What went wrong with my cake?

Cake Fail Answers

Cake Fails by Color

Cause: The oven temperature is too low or the pans are too close to each other.

Cause: The oven could be crowded or the pan is touching an oven wall or another pan.

Cause: Warped pans create uneven cooking. Deep pans keep the top from browning. Darker colored pans absorb extra heat, so place them on higher racks to correct issue.

Cake Fails by Volume

Causes include overmixing the batter, insufficient baking powder, or an oversized pan. Check that the temperature isn’t too high.

The temperature isn’t high enough or the pan isn’t large enough. Too much sugar or baking powder can also contribute.

Cake Fails by Shape

Batter: Excess moisture - not enough flour. Batter was not emulsified: imbalance of ingredients, didn’t cream butter properly.

Cooking: temp too low, removed from oven too early

Batter: Possibly too much flour was used.

Cooking: oven too hot at the start, uneven cooking.

Batter: too much flour or baking powder leads to rising too fast, pan is too small. Crust forms too quickly

Cooking: undercooked on high temp, opened oven too soon, placed pan too high in the oven.

Cake Fails by Texture

Batter: wrong kind of flour, unsifted flour, unbalanced flour ratio, slightly overmixed. Aged or refrigerated batter, too much baking powder.

Cooking: Temp too low.

Batter: Too much gluten from overmixing flour; gently fold instead. Not enough shortening, too much egg white vs egg yolk, undissolved sugar when not creamed enough

Cooking: Temp too hot

Batter: creamed at too high a speed, added flour too quickly or roughly.

Cooking: Temp too low, left in pan too long after removing from oven.

How to Save A Cake

If your cake came out less than perfect, you can still salvage it for other uses. As long as a cake is cooked through, and it doesn’t taste unpleasant, there are options. 

  • Thin Cake
    First try leveling the cake to even it out. It’s possible that it will still work as a slightly thinner cake.
  • Break It Up
    Make cake pops, petit fours, or ice cream topping, cake bread pudding, cake french toast, a cake shake (by blending it with ice cream), or crumble it into a batch of brownies.
  • Try a Trifle for Tough Cake
    Whip up some pudding and whipped cream. Then layer big chunks of cake, compatible fruit (cherry, blueberies, raspberries, etc), pudding, a little liquor (cognac, brandy, amaretto, etc) and spread some whipped cream on top. Refrigerate overnight and cut in slices. These wetter ingredients will balance out the firmness of the cake.
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