Two layered cakes with frosting in the middle

Common Cake Mistakes and How to Prevent Them

Every baking mistake is another learning opportunity! Here are some of the most frequently asked questions from bakers and the common solutions for cakes that didn't turn out as planned.
Questions Common Cake Mistakes Solutions

Why is my cake dense?

Why did my cake not rise?

Not enough leavening
(baking powder/baking soda)

Too much sugar

Too much fat

Too much liquid

Oven temperature too low

Measure dry ingredients with dry measuring cups/spoons and wet ingredients with wet measuring cups, or use a scale for accuracy.

Check expiry dates on your ingredients and use only fresh baking soda and powder.

If the oven temperature is too low, it will take longer for your cake to set which may cause the centre to collapse as it cools, leading to a dense final product.

Why is my cake crumbly?

Why is my cake dry?

Batter not mixed properly

Overmeasured dry ingredients

Oven temperature too high

Overbaking

Cake pan too large

Spoon flour, cocoa powder or any other dry ingredients into measuring cup/spoon and level off evenly with a straight edge (back of a knife, bench scraper, or metal spatula). Avoid scooping with measuring cup from the container as it may result in a larger amount than required. Use a scale for a more precise measurement.

Ensure the oven is preheated correctly. Use an oven thermometer to verify.

To avoid overbaking, check cakes 2 to 3 minutes before the recipe instructs. Cake should spring back when pressed gently.

Using a larger cake pan than specified in a recipe can lead to a drier cake if the baking time is not adjusted for a thinner cake layer.

Why does my cake have a gummy streak in the center?

High gluten flour
(eg. bread flour)

Too much flour used

Over-mixing of batter

Developing too much of the flour's gluten can make the cake rise beautifully in the oven, but sink as soon as you pull it out. The sinking part is what makes the dense and gluey streaks.

This can be result of over-creaming the eggs, butter and sugar. To prevent this, cream the ingredients at medium speed.

To prevent overmixing, fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients just until there are no more traces of flour.

Why did my cake overflow?

Overmeasured leavening agents

Overfilled pans

Use the cake pan specified in the recipe. If using smaller pans, only fill cake pans 1/2 to 2/3 full. Any leftover batter can be baked off as cupcakes.

Use measuring spoons to measure baking powder or baking soda. Do not replace one with the other. Also, mistakenly using self-raising flour instead of plain flour will result in too much raising agent, as self-raising flour contains baking powder.

Why is my cake burnt but not fully baked through?

Baking in a cold oven

Oven temperature too high

Small cake pan

A preheated oven will bake the cake all the way to its centre before the outside is burnt.

An oven may run colder or hotter than the temperature it has been preheated to. To ensure that the oven is at the proper temperature, use an oven thermometer while preheating the oven. Check the oven thermometer 10 minutes after it has fully preheated. Adjust temperature accordingly.

If using a smaller pan than the recipe indicates, ensure to only fill the batter 1/2 to 2/3 full.

Why is my cake stuck to the pan?

Did not grease cake pan

Did not line cake pan with parchment paper

Did not grease cake pan properly

Cut out parchment paper to line the bottom and sides of the baking pan.

Grease the pan with butter, oil, or shortening and use a pastry brush or paper towel to coat the inside completely. Scoop some flour and shake it around until it fully coats the inside of the pan. Tap out the excess flour.

Why did my cake crack?

Too much flour

Not enough liquid

Batter not mixed properly

Oven temperature too high

Too much raising agent

Cake pan is too small

Over-filling pans

Too much flour or too little liquid will cause the batter to be thick and dry, leading to cracking.

Overmixed batter may contain air pockets batter which can contribute to cakes cracking. Mix according to the recipe directions.

When the oven temperature is too high, the top crust forms and sets before the cake has fully risen. The middle will try to push through the crust as it continues to bake, resulting in cracks in a cake.

If the batter contains too much raising agent, this may result in a cake rising too quickly. Reduce the amount of raising agent.

If the baking pan is too small, the batter has nowhere to go but up. It will then form a dome, and eventually crack. Using a larger tin will easily fix the issue.

Why is my cake wet in the middle?

