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11 Common Cake Baking Problems and Solutions

11 Common Cake Baking Problems and Solutions

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We all know that baking doesn’t always go as planned. You want to make a fluffy cake, but instead, you end up with a dense block that barely resembles a cake!

Or, your cake looks perfectly golden brown, and when you go to take it out of the pan, you realize that the middle is still completely unbaked.

What causes baking problems? 

A mistake in the ingredients, like following a faulty recipe or a bad baking technique could be the culprit. 

Successful baking takes some training, and I’m here to help!

After years and years of baking cakes, I can pinpoint some of the most common baking problems and come up with solutions to fix them. 

And this is exactly what I’m about to share with you. So, let’s dive in. 

11 Common Cake Baking Problems and Solutions

Perfect baking is a dream that many of us have, but a few achieve. 

Yes, I must admit that some people aren’t natural-born bakers, but this doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to bake a delicious cake that impresses everyone!

Here are the most common baking problems you might encounter as a newbie, and how to deal with them:

1 – Cake Is Too Dense

Butter And Oil

When there isn’t enough air in the batter, the cake will look and feel too dense. What’s the answer here? Simple: beat the air back into the batter!

Here are a couple of ways on how to do it properly:

When there isn’t enough air in the batter, the cake will look and feel too dense. What’s the answer here? Simple: beat the air back into the batter!

Here are a couple of ways on how to do it properly:

  • Ensure you’re beating the batter long enough, and spend extra time creaming the sugar and butter to make a fluffy and airy mix. 
  • If your batter uses oil instead of butter, mix well, and don’t rush it until the air bubbles form. 
  • Once you’ve added the flour, go easy on the mixing. You don’t want to overmix, as it can burst the air bubbles in the cake dough. 

2 – Your Cake Didn’t Rise

Another problem that many people encounter is a cake that doesn’t rise, which also leads to a dense cake. 

This could probably be due to a bad leavening agent. Maybe your baking powder or baking soda is old and no longer working.

You need a good leavening agent to help the batter rise and lock in the air during the baking process. 

Moreover, too much flour in a cake will make it heavy, so it won’t rise. Flour is loaded with gluten that can weigh a cake down.

Measure your flour accurately and use cake flour, which has less gluten than all-purpose flour (it’s called cake flour for a reason—it’s perfect for cakes!).

But what if you’ve done all this and your cake didn’t rise? 

Have you put the cake into the oven right after turning it on? This could be the main problem here. 

In a cool oven, your cake won’t rise right away, and the batter will begin to cook before it puffs up. 

Preheat your oven for at least 20 minutes before baking. When the oven is at the right temperature, your cake will rise quickly as the heat will activate the leavening agent. 

3 – Your Cake Is Overflowing

How many times have you opened the oven to check on your cake, only to find a mess of pouring batter on the racks? I know I saw this a lot!

Think of all the time you’ll spend cleaning, and did I mention that the batter can catch fire? Yes, you must avoid this. 

The easiest solution is to fill your pan with less batter. A good rule of thumb is to fill a cake pan halfway to two-thirds of the way up the sides of the pan. 

Any more batter and you could easily have a cake explosion in your oven! So, either pick a pan suitable for the batter you have or reduce all the ingredients by half to fit the baking dish you already own. 

I would always pick the first option, but if you’re a math genius, try the second one. 

4 – You Have A Sunken Cake

Toothpick Test On Cake

I admit that this is probably one of the most common baking mistakes I made. The cake looks perfect right out of the oven, and I feel I’ve finally made it. 

I let it sit on the rack to cool off, and come after a few minutes only to find a disaster!

My beautiful cake has collapsed in the middle. It has sunken in the center and looks like someone gave it a really good punch. What happened?

I learned, the hard way, that this probably means the cake wasn’t fully baked. I just pulled it out too soon. 

Cakes can sink when there isn’t enough structure to hold the batter together. By structure, I mean eggs or flour, ingredients that bind the cake batter

If you’re short on eggs or skimp on an ounce of flour, your cake batter won’t be firm enough to hold its shape when baked. I’m all for saving, but not when you’re baking!

Adjusting the temperature is crucial. As a matter of fact, you might have a burned exterior while the center is full of gooey uncooked batter if the temperature is too high.

Opening and closing the oven door too frequently to check on your cake will make the temperature rise and fall. This disrupts the baking process, and the outside will bake fast while the center takes too much time to get hot. 

Use a toothpick or knife to test the center of the cake. If it comes out clean with no sticky, wet batter, your cake will be done! 

Otherwise, leave the cake in the oven a little longer. It’s that easy. 

5 – Your Cake Is Stuck

Once again, you think you have baked the perfect cake until you try to take it out of the pan. The cake has completely stuck to the edges and the bottom, and you just can’t lift it without breaking it into pieces. 

Of course, you learn the hard way that you should always grease a cake pan well

But here is my special tip: don’t just grease it, flour it as well! This will help the cake pop out of the pan after it bakes.

Placing a parchment circle in the bottom of the cake pan is another effective way to prevent a cake from sticking, as the paper will help lift the cake easily.

