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How to Prevent the Top of Your Cake From Cracking

Jana is a baking enthusiast. She loves sharing tips and recipes with fellow flour-sprinkled souls.

Did the top of your cake crack?

Did the top of your cake crack?

Help! My Cake Cracked on Top

You bought all the expensive ingredients and followed the recipe’s instructions down to the letter. Your kid is looking forward to their favourite cake that afternoon.

There’s no chance of running to the store again to get ingredients to bake the cake for a second time, and there's no time to get an alternative treat from somewhere else. You have only this cake—the one that came out of the oven looking like an earthquake zone. The surface is marred with a massive crack or several smaller ones. Needless to say, it is a disheartening moment.

Two Possible Culprits

If you are new to baking or have never really tried to make a cake before, then the two main causes might surprise you.

At first, one might think that something went wrong with the ingredients. Was the flour too old? Did I fail to mix the stuff in the right order? Here’s the truth. When the top of a cake fractures, it’s got nothing to do with the preparation process of the dry and wet ingredients. The problem occurs when you stick the cake into the oven to bake and the type of pan that you use.

Culprit 1: The Oven Is Too Hot

The most common cause is temperature. When the heat is too high, the cake’s surface is almost guaranteed to impersonate an earthquake.

But how do things go wrong, exactly? The reason is interesting. When your oven is too toasty, the outside layer of the cake receives more heat than the batter within. This causes the exterior and the interior to mature at different rates. The crust cooks a lot faster than the cake’s innards and this causes cracks to appear.

Take care to place your cake or pie on the correct shelf inside the oven. The wrong placement will cause a temperature problem and a damaged crust.

Take care to place your cake or pie on the correct shelf inside the oven. The wrong placement will cause a temperature problem and a damaged crust.

The Solution

A good recipe will always explain how to properly preheat an oven and the correct temperature for baking the cake. Follow these instructions very closely. Another thing to look out for is how you place the pan inside the oven. Even when the temperature is correct, and you place the cake on the incorrect rack, then you might end up with a heating problem and a cracked appearance.

Use a thermometer to nail the right temperature. If you do not have one, consider investing in an accurate thermometer designed for cooking and baking. You'll thank yourself later!

Culprit 2: You've Used the Incorrect Pan

At least once in our lives, most of us are guilty of the following scenario. We rush around, get all excited about trying a new recipe, have all the ingredients—and then you realize the pan is not quite the right size. Oh well, since it’s just a little too big or small, we decide to use it anyway.

Unfortunately, this extra space, or lack thereof, can both lead to an unsightly cake. The same counts for depth. Very often the depth of a pan is not considered as important as its size, but this will lead to the same unsatisfying results.

The Solution

Resist that urge! It’s hard to hold off on a wonderful new recipe just because the pan is not the right size. Wait until the day when you can buy the correct pan. If you’re an avid baker, a new pan is never a loss! You purchase it once and then use the bowl forever. Should the urge feel too great and you want to use an incorrect dish, consider if it's worth making a cracked cake that cannot always be remedied with icing.

Bakers who love to make their own bread knead a furrow down the middle of the dough to prevent their bread's crust from cracking during the cooking process.

Bakers who love to make their own bread knead a furrow down the middle of the dough to prevent their bread's crust from cracking during the cooking process.

Additional Crust Care Tips

  • Peeking at your yummy cake through the oven window is allowed—but don’t open the oven’s door until the baking time is up.
  • Bread can also crack rather badly, but this is normally prevented by pressing a line down the middle of the dough before slotting the pan into the oven
  • An advanced tip is to place a bowl of water in the oven when you adjust the recipe to fit a different size pan. The steam produced by the water can help to bake the batter more evenly.

© 2019 Jana Louise Smit

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