Help! My famous pound cakes are failing!

Hey! This is Tracy Holcombe.
At your convenience, could you help me with this puzzling issue?
These are pound cakes. I have made these for over 30 years. My recipe has not changed. The only thing that has changed is the oven. A new electric oven in my new place. At my old house, I had an electric oven.
I bake at 300 degrees for about 1.5 hours.
I have had the oven calibrated, my thermometer reads accurate. I have adjusted up and down on temps, I have removed extra rack. I cannot figure it out.
They bake normal and when they come out, the bottom of cake separates from the top, there is a space between the cake and crust.

I don’t mix long after my flour is added. I was told that I was over mixing.

Do you have any ideas? I am famous for my pound cakes, and now I can’t give as gifts or bake on request...😩

Tracy
  • Posted by: Tracy
  • May 25, 2020
  • 782 views
  • 13 Comments
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13 Comments

Rich A. June 15, 2020
I'm thinking the top is heating too fast. A cookie sheet over top of the baking pan, leaving about 2-inch of clearance.
 
Nathalie June 5, 2020
Heres my take. It is your new oven and the way it heats. Do what I call the "toast test" and spread white loaf bread out side by side on a baking sheet leaving enough room to circulate around the baking sheet. Make toast by baking at the temperature you use for your cake. Take a photograph. Flip over and see the second side. Compare the colors. You will see whether the bottom heat is greater than the top heat. If so, put a baking sheet or even a pizza pan under the pound cake pan and it will slow up the heat a bit. (From Mastering the art of southern cooking by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart)
 
HalfPint May 26, 2020
Is it possible to see the recipe?

Also, did you change flour brand?
 
creamtea May 26, 2020
Tracy, one last thought. The link I provided to "The Flavor Bender" gives me an idea: she is the only one of all the authors who makes the interesting recommendation to spoon the batter into the pans in two separate additions, smoothing it after each addition. I also read Harold McGee on the way cake batter cooks in the oven, with the air bubbles expanding, and rising. It occurred to me that if there is on or more large air pockets inadvertently left in the thick batter of poundcake, then that air pocket will expand and rise with heating, eventually getting trapped under the already-cooked crust (the outer surfaces of a cake are the first to be heated/cooked). Perhaps if you spooned the first half of the batter into the tin and smoothed it, then ran a thin sharp knife around and inch from the perimeter to release air pockets that would help, then repeat with the second addition of batter to the pan. Sometimes with a regular cake batter it is recommended to rap the filled tin on the counter or drop it from a low height (Maida Heatter, for example) to release air bubbles. With a thicker batter it may be more effective to run a thin sharp knife about an inch from the edge to try to release large air pockets. I believe this is a suggestion of Susan G. Purdy in her cake-baking books, though I can't find my copy at the moment. Or even if you just ran the sharp knife down the center, where the crack should eventually develop (the crack after all releases expanded steam), you may be able achieve this. I think one of these ideas may help.
 
Gammy May 26, 2020
I'm wondering, since you have done such a thorough job of going over all your ingredients and pans, that maybe your new oven is heating differently than your old one. Once at proper temperature, my newer oven seems to heat more from the bottom than the top to maintain the correct temperature inside. I have had to do some experimenting, too, as I was getting high-brown bottoms on cookies and biscuits in well-loved recipes. Sometimes I have to use the higher middle rack setting, a slightly lower temperature, parchment paper, a lighter in color baking sheet or any/all the above. Good luck in solving your dilemma and let us know what finally works for you.
 
creamtea May 26, 2020
Hi Tracy:
This seems to be a known problem, even for seasoned bakers like yourself. It has come up several times on the hotline and on the Internet in general I did a little Internet research (you probably did too) and found a couple of reliable suggestions-- this blog post seems to address poundcake issues very thoroughly: https://www.theflavorbender.com/classic-pound-cake-guide-troubleshooting/
Interestingly, she suggests extra egg yolks as one way to stabilize the batter. Both she and Southern Living recommend using national brands of ingredients, particularly sugar rather than generic "store" brands, for consistency and precision in measuring. And, of course, bringing all ingredients to room temperature to allow the ingredients to amalgamate properly (she is very precise in her definition of room temp).
I would consider whether you have changed ingredient brands lately (flour, sugar, butter), used newer pans that might have created a more rapid rise, or whether your new oven operates with convection that might have changed the results.
 