Now, what if you’re desperate, and the cake doesn’t seem to move? If you have time, wrap your cake while it’s still in the pan and freeze it for at least six hours. 

A frozen cake is less likely to crumble when you try to pull it out. Use a butter knife to gently cut around the cake to remove it successfully. 

6 – The Cake Has Crusty Edges

The middle of your cake is nice and fluffy, but the edges are crunchy and burned. Why did this happen? 

This is most likely caused by too much pan spray or an over-greased pan. When the pan has too much grease, the edges of the cake literally get fried.

Yes, it’s important to grease the sides of the pan, but a little grease goes a long way!

7 – The Cake Batter is Too Stiff

Mixing Cake Batter

When you’re stirring the cake batter and it feels like you are mixing cement, you have probably added too much flour. You might also have been mixing too long.

The stiff batter is caused by too much gluten. Too much flour will result in a lot of gluten, and overmixing will help develop the gluten bonds. 

You can avoid this by accurately measuring all your dry ingredients, including the flour. Once you’ve added the flour, use a spatula to mix it in until it disappears. 

That’s it. No need for overmixing as it‘ll push the air out of the batter. 

8 – Fruits Falling to the Bottom

A cake baked with fresh fruits is a true delicacy. However, mixing fresh fruits into any cold cake batter won’t usually work.

Fruits tend to be heavy and will sink to the bottom of the cake where they unappetizingly sit. This happens when the batter is too light and fluffy or there isn’t enough flour to hold them.

When making a cake with fruits mixed in, it’s best to choose a nice, sturdy batter rather than something light like a chiffon cake.

Fruits will also sink if they’re too wet and dense. Whole cherries or strawberries are perfect examples of large, moist fruits that will sink into a cake.

If you have your heart set on these types of fruits, chop them up into small pieces before adding them to your cake batter.

You can also gently dust the fruits with some cake or all-purpose flour. This will help hold all your fruits in place. 

9 – Cake Sides Are Caving In

When the sides of a cake are sunken in, and your cake looks like you put a tight belt around the center, you know you have a problem. 

Cake sides sinking inward can be caused by one of three things: liquid, grease, or moisture.

First, ensure your cake batter recipe has the correct amount of liquid. Cakes that require adding buttermilk or coffee at the end, for example, can be finicky, so double-check your liquids before freely pouring them in.

Next, only use a small amount of pan spray or butter to grease your pans. While you want your cake to easily pop out of the pan once it’s baked, the cake still needs to be able to “climb” up the sides of the pan to rise.

Too much grease and the batter will simply slide down the edges. A little spray goes a long way- so, don’t overdo it!

Lastly, try not to let your cake cool in the pan for too long. Moisture can build up inside the pan as the cake cools, causing the sides to sink inward.

Let the cake cool for a few minutes, then remove it from the pan and transfer it to a cooling rack. Problem solved!

10 – Cake Top Is Cracked

If your cakes are always coming out of the oven with cracked tops, you have a temperature problem.

When the oven is too hot, the top of the cake will bake quickly and form a crust. The batter in the center of the cake will be cooking and rising, so it’ll burst through the top crust, causing the cake to crack.

A simple thermometer, like this one, will accurately measure the temperature and help you ensure your appliance is not running too hot.

11 – You Have a Crumbly Cake

Cake In Oven

You might have a crumbly cake due to several reasons, like too much flour, not enough butter, or an extremely hot oven that dries the batter.

Revising your technique and ingredients is the only key to success. But this doesn’t mean that your crumbled cake will go to waste. 

Use the crumbled cake to make delicious cake pops after mixing it with icing or melted chocolate. Dip your pops into your favorite frosting, and you’ll have a delicious dessert that everyone will love. 

Final Thoughts

While these cake-baking problems can be frustrating, they all have easy fixes to ensure your cakes come out perfectly.

Baking cake is an art, a science, and also a ton of fun. Of course, it’s completely worth the effort when you bite into an impeccably baked cake. Happy Baking!

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Judy

Monday 5th of February 2024

Judy, baking from scratch, I am having this problem in the finished product of biscuits, cake or cookies, I can taste the baking powder, baking soda, in some parts of the product. I have sifted twice or whisked profusely but still have this problem what am I doing wrong.

Chery Johns

Monday 6th of March 2023

I have bake three different recipes and they are just boiling in the pan. One recipe I have used numerous times. I have used an oven thermemter but the cakes just boil. Please tell me what is happening.

Mandy Sellers

Monday 27th of February 2023

My cakes look perfect in the oven, my skewer comes out dry to suggest perfectly cooked, however when I cut into the cake it is underdone in the centre. I don't want to overdo or even burn the cake - what am I doing wrong?

Payal - Cake Baker

Thursday 6th of October 2022

Hi, I myself is a cake baker sell my cakes in this website (www.expressluv.com ) and your article helps a lot. I was looking for better way to bake my cakes and was facing some problems this article beautifully solves my problem. Thanks for sharing :)

Yang

Monday 24th of January 2022

Hi, my chiffon cake always have huge cracks at the side when I removed the cake after cooled down, what could be the possible reasons ? Thank You .