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What Causes Cakes to Fall?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A number of factors during the mixing and baking process can cause cakes to fall. When cakes fall, however, all is not lost. You may be able to salvage part of the cake, or frost the cake creatively so that it can still look attractive. Even professional bakers experience a fallen cake or two now and then, due to subtle differences in air pressure, temperature, or the ingredients used. One of the most important things you can do to prevent falling cakes is to use fresh ingredients and to measure consistently.

Temperature is a major factor. Cakes fall when they are cooked at a temperature which is too low, or too high. The oven should be preheated all the way before inserting the cake pan, and you may want to use an oven thermometer to ensure that the oven is at the proper temperature. It is also important to cook the cake for the recommended amount of time, making adjustments for substituted ingredients, and to avoid jostling the cake while it bakes or cools. Cakes fall as they cool sometimes, so make sure to put the cake in a safe place.

Factors within the ingredients can also make cakes fall. Using insufficient liquid, for example, or not enough oil. An excess of sugar or flour can also create problems with the batter which may lead to falling cake. It is very important to measure properly, tamping down ingredients as needed or sifting as directed. Use clear measuring cups and try placing them at eye level on the counter so that you can see the amount you have measured out clearly.

Cakes fall because of how they are mixed, as well. If the cake is overbeaten, it may fall because of the excess of air trapped in the batter. Underbeaten cakes, on the other hand, may fall because the batter is too dense and is unable to rise. Follow the mixing directions in the cake recipe carefully to reduce this problem. Sometimes the mixing can cause cakes to fall after they mound up in the middle, leading to a large mess. However, when cakes fall like this, you may be able to salvage them as "volcano cakes," especially if you have young children with a penchant for oozing frosting.

Finally, cakes fall when they are baked at altitude. High altitude baking is a skill which requires some trial and error. Some cookbooks include corrections for altitude baking, and if you live in at a high elevation, you should probably consider acquiring a specialized high altitude baking cookbook. As a general rule, you want to increase the liquid, decrease the sugar, and decrease the amount of baking powder included in a recipe. If your cakes fall frequently when you are baking at altitude, you may want to ask a local baker for tips.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes cakes fall?

Cakes typically fall owing to a lack of leavening, which is the act of adding air to the batter to cause the cake to rise. If the recipe does not include enough leavening, the cake will not rise properly, resulting in a sunken or collapsed cake.

What can I do to keep my cake from falling?

To prevent a cake from falling, correctly measure the ingredients, thoroughly mix the batter to incorporate air, and avoid opening the oven door during baking. These activities will aid in the rise of the cake and keep it from collapsing.

How can I tell whether my cake is entirely baked?

Insert a toothpick into the center of the cake to see whether it is done baking. If it comes out clean, the cake is done; if it has raw batter on it, it needs to bake longer.

Is it possible to save a collapsed cake?

A collapsed cake can be saved. One method is to slice it into layers, fill them with frosting, and then stack them back together. This will help to hide any flaws and make the cake look respectable.

Does the temperature of a cake affect its structure?

Temperature does have an effect on the structure of a cake. If the oven temperature is too high, the cake may rise too quickly and collapse, and if the oven temperature is too low, the cake may not rise properly and sink. To verify that the oven temperature is accurate, use an oven thermometer.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon973781 — On Oct 13, 2014

@anon973556: Believe it or not, you can make a delicious dessert with fallen pound cake. Happened to me two years ago at Thanksgiving.

I tore the cake into pieces, layered it with vanilla pudding and sliced strawberries in a big bowl, and topped with Cool Whip. Presto! Punch bowl cake!

It's kind of like a trifle. Works great and you can use whatever flavor pudding, and whatever kind of sliced fruit you like. Works like a charm every time! Hope this helped you.

By anon973556 — On Oct 12, 2014

What creative dish can you make with the fallen pound cake?

By anon328240 — On Apr 02, 2013

My own take on a Battenberg has taken almost four times, bbc good food told me, and it's really soggy on the inside.

By giddion — On Jan 23, 2013

The worst type of cake to have fall is a wedding cake. My sister was baking our other sister's wedding cake the day before the wedding, and several of the layers fell when she took them out of the oven!

She just had to start over and make them again. Lava cakes are awesome, but for a wedding cake, they simply wouldn't do.

I'm not sure what made some layers fall and others stay intact. She finally got it all put together, though.

By kylee07drg — On Jan 22, 2013

@shell4life – That's why I stick to cake mixes. I won't even try making a cake from scratch, because I know that it could turn into a disaster.

