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Why is my cake heavy and dense?

Patty Jo asks: I have attempted a hot milk cake recipe 4 times. Every time the end result is a heavy, dense, horrible-tasting cake.  Any suggestions?

BakingSOS says: I have had problems with one of my favorite cake recipes turning out heavy, dense, and even RUBBERY, too. It’s very frustrating, isn’t it? I finally solved the problem by adding more leavening to the recipe to make the cake batter rise more. In the case of my cake recipe, it calls for only baking soda. I added baking powder, and now my cake rises perfectly every time.

Here’s the science that makes it work: baking soda is a “base.” It needs and “acid” ingredient in order to start the chemical reaction that makes it work, such as buttermilk, cocoa powder, lemon or orange juice, etc. If you add too MUCH baking soda, though, it will make your cake taste bitter. So if you need your cake to rise more, do NOT add more baking soda than is called for in the recipe. Instead, add baking powder, which contains both base AND acid leaveners. This will help your cake rise without making it taste bitter.

How much baking powder should you add? As a general rule, there should be 1 tsp. of baking powder or 1/4 tsp. of baking soda for every 1 C. of flour in the recipe. So take a look at your original recipe, see how much baking soda or baking powder it calls for per each cup of flour, and then add some additional baking powder as necessary to see if your cake will rise better.

Good luck!