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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’ve bought all the expensive ingredients and followed the recipe’s instructions down to the letter. Your kid is looking forward to their favorite 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. This is a disheartening moment.

Two Possible Culprits

If you’re new to baking or never really tried making a cake before, then the two causes might surprise you. At first, one might think that something went wrong with the ingredients. Was the flour old? Did I not 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 pan.

Culprit 1: The Oven Is Too Hot

The most common cause is the temperature. When the heat is too high, the cake’s surface is almost guaranteed to impersonate an earthquake. But how does this work, 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 them to mature at different rates. The crust cooks a lot faster than the cake’s innards, which causes the outside to crack.

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 tell you the proper way to preheat an oven and the correct temperature at which you must bake the cake. Follow these instructions very closely. Another thing to look out for is how you place the pan inside the oven. Even if 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 help you nail the right temperature. You’ll thank yourself later. It might be prudent to invest in an accurate thermometer designed for cooking in baking.

Culprit 2: You've Used the Incorrect Pan

Anyone who has ever made something in the kitchen is 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 dish 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, just consider the price of a cracked cake that cannot 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 in the oven 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 sometimes helps to bake the batter more evenly.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Jana Louise Smit