Why does my cake crumble?

Judy asks: When I bake a pound cake, it tends to crumble when I remove it from the pan.  Why does this happen?  And how can I prevent it?

Baking S.O.S. says:  You may be trying to remove the cake from the pan when it is too warm.  You can prevent this by allowing the cake to cool completely in the pan before removing it–at least a couple of hours.  It could also help to prepare the pan so that the cake does not stick to the sides.  Try using a baking spray that includes flour in the spray, such as Baker’s Joy.  Crisco also makes such a spray.  Both can be found in the baking aisle of a regular grocery store.  Finally, lining the pan with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit in the bottom of the pan can also help remove the cake from the pan easier.  Be sure to spray the pan also–even when using parchment paper.

48 comments to Why does my cake crumble?

  • Bobbie

    My pound cake always came out fine until the last 3 or 4 times. It comes out beaufifully and is a picture to behold but when I put the cake knife to it, it just crumbles into small pieces. Could I be mixing it too long? My recipe says to just put in the first so many ingredients and then mix all at once. It is a dense cake but lately has been fine.

  • You could be right, Bobbie, if you suspect that you may be mixing the batter too long. A pound cake should be relatively dense, as you mentioned. But if you mix the batter too long, it will incorporate more air into the batter, making it lighter and fluffier. That could be the cause of the crumbling. Try mixing the ingredients on a low speed just until combined to minimize the amount of air your incorporate into the batter. That might help.

    Another possible explanation for the crumbling could be if you are trying to cut the cake before it has had a chance to cool completely. It is always important to let a cake cool to room temperature before attempting to cut it, or it will crumble apart.

  • Swati Verma

    When i bake a cake for the required temperature, it starts cracking from the top surface and when i cut it, the interiors within look slightly soggy.
    Please help.

  • Swati Verma

    What would be the state of the cake if i use extra eggs.

  • Adding extra eggs to the cake batter will probably make the cake more tough. Eggs contain a fair amount of protein which helps bind the structure together. Too much protein would make the cake less tender and flaky and tougher or chewier instead. I would not recommend adding extra eggs to a cake batter recipe.

  • It sounds like you have 2 separate problems that require 2 separate solutions.

    First of all, for a cake that is “slightly soggy” inside, you probably just need to bake it longer. Cakes bake from the outside-in, meaning the outer edges will be done before the center of the cake. To test for “doneness,” insert a wooden toothpick or skewer in the very center of the cake. If it comes out clean or with dry cake crumbs on it, the cake is done all the way through. If the toothpick comes out with wet cake batter stuck to it, bake it longer and re-test in several minutes. Another good test is to touch the top of the cake lightly in the center. If it springs back, it is done. If you hear a slight “squishing” sound, it is not done yet. Allow the cake to bake a few more minutes.

    Second, regarding the cracking on the top of the cake: your batter probably has too much flour or too little liquid in the recipe. The cake batter is probably too dry. Try adding a little more of your liquid ingredient, or try using a different recipe all together if this one just isn’t working for you. Good luck!

  • Janson

    I baked my cake and inserted the skewer in the center and came out clean but when I took it out of the pan it was moist still at the bottom. I put it back in the pan, and i don’t know what to do!

    Please help! It is a carrot cake!

  • Hi Janson- I’m glad you mentioned this is a carrot cake…..carrot cakes tend to be more moist and dense than other types of cake. It could be that your cake turned out more or less like it was supposed to perhaps?

    Another way to test for “doneness”–besides the skewer method–is to touch the top of the cake in the center. If it springs back, it is done. If you hear a “squishing” sound, it is still wet in the middle and needs more time.

    Now that you have put the cake back into the pan, if you decide to place it back in the oven to continue baking it further, keep in mind that it will take a while for the internal temperature of the cake to rise back up to proper baking temperature. Therefore, it will take much longer for you to finish baking the cake than you might expect. Check it frequently to see if it is done without over-baking it and drying it out. Good luck! I hope you are able to salvage your cake.

  • farbin

    help my cakes has crumbled on the sides andi need to cover with fndant but want a smooth finish what do i do?

  • I think the best thing to do is use a thin layer of buttercream to “crumb coat” your cake before you drape the fondant on. Crumb coating with buttercream helps to seal in the loose crumbs on the sides of the cake, and it will help the fondant adhere to the cake in a smooth layer. Good luck!

