Fruit cakes are a delicious festive treat, but they can be a bit tricky to bake. One of the most common problems people come across while making fruit cakes is cracks on top.
While this problem isn’t a deal breaker, it’s still quite annoying after following the recipe word by word.
Cracking fruit cake tops can happen for a variety of reasons, and in this guide, I’ll walk you through the most common ones, so you can avoid this problem while baking fruit cakes.
Before diving into the specific details and reason, you should first know how cracks form on a fruit cake.
Cracking happens when different parts of the cake cook at different rates. In that case, the top cooks faster than the bottom of the cake, and develops a solid crust.
However, since the bottom is still cooking, it continues to cook and rise, which applies pressure on the top crust, causing it to crack.
Here are some of the main reasons that might cause your fruit cake to crack on top.
The first and most common reason for fruit cakes to crack on top is using an excessively high oven temperature while baking.
When the oven temperature is too high, the outside of the cake starts cooking faster than the inside.
As a result, the uncooked parts will keep on expanding and pushing against the cake’s crust, so it ends up cracking.
To avoid this, make sure that you keep your oven temperature at medium-high instead of high. Ideally, your oven should be between 325 to 350 °F (160 to 175 °C).
This also protects the cake from browning too quickly on the outside without having to cover it with foil.
If you keep your oven at a constant 350 °F and it still cracks on top, you might need to check the position of the cake while baking in the oven.
The top part of the oven is typically hotter than the bottom part. This is because heat rises, so when you place it high up in the oven, the top will cook faster than the bottom, even if the oven keeps the temperature at 350 °F.
To avoid this problem, you have to account for the cake’s height while baking it in the oven and place it closer to the center.
Alternatively, you can turn on the oven’s fan to keep the temperature even across the oven while baking.
When you overmix the batter, it develops too much gluten. This is a protein in wheat-based flour that gives it its structure-holding properties.
However, too much gluten can make the cake tough and prone to cracking as it cooks. In that case, the cracks would be both on the top and sides of the cake.
To prevent this, mix the batter just until they’re combined thoroughly, and avoid continuous mixing afterward.
The pan you’re using to bake the cake can also cause it to crack if you don’t choose the right size.
Since fruit cakes need to be high, many people use smaller pans to create enough rising volume.
The problem here is that the batter will rise up significantly while cooking in a pan too small. As a result, the uncooked parts will eventually crack the formed crust.
To prevent this, use a pan that is the right size for the recipe. As a general rule, a good pan should be around 1 inch taller than the batter to contain the cake as it rises.
After taking the cake out of the oven, you might be tempted to cut it right away. But unfortunately, this is also a common reason why fruit cakes may start cracking.
Although you removed the cake from the oven, it’s still quite warm. As a result, removing it from the pan right away will cause it to cool down quickly and develop cracks.
To avoid this, you simply need to let the cake cool down in the pan before removing it. Once the cake is ready, you can gently loosen the edges of the cake with a knife and take it out without cracking.
If you’re concerned about the cake sticking to the pan as it cools off, can also the pan with parchment paper before baking it and use a non-stick pan.
Some people might think that fruit cake ingredients can cause cracking. However, the ingredients are rarely the culprit behind cracking cake tops.
The only case this happens is when the ingredients sink to the bottom while baking. This happens because you’re using heavy fruits and nuts, especially if you’re substituting ingredients and didn’t account for weight difference.
A good solution to this problem is dusting those fruits and nuts with some flour, which helps them retain their position in the cake batter while baking.
Now that you know how to keep your fruit cake from developing cracks, here are some valuable tips to help you make a perfect fruit cake:
- Decorate your fruit cake to hide the cracks and other imperfections
- Soak the fruits overnight to help them retain their moisture while cooking
- Prevent the batter from drying out by adding 1/2 cup of applesauce to the batter
- Make sure the fruits and nuts don’t sink to the bottom
- Avoid overfilling the pan so that the contents don’t spill while baking
- Keep an eye on the cake while cooking and avoid relying on time recommendations in recipes.
This marks the end of today’s guide that shows you why fruit cakes may crack on top. As you can see, there are a wide range of reasons that can cause this problem.
Cracking is usually a result of uneven cooking between the top and the bottom of the cake, so make sure that you keep the oven temperature medium to low and let the cake cool down before removing it.
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.