I have trouble with cupcakes. They come out with a valley in the middle! What am I doing wrong? I never have trouble baking cakes!!

I use regular scratch cake recipes.

  • Posted by: Mar
  • January 12, 2022


HalfPint January 12, 2022
Craters/sinking middles in cakes/cupcakes is sometimes an indication of too much baking powder in the recipe. This happened to me when I made Beatty's Chocolate Cake (from Ina Garten). When I cut back (halved) the baking powder, no more sinking middle.
Mar January 17, 2022
Interesting. I'll try it, thanks.
702551 January 12, 2022
When a cake sinks in the middle, it means the center is underdone.

Since your cakes come out fine we can rule out oven calibration problems, old leavening agent, and overmixing the batter.

The culprits would be improperly filled cupcake liners, wrong temperature or not enough time.

Increase the temperature if you want a domed top per this King Arthurs article:


As the article mentions, the internal temperature needs to reach the correct level. The next time you successfully bake a cake, take an internal temperature reading. That's the target temperature you want to reach when you turn the recipe into cupcakes.
702551 January 12, 2022
If you continue to have problems, take photos of the end result and post them. Don't just post the typical overhead view that Food52 is obsessed with.

Cut the cupcake in half and take a photo of the cross section hopefully close up. Most likely the dough in the center will be denser and not fully baked. The hosts of the Great British Baking Show do this with practically everything prepared on the show.

Also take photos of the bottom. It's pretty easy to identify a poor bake just by looking at the bottom.
702551 January 12, 2022
I'll correct myself and say that it's the JUDGES on the Great British Baking Show who do the analysis.

This is actually an excellent TV program to learn about baking because it shows a lot of people making errors and their causes are explained. Some errors are catastrophic, others are minor ones like an extra 5-10 minutes in the oven (or 5 minutes too long) that are the different between a successful bake and one that is less than perfect.

Most cooking shows only have the presenter doing it the correct way so at least half of truly important information is missing.
AntoniaJames January 13, 2022
Thanks so much for the link, 702551. What a helpful resource! ;o)
Mar January 17, 2022
Excellent article!!! Thank you so much!!!! And yes, I do enjoy the British Baking show.
AntoniaJames January 12, 2022
Other causes - taking them out too early (test with a cake tester - a low-cost item that doesn't take much space in your drawer but can make a huge difference in your baking success), or opening the oven too soon. Cupcakes can be really persnickety about temperature! ;o)
drbabs January 12, 2022
It could be a lot of things. The obvious— your baking powder isn’t too old, right? And your oven temperature is accurate? Other things to consider are: if the temperature is too high, the sides will rise before the middle. When I convert cake recipes to cupcakes (or cornbread to muffins), I usually lower the temperature by 25 degrees. Also, your cake recipe probably has you beat the butter and sugar together for a long time to get air into the mixture. Cupcakes can be sensitive to too much air an to over mixing once the flour is incorporated. That’s why cupcake and muffin recipes have you just mix the wet and dry ingredients. Also, only fill your cupcake liners 1/2 to 2/3 full. If they are over filled, they’ll either overflow or rise then sink in the middle. It might be helpful for you to use a recipe that was designed to be cupcakes. At least then you know the instructions and ingredients are designed specifically for them. I hope this helps you.
Mar January 17, 2022
Thanks! I think I'll try lowering the temp by 25 degrees- that might just do the trick, as well as less mixing.
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