My cakes never rise! What am I doing wrong?

You’ve measured, mixed, and whisked, but still your cake comes out sunken in the middle or even looking more like a pancake. Don’t be sad! Read on.

June 9, 2022

First things first

  • Read the recipe carefully from start to finish and follow the instructions. Baking is a science and relies on a chemical reaction between all the ingredients. It’s not like throwing in a few extra spices when you’re making a curry!
  • Ingredients should always be at room temperature (unless the recipe says otherwise). They should sit on your kitchen bench for 30 minutes before you start.  
  • Before you start weighing and mixing, preheat your oven to the correct temperature. Your cake won’t rise properly unless the oven is the right temperature when it goes in. Fan-forced ovens cook faster than conventional ovens so reduce the stated temperature by 20 degrees for a fan-forced oven; and always use the middle rack unless the recipe says otherwise.
  • Prepare your cake tin by either greasing it or lining it with baking paper.

Measuring

If the recipe measures in volume (i.e., cups, tablespoons, etc.) make sure the ingredient is loosely packed and level off with a knife. If you are weighing ingredients – be exact.

Get as much air into the cake as you can 

‘Creaming’ is where you mix the butter and sugar. The easiest way to do this is with an electric mixer – unless you are a frequent visitor to the gym and have good arm muscles. This incorporates the air that helps your cake to rise. Keep mixing until the mixture lightens in texture and colour.  

Eggs – one at a time

Add eggs one at a time. Adding them individually and beating between each will thicken and smooth the mixture rather than turning it into a gloopy mess.

Raising agents  

To stop a cake from sinking in the middle (or deflating like a balloon after cooling) it needs a raising agent. For cakes, this is usually baking soda/sodium bicarb or baking powder.  

What's the difference between baking powder, baking soda and sodium bicarbonate?

Always make sure your raising agent hasn’t expired. This is one of the more common reasons your baking session can turn into a disaster!  

Add dry ingredients bit by bit

Sieve the flour and raising agent and add it to the batter a little at a time. It needs to be gently folded into the mix, or you will undo all your whisking efforts and knock out all the air.  

Straight into the oven!

The raising agent will start working as soon as it comes into contact with the butter/sugar/egg mix, so get it into the cake tin and put it into the oven straight away. And don’t keep opening the oven door to see how your cake is doing – it will let the heat escape and make your cake sink!

At the end of the cooking time, insert a slim metal or bamboo skewer at an angle into the centre of the cake.  If the cake is under-cooked, it will come out sticky with a few crumbs clinging to it, because the batter is still wet – so give it a few more minutes. If the cake is cooked, it will come out clean.  

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