Ever baked cupcakes only to wonder later why did my cupcakes sink and how to keep cupcakes from falling? Cakes and cupcakes sink in the middle for various reasons. Today, I am going to walk you through the possible reasons and how to fix the falling cupcakes and what to do to bake perfect cupcakes every single time just like my Cinnamon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting, Vanilla Cupcakes and Strawberry Crunch Cupcakes.
If you are a baker you already know that baking involves science and chemistry of various ingredients and right methods to get best results. I am sure like all bakers you would also have several cake and cupcakes recipes that you keep close to the heart. Imagine when you make the recipe and the cupcakes sink in the middle? It's not only the cupcakes that sink but also our hearts that sink to this sight.
There could be several different reasons why cupcakes collapse; such as baking time, oven temperature, bad leavening agents, baking at high altitudes, high or low oven temperatures, over baking and under baking, chemical reaction of the cupcake batter and/or overbeating or overmixing of the cupcake batter etc.
Let's go through the possible reasons below one by one in detail for troubleshooting cupcakes. Keep these simple and important rules in mind while baking cupcakes to ensure great results.
This is going to be your go-to guide on how to keep cupcakes from falling and why do cupcakes sink in the middle. Let's start.
Table of Contents
- Overfilling the Cupcake Liners
- Avoid Over-Beating the Cupcake Batter
- Right Temperature of the Oven is Important
- Opening the Oven Door Soon
- Keep a Good Cupcake Recipe Handy
- Over Beating the Butter
- Over Beating the Eggs
- Do Not Let the Cake Batter Sit on the Counter
- Leavening Agents: Baking Powder & Baking Soda
- Check If the Leavening Agent is Active
- Baking at High Temperature
- Use An Instant Thermometer
- Let the Cupcakes Cool
- Frequently Asked Questions
Overfilling the Cupcake Liners
One of the main reasons that the cupcakes rise in the oven quickly only to sink later is the overfilling of the batter in the cupcake liners. Overfilling the cupcake batter will make it rise quickly, spill out of the pan during baking and ultimately collapse back in the center.
Always fill the cupcake liners up to three quarters or two thirds. This will ensure even baking of the cupcakes in the oven.
Tip: I always use an ice cream scoop (size: 1.5 oz or 3 tablespoon) for even distribution of cupcakes in the liners. Always work like a charm.
Avoid Over-Beating the Cupcake Batter
Overbeating the cake batter is one of the main reasons why cupcakes fail and collapse. Overbeating the cupcakes mixture will incorporate too much air into the batter. While baking and getting in contact with hot oven this air in the batter will make the cupcakes rise within minutes only to deflate back to the center.
The rule is to beat the cupcake mixture only for about 30 - 40 seconds once you add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until you get the right texture. Incorporate all purpose flour into the cake batter just until combined. Overbeating the flour will activate the gluten strands in the batter that will result in a dense texture making the cupcakes to sink in the middle ultimately.
Right Temperature of the Oven is Important
The most common reason of sinking of cupcakes is because of uneven or wrong temperature reading of the oven. For example, the oven may be telling you its 350 F but in real it could be easily up or down by 30 degrees.
Read here in detail why an oven thermometer is important and how to figure out cold spots in an oven and to calibrate an oven properly.
If you bake a lot of cupcakes and cakes then you know it better to always keep an oven thermometer handy to ensure correct readings. Varied or inaccurate reading of temperature is a common issue as different ovens tend to have different readings and can be too hot or too cold depending from brand to brand.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid high temperature or lower temperature than the recipe has asked for.
Always use an oven thermometer to ensure the right temperature of the oven and stick to the temperature mentioned in the recipe.
Opening the Oven Door Soon
The heat of the oven impacts the baking of the cupcakes immensely and therefore you should avoid to open the oven door to check cupcakes again and again. Opening the oven door within minutes of baking will give you flatten cupcakes. By opening the door sooner (and repeatedly) the hot air of the oven will leave the oven causing the oven temperature to drop, eventually collapsing the cupcakes.
Always stick to the baking time and temperatures mentioned and recommended in the recipe. Most of the recipes recommend not to open the door before 10 - 12 minutes into the baking.
Another way to keep an eye on the cupcakes while they're baking is by keeping the oven light open and check through oven glass window.
Also, be gentle and careful while opening and closing the oven door. Do not slam the oven door as it can also make the cupcakes to fall.
