Troubleshooting: Cakes



 Cakes are probably the first thing you associate with the word 'baking'. I do love a good cake but there are a multitude of different problems that can arise when baking one (I've certainly experienced the majority). There was this one time though (pictured), last year, when I came back for a two week break from au pairing in France, and spur of the moment felt like baking. My mum had stocked up the cupboards in preparation for my return (ha!) so I whipped up a chocolate cake. 'Whipped up' is very appropriate here because I followed no recipes and, er, kind of chucked anything and everything in there. It was a chocolate-orange cake, the recipe I did write down but cannot find, and it came out perfect!

But alas! That's the only perfect cake I've made in my almost 10 years of baking and now that I'm baking with vegan ingredients, I have to re-learn what everything does! So I thought it'd be useful to put together this list, so that we can try, together, to get to the bottom of this!
I will get my cake, and I will eat it!

Mixture has split: This usually occurs when adding eggs to butter and sugar that has been creamed together. Add the flour quickly to stop the mixture curdling.
Next time try an all-in-one method instead of creaming the butter and sugar together first.

Stuck in the tin: Make sure the cake has cooled, take a shark knife and run it around the edge. Pat the bottom and sides. Then put one hand over the top of the cake, use the other to tip the cake tin upside down and carefully remove the cake from the tin.
Next time make sure you grease the tin well (with butter), or line it with grease-proof paper/ baking parchment.

Spilled over the side of the tin: Cake tin is too small. Avoid filling the tin more than 3/4 full.

Cake has peaked in the middle and cracked: The cake tin may be too small, the over temperature too high or too much of a raising agent was used.

Cake had shrunk: The cake mixture may have been too cold when put into the oven (if left out too long or refrigerated) or you may have over-mixed it.

Cake has sunken: There are many reasons for this; the oven was opened too early (especially at the beginning) - before the cake had time too set, too much raising agent was used, the oven temperature may have been too low, the cake mixture didn't go in the oven as soon as it was ready/mixed, or it may just be under-baked.
If it is under-baked (use the skewer test to see), then cover it with foil and put it back in the oven. If it is fully baked, then this time just hide the sunken part with buttercream. 

Cake is dry: This may be due to too much dry ingredients used, not enough wet ingredients used, being in the over for too long.
If it is still edible, just cover it with moist toppings like chocolate, buttercream or icing. If it's really crumbly, then you could turn them into cake pops instead!

Cake is greasy: Usually to do with the butter being too soft and warm when used - if it was left out too long before use.
If it's still edible, then cover it with chocolate.

Centre is gooey: If it's not supposed to be (like in a melt-in-the-middle cake), then it's not cooked yet, put it in for longer.

Soggy edges:  When the cake isn't turned out onto a cooling rack soon enough, condensation builds up on the side of the tin, making the edges wet.

Sides are crunchy/burnt: This could be because the tin was greased too much, the oven was too hot, the cake was in the oven too long or a fat not suitable for baking was used e.g. low fat spread where the fat has been replaced with water - be sure to check the packaging.

Didn't rise: Did you forget the baking powder or the self raising flour? If you definitely did add the necessary raising agents, then, if it's already fully cooked, bake it for a little longer.
It could also have been due to the oven being too cool, the mixture being over-mixed or that the baking tin is too big.

Has risen unevenly: Cut the uneven bits 'off' to level it out and cover with butter cream.
It could have been caused by the flour not being mixed properly into the wet ingredients - uneven mixing = uneven rising. Or, it may be to do with your oven, the temperature may not be even all around i.e. one side hotter than the other. 

Is too dense: The cake mix may not have had enough air beaten into it, the ingredients may have curdled or there wasn't enough raising agent used.

Is raw: It needs to be cooked for longer, maybe the oven temperature is wrong. Covering it in tin foil will help. 

Is burnt: It was in too long or the oven temperature was too high.
If it's only the top that's burnt, then the cake was too high up/close to the heat or the cake tin may be too small. If the middle is not yet cooked, cover it with tin foil before putting it back in the oven.
If it's fully cooked (and the rest is edible), scrape off the burnt layer and cover it with icing of some sort. 

Has a tough texture: This could have been caused by over-mixing, using the wrong flour, wrong measurements or due to an aged batter, i.e. the batter was left overnight when it wasn't supposed to be.

Is tender to handle: Again wrong measurements may have been used or maybe it's due to under-mixing. 

Falls after it's done and removed from the oven: This is due to too much moisture, common in humid conditions - the flour picks up the moisture from the air before it is added. Make sure the flour is stored in an airtight container. 

Is flat with air bubbles on top: The oven may not have been hot enough when the cake went in, or it's due to the cake not going in as soon as the mixture was ready.

Happy Baking!



  1. I baked a lemon drizzle last night and started on it too late, which means I didn't really concentrate and threw in 175g of sugar into the mixture that was already full of caster sugar! Oops, had to start over, but I do like baking save for the odd disaster!

    Lucy x- Yellowicing

    1. Oh gosh! Haha I'm sure I've done that a few times...

  2. This is super useful! Will definitely refer to this next time I bake a cake. I have actually burnt the top of cakes a couple of times, that's interesting about covering it with tin foil before putting it back. Do these tips apply to baking cupcakes, too? I never manage to get the pesky little things right, unless I cheat and use a cupcake mix, which sucks because I love decorating them lol, and I want to be able to whip them up from scratch successfully. Thanks for sharing, Vanisha :) x

    ♥.•*¨ Amanda Says ¨*•.♥

    1. Yay I'm glad you find it useful! To be honest I'm not sure, I've never had much of a disaster with cupcakes but I would think it should? Yess decorating is the best part! :)x

  3. What a fantastic & useful post! Thanks for sharing, my sister is going to love this since she occasionally bakes cakes.

    x- Naomi in Wonderland

    1. Thanks Naomi! I hope she finds it helpful :)x

  4. Ahhh, so many great tips, Vanisha! I'm not that good in baking (and in cooking too LOL) but I would love improve my skills. I remember trying to bake a cake and to my disappointment it tasted like eggs. :D Happy Friday, my dear!

    xoxo Ira

    1. Thanks Ira! Haha well practice makes perfect! Gosh I've done that before, the next time used one less egg and a bit more baking powder which seemed to work! Happy Friday, lovely! <3

    2. My pleasure, Vanisha! Haha, truuu! WOW! Gotta try next time!!! Thank you so much for the tip! <3


  5. love...
    kisses from dubai ♥