Common Cake Faults: Identifying and Remedying the Problem

Updated on December 23, 2016
G60dundee profile image

Gordon has been a baker and confectioner for many years and has professional qualifications and trade experience

Cake Faults: Identifying and Remedying the Problem

It is often the case that cakes are made that are not up to the required standard. When this happens, it is important to be able to identify what went wrong so that you do not make the same mistake again. What follows is a list of the most common faults and their causes.

Cake Sunk in the Middle

Most of the causes for a sunken cake are concerned with recipe imbalance. Too much of a certain ingredient can cause the cake to rise quickly but then collapse (too much baking powder) or can result from an imbalanced recipe preventing sufficient air being beaten into the mixture (flour too soft, too much fat). The most common causes are as follows:

  1. Too much baking powder
  2. Too much sugar (this will be apparent if the cake also has a crisp, sugary crust)
  3. Too much Fat/Margarine
  4. Flour too soft
  5. Cake was knocked in the oven before it had set

1. Cake Collapsing at the Sides

This is also called the 'X' fault on account of the shape of the cake after it is baked. Most often the cause is too much liquid in the batter inhibiting the batter from rising evenly.

2. Fruit Sinking in the Cake

A very common problem and one that can have a number of causes, either to do with the fruit or the batter. The most common causes are:

  1. The flour is too soft
  2. The batter is too soft
  3. The batter is too lightly aerated (either from overmixing or from too much baking powder)
  4. Fruit is wet and therefore heavy (especially cherries)

3. Cakes too Small

A very common problem, and again one with a number of potential causes, the most common of which are as follows:

  1. Insufficient aeration (from undermixing or not enough baking powder)
  2. The batter is too stiff
  3. Flour is too strong
  4. Batter toughened (from overmixing or from recipe imbalance)
  5. Oven too hot (which leads to the cake being 'gripped' and stunted)

4. Badly Cracked Tops

The cause of this is that the oven is too hot, and the crust of the cake forms while the cake is still rising, leading to the crust 'bursting'

5. Peaked Top

Usually caused by a tough batter, which is caused by overmixing, and is often accompanied by a long hole in the cake.

6. Wet Streak at the Base of the Cake

This is caused by too much liquid, with the excess liquid in the recipe left as residue at the base

7. Cake Staling Quickly

This has a number of causes:

  1. Oven too cold so the cakes are in the oven too long, and the crumb dries out
  2. Too much baking powder
  3. Not enough liquid in the batter to keep the cake moist

8. Sugary Tops or White Spots on Cakes

The causes are as follows:

  1. Too much sugar
  2. Not enough liquid (to dissolve the sugar)
  3. Sugar too coarse (to be fully dissolved)
  4. Cakes standing too long before going in the oven. This allows moisture to escape from the top of the cake, and leaves sugar residue in the batter.

9. Curdled Cake Batter

Fat and water do not mix normally, and in a cake batter that contains fat and water (in the eggs) there is a natural tendency for curdling, the breaking down of the emulsion of fat and eggs. If a cake batter curdles, then the cakes are often still acceptable, though smaller than usual. Curdling will occur if:

  1. The eggs are added too soon before the fat and sugar have been creamed
  2. The eggs are added cold, as this causes the fat to harden again, and accept no more eggs. Egg temperature should be approximately 72F (21 Centigrade)
  3. The eggs are added in too large amounts. Eggs should always be added slowly and gradually.

Cakes often have faults, but they can usually be avoided by taking basic precautions and ensuring recipes are balanced.

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        anonomous 

        2 months ago

        cool for my project

      • G60dundee profile imageAUTHOR

        Gordon Bannerman 

        3 months ago from Waterdown, Ontario

        Some queries below: dry cake would be caused by too long in the oven or baking at wrong temperature, usually too cold an oven.

        Holes at the top of the cake? You mean in the crumb or on exterior of cake?

        Uneven rising: could be a problem of aeration or blending of ingredients. Sounds obvious but you should ensure you smooth the surface before you put in the oven.

        Toughness is normally caused by not enough liquid and/or aeration so mixing for longer and recipe balance would be crucial here.

      • G60dundee profile imageAUTHOR

        Gordon Bannerman 

        3 months ago from Waterdown, Ontario

        Yes, could be excess sugar or perhaps ingredients not properly blended. Make sure you use caster rather than granulated sugar.

      • profile image

        Aswathy 

        4 months ago

        Hi..

        Why is my cake feeling sticky inside and top even after the tester came out clean and i kept it for baking for almost 45minutes? Is it because of too much sugar?

      • profile image

        annonomous 

        9 months ago

        i used it for my homework it really helped me:)

      • profile image

        ddhdhdhd 

        10 months ago

        good advice but what is the problem if i get holes in the top of my cake

      • profile image

        jerdane reeves 

        10 months ago

        good advice thanks

      • profile image

        Aria 

        10 months ago

        What about cake rises unevenly and cake is dry

      • profile image

        mark emnace 

        11 months ago

        thank you for my new discovery

      • profile image

        Rebecca 

        13 months ago

        what about tough cakes?

      • profile image

        danielkr 

        15 months ago

        You missed one issue: the problem of too much cake

        Remedy: Share the cake

      • profile image

        george geanna 

        15 months ago

        this helps me a lot in my project, just perfect

      • profile image

        Anny 

        17 months ago

        I really do not know the reason why my cakes are always hard despite using a standing mixer to cream butter and sugar for 4omins, even whisking the eggs with a standing mixer separately, though the folding in of flour done manually with hand. Could therer be a fault with my oven or I have over mixed or what could be the reason?

      • profile image

        steven 

        22 months ago

        Thanks u reli helped my bakeing skills

      • profile image

        simmy 

        2 years ago

        Thanks for the info

      • profile image

        shalom 

        2 years ago

        thank you, for making me learn more.

      • G60dundee profile imageAUTHOR

        Gordon Bannerman 

        3 years ago from Waterdown, Ontario

        Thanks for all the kind comments. Re: the query about too much eggs. Well, that can make the mixture too soft for a start, and secondly because the recipe would be imbalanced there would be an increased chance of curdling, leading to small and dumpy cakes.

        The crucial things with eggs are to warm them and add them slowly to ensure the mix does not curdle.

      • profile image

        claris 

        3 years ago

        Thank you

      • profile image

        Althea Carter 

        3 years ago

        A real knowledge

      • profile image

        thanks 

        4 years ago

        am a catering student and i cldnt remember all of them

      • profile image

        Deepankar Sharma 

        4 years ago

        Thank you.

        I am a chef but i could not figure out where i was going wrong. Thank you.

      • profile image

        Annanymous 

        5 years ago

        I'm doing a science project on cupcakes and how the egg effects how high it rises and this helped a lot

      • profile image

        biola 

        6 years ago

        Thanks for the information, I want you to help mem. If I use too many eggs, how will it affect my cake

      • G60dundee profile imageAUTHOR

        Gordon Bannerman 

        6 years ago from Waterdown, Ontario

        Thanks very much. As cakes contain a lot of ingredients with lots of different chemical properties, there are many variables which can cause problems. As part of training at college, we used to deliberately make mistakes in order to see the results. In the long-term, that actually helped, as a practical demonstration of technical knowledge. Anyway, I'm glad to help in some small way. Good luck!

      • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

        Marcy Goodfleisch 

        6 years ago from Planet Earth

        I'm going to save this Hub for future use. I think you just explained why my cakes don't always do justice to Betty Crocker! Thanks!

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