  • Why does my pound cake break on top as it cools and how do I prevent that?

  • In my experience, all pound cakes tend to crack or split across the top when baked. The batter is much denser than typical cakes, so it bakes differently, as well. I like to think that the crack along the top of the cake gives it a rustic, homemade appearance which makes it more appealing. I wonder if any other readers have a different experience or suggestions, though?

  • anna

    everytime when i cut into a cake i have just baked, it being a regular chocolate/vanilla cake, it always feels like its going to fall apart. there are so many cake crumbs falling everywhere. why is that so? the cake is completely cooled and its fine. and i use different recipes when i have tried it several times but there are always so many crumbs like its crumbling!

  • anna

    isit because its too dry ? but when i eat it it doesn feel so.

  • joan

    when I cut my raisin, spice cake it crumbles on the bottom but seems to be baked enough. I have baked these over the years but have not had any problems until now

  • Hi Joan, regarding the raisin spice cake: you can try some of the suggestions I offered in my original answer, such as using parchment paper and/or baking spray with flour in it, to help remove the cake from the pan without causing it to crumble. But if that doesn’t work, perhaps the problem is a temperature issue. I would recommend cooling the cake completely in the pan before attempting to remove it. When the cake is still warm, it tends to crumble and break. It needs to cool completely so that the structure is completely set before you try to remove it from the pan. I hope that helps!

  • Victor

    Hi i made a egg less chocolate cake this recipe:

    3\4 c of cake flour
    1 tsp of baking soda
    5 tbs of cocoa powder
    1\8 tsp of salt
    3\4 cup sugar
    1\2 cup of melted butter
    1\2 tsp of vanilla
    1\4 tsp cream tartar
    2 tbs heavy cream

    now the flavor of the cake came out really well, but texture wise it crumbles really easily and its a very dense cake, this is the first time I’ve ever eaten an egg less chocolate cake so should it be like this?

  • Hi there, to be honest, I don’t think I have ever made an egg-less cake, either–except when making a vegan cake with “Egg Replacer” substitute.

    The purpose of eggs in baked goods is to act as a binder to hold everything together (among other things). So when the eggs are baked, the proteins in the eggs coagulate and help to hold all the other ingredients together. My guess is that your cake is crumbly because there are no eggs to hold it together–just as you suspected.

  • ashley

    hi,,
    i have a problem.. i am trying to make a birthday cake for my daughter and the recipes i have tried the cakes seem to crumble and i tried to remove from pan and it fell apart. what do i do?? i tried spraying pan and sprinkling flour on bottom..any suggestions how to make cake moist and stay together??

  • Hi, the most likely explanation for why the cakes crumble and fall apart when removing them from the pans is that they are still too warm when you try to turn them out. Regardless of what recipe you use, the rule for baking cakes is that they must cool COMPLETELY in the pans before attempting to remove them. This could take several hours, so be patient and wait! If a cake is still even slightly warm when removing it from the pan, it can crumble.

    One other technique I always use: I line the bottom of the cake pans with parchment paper. I buy Reynolds brand parchment paper which can be found at most grocery stores, and I trace the cake pan onto the parchment, then cut it out to fit inside the pan. Then I spray the pan with cooking spray, Baker’s Joy or PAM baking spray. Once the cake is baked and fully cooled, I run a knife around the outside edge of the cake pan before I invert the cake onto a cake circle or plate. The combination of these techniques can help make it easier to remove the cakes from the pans; however, it will not stop cakes from falling apart.

  • l have been using a cake mix where you just have to add water to it, and it’s been fine for 5 years, but now I’m getting cracking and crumbling. l don’t know why? It comes out looking beautiful when it first bakes. I cut it in half to fill with jam and cream, then l cover it with fondant and it holds up fine. But then my son phoned to say when he cut into the cake, it fell apart, and he had to eat it with a spoon. l have a wedding cake to do for my son, so l need to know what I’m doing wrong. He said the cake tasted lovely but seemed too fresh. Please help!

  • Hi Bridget, Is there any chance that the cake mix you have been using for years has changed the ingredients so that it no longer bakes with the same results that you used to get?

    Here in America, I know many types of processed foods (such as cake mixes) have undergone some “make-overs” in recent years due to consumer demand and labeling changes over ingredients like hydrogenated and trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. So manufacturers of processed foods have been changing the ingredients and the formulas they use to make their products so that they can remove those undesirable ingredients. As a result, the products taste different and in some cases, they “behave” differently, too. So perhaps changing the fat in the mix could affect the overall texture and “crumb” of the cake.

