Why does a cake sink as it cools?

Linda says: Help!!   I have been baking for over 40 years.  Lately, my cakes are sinking in the middle.  In the oven, the cakes rise great.  I do not open the door until timer goes off.  Then I check cakes for doneness with a tester.  The center comes out clean.  I proceed to take cake out of oven.  While cooling, it starts to sink.  What am I doing wrong?  My measurements of ingredients are exact.  I bought new baking soda & baking powder.  Still they sink.  I am baking for a bake sale on Saturday.  My shoofly pies sank some in the middle.  HELP!!!!

Baking S.O.S. says: It sounds like you have done everything right, so it is a complete mystery as to why your cakes suddenly started sinking when they never did before.

The only explanation I can think of might be if you oven is starting to bake inconsistently as it ages.  You could try putting an oven thermometer in the oven to check the actual temperate as it is baking. (Turn on the oven light to check the oven temp without opening the door.)

Another possibility might be if you are baking with a gas oven.  I learned recently from a service person that installed a new gas range at my workplace that the pressure through the gas lines can fluctuate quite a bit, especially in the colder months.  With the fluctuations in gas pressure comes fluctuations in baking temperature, and there is no way to control that, unfortunately.

The only suggestion I can give you is my own solution to the same problem that I was experiencing with my favorite cake recipe: I simply added a little baking powder to force the cake to rise up a little more.  The extra baking powder helped the cake to stay risen, even after removing it from the oven and cooling it.

I hope you can find a solution that will work for you.  Good luck!

10 comments to Why does a cake sink as it cools?

  • Dalien Pedro

    Thank you. I live at a higher altitude than sea level (3000meters) and have this problem
    I will certainly try your solution.

  • Mary Collins

    I have the same issue. I have determined that I “jump the gun” by pulling the cake out of a hot oven into a cool room too quickly. I’m going to try to test at the “almost done” point…..turn off the oven w/door closed until it tests completely done. After it is completely done, leave it on the rack with oven door open until it cools more.

    Also I’m finding that it may be because I am experimenting with old (pre-1950) recipes….I believe they are too heavy so plan on lightening them up a bit with some extra liquid.

  • Mary is probably right, it’s more than likely being pulled from the oven a little too soon. As the cake bakes, the leavening reacts and produces gas which forms bubbles in the batter. This is a foam. The bubbles haven’t connected yet and created a sponge where the gas can escape. As the cake cools, the individual pockets of hot gas and steam cool and condense, creating lower pressure which pulls the surrounding cake inward, the sinking. Try leaving the cake in a few more minutes. Often, various recipes test differently with a toothpick. Some will test clean even when they aren’t quite there yet and other’s test with crumbs when they’re done. I would definitely experiment with your time.

    I also agree with the oven temp thoughts. If you aren’t achieving high enough temperatures it can certainly affect it as well.

    Happy baking!

  • Great explanation, Kip! Thanks for your input!

  • Good Day,

    please assist type gas baking oven to choice for baking cake

  • Hi there, a standard gas range/oven is perfectly suitable for baking cakes.

  • Sharon

    Hi

    I recently had the same problem, only to discover that I was using the wrong sized eggs. I changed the large eggs to XL, therefore I had more frothy eggwhite in the mix and it solved the problem. I tested it out by using the large eggs agin and it sank again. So my issue was solved like that.

    Good luck to you.

  • Thanks for sharing your experience–that is very helpful to know! I think the XL eggs that you are referring to are called “jumbo” eggs in America (for any readers who may wonder where to get XL eggs). Thanks for the tip!

  • sumayya jassat

    Hi …I’ve been experiencing the same problem. could it be that my oven door is not closing properly…because that is the only thing different lately…thank you

  • Well, it sounds like the oven door could be the culprit if it doesn’t close properly and that is the only variable that has changed recently. If the oven door doesn’t close tightly, the heat will escape, causing the cake to bake improperly, and that could certainly cause it to sink. You could perhaps try calling a service person to repair or replace the oven door. Or if all else fails, try duct tape or a bungee cord! :)

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