Picture this: it is a beautiful, perfect weekend morning. You are in the kitchen whipping up what is going to be a beautiful, tasty cake for a party later in the day that you just know everyone is going to gawk over and eat multiple slices of.
You slide the perfect batter into the correctly pre-heated oven and tell the whole family not to run, not to jump, and you keep a careful eye on the precious cake.
Finally, your kitchen is filled with the sweet aromas of the baking cake and the timer goes off!
It is time to take your beautiful cake out of the oven...you open the oven door only to see that the beautiful cake which you have worked so hard on is completely sunken in the middle! And that is when your dreams crumble into your hands, just like your cake did.
Creating a cake that is delicious, moist, light and fluffy, but with a sound structure to it can be so hard and though it may look like art, it can easily fit into the category of being a science experiment as well. You have to familiarize yourself with the entire process and bake with confidence from beginning to end so that you are able to get the result that you so desperately want.
There are a handful of reasons as to why your cake may not be rising the way that it is supposed too. Below you will see exactly why your cake might be falling, if there is anything you can do to save your cake once it falls, and how to fix it if it is at all possible.
Why do cakes fall in the middle?
1. The balance of moisture is off
The moisture of your cake can cause your cake to fall, whether your cake has too much moisture or not enough it can fall both ways. If your cake does not have enough moisture in it, it will fall usually right dab in the very center. Conversely, if you bake your cake and it has too much moisture it can also ruin the cake by making it fall.
It is important to not totally skip over this one just because you think that you measure every single ingredient out exactly as the recipe calls for, because your climate can cause your cake to have this effect. For example, if you live in a place that has high humidity, it can cause moisture to get into your dry ingredients such as your flour and your sugar which will cause the cake to rise fast, then sink just as fast.
You can combat this issue by following the recipe to a T and weighing out the ingredient instead of just measuring them, you can also put your things like flour and sugar in the freezer so that they do not accumulate moisture from the air.
2. You did not plan it all out or read the full recipe ahead of time
There are a lot of recipes that call for exact ingredients to be added and folded into the rest of the mixture at the just the right moment. Whether you have to plop the eggs in at just the right time or sprinkle in the flour slowly enough, one wrong move could result in your having a cake that sinks.
It is important to read through the entire recipe thoroughly before you start the baking process. Get all of the ingredients set out, cut and measured properly, and lined up in order so that you can easily reach out and grab what you need when the time arises.
3. Your oven temperature might not be correct
Did you know that your oven temperature might not be what it says it is when you preheat it? Ovens can get out of whack and be off by a couple of degrees! While a couple of degrees does not really sound like a big deal, it can completely ruin your cake by causing it to fall.
The best way to combat your temperature is to double check your oven temperature when you preheat it by using a heatproof thermometer which will tell you the true temperature every time. It is important to remember that most cakes usually bake the best in 350 degrees farenheit, and if your recipe calls for a higher or lower degree, it will explain fully as to why it calls for that.
4. You are not baking it long enough
Many people go by the way a cake looks in the oven to tell them whether or not the cake is done. The problem with this method is that while it is in the oven, the cake can rise up and look puffy and golden, but as soon as you take it out of the oven the middle turns doughy and it sinks!
Instead of just going by what you see in the oven, use a skewer, toothpick, or cake tester stick to stick the middle of the cake. If the tester comes out of the cake and is mostly clean, then the cake is baked through, sturdy, and ready to come out of the oven!
5. How much leavener are you using in your recipe?
You may think that by adding more leaveners into your recipe, you are doing your cake a service that are designed to make batter rise. However, leaveners such as baking soda and baking powder, though used to help make your cake rise up, can actually have an adverse effect and make the cake fall every time.
Leaveners are one of the ingredients that have to be measured extremely precisely every time, and it is important to double check every time before adding to the rest of the ingredients to make sure you have not mixed the two. You definitely do not want to have a recipe that calls for a teaspoon of soda and a tablespoon of powder, and accidentally mix the two of them up.
Can you have or eat a cake that is sunken?
Sunken cakes, for the most part, still taste pretty good! Unless the cause of your cake falling is due to your cake being undercooked, the cake will probably not be AS good as it would be if it came out perfectly, but everyone eating your cake is still very likely to enjoy it! The good news about cake is that just because it fell, does not necessarily mean the flavor is all messed up.
Pro Tip: Putting a little bit of extra icing on the cake and making sure it goes on smoothly is a great way to hide imperfections and make it taste all the better!
How to fix a sunken cake and make it look perfect again?
As mentioned above, the good news about cake is that it can definitely be rescued (as long as it is baked all the way through that is).
The first thing you need to do when trying to salvage your fallen cake is to cut off a small bite from a part that will not be noticeable and test it out to make sure that it does, in fact, taste how you want it to taste. One issue that can mess up the flavor of the cake is adding too much baking soda.
Once you determine that the cake still tastes good, you can can get a long knife and start the process of leveling it out. Using a plate, flat serving tray, or cake platter on top of the cake and sliding the knife through it is a great method to help cut it evenly. This method will cause you to end up with a cake that may be a little bit thinner than you originally planned on having, but at least it is level and there is still cake which means that everyone wins!
The bright side of leveling out a sunken cake that tastes good is that you do not have to just throw away that part that you cut off, it can easily be repurposed and used for something else just as tasty such as cake pops, ice cream toppings, and cake topping decorations.
The only time that it is pretty much impossible to save the cake (if you used all of the correct ingredients that the recipe called for that is), is if your cake fell as a result of the cake being under-baked. If this is the cake and there is still batter in the middle, then you put you and everyone else eating the cake at risk of food poisoning. If this is the cause of the cake falling, then it is highly recommended that you throw out the cake and start over from the very beginning, as disheartening and frustrating as that may sound.
Baking cakes, whether from scratch or using a box recipe, can be a fun experience, but it can also be a frustrating one if you can never seem to get it right! If you have stopped baking cakes because they fall every time, perhaps it is time to give it another try and use these tips to help you out, you may be surprised at how well it turns out! As the saying goes, "If at first you don't succeed, try try again!"