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Sinking Loaf Cakes

Asked by herogirl. Answered on 20th February 2011

Full question

In Nigella's latest book, Kitchen, the loaf cakes on pages 136 296 and 308 have clearly sunk in the middle. Surely that cannot be how you expect them to be served? Is this simply a bad batch and there was no time to recook before taking photos or are these cakes really meant to be sunk in the middle? I have never seen any seed cake or loaf cake which had sunk in the middle in any other cookbook.

I've now attempted the chocolate orange loaf cake from "Kitchen" twice now and on both occasions the cake has sunk spectacularly on taking out of the oven. I've followed the quantities and recipe exactly and normally have no problem with my cake baking. Can you let me know what is going wrong? Cazl

Our answer

The cakes mentioned are Coconut and Cherry Banana Bread, Seed-Cake and Chocolate Orange Loaf, all of which have sunken centres in their photographs. In Kitchen on p298 (at the end of the Seed-Cake recipe) Nigella mentions "The centre of the cake will sink a little as the cake cools, but this is the way of the loaf". The photographs in Nigella's books are intended to be real - to show the food as it should be and to reassure that you are not doing anything wrong if certain cakes do sink.

Many loaf cakes do have a tendency to sink on cooling and this is partly due to the loaf tin. The deeper sides of a loaf tin cause the outside of the cake to cook more quickly than the inside, so the cake rises in the oven but the centre of the cake has not cooked quite enough to permanently set the proteins in the cake batter (from the flour and egg) and hold the cake up - so it will sink as it cools.

The batter is also be a reason and as these cakes are all intended to keep well they may sink but they will remain moist and delicious to eat for longer than a madiera or pound-type cake which may rise but become dry after a day or two.

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