Sponge cake with lemon curd

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.

Having 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…

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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.

The 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.

7. 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.

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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.