Half-baked Cake filter
February 6, 2011 9:04 PM   Subscribe

Is it healthy or sensible to half bake a cake, cool it, freeze it, thaw it, and finish cooking it?

A few days ago, in the middle of baking a tropical chiffon cake, the heating element in our oven died.

The liquid content of the chiffon cake came from 1.5 cups of vegetable oil, 5 eggs and a 400g tin of crushed pinapple. The cake is SUPPOSED to bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes - it had baked for perhaps 35 minutes when we noticed that the heating element had died. In that time it had risen, formed a nice crust (about 2mm thick) then it sunk and it cracked and we noticed that the oven was pretty much cool.

Under the crust the cake was still pretty much a gooey paste - one school of thought is that the egg had all cooked and that the goopiness was entirely due to the pineapple. The advocate of that particular school of thought cooled the cake for 40 minutes and popped it into the freezer, still in the tin.
Today the heating element was replaced. Said advocate thawed the cake for about an hour and a half, then popped it into the oven.

Are we going to get spectacularly sick? Will it merely taste very strange and look lumpy? Is the cake going to turn out fine?

The debate between "toss immediately" and "we'll eat it by hook or by crook dammit!" is heating up faster than our newly refurbished oven.
posted by tabubilgirl to Food & Drink (11 answers total)
Nothing in it will make you sick, but don't expect it to have a great texture either.
posted by halogen at 9:05 PM on February 6, 2011

the short answer to your question: no, not foodsafe. please, please toss the half baked cake. (my qualifications? i used to be a baker).
posted by tamarack at 9:05 PM on February 6, 2011

Best answer: one school of thought is that the egg had all cooked and that the goopiness was entirely due to the pineapple.

No, this is wrong. The egg and pineapple and everything else mixed together to form an even batter, some of which is cooked and some which isn't. It didn't separate out again while you were cooking it. Otherwise you'd always get a cake with a rim of eggs around the middle and only pineapple in the middle and that's just not how it works.

So you've got batter with eggs in it which you warmed up then cooled it again, so that it was in the bacteria-friendly temperature zone for quite a while, then froze it (which doesn't kill bugs, just really slows down their growth). So there is a chance that there were enough bugs in there to contaminate the mixture what with the eggs and all, although I doubt it's a high chance. But you've also lost all the air and lift in your cake mix so it's going to be hard as a rock in the middle if you do manage to get it cooked through, and won't be pleasant to eat.
posted by shelleycat at 9:16 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

That's what, $3 in ingredients? Toss it--or let your friend with the goofy ideas about food safety eat the whole thing, if they must.
posted by Scram at 9:16 PM on February 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'd eat it without a second thought if it tasted good but I'd be really surprised if you end up with anything remotely edible after baking, freezing, and baking that mess.
posted by foodgeek at 9:16 PM on February 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

From a food-safety perspective, I'd eat the hell out of that shit. But from an epicure standpoint? NFW. It's likely to have the consistency of freeze-dried spackle.
posted by KathrynT at 9:30 PM on February 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks very much for the feedback. Said Advocate remains determined, and is secretly gratified that it will turn out wierd lumpy -this will make eating it more heroic, I suspect. Said Advocate can have all the glory, I reckon.
If Said Advocate is still upright and healthy about the abdomen 24 hours from now, I may possibly risk a nibble. But probably not.
posted by tabubilgirl at 9:32 PM on February 6, 2011

I don't know, with double acting baking powder, as long as it didn't reach those temperatures already, it could still have quite a bit of lift left in it. And the crust could turn out really good as long as you don't let it burn. Sure, it's not likely to be a great cake, but on the other hand, it still might be. I'm curious to find out how it tastes!
posted by Nothing at 2:28 AM on February 7, 2011

Response by poster: Post-script:

Said Advocate remained blase until she actually looked into the oven and saw the sad, prolapsed cake in there - an inch or two of crusty normalcy surrounding a sunken, frozen core. Suddenly, Said Advocate reckoned that metafilter might have a point.

However, as soon as that center thawed out, the whole cake began to rise like a balloon - Nothing's prediction came true. It bounced back to life and looked remarkably like a real cake.

As for taste, Said Advocate had a slice, and I actually had a nibble (and got a stomach ache straight off, but I know that was psychosomatic, so I discount it.) It was only a little denser than usual, and tasted rather eggy and damp, but if you were unscrupulous, you could probably have passed it off on someone unsuspecting as a real cake done by a first-time baker.

Not being an unscrupulous misanthrope, Said Advocate salvaged the crunchy bits (which tasted normal, but were again somewhat denser than average) and threw out the soggy center. She ate a saucer of crunchy bits, then changed her mind and tossed the lot.

This is, however, a single data point!
posted by tabubilgirl at 3:15 AM on February 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

The gooye bits are in the middle, and I wouldn't worry about cooties. I'd re-bake it, in the name of Science, and report back.
posted by theora55 at 10:17 AM on February 7, 2011

I knew the texture wouldn't be very good but it's interesting that it was not good in a totally different way than I expected. I assumed from the 'chiffon' in the title that it was a type of sponge, which would have been solid. One way to help the middle cook while not overcooking the edge is to cover the top with aluminium foil (just sit a sheet over the cake), although I don't know that it would have been enough in this case. I'm glad you tried it, but at the same time life's too short to eat bad cake!
posted by shelleycat at 12:56 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

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