Why Your Cake Sank in the Middle—Plus How to Fix It

We’re here to help you fix your sunken cake and offer tips for ways to transform it into something new (that’s still delicious!).

So you've taken the time to make a cake from scratch only to ask yourself, "Why did my cake sink in the middle?" when you check on it after it cools. Unfortunately, when a cake has cooled, its leavening ingredients have been deactivated, and the air holes that create the cake's light texture have closed and stuck together, so putting the cake back in the oven won't save it.

While you might not be able to achieve your original cake-decorating plan, you can still redeem your dessert course. Use our Test Kitchen's tips for turning a sunken cake into a new, beautiful creation, and no one will know about the mishap.

Dark Cocoa Buttermilk Cake with Cocoa Mascarpone Frosting
Karla Conrad

Why Did My Cake Sink in the Middle?

The most common reasons a cake sinks in the middle include the following:

  • The pan is too small
  • There's too much liquid
  • Opening the oven or moving pans during baking
  • Oven temperature is too low, or cake isn't baked long enough.

You can't rebake a cake to fix it, but you might be able to save your cake if it's still in the oven. If you look through the oven window and the middle of the cake is sinking, give it some extra time before opening the door or removing the cake.

What to Do If You Have a Sunken Cake

If you tested the cake's doneness with a toothpick and it came out with just a few moist crumbs attached, chances are you baked a moist cake. If your cake is undercooked and raw in the middle, you can still use the edges that are baked through. Use one of these sunken cake fixes to impress everyone with your baking skills.

1. Add Extra Frosting

When you're cake sinks in the middle, grab an extra can of frosting to disguise the low spot. Add a bit more frosting or whipped cream and smooth to an even level. You can also fill a pastry bag ($5, Walmart) fitted with a specialized tip to create a unique frosting design for your sunken cake.

Holiday Cake Pops
Jason Donnelly

2. Make Cake Pops

If you don't like the idea of serving a cake with a dip in the middle or wound up with a partially underbaked cake, use the baked portion to make cake pops. Mixing the crumbled cake with frosting and dipping it in chocolate or candy melts will give you an entirely new dessert. If you don't have any candy sticks ($11 for ten, Walmart), serve them without, and you've got cake truffles.

3. Make a Shake

There are all kinds of fun shake creations these days featuring everything from pumpkin pie to your favorite breakfast cereal. Our Test Kitchen recommends making your favorite milkshake and adding crumbled cake pieces to your blender to create a cake shake.

Surprise Inside NYE Cake

4. Add a Filling

Have candy and sprinkles handy? Remove the entire portion of the cake that sunk and make a surprise-inside cake (pictured above) by filling it with candy and then topping it with frosting. Pie fillings or fruit jams would make a tasty addition to a sunken cake. If you made a chocolate cake, try creating our black forest cake topper by adding a bit of cherry pie filling to the sunken cake spot before adding the whipped topping and finishing with more cherries.

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