Why Do Cakes Sink in the Middle

Times up, and the cake is made – or at least it should be. Yet, you don’t see a perfectly fluffy cake. Instead, there’s an undesirable sink in the middle. What’s the deal? There are actually a few things that can cause a cake to sink in the middle.

Hey! My name is Michelle, and I love baking and eating cake. Of course, even though I have been baking cakes forever, it doesn’t mean that I have succumbed to a sunken-in cake. I figured out why it was happening, and I’m here to share my info with you today.

A cake that’s sinking in the middle doesn’t look right, and it certainly isn’t appetizing, so knowing why it’s happening is incredibly important. This article will share why cakes sink in the middle and what you can do to stop it. Don’t worry – they’re all easy peasy fixes.

Let’s start baking, chefs!

Why Do Cakes Sink in the Middle?

Like I said before, there isn’t a single right answer for why your cake ended up sunken in the middle. There are quite a few reasons. That said, let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons why cakes sink in the middle.

Problem #1: The Cake is Underbaked

An underbaked cake is the most common reason why you ended up with a sunken-in middle. The cake simply did not have enough time in the oven to create the perfect texture throughout. That’s why the outer edge of the cake will be cooked, but the center will not be.

How can you fix this? It’s pretty simple. Just bake your cake a little bit longer. Don’t go crazy. A few extra minutes will do the trick. You’re looking for that golden time where the cake is cooked equally throughout the cake. Once you find it, you’ll be in cake baking heaven.

To find the ‘perfect’ cooking time, you will need to check your cake using the toothpick method. Stick a toothpick into the center of the cake and pull it out. Is it clean, except for a few crumbs? If not, let it keep cooking.

Also, consider the fact that some ovens run hotter or colder than others. You may have to adjust the time further depending on the type of oven you’re working with. You can get a better idea of your oven’s status with an oven temperature.

Problem #2: Too Much Leavener

Your cake recipe calls for a leavening agent such as baking soda, baking powder, or both. If you use too much than necessary, the cake will rise too quickly. When your cake appears puffed up and ready for action, you will likely take it out of the oven, and the middle will start to sink.

This is all due to the leavening process. Leavening agents create a gas in the cake that helps it to rise. With excess gas, the cake rises swiftly, but it’s unable to bake thoroughly. 

To avoid this in the future, make sure that you’re using the right amount of leavener. Don’t hesitate to bust out the measuring spoons to get it right. When you’re scooping the leavener, make sure you level the top, so you don’t overdo it by accident.

While you’re at it, also make sure that your leavening agent is not expired. An expired leavener simply won’t work the way you want it to – AKA a sunken-in, undesirable cake. No, thanks!

Problem #3: You Shut the Oven Door Too Hard

Have I ever mentioned how delicate cakes can be? They’re soft little things that can be damaged from the slightest things, especially while baking. That said, you need to be extra careful when you’re shutting the oven door, especially when rotating the cake pan.

While rotating the cake pan is important for cake-baking perfection, a slammed oven door can jolt the ingredients and create sinkage in the middle. Seriously – be gentle. This is such a common problem that it can be easily avoided with a softer touch.

Problem #4: You’re Mixing Incorrectly

There are a few key elements you need to remember when putting together your batter and mixing it:

  • Don’t over-cream the butter and sugar – Creaming is essential for creating gas bubbles necessary for a fluffy texture and a lovely risen cake. Over-creaming can cause the gas bubbles to be released or work too quickly, leading to a sunken middle.
  • Don’t over-mix, either – Over-mixing can be just as damaging to your cake as over-creaming. Over-mixing leads to an excess amount of air in the batter, which causes the cake to rise rapidly and then sink. It can also create a denser texture overall.
  • Don’t use too soft butter – I understand wanting to stick butter in the microwave to get it to room temp quickly, but that can cause more harm than good. You don’t want the butter too soft. Around 68F is ideal.
  • Mix the ingredients in order – There is a reason why cake recipes are explained in steps. Don’t try to skip a step and come back to it later. Follow the recipe exactly, or you may end up with a  sunken cake.
  • Don’t let the batter sit too long – This is a big no-no in the cake baking biz. Once your batter is mixed and ready to go, stick it into the preheated oven right away to avoid potential sunken disasters.

Problem #5: Wrong Cake Pan Size or Shape

When it comes to following the cake recipe to a tee, don’t stop with the ingredients. The correctly sized cake pan size and shape should be adhered to, too. The recipe is designed so that the pan can support the ingredients and bake up without sunken-in middles.

FAQs

If you are still curious about why cakes sink in the middle, here are a few frequently asked questions you might want to know about!

Can you put a sunken cake back in the oven?

Unfortunately, no. A baker, most of the time, won’t notice their cake has sunk in the middle until it’s cooled off. At this point, the cake can’t go back into the oven. The baking agents will have expired by then, which means they will not continue to bake or take care of the hollow areas.

Will a sunken cake taste OK?

As long as it is baked entirely, it is still okay. You might want to check to make sure the flavor has not been altered, though, which may be the case if you have added too much baking soda or another ingredient. If it is too unsightly, repurpose. For example, turn the cake into cake pops.

What do I do if my cake is not baked properly?

If you just checked your cake and it’s not done, simply stick it back into the oven. You may need to cover the cake with tin foil to help the center bake up nicely.

Final Thoughts

A sunken-in cake won’t look great, and it likely won’t taste good, either. The good news is, the causes for sunken-in cakes are typically simple fixes like handling the batter better and following the recipe correctly. 

Have you ever baked a cake that sunk in the middle? How did you fix it? Share below!

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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