Ensure Your Cake Will Rise to the Occasion

March 19, 2016

As Julia Child once remarked, “a party without a cake is just a meeting,” and for all intents and purposes, she was right—a cake, especially a really good-tasting, classic cake—can really make the ordinary situation into an occasion. While any cake that meets these criteria would do (honestly, it is cake), a confection that looks just as perfect as it tastes makes things even more special.

Photo by James Ransom

Lorigoldspy can bake a pretty mean coconut cake that is more than sure to please. While it tastes great, there’s still one problem: it keeps sinking in the middle, no matter what size or shape she tries to make it.

Being the smart Food52-er she is, she promptly turned to the Hotline for help. Here are your best tricks to avoid a cake collapse:

Sdebrango said that if the cake is made using the creaming method, it's best to make sure you cream the butter really well to make sure you're incorporating enough air into the mixture for a nice lift.

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Drbabs seconds this, and adds that using whole milk, half and half, or another full-fat dairy would help the cake rise higher over all.

Rapearson suggests using less leavening, and mrslarkin agrees. This would be a good idea, says boulangere, because too much leavening would cause the cake to rise faster than the proteins can set up to hold the rise in place.

Boulangere goes on to suggest cutting back on the moisture to add some needed protein, as well as (in this particular case) adding about a 1/4 cup of flour as well as an egg, and decreasing the leavening agent by 20%.

Shalini agrees, but speculates that using a flour with higher protein levels, rather than low-protein cake flour, may also help the cake rise.

On the other hand, Greenstuff thinks leaving the cake in the oven a little bit longer will do the trick, but also points out a novel trick found in The Science of Cooking by Peter Barham: dropping the finished cake about a foot onto a hard surface. Supposedly, this will allow more air into the cake structure created during the baking process.

This was interesting to amysarah, who had always seen her mother doing this when she was growing up.

But Jan @ Kitchen Heals Soul has tested this and warns that the results showed a cake that has been dropped actually causes it to collapse even more.

How do you ensure a good rise? Keep the conversation going over on the Hotline or share your tips in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Birch
  • jane
  • Janice Lawandi
    Janice Lawandi
Sarah E Daniels

Written by: Sarah E Daniels

It's mostly a matter of yeast.


Birch March 23, 2016
Important note about creaming butter and sugar: if you do it on too high of a setting, the cake is more likely to collapse in the center. I usually stick with "medium" speed.
Janice L. March 31, 2016
So true! Too much air isn't a good thing!
jane March 19, 2016
I'm a novice as far as baking but am enjoying trying new recipes. One of my favorites is Chocolate Angel Food Cake. The last two times that I baked the cake (I'm so careful to follow the recipe) it seems that the cake didn't rise as high as past cakes (or did it possibly fall)? Any suggestions? Thank you so much.
Janice L. March 31, 2016
If it's not rising as much, is it possible that you may have deflated the egg whites a little when you folded them into the batter? Other thought is that maybe you are using less flour or not baking it as long. Are you cooling it in the pan upside down? That's one of the tricks I've heard of to prevent sponge cakes from collapsing as they cool.
jane April 1, 2016
Thank you for your suggestions! I definitely am cooling it in the pan upside down. I've wondered and I'm going to be more careful as I fold the egg whites into the batter. As gar as the baking time, I've found that almost everything I use in my oven is ready sooner than later (according to recommended time). I'm afraid of overbaking as I don't want the cake to be dry and over baked...I think I've been using the correct amount of flour, but will double check. I will definitely pay attention to all of these things. Again, thank you so much.
Janice L. March 19, 2016
I've been thinking a lot about this still (I know, I'm obsessed!) and I feel like using a higher protein flour is risky. If you are starting with a recipe that uses cake flour only, then yes, I'd say a little extra structure from proteins in flour can help and so subbing in some AP flour for the cake flour could definitely help. But if you are starting with a recipe that calls for AP flour only, I wouldn't go with a higher protein flour than that because there's too much risk of more gluten developing, and the more protein means that the risk of overstirring will be a bigger issue AND then you could have tunnelling issues and bigger bubbles in your cake. Still, I agree that if a properly-baked cake collapses, that would indicate a lack of structure, which could be from not enough flour (the base ratio of flour to other ingredients is off) and/or not enough eggs.
Janice L. March 19, 2016
Thanks for the mention! Here's a link to the post about my cake dropping experiment in case anybody wants to see what I did!