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Simple Ways to Keep a Cake from Falling (And How to Fix One That Already Has)

Simple Ways to Keep a Cake from Falling (And How to Fix One That Already Has)

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As a beginner baker, one of the most rewarding moments is taking your perfectly baked cake out of the oven. The anticipation builds as you watch it rise and turn golden brown while the smell of sugar wafts through your house. 

That’s why it can be incredibly disheartening to see your cake collapse in the middle, leaving you with a sunken mess. Sadly, there are quite a few reasons this could be happening to your confection. 

For example, how you mix your batter, the ingredients themselves, or how you bake the sweet treat will all play a significant role in whether the cake rises or sinks. 

In order to fix a sunken cake or prevent it from sinking in the first place, let’s take a look at the different things that can cause a cake to drop in the center.

So, in this article, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about how to keep your cake from falling. 

What Makes a Cake Fall & How to Avoid It

Cake Ingredients

There are quite a few culprits that may be behind your cake sinking as it bakes. In this section, I’ll go over some of the most common pitfalls and how to avoid them. 

1. Issues With Ingredient Substitution

When it comes to sunken cake issues, I like to start at the beginning—the ingredients. There are fundamental components to any cake. That includes eggs, milk, sugar, and flour. 

The recipe will detail the exact quantities of each ingredient and how to incorporate it into the batter. Of course, there are various ways to substitute components in any recipe.

For instance, when making a vegan cake, you can replace the eggs with silken tofu. Yet, you’ll need to pay close attention to the substitution rate. 

Otherwise, you may alter the ratio of the wet-to-dry ingredients. Regrettably, this can leave you with a sunken cake. So, it’s a good idea to check conversion rates before you start switching out ingredients. 

2. Using Chilled Eggs and Butter

Allowing your butter and eggs to warm up to room temperature is a critical step many may miss. 

Unfortunately, cold eggs won’t mix the way that room-temperature ones do. So, using chilled eggs in your cake batter can result in pockets that aren’t properly blended. 

Not only will this affect the baking process, but it’ll also lead to a collapsing confection!

Moving on, butter is another ingredient that you should allow to warm up. That’s because, at room temperature, it’s soft and easy to blend, unlike when cold. 

Plus, if you go too far and melt the butter, that can cause the texture and consistency of the cake to change.

Watch this short video from the Rachael Ray Show to see the effects of blending cold ingredients: 

3. Mistakes With the Recipe

When baking a cake, it’s best to look at the process as a science experiment. Each ingredient has an effect on your confection and can alter the flavor and texture.

Because of that, making adjustments to the components or not measuring them carefully can result in a sinking sweet treat.

For instance, a cake can fall in the center if the batter’s moisture content is off. With excess water, the batter will rise rapidly and sink as it cools down. 

However, if the moisture levels are too low, the batter will harden and fall in the center. 

Another problem often lies with a mistake in the leavening agents (baking soda and baking powder). These are the components that help your cake rise as it bakes!

As you can imagine, that means they play a significant role in whether your cake sinks or not. 

So, to make your life easier, here are a few tips to keep in mind when adding baking soda and baking powder to your batter:

  • Measure the leavening agents carefully. Too much will cause excess air pockets to develop in the cake, which results in a weakened structure.
  • Baking soda and baking powder are not interchangeable.
  • If your baking powder isn’t fresh, it won’t do what it’s supposed to, which is to add air to your batter. 

You can check the freshness of your baking powder by performing a simple five-second test: add a teaspoon to a half cup of hot water. If you see rapid bubbling, then your baking powder is still good.

  • The average ratio of baking powder to all-purpose flour in a cake mix is 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder per 1 cup of flour.

On top of that, measuring your ingredients by weight can also help you ensure you get the right amount of each component. That’ll ensure your scientific baking experiment ends with a success!

4. Over-Mixing Your Batter

How you blend your ingredients is just as important as everything I mentioned above.