The cake mix box even tells me exactly how long to beat the batter. I time myself with the secondhand on the clock, and so far, none of my cakes have fallen.

By shell4life — On Jan 21, 2013

I've often wondered why cakes fall. I had no idea that the balance of ingredients was so delicate!

It's weird that too much oil or too much flour could make a cake fall. Either one is usually what you add as a remedy for a lack of the other, so it sounds like you just can't win.

I suppose this is why they say it is so important to stick to the recipe when baking. When you're doing stovetop cooking, you can change the amounts of ingredients as you wish, but when you're baking, even a slight variation could cause a cake to fall.

By JackWhack — On Jan 21, 2013

Unruly children sometimes cause cakes to fall. My aunt had made a beautiful fall themed cake with hazelnut frosting and sugary leaves on top, but it all came crashing down at the party because of two little kids who insisted on roughhousing next to the table. They bumped into it, and down came the masterpiece.

By John57 — On Nov 22, 2012

Even if there isn't any truth to a cake falling because you slammed a door or jumped on the floor, baking a cake can sometimes be challenging.

When I moved to the mountains I had to learn a whole new way of baking. I wasn't used to baking at a higher altitude and it took a lot of trial and error until I got it right. There are times when my cakes still fall or sink to one side, but most of the time now they turn out OK.

My family didn't mind while I was learning how to bake cakes at a higher altitude. They still enjoyed eating the fruits of my labor, but I feel a lot better about a cake that doesn't fall.

By sunshined — On Nov 22, 2012

I am so glad I came across this article. My cakes look just like the one in the picture. I am too embarrassed to serve them to anyone but my family because they sink in the middle. Some people will say it still tastes good, but I think presentation is very important too -- especially if you are taking this to a dinner or some kind of gathering.

Frosting can only cover up so much. I think part of my problem is I am mixing my batter too long. The next time I make a cake I am really going to make an effort to go easy on the mixing.

I know when it comes to making muffins you only need to stir until all the ingredients are moistened, and maybe it is the same way with cakes. I just don't like to see small pieces of flour still in the batter when I pour it into the cake pan.

By LisaLou — On Nov 21, 2012

@anon33498 -- I have had the same problem when my butter became liquid instead of letting it set out at room temperature. If I forget to leave the butter out, I get impatient and melt it in the microwave. I always leave it in too long and it gets too soft. Every time I do this I am sorry because my cakes and cookies don't turn out the way they are supposed to.

By bagley79 — On Nov 20, 2012

@anon32713 -- I have been told if you open the oven door during the first 30 minutes of baking a cake it might fall in the middle. Something about opening the oven door causes the temperature to drop quickly and this make your cake fall.

Because of this I have always been afraid to open the oven door until the cake is almost done. I keep my oven light on so I can see how it is coming along. If I open the door at all, I just crack it open a little bit instead of opening it all the way.

By anon283069 — On Aug 02, 2012

I think a safe place is somewhere out of drafty doorways!

By anon250409 — On Feb 25, 2012

A safe place for the cake is in your stomach. If you eat it quickly, you won't notice it falling.

By anon246677 — On Feb 10, 2012

As a child my mom would say "don't slam the door" or "don't jump around or you'll make my cake fall".

Guess that was just a lie.

By anon135553 — On Dec 19, 2010

when you bake your cream cheese pound cake put the cake into a cold oven, set the temp for 325 and cook 70 minutes. It should be perfect!

By anon85341 — On May 19, 2010

When I was growing up, my mother seemed to feel that slamming the door was the cause of cakes falling as she frequently warned me about this when a cake was in the oven.

By anon56709 — On Dec 16, 2009

my cake fell in the middle. I think it is because I added more liquid. mdm

By anon55007 — On Dec 03, 2009

"Cakes fall as they cool sometimes, so make sure to put the cake in a safe place". Yes, and what is a safe place?

By anon41680 — On Aug 16, 2009

What causes a cake to fall in the middle?

By anon33498 — On Jun 07, 2009

My cupcakes fell and I have never had this happen before, I honestly think its because I microwaved the butter to soften it. I should of used room temperature butter that becomes softened. I read that somewhere! Hope this helps others.

By anon32713 — On May 26, 2009

Will my cake fall if a door in the kitchen is slammed or the oven door is opened prematurely?

By honeyd51 — On Mar 28, 2009

My cream cheese pound cake always falls. The sides bend and the middle gets heavy and thick with a wet look. This is the only cake that does this. Please help! Thanks.

By jimjoan — On Feb 25, 2009

My chocolate cakes seem to get dense on the bottom, almost the consistency of a brownie. What causes this?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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