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What Causes Cakes to Fall?

A fallen chocolate cake.
Having too much baking powder might make a cake fall.
Baking a cake at a high altitude may cause it to fall.
Proper measuring and sifting are important when baking.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2014
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A number of factors during the mixing and baking process can cause cakes to fall. When cakes fall, however, all is not lost. You may be able to salvage part of the cake, or frost the cake creatively so that it can still look attractive. Even professional bakers experience a fallen cake or two now and then, due to subtle differences in air pressure, temperature, or the ingredients used. One of the most important things you can do to prevent falling cakes is to use fresh ingredients and to measure consistently.

Temperature is a major factor. Cakes fall when they are cooked at a temperature which is too low, or too high. The oven should be preheated all the way before inserting the cake pan, and you may want to use an oven thermometer to ensure that the oven is at the proper temperature. It is also important to cook the cake for the recommended amount of time, making adjustments for substituted ingredients, and to avoid jostling the cake while it bakes or cools. Cakes fall as they cool sometimes, so make sure to put the cake in a safe place.

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Factors within the ingredients can also make cakes fall. Using insufficient liquid, for example, or not enough oil. An excess of sugar or flour can also create problems with the batter which may lead to falling cake. It is very important to measure properly, tamping down ingredients as needed or sifting as directed. Use clear measuring cups and try placing them at eye level on the counter so that you can see the amount you have measured out clearly.

Cakes fall because of how they are mixed, as well. If the cake is overbeaten, it may fall because of the excess of air trapped in the batter. Underbeaten cakes, on the other hand, may fall because the batter is too dense and is unable to rise. Follow the mixing directions in the cake recipe carefully to reduce this problem. Sometimes the mixing can cause cakes to fall after they mound up in the middle, leading to a large mess. However, when cakes fall like this, you may be able to salvage them as "volcano cakes," especially if you have young children with a penchant for oozing frosting.

Finally, cakes fall when they are baked at altitude. High altitude baking is a skill which requires some trial and error. Some cookbooks include corrections for altitude baking, and if you live in at a high elevation, you should probably consider acquiring a specialized high altitude baking cookbook. As a general rule, you want to increase the liquid, decrease the sugar, and decrease the amount of baking powder included in a recipe. If your cakes fall frequently when you are baking at altitude, you may want to ask a local baker for tips.

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anon328240
Post 22

My own take on a Battenberg has taken almost four times, bbc good food told me, and it's really soggy on the inside.

giddion
Post 21

The worst type of cake to have fall is a wedding cake. My sister was baking our other sister's wedding cake the day before the wedding, and several of the layers fell when she took them out of the oven!

She just had to start over and make them again. Lava cakes are awesome, but for a wedding cake, they simply wouldn't do.

I'm not sure what made some layers fall and others stay intact. She finally got it all put together, though.

kylee07drg
Post 20

@shell4life – That's why I stick to cake mixes. I won't even try making a cake from scratch, because I know that it could turn into a disaster.

The cake mix box even tells me exactly how long to beat the batter. I time myself with the secondhand on the clock, and so far, none of my cakes have fallen.

shell4life
Post 19

I've often wondered why cakes fall. I had no idea that the balance of ingredients was so delicate!

It's weird that too much oil or too much flour could make a cake fall. Either one is usually what you add as a remedy for a lack of the other, so it sounds like you just can't win.

I suppose this is why they say it is so important to stick to the recipe when baking. When you're doing stovetop cooking, you can change the amounts of ingredients as you wish, but when you're baking, even a slight variation could cause a cake to fall.

JackWhack
Post 18

Unruly children sometimes cause cakes to fall. My aunt had made a beautiful fall themed cake with hazelnut frosting and sugary leaves on top, but it all came crashing down at the party because of two little kids who insisted on roughhousing next to the table. They bumped into it, and down came the masterpiece.

John57
Post 17

Even if there isn't any truth to a cake falling because you slammed a door or jumped on the floor, baking a cake can sometimes be challenging.

When I moved to the mountains I had to learn a whole new way of baking. I wasn't used to baking at a higher altitude and it took a lot of trial and error until I got it right. There are times when my cakes still fall or sink to one side, but most of the time now they turn out OK.

My family didn't mind while I was learning how to bake cakes at a higher altitude. They still enjoyed eating the fruits of my labor, but I feel a lot better about a cake that doesn't fall.

sunshined
Post 16

I am so glad I came across this article. My cakes look just like the one in the picture. I am too embarrassed to serve them to anyone but my family because they sink in the middle. Some people will say it still tastes good, but I think presentation is very important too -- especially if you are taking this to a dinner or some kind of gathering.

Frosting can only cover up so much. I think part of my problem is I am mixing my batter too long. The next time I make a cake I am really going to make an effort to go easy on the mixing.

I know when it comes to making muffins you only need to stir until all the ingredients are moistened, and maybe it is the same way with cakes. I just don't like to see small pieces of flour still in the batter when I pour it into the cake pan.

LisaLou
Post 15

@anon33498 -- I have had the same problem when my butter became liquid instead of letting it set out at room temperature. If I forget to leave the butter out, I get impatient and melt it in the microwave. I always leave it in too long and it gets too soft. Every time I do this I am sorry because my cakes and cookies don't turn out the way they are supposed to.

bagley79
Post 14

@anon32713 -- I have been told if you open the oven door during the first 30 minutes of baking a cake it might fall in the middle. Something about opening the oven door causes the temperature to drop quickly and this make your cake fall.

Because of this I have always been afraid to open the oven door until the cake is almost done. I keep my oven light on so I can see how it is coming along. If I open the door at all, I just crack it open a little bit instead of opening it all the way.

anon283069
Post 13

I think a safe place is somewhere out of draughty doorways!

anon250409
Post 12

A safe place for the cake is in your stomach. If you eat it quickly, you won't notice it falling.

anon246677
Post 11

As a child my mom would say "don't slam the door" or "don't jump around or you'll make my cake fall".

Guess that was just a lie.

anon135553
Post 10

when you bake your cream cheese pound cake put the cake into a cold oven, set the temp for 325 and cook 70 minutes. It should be perfect!

anon85341
Post 8

When I was growing up, my mother seemed to feel that slamming the door was the cause of cakes falling as she frequently warned me about this when a cake was in the oven.

anon56709
Post 7

my cake fell in the middle. I think it is because I added more liquid. mdm

anon55007
Post 6

"Cakes fall as they cool sometimes, so make sure to put the cake in a safe place". Yes, and what is a safe place?

anon41680
Post 5

What causes a cake to fall in the middle?

anon33498
Post 4

My cupcakes fell and I have never had this happen before, I honestly think its because I microwaved the butter to soften it. I should of used room temperature butter that becomes softened. I read that somewhere! Hope this helps others.

anon32713
Post 3

Will my cake fall if a door in the kitchen is slammed or the oven door is opened prematurely?

honeyd51
Post 2

My cream cheese pound cake always falls. The sides bend and the middle gets heavy and thick with a wet look. This is the only cake that does this. Please help! Thanks.

jimjoan
Post 1

My chocolate cakes seem to get dense on the bottom, almost the consistency of a brownie. What causes this?

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