Underbaked

Oven temperature too low

Wrong pan size

A cake that's wet in the middle, in most cases, has not baked long enough. Put it back in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Be sure to check every 5 minutes with the toothpick test for any changes. If sliced, cover with aluminum foil to prevent the top from browning even more.

If using a smaller and/or deeper pan than the one recommended in the recipe, adjust the baking time accordingly. It is highly recommended to use the correct pan size, especially when baking a recipe for the first time.

Why did my cake brown unevenly?

Heat loss from opening door

Type of bakeware used

Oven rack position

Hot spots in the oven

Overcrowded oven

Uneven pouring of batter

Frequent door opening releases oven heat and can result in uneven baking and longer baking times.

Your bakeware choice makes a difference. Dark pans absorb heat which results in darker browning. Shiny pans results in a lighter browning.

Most baked goods are baked on the middle rack, unless specified in a recipe. Adjust oven rack according to the recipe directions.

Ensure oven is fully preheated and at the correct temperature (use an oven thermometer) before placing cakes into the oven.

Overcrowding results in uneven heat distribution in the oven. Try to bake in batches and leave a separation between pans to guarantee even browning of the cakes.

Smooth out and make sure the batter is as even as possible when pouring into a pan.

Why did my cake sink in the middle?

Underbaked

Overbeating the batter

Too much leavening

Expired baking powder

Abrupt changes in temperature

Too much sugar in the batter

The center of the cake isn't fully baked through, so it doesn't have a chance to set, creating a sunken cake with a doughy and dense texture. Bake cake a few extra minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Fat and sugar inhibit the formation of gluten strands in batter. Overmixing distributes and coats what strands there are, which can weaken them. Furthermore, gluten strands can only be beaten to a certain point before they stretch too far and break. Damage to or a lack of gluten strands may cause the cake to collapse.

Too much leavening can cause a cake to rise too quickly. The gas produced by the leavening agents escapes before the cake sets. A small amount of leavening goes a long way; measure it precisely and use the amount specified in a recipe.

Check the expiration date of the baking powder as it can lead to sunken cakes. Read our Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder article to check its efficacy.

Opening the oven door for too long or taking the cake out too soon can lead to abrupt changes in temperature. Be sure to close the oven door as quickly as possible to minimize heat loss.

Sugar creates tenderness in baked goods by weakening the gluten structure (proteins in flour). Adding too much sugar can weaken the gluten structure in a cake to the point that it may collapse.

Why does my cake have large holes or tunnels?

Overmixed batter or improper mixing

Too much leavening

When a cake batter is overmixed, gluten strands are strong enough to trap air bubbles inside the cake. Slowly mix batter on a low speed until ingredients are just combined.

When the batter is not mixed improperly, concentrated areas of leavening agents in the batter can create holes in the cake. Sift or whisk dry ingredients and be sure to have the ingredients at room temperature to help the batter mix better.

Why is my cake uneven?

Batter not mixed properly

Uneven oven heat

Batter not spread evenly

Oven door opened too often

When a cake comes out uneven, the batter might not have been mixed properly. Make sure dry ingredients are sifted or whisked well to evenly distribute ingredients. Mix the batter thoroughly on low speed to ensure all ingredients are fully mixed.

Uneven heating may be due to the oven itself. Rotate cake pans 3/4 through the baking period to compensate for uneven heat distribution.

An oven that is too hot can also cause uneven baking. Test the oven temperature when preheating the oven by using an oven thermometer and adjust as necessary.

Opening the oven door during baking causes uneven heat distribution and abrupt temperature fluctuations which can also cause the cake to rise unevenly.

Why does my cake taste eggy?

Not incorporating enough air in the egg when whisking in the sugar

Wrong sized eggs

An eggy-tasting cake can be due to not incorporating enough air when combining the sugar and eggs together. Be sure to whisk the sugar and egg(s) until the mix is pale and foamy, and the mixture forms ribbons.

Using larger sized eggs than specified in a recipe can add more egg yolk to the recipe than needed which can result in a pronounced egg flavour in your cake.

Why is my frosting sliding off my cake?

Cake is still warm

Never frost a cake until it is cooled completely. Even a little residual heat is enough to soften the butter in the frosting, and prevent it from adhering to the surface of the cake.