Was this going to be “Birthday Cake Impossible?”  Erin had not baked one cake in her entire life that she was proud of.  No matter which recipe she used; her cakes invariably fell and the texture was ho-hum.  In desperation she turned to using cake mixes (following the directions to the letter) but that didn’t work either; even her “Cake Mix” cakes fell!  

What Erin needed was a ~ “Cake Investigator!”  (Helloooo – ya’ll ~ that’s ME!)  I went straight to the scene of the crime in order to properly analyze Erin’s cake baking skills, to check out her oven, to see what ingredients she was using and to interrogate her cat (no stone would be left unturned in discovering why her cakes would not rise to the occasion.) 

Cake Impossible Mission:  
Create a Great Birthday Cake for Erin’s Mom

The Investigation Begins:

  • Erin had all the cake ingredients neatly arranged on the counter in her light and airy kitchen.  I looked at the ingredients with an appraising eye.  Reputable brands, excellent quality… nothing to raise suspicions…  
  • I checked out of her oven; it seemed to be holding the perfect temperature, so I ruled out the oven as a “cake flatness” culprit.  Her measuring cups and measuring spoons were accurate.  Hmm… this might be a difficult case to crack.  No obvious suspects… yet.
Erin Makes the Cake

Instead of using an ordinary cake mix, Erin chose to make her mom’s birthday wonderfully special by making a luscious, moist, gluten-free Carrot Cake from scratch.  With the extra ingredients in this cake, I needed to have all my investigative powers turned on “high” to find out, which ingredients or what procedure was causing her cakes to fall.  I watched intently as Erin began to measure the brown rice flour.  Suddenly I yelled, “STOP!”  

  • For a light cake:  Before you measure the flour, stir each dry flour first, to lighten it.  Next, spoon the flour into your measuring cup and finally level it off with a flat knife.   
  • Note:  If you do not stir your flours before measuring them, you can actually scoop up to 30% more flour than you need.  Wow!  This can result in a heavy, dry cake.  This will affect both gluten-free and wheat-based cakes.

Erin pulled out the baking soda and baking powder and was about to measure them when suddenly I yelled again…“STOP!”

  • Was the baking powder and baking soda fresh?  Erin checked the expiration dates.  The baking soda was fine, but the baking powder had expired.  Luckily, I had brought fresh baking powder with me, so we used that. 

Erin expertly finished mixing up the cake and poured the cake batter into the prepared cake pans and popped them in the oven.  Ahhhh…. the lovely cinnamon aroma was intoxicating.  As the time came near to check the cake, Erin started to open the oven door… “STOP!  Don’t touch the oven door!”

“Flat Cake” Mystery: Solved!  

I found out that Erin normally opened the oven door and poked a toothpick in the cake to see if it was done about 10 minutes before the suggested time.   

Falling Cake = Opening the oven door before the cake is set will cause a cake to fall.  Why?  Because the oven temperature drops dramatically when the oven door is opened causing the cake to contract; plus the opening and closing of the oven door jars the cake.  

  • Opening the oven door too early, will cause both “From Scratch” cakes and “Cake Mix” cakes to fall!


THE SOLUTION:  Look at the cake through the oven glass door.  If the cake has a round “damp looking circle” in the center – it is not set.   Do NOT open the oven door; wait a few minutes then check again. 

Erin’s cake turned out beautiful and was a complete SUCCESS!

Here’s what Erin emailed me after she served her gluten-free Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting to her family… “The cake was delicious, quite the hit!  No one could tell the cake was made with special flours and everyone agreed it tasted amazing (and I have a tough audience).”

Erin wrote more…Things learned from the experience: 
1.  Stir your gluten free flours before measuring
2. TEST your baking powder and sodas  

  • Lynn’s Notes: Check the expiration dates!  If you want to test your current baking soda and baking powder visit Not Your Grandma’s Pancakes for how to do that.

3.  Baby carrots are way easier than peeling your own
4.  8” cake pans make a way cuter cake 

  • Lynn’s Notes: Erin had 9″ cake pans, but when she saw my cake pans she wanted to give them a try.  (I had packed them “just in case”) Eight inch cake pans make a beautiful, high, double-layered cake that is beautiful and impressive.
  • You can also serve each 8″ cake as a single layer – this will look like a chic European Torte.  You can freeze the remaining layer if you wish.

5. Don’t open the oven until the cake is actually close to being done
6. The freezer trick before frosting is total genius 

  • Freeze the cake before frosting it – no crumbs!

7.  And finally – don’t run your knife around the cake pan in short spurts or you get a ragged edge.  I think that basically sums it up.

Ahhh… what a deliciously satisfying end to the 
Falling Cake Mystery.
Click here for the recipe that Erin used! 

Way to go, Erin!  YOU ROCK!

  Happy Cake Smiles, Lynn

The Beginning of Erin’s Cake Baking Adventure:

Cake Impossible: How to Make a Moist Cake From Scratch

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