Cornbread is a staple food in the southern United States. It’s typically served as a side dish but can also be a delicious dessert simply by adding sugar.
While cornbread is fairly easy to make, you’ll likely run into some trouble if you’ve never made it before. Even though you follow the recipe step-by-step, you may look at your pan and wonder, “Why is my cornbread flat?”
Your cornbread may be flat due to stale baking powder, mixing the batter too much, or not properly heating the oven. In this article, we dive into each one of those scenarios in-depth, so let’s dive in!
How Much Should Cornbread Rise?
There are many types of cornbread out there, each with a different texture. Not knowing what to expect in terms of texture will definitely confuse you as a beginner baker.
Johnnycakes can be as flat as pancakes, while corn pones are usually heavy and chewy.
For traditional cornbread, you’ll want a light and soft texture. You reach this texture by using leavening agents that allow your cornbread to rise sufficiently.
You shouldn’t expect your cornbread to double in size; after all, it’s bread, not a cake. Cornbread should rise so that it’s fluffy but still somewhat dense.
Why Is My Cornbread Flat?
Don’t worry if your cornbread is flat. Even professionals can make common mistakes that result in their cornbread not rising properly, including:
1 – Low Quality and Quantity of the Leavening Agent
The most obvious cause that prevents your mixture from rising is baking soda. This leavening agent is crucial for the baking process.
Baking soda and baking powder contain carbon dioxide. During baking, carbon dioxide produces bubbles and expands the batter. The fluffiness comes from these air bubbles.
Using too little leavening agent will cause your batter to rise insufficiently. Usually, you’ll need three teaspoons of baking powder per cup of cornmeal.
Baking soda is stronger than baking powder. So, if you don’t have baking powder, you can substitute each teaspoon for ¼ a teaspoon of baking soda.
Too much leavening agent can also be an issue!
You might think that more baking powder equals more fluffiness. However, this will cause your cornbread to rise way too quickly, then fall suddenly, creating a well in the middle.
The quality of the leavening agent matters just as much as the quantity. Make sure your baking powder hasn’t gone stale by checking the expiration date.
2 – Overmixing the Batter
A common mistake everyone makes when they’re learning to bake is overmixing. While you want all your ingredients to be incorporated, you should avoid overmixing the batter.
Your batter should neither be thick or thin. It should also contain some lumps and not be extra smooth.
These lumps contain air bubbles, and as with the leavening agents, they help the batter rise significantly. Mix the batter to death, and you’ll lose all the air bubbles.
To keep from overmixing, you can mix the dry and wet ingredients separately before combining them.
3 – Not Preheating Your Oven
Preheating is essential in any baking recipe. Most baking powders are double-acting, which means they activate in liquid form and in the presence of heat.
If you put your batter in a cold oven, too much time will pass while it heats up. The gasses will have escaped, and the batter will be set by the time your oven is hot enough.
Avoid this by turning on the oven to about 400 °F before you even start to mix the ingredients.
4 – Not Leaving the Batter to Rest
After you’re done with the batter, the logical thing to do is to pour it into a tray and into the oven. However, this isn’t the best course of action.
You should leave the batter in the bowl to rest for about ten minutes. Not only does this give your oven time to heat up, but it’s also essential so that the baking powder activates and incorporates more air.
This can be a bit tricky though. You must avoid leaving the batter for longer than 20 minutes, as this causes the baking powder to lose all leavening abilities.
How to Make Fluffy Cornbread From Scratch
So, you’ve done everything right. You’ve kept all the above reasons in mind while making your cornbread, yet it still turned out flat?
Well, the problem may be simply in the cornbread mix you’re using! It may take you dozens of boxes of cornbread mixes before finding the right one.
Why waste all the time and money? You can simply make cornbread from scratch using simple ingredients and following some simple steps.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need:
- Two cups of all-purpose flour
- One cup of yellow cornmeal
- One cup of granulated sugar
- One teaspoon of salt
- Three teaspoons of baking powder
- Half a cup of melted butter
- One and a half cups of milk
- Three large eggs
- Honey and butter for dressing
Follow these simple steps to make the perfect cornbread:
- Preheat your oven to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit and grease your pan of choice
- In one large bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder
- In another bowl, mix the eggs, milk, and butter
- Add the dry and wet ingredients to each other, and stir slightly to combine
- Set a timer for 10 minutes and let the batter rest
- Transfer the batter to the greased pan, and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean
- Allow the cornbread to cool for 20 minutes before serving with drizzled honey or butter
How to Properly Store Cornbread
Storing the cornbread properly is crucial in maintaining its spongy and creamy texture. Don’t just leave it in the fridge uncovered.
You can wrap the entire cornbread in plastic wrap and place it in the freezer. Later, all you need to do is to thaw it for 1-2 hours before eating.
Although this is a great way to keep your cornbread fresh, thawing and refreezing multiple times can completely ruin it. To avoid that, you can slice smaller single-serve wedges and wrap them in the same manner!
Cornbread is a delicious, easily-made dish. Everyone should be able to bake it from scratch. Not being able to get the light and airy texture on your first try is totally okay, though!
You’ll probably ask yourself, “Why is my cornbread flat?” multiple times throughout the baking process. Nevertheless, through trial and error, you should be able to bake the perfect cornbread.
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.