Cake FAQ

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

a) Why didn't your cake rise?  »
Short answer: Because you did not follow the recipe.

Long answer:
  1. Egg whites were overwhisked and inextensible.
  2. Whisked egg whites, kept waiting too long, deteriorated and became inextensible.
  3. Eggs/yolks were underwhisked. Didn't have enough air bubbles.
  4. Whisked eggs deflated when mixed with oil/melted butter and dry ingredients.
  5. Not enough eggs/whites/yolks.
  6. Not enough non-fat liquids, so not enough steam to help the cake rise.
  7. Batter was too thick. Thick batter was too heavy to rise well.
  8. Batter was too thin. Thin batter allowed air bubbles to escape easily.
  9. Too little baking powder/soda.
  10. Baking powder was stale.
  11. Too little acid. Baking soda couldn't activate.
  12. Too much acid. Batter was set before it could rise.
  13. Wrong flour type.
  14. Batter was kept waiting too long before it was baked, allowing air bubbles to escape, and the baking powder and whisked egg whites to deteriorate.
  15. Oven wasn't hot enough. Without enough heat, air bubbles couldn't expand, water couldn't convert to steam, and double-acting baking powder couldn't activate.
  16. Oven was too hot. Batter was set before it could rise.
  17. Wrong pan type, which affected the heat transfer. 
  18. Pan was too wide. Shallow batter was set before it could rise.

b) Why did your cake crack?   »
Short answer: Because you did not follow the recipe.

Long answer:
  1. Egg whites were underwhisked and too extensible.
  2. Too much egg white. 
  3. Too little flour.
  4. Oven was too hot.
  5. Top of oven was too hot. The crust hardened too quickly, then ruptured when the batter underneath puffed up.
  6. Too much baking powder/soda.
  7. Too much non-fat liquid.
  8. Wrong pan type.
  9. Pan was too narrow.

c) Why did your cake collapse/sink/deflate?  »
Short answer: Because you did not follow the recipe.

Long answer:
  1. Egg whites were underwhisked and provided poor structural support.
  2. Oven was too hot. Cake rose higher than it should, so it came back down due to insufficient structural support.
  3. Too much baking soda/powder.
  4. Too much acid. Strictly speaking, the cake didn't sink. The sides rose but the centre didn't, so it looked like the centre sank.
  5. Uneven mixing.
  6. Too little flour.
  7. Underbaked.
  8. Cooling down method was wrong. Fragile cakes need to cool down inverted and stuck to the pan or they would sink.

d) Why was there a hard layer at the bottom of your cake?  »
Because the batter set too slowly, allowing starch to separate and sink to the bottom of the pan, where it hardened.

Why did the batter set too slowly?

Short answer: Because you did not follow the recipe.

Long answer:
  1. Oven wasn't hot enough.
  2. "Bathtub", if there was a water-bath, wasn't metallic.
  3. "Bath water" wasn't hot enough.
  4. Not enough acid.
  5. Not enough eggs.
  6. Not enough flour.
  7. Not enough starch.
  8. Not enough cream cheese.
  9. Wrong type of cream cheese, that didn't have enough starch.
  10. Too much liquid.

e) Why did your cake shrink after cooling down?  »
All cakes shrink as they cool down.

Japanese Strawberry Shortcake
(草莓奶油蛋糕; Strawberry Cream Cake)

Monday, 9 December 2013

Japanese strawberry shortcake is a layered sponge cake filled and topped with whipped cream and strawberries. It is what I call a ménage à trois made in heaven, because each party brings out the best in the other two.

The red and white cake is very popular in Japan, especially for Christmas. I guess having the same colour scheme as Santa Claus wins a lot of votes during the Yuletide season.

Honey Castella (Kasutera) Cake (蜂蜜蛋糕)

Thursday, 14 November 2013


The traditional mould for baking Castella cake is a bottomless wooden box frame.

Where to get a Castella wooden mould?

Fluffy Chocolate Sponge Cake (巧克力海绵蛋糕)

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, please meet my seized chocolate cake:

Seized?

Don't worry, I haven't seized anything from anyone. It's cocoa powder that's doing the seizing, not me.

Pandan Sponge Cupcakes (班兰海绵杯子蛋糕)

Thursday, 26 September 2013


I like my pandan sponge cupcakes very much. Made with pandan juice and coconut oil, the little cakes are very fragrant and the green colour is totally natural. The crumb is soft and fluffy, and it's still moist the next day.

Vanilla Sponge Cupcakes (香草海绵杯子蛋糕)

Friday, 30 August 2013

The cake is fluffy, moist and not too holey. The buttercream is velvety smooth and not too rich or too sweet. The roses look reasonably like roses, and stayed that way without air-condition.

Yup, I'm happy with my vanilla cupcakes.

My sponge cupcakes are made with whole eggs, i.e. the eggs aren't separated. This method is a bit tricky because yolks and whites whisked together deflate easily when you add flour and butter/oil. Deflated batter makes cupcakes that are dense and hard.

Pandan Chiffon Cupcakes (班兰戚风杯子蛋糕)

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Pandan chiffon cake hot from the oven is way better than cold pandan chiffon cake.

That's a bit like saying Bill Gates is rich, or Angelina Jolie has thick lips. We all know that.

