Why is My Cake Crumbly?

Whether you’re making a pineapple upside-down cake as a special summer treat or creating a magnificent two-tiered cake for a birthday party, the last thing you want to be left with is a crumbly mess. But why did this happen?

Many things can cause a cake to come out crumbly. However, it’s almost always an issue of too much flour, too little fat, or overmixing. Some other problems include overbaking, using the wrong type of flour, or using an un-calibrated oven.

Hey, there! I’m Michelle, and I’ve enjoyed baking cakes for the past ten years. I have struggled with crumbly cakes here and there, and I’ve discovered what mishaps can lead to a crumbly disaster. I’m here to share my knowledge with you so you can avoid crumbly cakes in the future.

Want to figure out why your cake turned out crumbly? Keep reading.

Why Cake Crumbles: 7 Reasons and Solutions

Cake is relatively easy to make, but that doesn’t mean things can’t go haywire. They can get stuck to the pan, come out with an odd texture or flavor, and yes – come out unbelievably crumbly and challenging, if not impossible, to slice and share.

What’s the deal? Well, there are potentially seven different reasons why your cake has turned out crumbly. Let’s dive in.

Reason 1: Too much flour

Whether you’re making cupcakes, muffins, or cake, adding too much flour will ruin the outcome. Flour is quite drying, so too much of it is going to cause your cake to dry out and become a crumbled mess.

Solution: Consider weighing your ingredients on a kitchen scale to ensure you’re using the exact amount called for in your recipe. This type of precision can work miracles for all of your upcoming recipes, cake or not.

2. Using the wrong flour

It’s true that all-purpose flour is commonly used for baking cakes (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t use it quite often myself). However, all-purpose flour contains a lot of gluten, which can be detrimental to your cake-baking adventures.

Solution: If you continuously end up with crumbly cakes, you might consider using cake flour instead. After all, this flour is designed explicitly for cakes, so it’s almost guaranteed to render fabulous results.

3. Too little fat

Cake requires a certain level of moisture to stay intact and hydrated. Whether your cake recipe calls for butter, shortening, or another kind of fat, it’s imperative to use the right amount. Otherwise, your cake won’t have proper hydration, rendering it crumbly.

Solution: Again, consider using a trusty kitchen scale to ensure you’re using the right ingredients per your cake recipe. If you’re still struggling, try reducing the flour by 10% and adding 10% more of your fat element.

4. Overmixing

Gluten development is essential when baking a cake. This is what allows air bubbles to form, creating the delicate and fluffy texture we all know and love. But too much of anything is never a good thing, even when mixing cake batter. 

Overdo it, and you’ll end up with way too much gluten, causing crumbling.

Solution: Whether you’re mixing by hand or using a stand mixer, make sure you mix only until ingredients are combined – and not a second more. This will take anywhere between two and six minutes.

5. Overbaking

It doesn’t matter what you’re baking, whether it’s fried chicken or a wedding cake. Overbaking will dry out your ingredients, leading to undesirable results, such as an overly crumbly cake.

Solution: Follow the recipe’s instructions for how long you should bake your cake. Check around ten minutes before it should be done baking, as some ovens bake faster than others. However, refrain from over-checking. 

Opening the oven door will cool the interior, making the baking process longer.

6. Baking with the wrong temp

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – your oven could be lying to you. Most ranges are not calibrated correctly, so they may be hotter than the displayed temperature. If your cake is being baked at a higher temp, you can unknowingly cause your cake to turn crumbly.

Solution: Consider purchasing an oven thermometer to discover the actual temperature of your oven. Adjust as necessary. 

7. Cutting incorrectly

A bad cut can cause a perfectly good cake to crumble, and it’s almost always an issue with the knife you’re using. If it’s too dull, you won’t be able to thinly slice the cake, resulting in a crumbly mess every which way.

Solution: Make sure you use an excellent cake-cutting knife. Yes, it might seem a bit “extra” to own a knife specifically for your cakes, but it will make all the difference.

How to Fix Crumbly Cake

If your cake isn’t in complete shambles, you can try to put it back together using frosting. 

To do this, you will simply want to slather frosting across the entire cake. Then, using your hands or a couple of forks, you can try to push the cake back together.

Sure, it won’t look pretty, but it’s better than ending up with no cake at all, right?

How to Repurpose Crumbly Cake

Trying to “fix” a crumbly cake sounds somewhat messy and complicated, so it’s no surprise that most people don’t bother with trying it. However, that still doesn’t mean that you have to toss your crumbly cake into the trash can. 

Here are a few ideas to repurpose it into something yummy!

1. Cake Pops

Cake pops are some of the cutest and tastiest handheld treats out there, and yes, you can make cake pops using your crumbly leftovers! It’s a cinch, and nobody will know you ruined your original cake recipe. 

2. Topping

Don’t feel like making a whole other treat? You can always crumble up your cake further and use it as a topping. Crumbled cake makes a fabulous topping for ice cream of all flavors. Don’t forget a drizzle of sauce and whipped cream, too!

3. Cookies

Cake crumb cookies? Yes, they totally exist, and yes, they’re totally scrumptious. Cake crumb cookies will allow you to turn a crumbly disaster into something completely different, which is great for disguising your flawed cake.

FAQs

Now you know everything you need to know about why your cake turned out crumbly and how you can fix it or repurpose it. Awesome! But if you’re a curious cat and want to learn more, check out these FAQs.

Why is my cake moist but crumbly?

A cake that is moist but crumbly is likely caused by using all-purpose flour. The high gluten content can make it challenging for your cake to stay together like it’s supposed to. Consider using cake flour next time.

What happens if you put too little flour on a cake?

If you do not use enough flour in your cake, you will end up with an overly runny batter. In turn, your cake will not be able to form as it is supposed to, leaving you with a deformed cake that falls apart.

How long should I whisk a cake mixture?

Cake batter only needs to be mixed for two to six minutes. Remember – overmixing can cause your cake to turn out crumbly and undesirable, so it’s essential not to overdo it. Ingredients should be combined but not overly silky smooth.

Final Words

Cake typically turns out crumbly because there is too much flour (especially all-purpose flour) or too little fat. You may also be overmixing or overbaking the cake or cutting it incorrectly. 

If you end up with a crumbly cake, pinpoint what went wrong and repurpose the fail into a “win” like cake pops or cookies.

Have you ever ended up with a crumbly cake? What did you do to fix it? Share in the comments so we can try it out, too!

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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  • Iris Cox

    Thank you for the tips in regards to a Crumbly cake. I am flying to Houston for Thanksgiving. I am cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my Aunt who lives alone. My favorite desert is my Chocolate cake from scratch. I make it every year and it always crumbles.. After reading your “tips” on crumbly cakes I think I over mix it. I will use the Cake flour and Praying it will come out perfectly !!!
    Thank you,
    Jeannie

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY !

    Reply
    • Michelle

      Hi Jeannie,
      Wishing you the best of luck! I hope my tips help your cake come out perfectly. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours as well!
      Happy baking,
      Michelle

      Reply