Making cakes from scratch is a deliciously rewarding task that certainly pays off when the job is done. Baking in general relies on precise measurements and temperatures to pull off the perfect crumb, delightful flavor and consistent recipe every time. If you're noticing your cake is limp, dry or not what it should be, there are often simple solutions that can get your cake back on par.
Sunken, Domed or Cracked Cakes
Don't overmix your batter, because this can cause holes, tunneling or a sunken center on your cake. Overmixing releases excess gluten in the batter, and too much gluten can leave you with a spongy, bread-like consistency once your cake's out of the oven.
Measure your ingredients appropriately, especially when it comes to sugar, leavening agents -- such as baking soda or powder -- and fats. Too little sugar or leavening agents can cause a cracked or cratered cake surface. Too much fat, sugar or leaveners can also cause your cake to sink in the center.
Follow the temperature requirements on your recipe. An oven temperature that is too low causes sunken centers, while an oven temperature that is too high causes domed, cracked or holed surfaces.
Use the ingredients called for in the recipe. Using the wrong type of flour can cause your cake to dome or crack at the surface.
Cakes That Don't Rise
Mix your cake batter according to the recipe. Follow specific instructions, including speed and the amount of time to mix ingredients. Improper mixing can cause a dense, flat cake.
Bring eggs and fats to room temperature before using them in your recipe. Cold butter and eggs don't incorporate the amount of air needed to lift your cake while it bakes.
Follow ingredient measurements on your cake recipe and don't add more or less. Adding too little or too much fat, using too much leavening or adding excess liquid can make your cake dense and flat.
Use fresh ingredients and throw out old ingredients. For example, baking powder or soda that is too old might cause a flat cake.
Preheat your oven before putting your cake in the oven. Use the temperature listed on the recipe, because an oven that is too hot can leave you with a dense cake.
Use the appropriately sized cake pan. Using a pan that is too small or too big can cause your cake to bubble over the surface or lack the structural support to rise appropriately.
Add the right amount of ingredients. Too much leavening agent can dry out your cake and leave you with a coarse, grainy texture. Not adding enough liquid can also dry out your cake.
Set the oven temperature appropriately. An oven temperature that is too low or too high can cause the cake to dry out while baking.
Look for any high altitude changes in your recipe. Most recipes are designed for sea level locations; therefore, you may need to adjust the amount of liquids, flours or leavening agents or change your oven temperature so that your cake bakes properly.
Crunchy or Burnt Crusts
Bake your cake until it's done, but don't overbake, and use the temperature required in the recipe. Check if the cake is ready to come out by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. You should see a small amount of crumbs stuck to the toothpick, but no moist batter. Also, press on the surface of the cake. If it springs back quickly, it's done, but if it holds the imprint of your finger it might need a little longer.
Measure your ingredients appropriately. Too much sugar, baking soda or powder can cause a hard, dark crust.
Grease the cake pan appropriately. You should lightly grease the bottom and sides and add a coating of flour. Adding too much grease to the pan might cause burnt or crispy edges.