Your best bet is to follow the recipe and to avoid opening the door before the recommended time which may result in flatten and sunken cupcakes.
Tip: Never open the oven door before 10 - 12 minutes into the baking.
Keep a Good Cupcake Recipe Handy
I have one base recipe that I use for most of my cupcakes. A good recipe from a trusted source will give you the best possible results. Try my basic cupcake recipe here from the vanilla cupcakes and to ensure great cupcakes every single time.
Over Beating the Butter
Most of the recipes ask for room temperature butter that helps with the moist crumbs of the cupcakes. The baking process begins by beating butter and sugar critical for a good rise to the cupcakes. Cream the butter and sugar to incorporate air, which will help with a good rise of the cupcakes. However, beating the butter and sugar too long will incorporate too much air making the cupcakes rise quickly only to collapse later during baking.
A good rule of baking is to beat the butter and sugar for 2 - 3 minutes until the mixture is light, creamy and fluffy. Stop there and do not overbeat.
Over Beating the Eggs
Just like butter and sugar you want to avoid overbeating of the eggs. The general rule of baking is to add eggs one by one and beat for a while until they are incorporated into the batter properly. Do not over beat the eggs or you'll get flattened cupcakes.
Do Not Let the Cake Batter Sit on the Counter
Another important point to keep in mind is to bake the cupcakes right away. In case the batter is allowed to sit on the counter for longer period of time, the leavening agents will lose its properties and also the air incorporated into the batter will deflate making the cupcakes collapse in the oven once it gets in contact with the hot oven.
Leavening Agents: Baking Powder & Baking Soda
Make sure the leavening agents used in the recipe are fresh and active. The most commonly used leavening agents are baking soda and baking powder, both ensure a good rise to the bakes. Using enough baking powder and baking soda keep the cupcakes from sinking. Also know that too much leavening agent will cause the cupcakes to rise quickly and sink consequently. Low quantity of baking powder or baking soda will result in sinking cupcakes too. Follow the recipe for accurate measurements and follow it. Even a slight change in ratio may cause the cupcakes to sink in the center.
Check If the Leavening Agent is Active
Baking Powder: Add ½ teaspoon of baking powder to ¼ cup of warm water and stir for a while. If the mixture creates bubbles the baking powder is active. If the mixture does not fizzle the baking powder is stale. Toss it away.
Baking soda: Add ½ teaspoon of baking soda to ¼ cup of vinegar. The bubbles should fizzle and cause a reaction showing it is active. If there is no chemical reaction, throw it away.
Always double-check that your baking soda and baking powder are fresh and active before adding them in the cupcake batter. A general rule is to check the expiration date on the label and toss away the expired baking soda and baking powder as they lose their properties with time and may get stale if not utilized for longer period of time. Always store the leavening agents in airtight containers in a dark place in a cupboard or shelf.
Baking at High Temperature
Baking the cupcakes at high oven temperature will make them to evaporate the moisture out of the cupcakes, which will cause sinking in the middle. Overbaking, as the name suggests, is caused when the oven is too hot or when you leave the cupcakes in the oven for longer duration than required.
Always take out the cupcakes out of the oven in time. Check if they are done by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cupcakes and once it comes out clean, take out the cupcakes from the oven.
Use An Instant Thermometer
Another way to ensure the cupcakes are done is to use an instant-read thermometer. Usually the cupcakes are done baking when they reach an internal temperature ranging from 205 F - 210 F.
Let the Cupcakes Cool
Once the cupcakes are out of the oven let them sit in the cupcake pan for 5 - 7 minutes and then transfer on the wire rack for another 15 - 20 minutes to cool completely. The cooling allows the cupcakes to set and get firm overall and especially in the middle properly.
The cooling of cupcakes is also necessary if you want to frost the cupcakes as the frosting may melt if applied to the warm cupcakes.
Once the cupcakes are out of the oven, let them sit in the cupcake pan for about 5 minutes and then take them out and place on the cooling wire rack for another 15 - 20 minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you follow the tips mentioned above in the article you will get the best possible results and it is not possible that you will wonder why my cupcakes sink in the middle? However, if by any chance you have cupcakes that have sunken in the center the best way is to frost it with the choice of your frosting.
The answer is yes and no. No, if you don't want to and also if you are sure that the temperature on your oven is 100 % accurate. If you are not sure, then it is highly recommended to use an oven thermometer to check the hot and cold spots of the oven and to calibrate it properly to get best possible baking results.