Who doesn’t love a slice of freshly baked cake? There is nothing quite like a homemade cake, with its soft, spongy texture and delightfully sweet flavor.
But what if your cake turns out crumbly—how do you fix it? Cake can be crumbly because of overmixing, or an imbalance of ingredients. This may be a result of too much flour, or not enough sugar or fat. The best method for fixing a crumbly cake depends on what the problem is to start with.
If your cake hasn’t turned out quite as you expected, don’t give up! We’ve got all you need to know about cake mix and the best ways to fix your cake if it is too dry or crumbly.
Cake Making – The Basics Explained!
To understand why a cake might be crumbly, first of all, we need to figure out how cakes are made in the first place. How do these simple ingredients turn into something as light and fluffy as a delicate sponge cake or moist fruit cake?
The basic ingredients of most cake recipes include the following:
- Flour helps absorbs liquid ingredients. The gluten in flour binds in water and increases the thickness of the cake batter. Starch in flour adds structure and volume to the cake.
- Sugar helps to break down fats, as well as control the rise of the cake. It helps to maintain the structure of the cake and prevents collapse. Sugar also aids browning and, of course, adds sweetness.
- Eggs provide protein coagulation and emulsification. They add viscosity and volume to the cake batter, helping the cake to rise and stabilizing the structure.
- Fat enhances the aeration of the cake, helping it to rise and improving the texture and mouthfeel of the cake. It does this by trapping gases and water vapor released during baking.
Now, that is some very clever science from just four basic ingredients!
We’re sure that whoever made the first cake did not know that this magic was going to happen, but we’re incredibly grateful that whoever it was tried this cakey experiment in the first place.
These four ingredients, when combined correctly, form a thick batter filled with tiny air bubbles.
As the cake is baked in the oven, the air bubbles expand, and more gas bubbles are released. The ingredients bind together to hold the bubbles in place, resulting in a cake with a firm yet light texture.
Of course, some cake recipes do not use all these ingredients, and others use extra ingredients to add flavor or change the texture of the cake. But this is the basic magic you need to make a cake recipe work.
So, if your cake has not turned out quite as expected, what has gone wrong?
Don’t panic, we’re here to help you figure it out!
What Is A Crumbly Cake?
We’re sure you could all recognize a crumbly cake if you saw one, but we just wanted to make sure that you knew how to recognize if your cake is crumbly.
Cake should hold itself together, without any extra support. This should happen even if the cake is sliced. If a cake is crumbly, it will fall apart either when you take it out of the baking tin or when you cook it into slices to serve.
Many people associate dryness with crumbliness in cakes, but these are two different things. A dry cake will often be crumbly because there is not enough liquid to hold the cake ingredients together.
However, you can also get a dry cake that is not crumbly, and a moist cake that is very crumbly!
When a cake is crumbly, it means that something has gone wrong during the baking process, and the ingredients are not bound together.
Why Is Your Cake Crumbly?
When making cake batter, it is vital to get the quantities of ingredients exactly right. It is these ratios, as well as how they are mixed, which create the perfect cake.
There are several reasons why your cake might be crumbly, and we need to look at the different ingredients and methods used to work out which one is the culprit:
When flour is mixed with liquids, proteins within the flour combine to form strands of gluten. This is what gives cake mix the ability to stretch and hold air bubbles.
However, if you mix your cake mix for too long, more and more gluten will be developed. This will cause your cake to become hard and dry, resulting in a crumbly cake.
When it comes to mixing your cake batter, less is definitely better! The aim is to ensure that your ingredients are thoroughly combined and aerated but to stop mixing as soon as this is achieved.
Imbalance Of Ingredients
When a cake is crumbly, this is normally because the flour does not have enough moisture to enable it to support the structure of the cake. When this happens, there is normally an imbalance of the ingredients in the cake, such as:
- Too much flour
- Not enough sugar
- Not enough fat
- Not enough egg
Any of these problems can cause a crumbly cake, so it pays to follow any recipe to the letter when weighing out ingredients!
You might wonder why not enough sugar can cause a cake to be crumbly, but even though sugar is thought of as a dry ingredient it actually contributes to the moistness of the cake.
This is because sugar helps to emulsify the fats in the cake batter, adding firmness and structure to the cake.
So, if your cake batter looks too runny, don’t be tempted to add more flour! This is a sure-fire way to create a crumbly cake.
Another common reason why cake is crumbly is when it is overbaked in the oven. This causes the cake to lose moisture, become dry, and unable to hold its structure.
How To Avoid Crumbly Cake Problems
The hardest part of fixing a crumbly cake is identifying the problem in the first place. This can take a bit of trial and error, and unfortunately, you might not realize there is a problem until your cake is baked and sliced.
You might be able to figure out the problem by looking at your cake mix or the recipe, but most of the time you are going to need to do a bit of guesswork.
Don’t be afraid to taste your crumbly cake too, as the key to the problem may lie in the flavor!
If you’ve no idea what has gone wrong, we’d suggest working through this list in order, until you get the perfect cake consistency!
Adjust Your Recipe
This solution depends on you being able to identify the original problem and may take a bit of experimentation.
The key culprits to crumbly cake are too much flour, or not enough sugar, fat, or egg. You could start by reducing the amount of flour by around 10%, and increasing the fat and sugar by the same amount.
Increasing the number of eggs in your cake is a risky business, that can easily backfire.
While egg adds richness and flavor to cake mix, too much egg can also create problems of its own. If you want to try increasing the amount of egg in your cake batter, be aware that you could create a dense, eggy mess!
If your cake is too crumbly due to gluten formation, it is normally excessive mixing which is the problem. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to ‘fix’ this problem, but it is something you can avoid in the future.
When mixing cake batter, it can help to mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the wet ones in another.
Then, you can combine the two and mix them together, using a folding action to add air to the mixture without overworking the flour.
If you are using an electric cake mixer, this may the reason for your crumbly cake problems. Try swapping to manual methods instead so you have more control over how well mixed the cake batter is.
Adjust The Cooking Time
Although it can be tempting to follow a cake recipe to the letter, not all ovens are made equal, and you may need to make adjustments to compensate for this.
If your cakes tend to be overbaked and crumbly, turn the temperature down by 5-10°F, and reduce the cooking time by 10%. Use a cake tester to ensure the cake is fully cooked, and leave the cake to cool completely before slicing into it.
Change The Recipe
If your cake consistently turns out dry and crumbly, you may just have a dodgy recipe!
You should not need to add extra ingredients to a recipe to make it perfect, so if this happens time and time again then ditch the recipe and look elsewhere.
Life is far too short to spend despairing over crumbly cake, plus it is a waste of your time and ingredients. Look for recipes with good reviews and user feedback to make sure that your cakes turn out perfect every time!
What To Do With Crumbly Cake
To finish, we’d just like to say that a crumbly cake isn’t the end of the world, and you don’t need to let your efforts and ingredients go to waste!
Your cake might taste perfectly fine despite its crumbly texture, in which case, serve it on plates with a dollop of crème fraiche and a dessert fork.
If it is a bit dry or overcooked, your crumbly cake can be spun into a myriad of other desserts, such as a topping for ice cream, chocolate-covered cake balls, or a cakey trifle.
In fact, the alternatives for crumbly cake are so tempting that it’s almost a reason to celebrate when your cake turns out a bit too crumbly!
Here are a few more ideas for reusing a cake that’s a bit too crumbly!
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