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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Jaybern
19th Dec, 2015
Why has my cake gone hard on the top
Bellord
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.
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goodfoodteam
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.
soulou
5th Dec, 2016
Why does mt Dundee cake feel greasy yet 'crispy' on the sides? Would using different type of lining paper help?
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goodfoodteam
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
goodfoodteam
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.
qr027639
19th Sep, 2014
How can I prevent blueberries sinking to the bottom of muffins? [I have tried tossing them in flour and it failed.]
jmac2@wanadoo.fr's picture
jmac2@wanadoo.fr
18th Sep, 2014
Best way to toast flaked almonds?
Darksailor
14th Sep, 2014
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
24th Aug, 2014
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?!

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cellojack
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