So when was the last time you had pandan chiffon cake that was still hot?

WHAT? You've always had PCC stone-cold?

Oh . . . my . . . God . . . . Oh dear, POOR YOU!

Orange Chiffon Cake (香橙戚风蛋糕)

Monday, 15 July 2013

.Knock knock!

Who's there?

Chiffon cake!

Chiffon cake who?

She's fond of cakes, especially light, fluffy cakes.
.

Hokkaido Cupcakes

Friday, 28 June 2013

Hokkaido cupcakes are made with milk from Hokkaido, hence the namesake.

I can't be bothered to go to a Japanese supermart that sells Hokkaido milk. My Hokkaido cupcakes are made with milk which is –  to quote what the carton says to the (capital) letter –  "From AUSTRALIAN DAIRY COWS". So the milk's from Australia? Hell no. The cows are from Australia but they live in Indonesia. They probably moved from Down Under frozen . . . or maybe chilled. Anyone knows how sperm is transported long distance?

Ogura Cake ♥ 相思蛋糕 ♥

Thursday, 13 June 2013


Ogura cake, aka 相思蛋糕, hails from Batu Pahat, Malaysia. "Ogura" is a Japanese surname; "相思" means lovesick. Is there a love story behind the cake? Nah, there isn't. Some baker in Batu Pahat just invented the name.

Chwee Kueh (水粿; Steamed Rice Cakes)

Thursday, 30 May 2013

There're several types of steamed cakes made with rice flour. If you want to learn how to make these traditional delicacies, chwee kueh would be a good start. It doesn't take long and the ingredients are cheap, so you don't waste much time or money if you fail.

The first step in making chwee kueh is mixing the batter. The main ingredient is rice flour but that alone would make a rather hard kueh. To soften it, you need to add some starch. Some people use tapioca flour; I prefer a mix of cornflour and wheat starch. Of course, the amount of water in the batter is crucial to the success of the steamed kueh. If the ratio of water to flour/starch is wrong, the steamed cake will be too hard or too soft.

Portuguese Egg Tarts (葡式蛋挞)

Monday, 13 May 2013

 photo MOV_0892_00012portugueseeggtartsYour egg tarts look more like curry puffs! That's what one reader says about Rasa Malaysia's Portuguese egg tarts.

Indeed, her tarts don't have any of the signature black burn marks. To me, what's supposed to be the custard looks more like an omelette . . . or maybe quiche filling.

Do you know what's wrong with Rasa Malaysia's recipe?

Chai Tow Kway (菜头粿; Fried Carrot Cake)

Monday, 15 April 2013

If you're looking for a good chai tow kway recipe, you've come to the right place. How do I convince you my CTK is good? By comparing to one that's bad, here, from The Little Teochew in a guest post for Rasa Malaysia.

I've read many recipes for various sorts of steamed cakes made with rice flour, such as chwee kueh, orh kueh, lor bak gou, pak tong gou and, of course, chai tow kway. What's the one common feature they all have? The batter is cooked on the stove before it's steamed. The Little Teochew, unlike everyone else, mixes rice flour with room temperature water, then steams the batter straightaway. Why do the rest of us do extra work? Because unless the batter is thickened before it's steamed, the rice flour would sink and form a hard layer at the bottom of the cake. If you steam rice flour batter without thickening it first, your kway is doomed for failure.

Killer Sugee Cake

Thursday, 28 March 2013


Wanna make a sugee cake that's light and fluffy? That's right, the Eurasian classic doesn't have to be dense and heavy. Let me, a half-Eurasian, show you how. What? You didn't know I'm half-Eurasian? Hey, half of Eurasian is Asian and I'm 100% Asian. That makes me 50% Eurasian, right?

Ang Ku Kueh (紅龟粿; Kuih Angkoo)

Friday, 15 March 2013

I've just made some 紅龟粿. Is it good? Heheheh . . . heh . . . . Is your mother a woman?

It's my virgin attempt but the results are as good as the best store-bought ang ku kueh in town. The mung bean filling is uber smooth, has a very strong "beany" fragrance and isn't too sweet. The "skin" is very chewy and yet very soft. I tell ya, this 紅龟粿 is really to die for.

Peanut Cookies

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

You don't need much special equipment to make peanut cookies.

If you don't have a food processor, you can pound the peanuts with a mortar and pestle.

The ingredients are mixed together in a bowl. It's done by the time you drag your electric mixer out and set it up.

Cashew Nut Cookies

Monday, 21 January 2013


Cashew nut cookies are pretty easy going. These bite-size morsels don't mind if you put in more of this or less of that.

Pineapple Tarts

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Good pineapple tarts start with good pineapple jam. Where does good pineapple jam start? Readymade, in a plastic bag? Common sense tells you that jam stored without refrigeration for god knows how long, in a plastic bag which can't be sterilized and isn't vacuum sealed, must be stuffed full of preservatives. And yet, the ingredients listed don't include preservatives. I wouldn't eat that kind of jam even if you paid me.

There's no reason why readymade pineapple jam can't be good, in theory. In practice, however, all those I've seen are of extremely dubious quality.

Making good pineapple jam is quite straightforward. It's basically mashed pineapple cooked with sugar till thick, and flavoured with star anise, cinnamon and sometimes cloves.