How to make cake: top 10 problems fixed

However seasoned a baker, we all have those cake baking disasters that can only be rectified by strategic application of whipped cream, a heavy shower of icing sugar and/ or a mountain of fruit.

Cherry & almond cakeHaving recently made a chocolate cake which looked perfect as it left the oven but not so great as it fell out of the tin in a sad and soggy heap, I decided to explore ways to avoid future tarnishes to my baking reputation. If you've been similarly disappointed then read on...

The gripes

1. My cake has peaked in the middle and is cracked. 

This happens when a/ there's too much raising agent, b/ the cake tin's too small or c/ the oven temperature is too high.

2. My cake has a gooey centre.

Checking if cake is cooked with a stickThe cake hasn't been cooked for long enough. When you check the cake before taking it out of the oven, a skewer should come out clean and the cake should feel the same in the middle as it does around the edges.

3. My cake is overcooked and thin but the texture is good. 

This happens when the cake tin is too big.

4. My cake is flat and has large air bubbles on the top. 

This could be because a/ the cake didn't go into the oven as soon as the mixture was finished or b/ the oven wasn't hot enough when the cake went in.

5. My cake has sunk in the middle. 

There are three main reasons for this: a/ the oven door has been opened before the cake has set, b/ the cake didn't go in the oven as soon as the mixture was ready or c/ there's too much raising agent.

6. The sides of my cake are crunchy or burnt. 

One problem, lots of possible reasons: a/ too much fat has been used to grease the tin, b/ the cake tin's not sufficiently lined c/ the oven's too hot, d/ the cake's been left in the oven for too long or e/ it contains a fat not suitable for baking.

Lining cake tin7. I can't get my cake out of the tin. 

Make sure your baking tin is well lined. You can't go wrong with baking parchment on the base and around the sides of your tin. Use a smear of butter on the inside of the tin to stick the parchment in place.

8. My cake is very dense. 

This could be because a/ the cake mixture hasn't had enough air beaten into it, b/ the eggs were added too quickly and curdled or c/ there's not enough raising agent.

9. My cake has spilled over the sides of the tin. 

The cake tin is too small. It's always best to use the tin size stated in the recipe. If you don't, avoid filling the tin more than three-quarters full and adjust cooking times accordingly.

10. My cake is burnt on top but still isn't cooked in the centre. 

This happens when the cake tin is too small. 

Experiment with our selection of classic cakes recipes.

Let us know if you have any tips for avoiding or hiding mistakes. And if you've recently had a disaster, go on, share it with the group.


Comments, questions and tips

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Comments (1)

Jaybern's picture

Why has my cake gone hard on the top

Questions (17)

Pam Memery's picture

What will happen if I add eggs toa hot mixture forgot to cool

goodfoodteam's picture

Hi Pam, the eggs will start to cook and become lumpy rather than mixing in smoothly. You definitely need to allow the mixture to cool before adding them. Hope that helps.

qr027639's picture

How can I prevent blueberries sinking to the bottom of muffins? [I have tried tossing them in flour and it failed.]'s picture

Best way to toast flaked almonds?

Darksailor's picture

How can I make the chocolate chips or bits of fruit that I add to the cake float??? When I add bits to my cake they always sink to the bottom of the cake! Many thanks!

Vicky Drew's picture

I have tried to make the Battenberg cake! All has gone well except my sponge hasn't come out pink! How much food colouring should I use? I didn't want to over power the taste of the sponge?!

goodfoodteam's picture

Hi there. The amount you use depends on the brand, whether it is a natural or artifical colouring and a paste or a liquid, check on the packaging and follow their advice for best results.

maryannd's picture

when making fruit cake sometimes the fruit sinks how cab I avoid this?

maryannd's picture

When making fruit cake sometimes the fruit sinks how can I avoid this?

pixelfixx's picture

I've found that giving the fruit a light dusting with flour helps to prevent - or at least minimise - sinking. Just shake it in a bag/bowl with a dessert spoon of plain flour so it's lightly coated. Hope that helps!

Darksailor's picture

I tried to light dust the berries I added to the cake today and they all sank, any other tip to help???

HAC's picture

Made two carrot/banana cakes using two different recipes, but both, although baked to perfection, are "rubbery" in the mouth. Am I beating the mixture to much? If not, what am I doing wrong? I can't help feeling there shouldn't be anything easier to bake than a carrot cake, but I've managed to prove myself wrong! ) - :

kathryndonna's picture

What is the difference (apart from price) between Greaseproof Paper, Baking Paper and Baking Parchment and when should each of them be used? Many thanks.

goodfoodteam's picture

Hi there, thanks for getting in touch. In terms of the products you mention, greaseproof paper isn't non-stick, but baking paper and parchment are non-stick. Hope this helps. 

BBC Good Food team

foodfocus's picture

what ratio of ingredients will I need for 5and 6 inch individual spring form cake tins and cooking times.

Alison Bramley's picture

I am having real problems with my cakes. Every time I make one it sinks in the middle. I don't open the oven door until it is ready. The clock has broken on the oven, I wondered if that hs anything to do with it. I have my daughters 40th b cake to make soon so this is a big worry. Alison

goodfoodteam's picture

Hi Alison, thanks for your question. The clock shouldn't be affecting your oven, but it does sound like the temperature could be incorrect. We recommend checking with an oven thermometer and adjusting accordingling. Hope this helps improve your cakes. 

BBC Good Food team

Tips (1)

cellojack's picture

Hi there I have to say that I've found that if a cake sinks in the middle, it can be because it's not quite cooked and might have needed 10 more minutes