It’s easy to see why over-mixing the batter can be the most common reason that cakes fall. It creates hundreds of tiny air pockets that escape during the baking and cooling process. 

This will cause the middle of the cake to drop in the end.

So, rather than beating the batter until it is completely smooth, you should fold the dry ingredients into the wet components to avoid adding this extra air to the mix.

Plus, if you need to use a mixer, the best way to do that is with a low speed and mix for less than three minutes.

5. Timing Issues

Sand Timer

As soon as you mix your wet and dry ingredients, a chemical reaction will kick off. The baking powder and soda will absorb the moisture from the batter and begin to bubble. 

While you may have time for a short mad-scientist laugh, it’s best to work quickly. That’s because the air bubbles will start to escape from your batter.

These are what allow your cake to rise as it bakes. On average, you only have about 20 minutes after folding the wet and dry ingredients together before your batter goes flat. 

Because of that, you should get the cake in the oven as soon as possible.

6. Neglecting to Preheat the Oven

One of the most overlooked recipe instructions is preheating the oven. Most beginner bakers get too excited about mixing the batter that they forget this crucial step. 

That’s because putting your cake in before the oven is at the correct temperature will almost certainly lead to your confection collapsing.

Well, preheating the oven can take up to 30 minutes. Since your batter should be in the oven within 20 minutes of mixing, it’s crucial to start heating before you mix your batter.

Moving on, it’s important to note that cakes bake from the outside in, towards the center. So, without the right timing, the middle of the cake can suffer.

Under-baking will leave the center soggy, but over-baking can lead to a dry cake.

For that reason, be sure to set your timer for the minimum bake time and then do the toothpick test for each additional five minutes. 

When the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is ready to come out of the oven.

Various Cakes

7. Minimal Room for Rising and Space Issues

When baking a cake, many people feel like the batter should fill the entire pan. Unfortunately, this is a common mistake. 

You have to remember, your cake will almost double in size in the oven. So, overfilling the pan can cause the batter to overflow, which means your cake will rise too high, and then collapse.

Because of that, you shouldn’t fill your cake pans more than two-thirds of the way to the top. This will give your cake room to rise within the pan.

Besides that, there needs to be room for the heat in your oven to circulate to achieve even baking of your cakes. For that reason, place your oven rack in the center of the oven and place your cake pans in the middle of the rack.

Plus, it’s not a good idea to put more than one cake pan in the oven at a time. This may mean that it’ll take longer to bake your four-layer cake, but your layers will be evenly baked and delicious.

8. Temperature Problems

Toothpick Test On Cake

Every oven is a little unique. Depending on the size and the power input of the device, it’ll generate heat at different rates. 

That means, the actual temperature of your oven may vary from what it is set to. 

To figure out the true temperature, you need an oven thermometer, like this one. They’re cheap and readily available, so it’s easy to have one on hand when you need it.

If your oven is too hot, the cake will rise higher in the middle in a dome-like shape, which will then collapse when the confection cools.

Moving on, when your oven isn’t hot enough, the middle won’t bake all the way through.

Plus, you should remember that each time you open the oven door, warm air escapes, and the temperature inside drops. 

This heat loss can be at least ten degrees each time, and that can definitely affect the chemical reactions going on in your cake.

Because of this, make sure that you keep the door closed for at least the first three-quarters of the bake time.

For more solutions to cake-baking problems, check out our post covering the most common issues you’re likely to face.

9. Geographical Errors

High Altitude House

I know what you’re thinking, what does geography have to do with baking? Well, as it turns out, your location can have a notable impact on how your cake bakes. 

For example, issues can develop in both hot and humid environments. 

High humidity can add moisture to your dry ingredients and cause them to condense. So, if you live in an area with high air moisture levels, it’s best to consider storing your dry ingredients in the freezer to help avoid this problem.

Moving on, areas of high elevation present their own host of issues for baking. That’s because high altitudes have less atmospheric pressure and oxygen, which can cause baked goods to lose moisture faster.

