake. The edible parts are pretty coarse and dry. I'm always very careful to follow the recipe and with monitoring the oven temperature (through the window, not by opening the door). So either I'm doing something completely wrong or there is something wrong with the recipe. Could someone take a look and give some advice? Recipe follows:

Chocolate Chip Loaf Cake

2/3 cup oil
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
12 oz chocolate, ground

Mix oil and sugar together. Add eggs. Alternate addition of milk/vanilla with flour and baking powder. Mix until just smooth. Fold in nuts and chocolate. Bake at 350 for one hour.

I have made this both with a had mixer and by hand with a wisk (except for the folding, which I use a rubber spatula). This most recent time, I took it out of the oven after 53 minutes, because it tested done.

I'd really appreciate any insight that you can give me!

Christiane K


Ophelia March 29, 2013
Have you tried either using smaller loaf pans (my gran uses fairly small tea cake pans, like half the size of loaf pans intended for bread) or a regular cake pan? I mean, it could be the problem is just that you're using too big a pan. Also, what kind of flour are you using? A lot of recipes I've seen have called for self-raising flour in addition to baking powder, but also if you're usung cake flour that could be an issue too. or even bleached vs unbleached (unbleached seems to work better for me).
dymnyno March 29, 2013
Are you using dry ground chocolate or chocolate that has been chopped up?
AnnaS March 28, 2013
Is it a handwritten recipe? It looks to me like there may be a typo? That is quite a bit of liquid and possibly more baking soda than is usually called for when a recipe only has 2 cups of floue.
Christiane K. March 27, 2013
Thanks so much, everyone! I will take another swing at this recipe sometime soon and report back.
boulangere March 26, 2013
I think you could use some baking soda. Chocolate is acidic, and needs something to neutralize it, which contributes to CO2 production, which baking powder also produces. If you have an acid present with out a neutralizer, it will render the baking powder less effective. Try adding 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda. And be sure to mix the eggs well when they are added so that they emulsify with the oil. It does sound like a very good cake.
petitbleu March 26, 2013
I'm wondering how old your baking powder is. Expired baking powder could be the culprit. If not that, then you may want to scale back on the sugar a bit. If that doesn't work, reduce the amount of liquid you're using--just by a little at first to see if it makes a difference--say, 2 to 3 tablespoons or so.
It's also possible that your measuring cups aren't measuring the same amounts that your grandmother's were--I don't know if these things have changed over the years or not, but it's a guess that her measuring implements could have been off a bit.
fiveandspice March 26, 2013
I would second Droplet's advice on beating the eggs with the sugar first, until lightened in color, for stabilizing, and also the advice to cool the cake outside of the pan after 10 minutes in the pan. I also am just wondering if it could be your loaf pan? Is it dark colored? I have had more trouble with my pans that are dark colored, since they always seem to burn the outside of what I'm baking while the inside remains uncooked. Of course, if you bake other things in the same pan, then that's probably not the problem.
Droplet March 26, 2013
I strongly recommend you take it out of the tin after about 10 minutes, and let it finish cooling on a rack. That way the steam will evaporate instead of building in inside. To make that easier you may want to line your tin with some baking paper and leave enough overhang on each long side to be able to pull the loaf out in one piece. I hope it works out for you so you can enjoy a piece in peace :)
Christiane K. March 26, 2013
I've been cooling it in the loaf pan, uncovered. After about an hour, it had deflated a small bit. After two, there was a crater. To better describe it, the cake cracks on top, then the cracked part remains in place while what's underneath sinks in. Which cooling method would be preferable?
I've gotten pretty good at controlling the oven. I set it at 325 for a 350 oven and check it every 10 minutes or so. If the temperature climbs, I readjust the setting but don't do anything to bring it down (ie, opening the door), I just wait for it to adjust itself. I will try the eggs first method too.
Droplet March 26, 2013
How are you cooling your cake? Do you leave it to cool in the loaf tin or do you take it out after a while and let it finish in a cooling rack? Residual moisture that evoporates has quite a power to ruin a cake. I think your baking powder amount is spot on, but if your oven overheats the leavening reaction itself might be happening too fast and that will result in a collapse later on. Instead of mixing the oil and sugar together, I'd mix the eggs and sugar ,beating well, and then add the oil. This will help stabilize egg proteins more and also reduce sinking of the chocolate pieces in the batter.
Christiane K. March 26, 2013
I'll give that a try.

And the "ground" chocolate might not actually the best term, but its the one on the recipe. The chocolate ends up being somewhere between the size of regular chocolate chips and mini chocolate chips. If they're too big, they tend to sink to the bottom; too small and its not really a chocolate chip cake.
drbabs March 26, 2013
Yes, I agree with hardlikearmour. It seems like the leavening is off. Also, I wonder if you'd have a better result if you used actual chocolate chips (which are designed to hold their shape), rather than ground chocolate, which could be melting and adding to the liquid and fat in the batter.
hardlikearmour March 26, 2013
I actually wonder if you need more baking powder?
Per the KAF article on quick breads you want a teaspoon per cup of flour, plus an extra 1/2 teaspoon per cup of flour if you have "add-ins" (which are your sugar, oil, nuts, and chocolate chips).
So try adding another teaspoon of baking powder to the mix and see if that helps.
Christiane K. March 26, 2013
I do have an oven thermometer since my oven overheats. The temperature does fluctuate within 10-15 degrees before I can adjust it, unavoidable unless I were to stand at the oven for the entire hour. This is the case for everything I bake, so I wouldn't think that would badly effect only one recipe. I use a skewer to test for doneness. This cake is a bit tricky to test for since melted chocolate gets on the skewer no matter what. And I would think that the done parts of the cake wouldn't be so coarse if undercooking were the only issue. From things I've read, it sounds like the effects of too much baking powder, although the amount called for doesn't seem outrageous to me.
ChefJune March 26, 2013
Are you using an oven thermometer to ensure that your oven is really at the proper temperature? This sounds to me like that could be the problem. Also, are you testing the doneness of your cake with an instant read thermometer? It doesn't look like there should be anything wrong with the recipe. In fact, it sounds very good!
Recommended by Food52