    My guess is that the problem is not with you and the way that you are making the cake, but rather, with the cake mix itself. The only thing you can do is experiment with different brands of cake mixes or try making your own cake from scratch where you have more control over the ingredients you use, and you know exactly what is going into your cake. I realize it can take a lot of time to test different recipes to find one that you like, but the good thing is that the Internet is full of recipes and reader comments to guide you towards recipes that others have already tested and commented on. That should help narrow your search down a bit, I hope. Good luck!

  • Valerie Leonard

    Hi, I have been using a pound cake recipe with great sucess until recently. The last two times, the bottom of the cake has been breaking away from the rest of the cake all the way around. I did change my liquid from evap milk to sour cream. The batter is more dense with the sour cream. Could it have to do with the weight of the batter?

  • Hi there, what an interesting dilemma! I’m not sure I have an answer for you, so I will put it out there to other Baking S.O.S. readers who might have experienced something similar when baking pound cakes. If anyone else has any tips or suggestions from your own experience, please share!

    My guess is that perhaps the cake is drying out around the edges as it bakes, and perhaps if it is too dry, that is what causes the bottom to break away from the more moist interior or top.

    Cakes bake from the outside in, and since a pound cake batter is so dense, it takes a long time to bake a pound cake fully. If the outside finishes baking first, then it will eventually over-bake and get too dry while the interior is still baking.

    You could try lowering your oven temperature a little bit (try decreasing the temp by 25 degrees) so that the exterior does not over-bake. You could also try double-panning the cake pan to give it an extra layer of insulation from the heat of the oven (set the filled cake or loaf pan inside of another pan the same size or slightly larger). You could even try finding a cushioned or air-bake style loaf pan if that might help.

    Please let me know if you find any solutions that work with your recipe!

  • Lauren

    I recently made a devils food which is made with shortening. It is a good cake but the two times i made this cake it fell apart when it came out of the pan. I did the usual of greasing the pan and flouring it still fell apart. This has never happened when i made other cakes from scratch

  • You mentioned that this never happens when you make cakes from scratch, so I am assuming that this Devil’s food cake you are referring to must be from a box mix, is that right? If so, I wonder if a different brand would have different results? It is hard to tell whether the problem is the mix itself, or the type of cake (Devil’s food, as opposed to a different type of chocolate cake), or in some way that you are preparing it.

    I think the only thing you can do is experiment with the different variables (brand of cake mix, type of cake, etc.) until you find something that works for you. If this particular Devil’s food cake mix isn’t working for you, try another one. Good luck!

  • Susan Neophytou

    Please I need help with my chocolate chiffon cake. When i try to ice it with butter cream icing the cake just crumbles apart. I have tried icing it the following day hoping if the cake stands for a day it will firm up. I have tried leaving the cake in the fridge for 24 hours before icing hoping that would help. It is a 5 egg,312ml flour,312ml castor sugar,12.5ml baking powder,80ml cocoa,156ml water,156ml oil,1ml salt,3ml cream of tarter chiffon cake. I bake it for 60minutes at 160deg. is something wrong with my ratio of ingredients perhaps.

  • Hi there, my guess is that the problem is not with your cake batter recipe, but rather, the type of frosting you are trying to use.

    Buttercream frostings work well to decorate many types of cakes, but a chiffon cake has a completely different texture than most cakes. Since chiffon cakes rely mostly on whipped egg whites to provide structure to the cake, they are extremely fragile and delicate in texture. In my experience, I have always frosted chiffon cakes by drizzling a thin glaze over the top of the cake and simply letting it run down the sides–so that you are not applying any pressure to the cake itself by trying to spread a thicker frosting like buttercream.

    I would suggest making your frosting a thinner, drizzling consistency, such as in this recipe found here at allrecipes.com: Chocolate Chiffon Cake.

