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.

Sponge cake with lemon curd

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...

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.

Easy carrot cake
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.

Easy chocolate cake
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.

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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19th Dec, 2015
Why has my cake gone hard on the top
Tina Burleton's picture
Tina Burleton
8th May, 2018
Hi I'm not a baker but have to bake some cakes for a fundraiser !!! I thought I'd do the yummy Carrott cake but as my tin is 20cm not 18 cm Im concerned it'll be a little thin so can I increase the ingredients, maybe half again. Thanks
goodfoodteam's picture
8th May, 2018
Thanks for your question. We always recommend using the right tin for the recipe as scaling up ingredients and amending cooking times can be hard if you're not an experienced baker. However, if you are using a 20cm round tin that is the equivalent of an 18cm square tin and you can use the same ingredients. If not, take a look at our carrot cake recipe collection for a 20cm tin alternative: We hope you find one you like.
12th Apr, 2017
Hello. I just made a simnel cake to the letter of recipe and cooking time. In fact I made it last year. But I can do nothing with it. It's not cooked in the middle so has broken into pieces as I tried to put it on the wire rack. I'm so disappointed especially as I don't have time to make another. Do you have any idea why this could have happened.
goodfoodteam's picture
13th Apr, 2017
Hi Bellord, thanks for your question. Sorry to hear your cake didn't work out. Without more information we can't be 100 % sure what happened but can suggest the following - the oven may not have been fully up to temperature when the cake went in, the tin size may have been different, affecting the cooking time. The cake should only be taken out once it is golden and firm to the touch. Cooling the cake in the tin, also allows it to firm up. We hope this helps.
5th Dec, 2016
Why does mt Dundee cake feel greasy yet 'crispy' on the sides? Would using different type of lining paper help?
goodfoodteam's picture
8th Dec, 2016
Sorry to hear that, it sounds like you may have used too much butter to grease the tin.
Pam Memery
23rd Jul, 2016
What will happen if I add eggs toa hot mixture forgot to cool .
goodfoodteam's picture
16th Aug, 2016
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.
19th Sep, 2014
How can I prevent blueberries sinking to the bottom of muffins? [I have tried tossing them in flour and it failed.]'s picture
18th Sep, 2014
Best way to toast flaked almonds?


31st Aug, 2014
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 sarah