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What prevents a cake from falling?

I have just recently started baking a 3 layer carrot cake and for the life of me I can't get the middle to stop from falling. I leave them in the pans for 10 minutes then turn them upside down onto a baking rack as someone suggested but the poor thing still looks like a sway back nag by the time I'm through! I don't have that problem with a 9x13 cake pan size; only the 3 round sizes. Any suggestions from you bakers out there?!

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  1. sounds like it just isn't cooked through. Without getting all technical, the flour - egg - gluten structure is what prevents a cake from falling. If that structure hasn't been cooked all the way, there will too much moisture and as it cools the structure won't be able to support the weight - causing it to fall.

    If the recipe works in a 9x13 it should work in a round. Are both pans the same material? (metal/glass) That will affect cooking time. Changing dimensions will also change cooking times. The center of a round pan can be geometrically further from the edges of a square pan, which can slow the heat transfer to the center resulting in longer baking times.

    If you try it again, I'd give it more cooking time.

    1 Reply
    1. re: thimes

      No the pan for the 9x13 is glass and the rounds are metal. It's weird, because this time the middle pan (all on the same rack) fell before I ever got it out. I tested it for doneness and it was done before the other two. I thought that perhaps it was from me having opened the door to turn the pans. I cooked it at a lower temp this time and felt perhaps that was part of the problem, but then someone responded that lower temps may help. Thank you for your advice. I'll keep trying :)

    2. Are you are using two oven racks and baking three pans simultaneously? If so, you need to swap their positions at least once during baking. If two pans are on one rack, you might try swapping left and right sides halfway through as well as swapping upper and lower rack contents.

      1 Reply
      1. re: greygarious

        I had them all on the same rack and turned the midway. Thanks for your input :)

      2. Is the recipe for a 9x13 cake or three round pans? Sometimes using the wrong size cake pans can cause cakes to fall; if it's written for a 9x13 and you're trying to just fit it into other pans, maybe that's the culprit.

        Also, I know you said it works for the 9x13, but wrong oven temperatures, both too hot or too cold, can make a cake fall. If you have thermometer to double check the temperature, that would help you eliminate that possibility.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Skippy1414

          It calls for 3 layer pans and I used round. I'm considering using 2 next time to see if it makes a difference with more batter. I've made this cake about a dozen times now ~ on and off ~ and there are times when it's much better than others and I'd like to know what I'm doing different. I do know that I have two temps and lengths of times written down and I used the lower temp this last time. Thank you for your advice.

        2. Carole Walter provides a trouble shooting guide in her book "Great Cakes". Here are the reasons she provides to explain why cakes sink in the middle:

          The batter contained too much fat.
          The cake contained too much sugar.
          The sugar was too coarse.
          The batter contained too much or the wrong kind of leavening.

          Maybe these will help you narrow down the cause. As you can see from the above and from the replies to date, there are multiple reasons why cakes sink in the middle. You'll need to examine your recipe carefully, ensure you're following the instructions to the letter, and perhaps even compare your recipe to other carrot cake recipes to see if maybe it is the recipe itself that is flawed. It may not be your technique at all.

          Where did you get the recipe you are using?

          1 Reply
          1. re: janniecooks

            Thank you! Recipe came from a friend. I'll compare it to some others.

          2. Given that it's worked for a 9x13 pan and that it's carrot cake (where eggs don't provide as much structure as something like an angel food cake), I'd go w/ undercooked, too. As greygarious said, make sure to switch pan positions to ensure even baking. Check w/ toothpick or internal temperature (which isn't often done for cakes like this but does make sure you have it right). Aim for 205-210.

            1 Reply
            1. re: chowser

              Thank you...appreciate the feedback.

            2. I've found that lowering the oven by 25 degrees & baking the cake a little longer helps. This give the middle a chance to set up without over baking the edges of the cake.

              3 Replies
                1. re: jcattles

                  Yep. Sounds like the middles aren't cooked through. Do you use a toothpick to test?

                  I also don't think all your pans should be on the same rack. Not sure the hot air circ is good enough that way. I'd use two racks and half-way through baking would put the bottom pans on top, the top pans on the bottom.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    I will try lower temps and different racks. I have used toothpicks before but the ones I have now I noticed aren't good for testing. I need those old fashioned, flat ones. I used a knife this time and it was too much. Thanks!

                  1. re: DoobieWah

                    The cake stand! The table is secondary ;-P.