Tracy May 26, 2020
Thank you for answering.

My ingredients are always at room temp, my pans are old and have been used for years, I use the same brands as I have for years, and I do have convection setting but do not use.

I will try the extra yolk suggestion.

The only thing that has changed is the new oven and I’ve checked that out...

So mysterious.

Thank you,
Tracy
 
Nancy May 26, 2020
Tracy...I also would have guessed over-mixing, but you fixed that.
Apparently, this splitting problem from loaf pans is a known issue.
Rose Levy Beranbaum in her book The Cake Bible recommends inverting the cake in the pan to cool, to avoid splitting.
Or you might change baking pans, and see if that helps.
Or tap pan on counter before baking (as with cheesecake) to eliminate air pockets in batter.
Good luck and let us know when and how you fix this.
 
Tracy May 26, 2020
🤔. I’ve been using these loaf pans for years. I always tap my pans before going into oven.
This separation issue seems to occur in the oven prior to coming out, so inverting out as soon as they come out would result in complete destruction.

This only occurs with my pound cakes. Other things I bake, brownies, cookies, other cakes...no issue..

I have another suggestion to place a small bowl of water in the oven while baking. We will see.

So frustrating...
Thank you for your response.
Tracy
 
Nancy May 26, 2020
Tracy - Sorry the suggestions from creamtea and me didn't help.
1. it seems we're driven back to the 2 THINGS THAT CHANGED – NEW HOUSE, NEW OVEN.
a. Maybe the new oven is (more) accurate and the old one wasn't or was less accurate, so in effect, the cakes are being baked at a different temperature?
b. Maybe the atmosphere in the new house neighborhood is different, so the flour (notoriously temperamental regarding moisture) is either absorbing more or less moisture from the air than before, thus changing the batter and the baking results?
2. Putting a BOWL OF WATER IN THE OVEN during baking is a good, known technique but more for baking yeast breads...helps with the lift/rise of the loaf and the formation of crust (done it many times). Never heard of this being used for cakes and don't know supposed benefit, if any, for them.
3. CUSTOMER SERVICE AT OVEN MANUFACTURER? If you haven’t done so already, perhaps ask them if other customers had similar baking problems when switching to a new oven and, if yes, how they solved them.
Good luck in your quest to fix the pound cakes.
Nancy
 
creamtea May 26, 2020
I'm thinking this too (and evidently Gammy is too). I think there must be something about the newer oven elements, perhaps they are cycling more rapidly to keep the oven temp perfectly even. I have started using cake strips to insulate my round layers perhaps there is a similar product for loaf pans. Maybe a slightly lower oven temp will offset whatever "improvements" have been made. Or maybe like I said above, spooning in the batter in two stages and releasing air pockets either by running a sharp knife around or by rapping on the counter at each of the 2 stages will help.
 
Gammy May 26, 2020
Interesting mention of the cake pan strips, creamtea. Do you think Tracy's pound cakes would not separate if she used 2 loaf pans, one nested inside the other to provide an insulating layer around the cake? She still might need to experiment with times and temps to reach perfection.
 
creamtea May 26, 2020
Great idea, Gammy. Another idea is to make one's own cake strips: newspaper strips folded to size (not that anyone has that anymore!) and dampened under the faucet, then wrapped in aluminum foil to protect from the heat of the oven, as I've seen on suggested on the Preppy Kitchen blog. This issue is probably that the newer ovens are better insulated and cycle on faster to correct minute changes in temperature. Cake surfaces would cook faster, trapping bubbles, particularly in a very thick better such as one for pound cake. I've also seen recommendations for a lower (325º) setting and longer cook time. Hope Tracy's dilemma is resolved, and I'm curious to know what the solution is.
 
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