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Q: How do you keep chocolate chips from sinking in a cake batter?

— Nancy Thomas, Royal Oak, Mich.

A: Like many ingredients we fold into cake and cupcake batters, chocolate chips can sink to the bottom.

This happens when the batter is too delicate or not thick enough to support the chocolate chips. A chiffon cake batter typically has stiffly beaten egg whites folded in, so it will be lighter and not a good option for add-ins. A batter that's like a quick bread is heavier and add-ins should hold up.

With the cake recipe you submitted, I have a few suggestions.

First, be sure to use mini chocolate chips, which are lighter, giving them a better chance of not sinking to the bottom.

Second, you can add the chocolate chips to the dry ingredients before you mix them with the wet ingredients. When you do mix the dry and wet ingredients together, do so quickly but gently, using a spatula. Once they are combined, immediately pour the batter into the prepared pan and place it in the preheated oven.

Another option is to toss the chips with a bit of flour before folding them into the batter. Place the chocolate chips in a bowl and sprinkle with enough flour (about 1 to 2 tablespoons for 1 cup chips) so that they're covered with flour. Some of the flour will remain in the bowl. This flour method is a good one to keep in mind when you're adding fruit like blueberries, raspberries and strawberries to cakes and cupcakes.

I made this cake twice and found that pouring the batter into the pan first and then sprinkling the chips on top helped to keep them from totally sinking to the bottom. Sprinkle the flour-dusted chips on top and use a butter knife to gently swirl them into the batter just so they are covered, but you still see them.

Another thing I discovered was that the recipe amounts may be off a tad. Most boxed cake mixes are 15.25 ounces. Previously, they were 18.25 ounces; that's a full 3 ounces more. So your original recipe was likely based on the 18.25 ounces, which could be a contributing factor. I adjusted the amounts of oil and orange juice, which made the batter thicker.

So with today's recipe from Nancy Thomas, be sure to toss the chocolate chips with a bit of flour or add them to the dry ingredients first. The original version of this cake called for 1 tablespoon orange zest. Thomas recommends using more if you like.

When melting the chocolate for this recipe, be sure to place it in a microwave-safe bowl and cook it in increments of 30 seconds, stirring in between. Chocolate chips will hold their shape even if they're melted, so you can easily burn them. If they burn, you need to start over.

Chocolate Chip Orange Cake

Makes: 1 Bundt cake (12 servings)

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

1 box (15.25 ounces) yellow cake mix

1 package (3 ounces) orange flavor gelatin

3/4 cup orange juice

1 teaspoon orange extract

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 heaping tablespoon orange zest or more if you like

4 eggs

1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate morsels

1 to 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Glaze

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup chocolate chips

1 tablespoon orange extract

2 tablespoons orange juice

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan or spray with floured nonstick baking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix and orange gelatin powder. Whisk in the orange juice, orange extract, vegetable oil and orange zest; mix until well blended. Add the eggs one at the time, beating well after each addition.

Place the mini chocolate morsels in a bowl and sprinkle with the all-purpose flour. Toss so the chips get coated with the flour — you won't use all the flour. Gently fold the chips into the batter and then immediately pour batter into Bundt pan.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until done and a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool about 10 minutes before inverting onto a cake plate.

Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe dish combine the butter and chocolate chips. Microwave in increments of 30 seconds, stirring in between, until chips are melted. Remove from microwave and stir in the orange extract and orange juice. Pour over the cake, allowing the glaze to drip down the sides. Refrigerate to set the glaze before serving.

Adapted from a recipe submitted by Nancy Thomas, Royal Oak. Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

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