Why is my cake heavy and dense?

Patty Jo asks: I have attempted a hot milk cake recipe 4 times. Every time the end result is a heavy, dense, horrible-tasting cake.  Any suggestions?

BakingSOS says: I have had problems with one of my favorite cake recipes turning out heavy, dense, and even RUBBERY, too. It’s very frustrating, isn’t it? I finally solved the problem by adding more leavening to the recipe to make the cake batter rise more. In the case of my cake recipe, it calls for only baking soda. I added baking powder, and now my cake rises perfectly every time.

Here’s the science that makes it work: baking soda is a “base.” It needs and “acid” ingredient in order to start the chemical reaction that makes it work, such as buttermilk, cocoa powder, lemon or orange juice, etc. If you add too MUCH baking soda, though, it will make your cake taste bitter. So if you need your cake to rise more, do NOT add more baking soda than is called for in the recipe. Instead, add baking powder, which contains both base AND acid leaveners. This will help your cake rise without making it taste bitter.

How much baking powder should you add? As a general rule, there should be 1 tsp. of baking powder or 1/4 tsp. of baking soda for every 1 C. of flour in the recipe. So take a look at your original recipe, see how much baking soda or baking powder it calls for per each cup of flour, and then add some additional baking powder as necessary to see if your cake will rise better.

Good luck!

60 comments to Why is my cake heavy and dense?

  • ayush

    hello i’ve been trying an egg less chocolate cake for about 20 times and it gets either hard or rubbery. Also it sinks down after rising or setting can you please help me out with it i would be grateful

  • ayush

    hello ive tried an egg less chocolate cake many times but it is not doin nicely everytime it turns hard or rubbery also it sinks down after rising before it can set i make it in a convection microwave oven ….. can u plz help me so that i can get it right

  • Samira

    Saved my love for baking which I was about to give up

  • Samira

    Thanks I really like this and I finally baked a cake that was palatable

  • Hi there, I don’t have a lot of experience baking without eggs, but I can try to give you a few suggestions. Perhaps there might be something that you haven’t yet tried.

    First, I don’t like to bake cakes in convection ovens because the movement of the fan causes the fragile cake batter to sink and fall. This could be part of the problem that is causing your cake to sink. If you have a standard conventional oven, or if you can turn the convection feature off, I would recommend baking your cake in a conventional oven.

    Secondly, are you baking a cake recipe that is formulated to be baked without eggs? Or are you simply eliminating eggs from a standard cake recipe? If so, are you substituting anything else in place of the eggs?

    If you simply eliminate the eggs from a cake recipe, that would explain why your cakes are turning out dense and rubbery. To make an egg-less cake, you would either need to find a recipe that is formulated to be baked without eggs, or you would need to use some kind of a substitute for the eggs. Eggs perform a number of important functions in baked goods, so it generally doesn’t work to simply eliminate them from a recipe. You need to substitute something else.

    There are several egg replacer products, including: Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer and Ener-G Egg Replacer.

    You can also use finely ground flax seed combined with water as a substitute for eggs. The formula is: 1 Tbsp. of ground flax seed + 3 Tbsp. water = 1 egg

    Lastly, I have baked delicious chocolate cake recipes that use mayonnaise or Miracle Whip in place of the eggs. (just read the label carefully to make sure that the mayo doesn’t contain eggs in it) You could do a quick Internet search for chocolate mayonnaise cake recipes, or try this one here at allrecipes.com: Chocolate Mayo Cake. Good luck!

  • Hi there,
    I made a cake and previously when I made it, it turned out perfect however, this time, it turned out dense and really heavy even though the skewer was clean and it was cooked.
    Any explanations?
    Thanks, Saira :D

  • Hi there, it sounds like a problem with the leavening agent if your cake is dense and heavy. The leavening agent is usually baking powder or baking soda.

    Is it possible that you measured the leavener wrong, by chance? Another possibility might be that the leavener is simply too old to work effectively anymore. It’s a good idea to test your leavening agents periodically to make sure they are still working effectively–especially if it is getting close to the expiration date on the box.

    To test baking powder, simply put a small amount in a cup (or bowl) and add water. If it fizzes, it is still good.
    To test baking soda, put a small amount in a cup and add an acidic ingredient, such as lemon juice or vinegar. If it fizzes, it is still good.
    In either case, if you do not get that fizzing reaction, then the leavener is no longer working and must be replaced.

  • AmandaS

    Thank you for your informative posts about the properties of Baking powder/soda and how to test them to make sure they’re not expired. I wrote down and added to my recipe box as a guide. Thank you for sharing your baking knowledge.

  • anuradha

    Thank u for ur information. It helped me a lot. I will surely try all ur tips in my baking.

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