  • sheilagh

    hi all i love to bake and nearly all my cakes come out lovely! but.. when ever i bake chocolate cake it tends to crumble or fall apart. is there a chance im putting to much coco in?
    thanx x

  • Hi there, it seems odd that only the chocolate cakes turn out crumbly. I doubt that the quantity of cocoa powder would make the cake crumble or fall apart. Do you use the same chocolate cake recipe every time? Or have you tried different chocolate cake recipes, but experience the same results, regardless of which recipe you use? This is quite a mystery, but I bet there is an explanation if you try to break it down into all the different components of baking a cake. First, you need to start with a good recipe that is tried and true. Secondly, you need to follow that recipe exactly: Baking is a science, and baked goods do NOT adapt well to experimentation. Next, you need to be sure that your oven is baking at the proper temperature and conditions. Lastly, be sure to allow your cake to cool completely before you try to remove it from the pan. If you try to cut or remove the cake from the pan while it is even slightly warm, it will crumble, so be patient. Good luck!

  • Tony

    Hi,

    I’ve been trying to make banana bread but it crumbles everytime i put a knife to it.. i’ve tried everything from cooling the cake after i’ve baked it, reducing the mixing time of the batter, to adding more (or less) of different ingredients every time because i’m trying to isolate the issue.

    HELP ME PLEASE!!!

  • Hi Tony, it sounds like your banana bread recipe does not contain enough “wet” ingredients (including not only liquids, but also the bananas) or not enough fat to give it enough moisture to hold it together. That is my guess as to why it would crumble.

    Here is my suggestion: Rather than trying to make changes to your original recipe without success, I would suggest scrapping it all together and starting over with a new and different recipe. Baking is such an exact science that it is very difficult to achieve the results you are looking for just by tweaking ingredients. I find it is better to just try a number of different recipes until I find a recipe that produces the results I want.

    I did a quick Internet search for banana bread recipes, and there are certainly plenty of recipes to try, but who can resist a recipe called Grandma’s Homemade Banana Bread that has been handed down from generation to generation? When I look at this recipe, I note that it calls for “sour milk” (a common ingredient from back in Grandma’s day). Nowadays, I would recommend substituting low-fat buttermilk for sour milk. And in my experience, buttermilk makes EVERY cake and quick bread taste BETTER! So give this recipe a try and see what you think. If it doesn’t produce the results you are looking for, keep trying different recipes.

    Good luck!

  • Crystal

    I made sponge yesterday. The cake was soft to the touch, well formed and not a crack. Iced it today bit into it and it crumbles in my mouth. Now the things I did differently when it cooled I cut off the top because it was slightly uneven. I ate the top it was buttery and yummy. I left the cake out. Another thing was and I have never done this before I beat the yellow and white eggs a lot. Usually I just beat them a little. Here is the ingredients
    6 eggs separated
    2 cups flour sifted
    1 cup sugar
    2 tablespoons of baking powder sifted
    1 tbsp vanilla essence
    2 sticks of butter

  • Hi Crystal,

    Sponge cakes are, by nature, fairly dry in texture. In my experience, I have always soaked the cake layers with a simple syrup (1:1 ratio of water and sugar cooked together) to make them moist and add flavor.

    It is not surprising to me that a sponge cake turned out dry and crumbly–especially if you left it out unwrapped–after cutting the top off. The combination of all those factors would add up to a very dry cake. I would recommend wrapping your cake completely in plastic wrap once it has cooled completely if you are not planning to decorate it right away. That should retain some of the moisture. And the simple syrup helps, too.

    But you also mentioned that your cake turned out differently this time than when you have made it in the past, so perhaps your sponge cake recipe is not as dry as others (I see it calls for 2 sticks of butter–that should keep it plenty moist!).

    Since you mentioned that the one thing you did differently this time is you beat the egg yolks and whites more than you usually do, I would recommend going back to whipping them just a little if that produces better results for you. In general, you should whip the egg whites to a soft peak rather than a stiff peak, so that could have been the culprit, as well.

  • I do not bake with cake mixes. I am trying to make an Hawaiian Wedding cake for a tea that our graden club is having. I have looked at, and tried some of the recipes from websites, and have not been pleased. So, I tried to adapt my pineapple upside down cake, incorporating the pineapple into the cake. It turned out too crumbly.
    I have another problem. I live at 8000′ in elevation, so I must adapt all of my baking: use more flour, less sugar, perhaps less baking powder and/or baking soda, and more liquid.
    Does anyone have any suggestions for me?
    I thought that I mixed the shortening and sugar adequately, added a little more flour, added a little less sugar, added pineapple juice.
    Perhaps I needed to add more pineapple juice?
    Any suggestions would be helpful. Thank you

  • Perhaps adding more liquid and more fat would give the cake more tenderness and make it less crumbly. Perhaps try using a liquid fat to achieve both results? You could try adding some canola oil, perhaps to add both liquid and fat at the same time.

