The Fresh Loaf

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Preventing cakes from splitting?

ericb's picture

Preventing cakes from splitting?

This afternoon, I finally broke down and baked the Guinness Stout chocolate cake originally posted by Qatan. I rarely bake cakes, but when I do, I always have the same problem: the top of the cake splits. This time was no exception.

Is this a case of the top forming a crust before the innards finish rising? I have read that putting a dish of water in the oven helps.

Any insights would be much appreciated.


symplelife4me's picture

A pan of water in the oven might help. Also, if you're using a thin walled aluminum pan the outside edges tend to cook faster than the center. So the edges "set" while the middle is still rising and you end up with a domed and probably cracked cake. Thicker pans, baking strips wrapped around the outside edge of the pan or putting the cake in a pan with water in it will insulate the edges and cause them to cook slower. I also tap the air bubbles out of mine batter before putting the pan in the oven. This seems to help prevent the cracking too.

Sorry I'm not much help, I usually level the tops of my cakes so it's not something I've worried a whole lot about. :)

GabrielLeung1's picture

How would you describe the way you put the ingredients together? Often times when i used creaming method to make a cake I would beat the ingredients together rather then folding them, and I'd get that furrow. 

Big Brick House Bakery's picture
Big Brick House...

you can also set the cake pan in a pan of water, this too keeps the pan cool for the cake to cook evenly.  But I also bought cake pan wraps from King Arthur flour.

Thank you for posting about the towels, I bought the commercial kind with velcro on the ends but need larger ones and was looking to make an investment.  But the use of old towels in very smart, thanks for sharing...



ericb's picture

Thanks to everyone who responded with this array of good advice. Next time I bake a cake, I will have no excuse for a split top!

GabrielLueng1, it's entirely possible that I overmixed the batter. I used a cheap, handheld mixer to cream the butter and sugar, and kept right at it as I added all the other ingredients. After a few minutes, I started wondering about gluten development, and whether or not that's a good thing in cakes. Of course, by that point, it was too late. Next time, I will try to treat the batter better.

It's easy for me to forget how many unwritten steps there are in a recipe. I know most of the rules for bread without even thinking about them, but cakes, cookies and pastries are a different story.

Thanks again everyone for their replies!


Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

I looked this up last night to post here this morning, but it looks like you've already got the answer :-)  When it comes to cake problems, I always consult an old book, from "back in the day" when cakes ruled---the Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking by Meta Givens. (Well, it was 'modern' for 1947.) There's a nice page and a half devoted to causes of butter cake failures:

Why Top Cracks?
1. Too much flour, or overmixing if all-purpose flour used
2. Too hot an oven

Happy Baking