Common Cake Problems and Why They Happen

Baking is a great hobby with delectable results!
 
It’s a therapeutic hands-on activity that many people from the younger generation have taken up. But no one starts off as a master chef.
 
When you’ve worked hard on your cake, it can be rather discouraging to have it not come out as desired. Here’s a cake troubleshooting guide to help you!
 

The Cake is Too Hard

There are few outcomes more disappointing than removing your cake from the oven only to discover that it’s gone hard. While there are many different types of cakes that differ in texture, flavour and density, no one wants a cake that’s firm to the point of crustiness the whole way through.
 

(image credit: kingarthurflour.com)
 
There are several reason why this might have happened;

  • Your sugar and butter was not beaten until light and fluffy.
  • You used too much wheat flour.
  • You didn’t have enough wet ingredients.
  • The mixture was beaten for too long after the flour was added.
  • It was baked for too long or the temperature was too high.

 

The Cake is Too Dense

Cakes are loved for being light and fluffy. There are various leavening agents to make them rise for different recipes, but there are many other things that can affect the density of your cake as well.
 

(image credit: kingarthurflour.com)
 
There are several reason why this might have happened;

  • The eggs used may have been too small.
  • There was insufficient air content when eggs and sugar were beaten.
  • The flour has expired (At best, the flour should be dried first. This can help lighten the cake)
  • The melted butter that was added to the dough may be too hot, causing it to foam and the cake to break.
  • The oven temperature was too low.

 

The Cake is Uneven

There are hot spots in your oven where the temperature is higher than other areas and is different for every oven. You can fix this by rotating your cake a few times while it is baking. However, they may be other reasons why it is uneven as stated below.
 

(image credit: wordsndreamz.wordpress.com)
 

  • The oven temperature may have been too hot.
  • The oven temperature was not hot enough and caused the cake to not bake evenly.
  • The flour was not mixed well.
  • The batter is more than half the volume of the baking pan.
  • The pan does not match the type of oven used.

 

The Middle of The Cake Didn’t Rise

There is a reason why people typically use the center of the cake to check if it’s ready. This is because that area has a tendency to be cooked last. Ovens cook from the outside in afterall.
 

(image credit: jules/ [Flickr])
 
Here are some things you need to adjust before you start your next attempt;

  • The size of the cake pan was wrong.
  • The measurement of ingredients was wrong.
  • The oven temperature was too hot or too cold.
  • Your cake wasn’t baked long enough.
  • Too much heat is escaping your oven. This happens if you open the oven to check on your cake while it’s baking. Do your best to avoid doing that.

 

Cake Sinks In The Middle

While a cake can rise because of its leavening agents and heat, once it has been removed from the oven, your cake will contract. This happens because gluten structures is strengthened too much and creates more air pockets which causes the cake to rise during baking but fall after the air has escaped
 

(image credit: angesdesucre.com)
 

  • The batter was overmixed.
  • The oven temperature was either too high or too low, so your cake hasn’t cooked properly or all the way through yet.
  •  

    The cake is Too Moist and Sticky

    If you’re not making any of our traditional Malaysian desserts like kuihs, your cakes really shouldn’t be too moist and sticky. In fact, the only reason why any cake should be sticky is if you have added on toppings like glazes or chocolate ganache.
     

    (image credit: chinablog.stoltes.net)
     
    The amount of wet ingredients is too much.
    You used either an insufficient or expired leavening agent.
    The sugar and fat content (i.e butter, margarine, etc.) was not beaten together well enough.
    The butter was chunky and not beaten until smooth.
     

    The Cake is Too Dry

    Sometimes, you won’t know what’s wrong with your cake till you take your first bite. Having a dry, albeit sweet, edible sponge suck up the drool you were using to salivate over that cake in the first place is disappointing to say the least.
     

    (image credit: Irina Meliukh [Shutterstock])
     

    • There are several reason why this might have happened;
    • You did not use enough butter. You can add some oil to the recipe if you think you need to.
    • You overbaked your cake.
    • You should reduce the amount of flour in your batter.

     

    The Cake has become Bread-like

    If you’re experimenting with personalising the recipes you find online, there’s a chance that you may end up with a cake that has a more bread-like consistency. If you’re not sure what exactly what part caused this outcome, it was possibly one of the reasons below:
     

    (image credit: crazyforcrust.com)
     

    • The wrong type of flour was used.
    • The batter was not well mixed enough.
    • The wrong kind of leavening agent was used.
    • The measurement of the butter/margarine is incorrect.
    • The amount of sugar or type of sugar was wrong.

     

    The Cake Is Cracked Deeply.

    When it comes to baking, following the temperature in your recipe book is great for your first time trying out the recipe. But you won’t always get the perfect cake the first time around. Small cracks may still be acceptable, especially for shaping the cake, but deep cracks are a big problem. Try fixing this issue with the tips below.
     

    (image credit: Amawasri Pakdara [Shutterstock])
     

    • The wrong size of cake mould was used.
    • The oven temperature was too high.
    • The oven’s heating direction is wrong. Try to avoid directing the heat from above your cake if this happens often.
    • You are using too much of your leavening agent.

     

    So don’t be discouraged when you see that your delicious treat hasn’t turned out the way you hoped. After all, like all other forms of cooking, it’s about patience and trial and error.
     
    Have second go, make smaller trial batches and enjoy the fruits of your labour once you’ve perfected your skills.
     
    If you want a more personalised guidance, come and join us in our many baking classes. We freshen up the recipes we offer to teach you every 2-3 months and they’re all taught by certified dessert chefs!
     
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