In this post I explore why cakes sink in the middle and what you can do about it so you can still enjoy your cake. I also share my simple but delicious Madeira raspberry and cream cheese cake recipe.
A few weeks ago we were off to Edinburgh’s Royal Highland Show. Mum was bringing the savoury part of a picnic and my contribution was something sweet and fruit. I made a Madeira cake covered in a raspberry icing. The cake had sunk in the middle. I was in a rush and using a mixer I was unfamiliar with and so assumed I had over beaten the mix. It luckily didn’t stop the cake being delicious and hitting the spot with strong coffee after lunch. Cakes don’t normally sink for me, so I was keen to check my assumption about the over beaten mix was correct.
I made another Madeira cake and the same thing happened! This was suddenly not OK. Baby G had been sleeping so I had been able to take my time over this cake; what was wrong? I rechecked the recipe and suddenly it hit me. In my sleep deprived state I’d added baking powder as well as using self raising flour. Self raising flour already contains raising agents so I had inadvertently doubled the quantity of baking powder. This had meant the cake had risen too much and then started to sink. Ah ha, well at least I knew what was wrong now. To prevent you ending up with a similar sunken middle, I thought I would share the following.
Why cakes sink in the middle
There are basically three reasons for this
- Too much raising agent. The cake rises quickly and then collapses.
- The oven door was opened too early. I’ve done a lot of reading around this and, while everyone agrees this is important, I’ve been unable to find out why. But any change in temperature can’t help a cake to rise.
- The mixture has been over beaten. Too much air will have been added into the mixture, so it will achieve a rise that can’t be sustained.
What you can do
- If you are entering a baking competition, just start again! Make a cup of tea, take the time to understand what went wrong, then take a deep breath and make the cake again!
- Forget about a cake and make a trifle instead using the Madeira cake as your sponge fingers. Here is my Spectacular Trifle.
- My favourite option though is to carry on as if you meant this to happen. You can of course just serve the cake as is. But why not fill the sunken top using icing or fruit. And then ice over the whole cake as if that’s what was meant to be. That’s what I decided to do.
I made up a batch of cream cheese icing that you would normally find on top of a carrot cake. I think it’s my favourite type of icing. Creamy but not too sweet. I filled the hole with this icing and then spread the rest of it over the cake. On top of that, I spooned raspberry couli and then mixed this into the icing.
As I finished icing the cake I thought, oh, I hope I end up with a middle piece with loads of icing. Being the dutiful hostess, I cut a slice for everyone else and then served myself a middle piece. Suddenly a sunken middle seemed rather ideal!
Madeira raspberry and cream cheese cake
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 55 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Yield: 10 slices
- 170g/6oz butter
- 170g/6oz caster sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 170g/6oz self raising flour
- 55g/2oz ground almonds
- 180g/6 1/3oz soft cream cheese
- 40g/1½oz butter
- 70g/2½oz icing (confectioners) sugar
- 100g/3½oz frozen raspberries
- ½ tsp icing sugar
2lb loaf tin / 23 x 13 x 7 cm / 9 x 5 x 3”
- Preheat the oven to 170°C / 150°C fan / 340°F / Gas mark 4.
- Grease and line the cake tin.
- In a large bowl beat the butter until soft with an electric whisk or a strong arm and wooden spoon.
- Add the caster sugar and beat until it’s all combined and the mixture has turned a pale yellow colour. This may take up to a minute of beating as the aim is to get lots of air into the mixture.
- Add an egg at a time and beat well to combine.
- Sift the flour on top of the butter mixture and then add the grounds almonds. Using a metal spoon fold the flour and almonds into the butter mixture. The moment it’s all combined stop folding, as further mixing is likely to remove the air.
- Still using the metal spoon, spoon the mixture into the tin. Gently smooth the top and put straight into the preheated oven.
- The cake will take 55 minutes – it’s done when it’s shrunk back from the sides of the tin, springs back under the weight of your finger, and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Resist the temptation to open the oven door early.
- Remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 15 minutes to cool. Transfer onto a cooling rack.
- Beat the cream cheese and butter together until completely combined. Sift in the 70g icing sugar and stir again.
- Put the raspberries in a small saucepan and heat over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally. They will first defrost and then begin to break down to make a coulis. Stir in the ½ tsp of icing sugar and leave to cool.
- When the cake is cold spread over the icing. Spoon on the raspberry couli and mix in just a little. Serve.