Tuesday, September 4, 2012

TWD -- Nervous Nelly over Nectarines

I'll confess. I was more than a bit nervous about making Nectarine Upside Down Chiffon Cake for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie assignment.  After viewing the schedule and seeing that a cake was due the day after Labor Day, I volunteered to bring the dessert to a Labor Day gathering.

Then I read the comments -- those helpful suggestions from bakers who had gotten a jump on the assignment, had made the cake and were describing their experiences. That's when the worry set in. I saw the word "sinking" in several comments, and thought, "If there's any chance of a cake sinking, it will happen to me." I have been known to have cake-mix cakes sink. However, after doing a test on my oven temperature about three weeks ago, I discovered that the thermostat was off by 15 degrees. After adjusting it upward, I was having better luck baking other desserts -- but a cake, and a chiffon cake at that?

Here was my quandary. I was obligated now to take a dessert, but what if the cake sank so badly it wasn't edible. And, during my period of obsessing (should I bake something else as backup?) I got out the ruler and measured my springform pan. It wasn't a 10-inch pan, but a 9-inch pan. The bakers' comments had addressed that issue. Use less batter. But how much less? I concluded I needed nine-tenths the amount of everything mentioned in the recipe. I got out my calculator and scale and decided to proceed, but plugging in enough time to make a fruit cobbler if things went really wrong.

Oh, I forgot to mention. During my obsessing phase, I watched the video (as suggested in the comments suggestion) not once but twice. The lovely baker in the video made the cake look so easy. It appeared that nothing could go wrong. Then I "googled" Nectarine Upside Down Chiffon Cake and saw where Tish Boyle had baked it on Julia's 100th birthday on August 15 and hers looked delicious in the photo on her blog. But, then again, I'm nowhere near Tish Boyle's league, so I began preparing raspberry cobbler ingredients as I had now worried myself into believing, MY CAKE WILL SINK!

So, to make a long story short, the cake did sink. I watched it sink through the window in the oven door. Everything was going smoothly until about 35 minutes into the baking time, and I then it began to sink before my very eyes. By the time 45 minutes were up, the crater in the middle looked like the Grand Canyon (that is a bit of an exaggeration and the picture makes it look less sunken than it really was), but remember I'm obsessing and tempus is fugiting.

The 25 minutes before I could turn it out on a plate were the longest 25 minutes in my life. Should I start the cobbler NOW, or should I hope in the upside down state it wouldn't look half bad. And some of the comments said even though their cakes sunk, they were still good. So, I held off starting the cobbler and watched the clock slowly tick away.

Turning it out was pretty easy. I did not use parchment paper as some in the comments section suggested.  I found I didn't need it. Once the cake was on the plate it didn't look half bad. Would it sink more as it cooled? Should I start the cobbler, or hold out another hour. I held out. It sank no further and I reasoned that if I said not a word at the Labor Day gathering to the effect, "Sorry, but my cake sunk a bit" people just might assume it was meant to be concave in the middle. After all, would anyone there have ever tasted Nectarine Upside Down Chiffon Cake before? I rather doubted it.

This story has a happy ending. I took the cake first to the Labor Day dinner and everyone loved it. Then I took the rest of the cake to the bakery where I volunteer, and there were just enough  left so all 10 volunteers could try it. Again, it got rave reviews. Although the cake was a hit, I would still like to know: Why did it sink? If anyone has the answer, I'd love to hear from you. I'd really like to make this cake again!


  1. Happy endings are nice!
    The one thing that I found odd about this recipe was that there was really no preparation of the pan (other than the butter at the bottom) - a part of me wonders if buttering the sides of the pan would have helped?
    Your cake looks great.

  2. My cake sank too, but it waited until it was out of the oven to deflate. My guess is that it collapsed under its own weight or it was slightly under baked. Chiffon cake is usually made in a tube pan where the batter can cling to the inside cylinder. That's one reason you don't butter the pan. The cake needs to be able to cling to the sides to climb. It sounds like your cake tasted good. Mine did too.

  3. My cake only sank a bit in the middle when I opened the door after the timer went off...the cake was still jiggling, so I pushed it back into the oven. My pan was also ½ inch shorter than the 3 inches it was suppose to be! I will be making this again…it got rave reviews from my friends! Next time I will use the right size pan!!
    Your cake looks beautiful!! Glad it was enjoyed by all!

  4. My cake sank a bit too, but it looked beautiful and tasted delicious. So no worries.
    Your cake is lovely--glad it was a hit.

  5. It looks lovely! Ours was well-received, too. I think we'll be making this every summer (and perhaps at other times of the year, too).

  6. Good to hear this worked out for you! Your cake looks lovely!

  7. CathyB is right. The other thing the tube pan does is allow the heat to cook from the center too which sets the batter quicker. This recipe has a lot of leavening (baking powder, soda and whipped egg whites) so a lot of the cakes rose too much and then fell, which is what happens at a higher altitude all the time! You can try reducing the soda by half also.