Firstly, before you rip your recipe in half because of your failed cake, take a step back and breathe. Each person has their own way of getting down to things. If I hand one recipe each to my friend and I and we both use the same recipe to make a cake, we will still both have different outcomes. Every little detail is so important: when to stop beating your butter, how long you beat your eggs for, how long you mix in your flour, how you fold in your milk, and when you remove the cake from the oven. There’re so many points to which it may have changed the outcome. I have thrown away many trays of eggs, butter, sugar, and flour to finally get to something that I’m happy with! So yes, take a step back and read!
Firstly, there may have been a few things that went wrong.
1. Is your technique correct?
E.g. Chiffon cakes, did you beat the meringue til it’s thick and shiny, did you fold it in with a light hand? Warning: heavy-handed people, please remember, the egg whites are like delicate flowers. And don’t over bake, it’ll turn into a dry piece of foam. Under bake and you’ll see a darker portion than the lightly risen portion. Not very nice and definitely won’t touch that with a ten foot pole. It’s a little tricky to master, but don’t lose your temper at the recipe 🙂
For your pound/butter cakes, is your butter brick-hard? Or too soft until it’s shiny?
It should be soft but not shiny, whipped til almost white (if using white sugar) before eggs are added in.
2. Is your oven’s temperature correct?
Best to get an oven with a digital display. Or even better, an oven thermometer placed inside the oven. Usually after a few failures with adjustments should help you to find your true oven’s temperature. E.g. Your recipe says 180C but it Browns faster than the time givenand you’re left with a brick. You know it’s your cue to lower the temperature about 5-10C at a time.
3. Is your self-raising flour as self-raising as you think?
Probably not. Sometimes, you do have to add a little baking powder. I prefer double-acting baking powder. But even sometimes they may not rise the same as others and different brands have different compositions so test them until you get the right texture for your cake!