There are many, many reasons why you might decide that you want to make a cake. Some people simply enjoy baking and might decide that it is time to make a cake to enjoy. Other people may want to bake a cake for a specific occasion, whether it is a celebration or a holiday.
As many bakers will come to note, there are a lot of specifics that are involved in baking and getting the measurements just right. If you mis-measure something even slightly, there’s a chance that you can end up in a situation where you no longer have a viable cake.
Because of this, many people who are first getting into baking will find themselves in situations where they may not know what to do or how to salvage the cake.
Thankfully, cakes are one of the more forgiving types of desserts that you can bake for yourself. If you notice that you are having a problem with your cake, it is usually pretty easy to make the necessary adjustments to bring your cake into better condition.
However, this brings up the problem of needing to know what to do to fix certain problems that may occur during baking.
Take, for example, a situation where you find that your cake was relatively fine when you were making the batter and putting it into the cake pan. But, when you go to take the cake out of the oven and you begin to cut into it, you notice that the cake is falling apart.
If you had baked that cake for a special occasion, you might feel at a loss as to what you can do, or what even caused the cake to react this way.
Understanding what causes problems in baking is going to be the first step toward learning how to fix the issue at hand. After all, when you have a better idea of what went wrong while you were baking, you will have a much easier time finding a solution that will remedy the problem.
This means that for a situation where your cake falls apart as soon as you begin to cut into it, you are going to want to try and understand what went wrong to cause your cake to crumble.
What Causes Crumbly Cakes?
There are quite a few different problems that can leave you with a cake that cannot hold its shape when you begin cutting into it. Figuring out which problem applies to you and your situation is going to help you out tremendously when you are learning how to fix this kind of problem.
One of the most common causes of a cake becoming too crumbly will be because there is something going on with the dough of the cake. This could be that there is too much gluten in the cake flour. Gluten plays a role in cake-making too, just as it does with many facets of baking.
Gluten’s role in baking cakes is to keep the cake light and airy. When there is too much gluten in the flour mix that you used for your cake, the gluten is going to do more than just keep the cake together. It is going to bind much more strongly to the cake and the cake pieces, leaving you with a cake that doesn’t stand up on its own and doesn’t have a light texture.
Instead, you will be left with a cake that cannot hold its shape and will crumble the moment you apply extra pressure to the structure of the cake. Understandably, the easiest way to fix this is going to be to work with a cake flour mix that has an appropriate amount of gluten in it.
Make Sure the Cake Is Being Cut Right
Another reason why cakes may not be able to hold their shape when you begin cutting into them is because you may not be cutting the cake properly. While many people believe that the plethora of knives that bakers have in their kitchen is unnecessary, it can actually make a difference when you cut into food using the right knife.
When cutting standard layer cakes, you will want to use a knife that has a long and thin blade, cutting with a very gentle sawing motion so that you can easily separate all of the layers of the cake, leaving you with a clean slice.
On the other hand, cakes that are meant to be fluffier, such as chiffon or angel food cakes, need to be cut with a serrated knife. Here, you would still use a sawing motion, but you would want to be gentle with it so that you do not affect the airiness of the cake. Yet another option here is the angel food cake braker, like this one on amazon.
Cheesecakes and other cakes that are meant to be dense can rely on just about any type of knife, although a long and thin knife blade is going to be best. However, you will want to dip the knife in some hot water before you begin cutting the cake so that the knife will simply glide through the cake rather than tearing it.
Fixing a Crumbling Cake
While there isn’t much that can be done for a cake that has already started to crumble outside of the oven, there are a few things that you can keep in mind. You will first want to let the cake cool down a bit, as cutting into a piping hot cake is not going to help it keep its structure at all.
You can also try and be gentler with the cutting knife, although how well this works will depend on the nature and condition of the cake you are working with.
If you notice that the cake batter isn’t forming the way it should, there are more ways that you can salvage this recipe, as it has not yet entered the oven. The best thing that you can do will be to add some form of butter or oil to the cake to add the moisture it needs to stick together.
The additional ingredients can be in the form of butter and oil, applesauce, bananas, fruit purees, and so on. All of these products can add enough solid moisture to help the cake keep its shape.
Before you even bake the cake, you will want to make sure that you are using flour that has an appropriate gluten content. Most cakes should have a gluten content of 7% to 9%, which will grant you a lighter and airier cake than using standard bread flour would.
By comparison, most standard bread flour will have a gluten amount of between 12% and 14%.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.
Sunday 17th of April 2022
Saturday 5th of March 2022
I have been trying to duplicate my mother's hazelnut torte. I added two grated carrots to the mixture but the resulting cake was very crumbly. I used regular flour not any special flour. Not sure what went wrong. Walter Elias, St. Louis Park, MN
Saturday 26th of March 2022
@walter elias, considering it's March 26th, I thought I'd reply! Above it states to add more butter/oil. I've been trying to replicate Katie Reilly's Irish Soda Bread mix and having issues with it being "crumbly". Will try again, maybe next weekend, and add more butter :-)