Cakes keep sinking and you don’t know why? This is a common problem when baking cakes, so I’ve gathered all my tips here to help you solve this baking problem. When your cake sinks, there could be many different causes, so let’s get to why and how to prevent it.
This post is packed with lots of info, about sinking cakes. I see a lot of this on Facebook. People post pics of their cakes and it’s totally sunk in the middle.
Either they don’t notice it’s a problem, they do see it’s a problem and are asking for help, or they just automatically assume it’s the recipe’s fault.
Either way, it’s a frustrating thing to happen. I mean you put in all that time and effort, not to mention all the money for the ingredients and now you’ve got a sunken cake! 😢
Now, I’m not going to call anyone out here, because Lord knows I’ve had my fair share of sinking cakes. But what I will say is that 8 times out of 10, it’s not really the recipe.
Yes it is possible that it could be the recipe, but usually the recipe has been tested before it’s ever posted. (At least it is on my site and many other bloggers I know.)
Mistakes do happen though when testing and typing up recipes, so it is a possibility, we’re human, but I’ve found that there are a lot of instances when it might just be user error. 😔
Now, that’s not to make anyone feel bad…don’t feel bad. Seriously, it’s an easy fix and I want to talk about a few things that could be causing it. And I promise if you have this problem…most everyone else has too. (Including me.)
Ok, let’s get into it.
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There are a few things it could be, but first I want to tell you that just because it sunk, it may actually still be edible…so you don’t necessarily need to throw it out, but we’ll get to that later on.
Now let’s talk about what could have caused it: (And these are in no particular order by the way.)
Opening the oven door too much or shutting it too hard:
Did you open the oven door too much, or slam it shut? Opening the oven door over and over will cause temperature variations.
The heat leaves the oven and then when it’s closed again, the oven has to work to bring the heat back up and then you open it right back up to check again.
On top of that, if you slam the door, or just close the oven door too hard, it could jostle the cake and that could cause it to fall as well. A jolt to the cake will pop all those nice little tiny air bubbles in the cake that’s caused it to rise.
You’ll see your cake sink pretty soon after you slam that oven door.
How to fix that: Be super careful not to open the door very much. Try to wait until around five minutes before the cake is supposed to be done to check it. Then when you check it, be careful not to leave the oven door open long and shut it softly.
Adding too much leavening or just not measuring correctly:
It could be that you added too much leavening (like baking powder or baking soda), so the cake rose up too quickly, then fell. The leavening agent could also have been measured wrong.
How to fix that: Always level off your measuring spoon before adding it to the batter. You never want the baking powder or baking soda mounded up on the measuring spoon.
I’ve got lots of tips about the proper way to measure ingredients here: How to Measure Ingredients for Baking Cakes
The moisture level is off:
If your cake is too dry, it could possibly sink in the middle. At the same time though, you don’t want to just go adding in extra liquid, because too much liquid could really throw your ratios off and could cause the same issue.
How to fix that: Make sure you follow the recipe exactly…at least the first time you make it.
Oven temperature is too high or too low:
Your oven temp could be too high or low…either one. Even if you set the oven temperature correctly, your oven could be off a little.
How to fix that: Buy an oven thermometer (like the one below) and place it in your oven. I like to test mine periodically. The temperature may be off a little, but it’s best that you know and then you can adjust for it.
Also, I know you know this, but make sure you preheat your oven. It really does make a difference.
And be super sure you’re not adjusting the temperature that the recipe tells you to bake at, as that can cause major problems. Turning up the heat to bake it faster doesn’t really work.
You’ll get a cake that’s over-browned on the outside and not quite done on the inside.
It may be your altitude:
Could it be your location? If you live in a high altitude area, you’ll have to make some changes for your cake to bake properly.
I’m not an expert in baking at high altitude because I’ve never had to…I’ve always lived in Texas. There’s also no real way for me to test out baking methods for high altitude.
How to fix that: I usually refer people to the King Arthur baking site where they suggest alterations when baking at high altitudes.
You can check that out here: King Arthur’s High Altitude Conversion Chart
The cake was under-baked:
The cake may have been under-baked and then pulled out of the oven too soon when the middle wasn’t baked yet, which would cause it to fall.
I see this question a lot: Why does my cake sink after baking? Your cake might look perfect, but once you pull it out and set it on the counter, the middle sinks.
Essentially, if you pulled your cake out a little too soon and the middle wasn’t completely baked, then it could collapse on you. It’s really a fine line when baking cakes. If you bake it too long, then it dries out.
How to fix that: I have a post all about how to know when a cake is done baking, which you can see here: How to Know When a Cake is Done Baking
Using the wrong size cake pan:
This one may not cause a sinking cake in every instance…I mean it could, but it could cause all kinds of other problems as well.
You really don’t want to go changing up the pans the recipe calls for. If you go with a bigger pan, your cake layer will be thinner and perhaps burn if you bake it as long as the recipe says.
If you go with a smaller pan, then you might need to lower the temperature a small amount and bake a little longer, so that it’s baked all the way through and doesn’t over-bake on the outside before it’s done.
How to fix that: Try your best to use the recommended size of baking pans called for in the recipe and if you’re not sure, just ask or google it so you know if you need to make any adjustments.
I get asked questions about using different pan sizes ALL the time and I NEVER mind helping with that.
You changed up the mixing method:
If you forgot an ingredient and just threw it in later, or maybe you didn’t think it was important to beat the butter and sugar until fluffy, or made some other change to the mixing method, then you could have some texture issues and your cake could possibly sink.
How to fix that: Make sure you’re following the mixing method written in the cake recipe. For most cakes, it really does matter how it’s mixed.
Waiting too long to bake the batter:
This becomes an issue mainly when you’re using a recipe with baking soda because it’s not really double acting. (More on that at the link below).
How to fix that: If you don’t bake the cake batter pretty soon after mixing it up, then you could have issues with it rising correctly because the chemical reaction from the leaveners has already started well before you actually bake the cake.
I go into a ton of details and experiment with how long cake batter lasts in this post and video: How Long Does Cake Batter Last?
The cake batter was over-mixed:
Now we’re getting real here: The BIGGEST, most common problem I see is over mixing the batter. This can cause all sorts of cake texture issues.
How to fix that: I have a post that answers that specific subject AND it’s even got a video on how long to mix cake batter in real time. I don’t speed it up…that way you can see exactly what I’m talking about.
You can see that post with video here: How to Mix Cake Batter
Can I still eat a cake that sunk in the middle?
The short answer is it depends. The good news is that it may actually still be edible. (If you added too much baking soda though, that might not be the case because it might taste really weird.)
First you’ll need to check if it’s baked all the way through. If so, then you can just level the cake using a knife or a cake leveler.
You’ll have a much thinner cake layer to work with, but at least you’ll get to enjoy some of it!
If it really looks too thin to serve that way, but it’s still edible, you could always crumble it up and make it into cake pops, cake balls or cake popsicles!
Now, if you want answers to even more cake baking questions just like above, you’ll definitely want to check out my book: The Big Book of Cake Baking FAQs
It answers all your burning questions about baking cakes…what could go wrong, why and how to keep those things from happening. There are over 60 pages of cake baking questions and answers with direct links to each question in the table of contents.
There’s even a bonus: Beautifully designed cake recipe cards for favorite cake recipes from the blog PLUS blank recipe cards are included as well.
To see everything that’s included in the book, go here: The Big Book of Cake Baking FAQs
Well I hope this post was helpful to you. Let me know if you’re still having trouble with sinking cakes and I’ll help you brainstorm what could be happening!