My oven and I have had a serious falling out. I want cakes with smooth tops. My oven obviously prefers cakes with cracked tops – because that’s what it keeps giving me. Volcanic eruptions and craters to rival those on Venus.
I know the theory. Peaked and cracked tops = oven temperature too high so the sides set too quickly and the uncooked batter pushes up through the top of the cake.
I baked four chocolate fudge cakes last week, hoping to resolve my disagreement with my oven in time for T’s 5th birthday.
Cake 1: Having already discovered that my oven has a rather blowy fan, I reduced the temperature for the first cake by 10 degrees C. The top cracked.
Cake 2: I reduced the temperature to 160 degrees C. The top cracked.
Cake 3: I kept the temperature at 160 degrees C and used magi-cake strips. The top cracked.
Cake 4: I reduced the temperature to 150 degrees C and used magi-cake strips. The top cracked.
Cake 5: There wasn’t one. Or a cake 6 or 7 or 8. Huh.
I know for 99.9% sure that there isn’t a problem with either the recipe or with my mixing technique. And my oven thermometer is accurate. So, it has to be something the oven is doing. O said it didn’t really matter – T’s birthday cake would taste fine anyway. But that’s not the point – it DOES matter! (Well, it matters to me if not to O).
Frustrated (an understatement), I fired off a tirade of abuse against my oven in an email to Rose. She sympathized (phew, at last – someone who understands!) and wondered if there’s an upper heating element in my oven that kicks on every few minutes. She suggested putting the cake on the bottom rack and putting a sheet pan on the upper rack to protect the top. I’ll try that next time … if I can ever bring myself to forgive my oven for its attitude problem.
As for T’s birthday cake – well, I salvaged the two least-volcanic examples, grouted the cracks with generous dollops of buttercream, smothered the entire cake and crumbled a chocolate flake over the top. Far from disappointing, the extra chocolatey gooiness filling the cracks delighted T and his party friends. There’s no accounting for taste, I guess.
No, I didn’t snap any nude shots of the cracked cake tops – you’ll just have to image what they looked like underneath their chocolate clothing.
My recalcitrant oven did manage to pull off one redeeming success however. Conceived originally as nothing more than an attempt to use up the various odd bits of things in my baking cupboard, it’s a happy miracle that I actually kept some sort of account of what I was throwing into the mixing bowl. Without that, I wouldn’t have a clue how to make them again. And L has demanded more of these – even though she can’t say ‘Chocolate Cookie Choc Chip Bounty Bar‘ without getting her tongue in a twist.
Chocolate Cookie Choc Chip Bounty Bars (aka Not A Chocolate Fudge Birthday Cake)
7 3/4 oz butter
5 1/2 oz caster sugar
6 oz light muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla
9 oz bread flour
4 oz cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
7 oz desiccated coconut
4 oz caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
12 oz chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (depending on your relationship with your oven. Ha) Grease and base line a 20 x 30 cm baking tray with parchment (leave a couple of handles if you like so you can hoik the whole thing out of the tray when it’s cool).
Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl.
Lightly beat the eggs together with the vanilla and add gradually to the creamed mixture.
Mix together the dry ingredients, then stir into the dough until just combined.
Drop large spoonfulls of the dough into the baking tray. Bear in mind that the dough will spread during baking – aim to place the spoonfulls so that they will spread into each other and cover the base of the baking tray. I had enough dough left over to make 6 or 7 cookies or so (sorry, I haven’t adjusted the cookie recipe so that it makes exactly the amount you need for the base. Just enjoy the extra cookies).
Bake for 7 mins until the cookie is just beginning to set but is still underdone underneath the upper crust. Set aside to cool a little.
Make the coconut topping. Mix the coconut with the eggs until they are well combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Carefully spread the coconut mixture over the cookie base. Pat it gently with the back of a spoon but don’t press it so hard that it falls through the cookie.
Bake for a further 10 to 15 mins until the coconut is golden and set.
Leave to cool in the tray, then cut into bars.