  • Donna

    why does my pineapple upside cake stick when I turn it over to take it out of pan? what am I doing wrong? I should just slide out, not big chunks out of it

  • Hi there, I actually can’t answer this question for you from my own experience as I do not bake pineapple upside-down cakes. I wonder if there are any readers out there who can help give an answer?

    With other types of cake, I keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan by lining the cake pan with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside the bottom of the pan. I assume this trick would work for pineapple upside-down cake, as well. Have you tried lining your cake pan with parchment paper? It could also help to then spray the paper with pan spray, as well. Let me know if that works for you!

  • mindy

    Help please. When cutting any fondant covered cakes that i have made, the fondant sticks to the knife, and the cake crumbles. Any suggestions? I live in 102 weather what can I do to fix cakes from falling apart when cutting?

  • Do any readers have any suggestions? This is a very unique situation that I do not have any personal experience with. I would be interested to hear what the larger community has to say…

  • Hi, latelly I have been having trouble with my chocolate cake recipe, when I bake a 10″ amount batter and i put it in more than one pan, i mean, when i divided the batter in smaller pan like 6″ and 4″ , to make a several layer cake, when my client is going to cut the cake they complain that the cake is falling apart and crumb, I let rest the cake over night in the pan, let it rest well and moist them with a brush but not to much before filled and assembling it. I don´t know why it is happening, because when I bake the same amount o batter in a bigger pan, like 10″ pan it does not happen.
    Can you Help me to figure out what is happening?

  • Hi there, This sounds like a challenging problem. The only explanation I can think of–based on the circumstances you described–is that you might be baking the smaller cakes too long. Of course, the larger 10-inch cake would take longer to bake because of the larger size. So if you bake the smaller cakes for the same length of time, they would get more dried out, causing them to be crumbly, as you described. The simple solution would be to bake the smaller cakes for less time. But I assume you would have already taken this into account.

    So based on the other clues you gave, I might guess that one or both of the following conditions might also be affecting the outcome: leaving the cakes to cool in the pans overnight, or moistening the cakes with a brush, as you said. (I wonder what you are brushing the cakes with? A simple syrup for moisture, perhaps?) One of those 2 factors could make the cake more crumbly either by letting it dry out too much (leaving the cakes in the pans overnight) or else by adding too much moisture with the pastry brush, which could also cause the cakes to crumble. You could try allowing the cakes to cool completely in the pan (for a couple of hours), then turn them out and wrap them in a double layer of plastic wrap to keep them moist. Then you might not need to add any extra moisture by brushing them with a pastry brush. Or if you do still use the brush, try using less liquid (as in a simple syrup) so that it doesn’t become so wet that it falls apart.

    Let me know if any of these factors might make a difference for you. Interesting challenge!

  • thanks for your help, i will try to take the cake of the pan after they get cool, i used to leave the cake in the pans over night to let them get better structure,
    I moistening the cake with a sirope made of sugar, water and milo if it is of course a chocolate cake.
    Thanks for your help.

  • Peggy butler

    My cakes from scratch always crumble when I cut into them, I don’t get sliced I get crumbs. How can I fix it. My pound cake and 7up cakes always come out good, I use cake flour for all my cakes.

  • Hi there, this is a tricky question since I don’t know enough details about what type of cakes you are baking, pans you are using, etc. The only thing I can suggest at the moment is that you allow the cakes to cool completely in the pan before you turn them out and cut into them. If the cakes are too warm when you try to cut into them, that could cause them to crumble.

  • Anissa

    I am baking an original bundt cake for our local fair to be judged. I say original because it basically is just a sweet cake. Anyways, I have 3 cups of flour in the recipe and I was wondering if that is the problem that leads to it crumbling once I cut it. Taking it our of the pan is not a problem. It is just when your are eating it, it tends to crumble on the way to your mouth.

  • Hi there, without seeing the entire list of ingredients that go into your bundt cake, I cannot tell if 3 cups of flour is too much, too little, what else might be causing the problem, etc. Perhaps the problem could be the type of flour you are using, or perhaps even the amount and type of fat you are using. For a more detailed explanation, please reference the information I shared with “LP” in response to her pound cake problems.

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