As a result, in regions at more than 3,000 feet above sea level, you may need to adjust the recipe, oven temperature, and baking time.

For more information on this topic, you can check out my 7 Practical Tips for Baking in High Altitudes for help with how to make these needed adjustments.

How to Fix a Cake That Is Already Sunken

If you did your best and your cake still ended up sinking, it’s not the end of the world. There are a few steps you can take to save your cake. Exactly what these entail depends on the temperature of the confection.

Right off the bat, you should perform the toothpick test. If it reveals that the middle isn’t done, you can put the cake back in the oven and try to get the center to finish baking.

Hopefully, this should restart the rising process and help you save your confection. Plus, if you’re putting a cake back in the oven, try setting the device at a lower temperature to keep the edges from burning while the center bakes.

However, this fix will only work if your cake is still warm or hot.

If you have a cooled confection on your hands, placing it back in the oven at this point will only dry it out and won’t help with rising. 

So, re-baking is out of the question. Yet, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. There are a couple of ways you can go about fixing a cooled sunken cake. 

If the center isn’t fully cooked, you will need to cut that part out. Then, you can fill the empty area with frosting mixed with fruit for a tasty center.

After that, decorate the outer ring of the cake with your fruity concoction and you’ll have a beautiful and flavorful cake that may become an accidental favorite.

Moving on, if your cake is fully baked, but only slightly falling in the center, you can simply fill that area with extra frosting to make the cake appear even. Easy, right?

The same solution will work when using fondant. All you have to do is fill the cavity with buttercream to create a flat surface for the fondant to sit on.

Final Thoughts

Baking is a science that has been honed over the years. People have played with ingredients, techniques, temperatures, and timing until they came to what gets the best results. 

The slightest error with any of these factors can lead to a falling cake. For instance, mistakes with the recipe, neglecting to preheat the oven, and issues with substitution may leave you with a flat confection. 

While there are many factors that can cause a cake to fall or sink in the center, you should be able to find which one (or maybe more!) is your problem by seeing what you are doing differently from the recipe.

So, it’s crucial that you read the baking instructions carefully and follow them as closely as possible. And if in the end your cake still sinks, at least know that there are some very tasty ways to fill the gaps!

For more cake-baking tips, check out this post listing some of my favorite cake-baking tips for beginners. Do you have any cake falling horror stories? How did you recover? Let us know in the comments below.

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Elizabeth (Libby) Marquardt

Wednesday 22nd of December 2021

I do everything you suggest that might be the cause of my cakes falling....I'm wondering if the recipe calls for 2 cups o flour and only 1 tsp of baking powder and I tsp of baking soda....could/should I increase the BP and BS???


Monday 27th of September 2021

I did have cake falling in yesterday,so I Bagan to wonder what really happened


Wednesday 28th of July 2021

I have an old zucchini cake recipe that has a sink hole in it every time I bake it. I assume it's because of too much moisture, but I m going to bake it again tomorrow ( humidity is supposed to be lower) and try the many tips this article discussed, ie: room temperature eggs, folding in the dry ingredients, and paying attention to time and oven temp. Thanks for the informative info.


Friday 23rd of April 2021

My cake was full and toothpick test came out clean, but after 5 min of cooling the cakes sunk. It is a vintage cake recipe that has you mix everything together at the same time, except for the eggs, buttermilk, baking soda and vinegar. You add the eggs and buttermilk in after everything is combined, and separately you mix the vinegar and BS together then fold in. Should I change how I mix the batter. The batter is always fluffy when I have mixed it and looks good, but then this happens every time. Any thoughts? Thanks!

Willene Ferrell

Sunday 27th of November 2022

@Corey, I have this same problem every time I bake a pound cake I mean every time, I'm at my wits end with pound cakes Tried different recipes, same results


Thursday 31st of December 2020

I had this problem with a store bought cake mix. I used a yellow cake mix to make pineapple upside down cake. I had to let the cake bake a half hour longer than normal.