Banana Bread

Cake & Pastry

What Makes A Cake Crumbly?

We’ve baked a few cakes in our time and even done a number of wedding cakes, so we understand the importance of keeping your cake together. A crumbly cake could have too much flour or dry ingredients, be baked for too long, or even just not have been properly greased before baking. Read on to find out more and what you can do to save a crumbling cake!

Today, with so many options at our fingertips, taking time to bake a cake is a rare treat for the eaters and the baker. The eaters have the pleasure of enjoying a delicious, homemade sweet treat and the baker has to opportunity to showcase their skill and express their creativity. 

But baking a cake and having the result turn out less than perfect can be heartbreaking. So what makes a cake crumbly, and what can you do to ensure this doesn’t happen to your homemade baked goods?

Why does a cake crumble around the edge?

You spend most of the afternoon working on a beautiful cake that looks perfect from the oven. You take your time adding the frosting and decoration only to cut the first slice and notice a dry, crumbly texture around the edges of the cake. Before tossing the entire creation out of the nearest window, understand that there could be several explanations for this phenomenon. 

While overcooking the cake is the most common reason for dark, excessive browning, and dryness around the edge of the layers, this isn’t always the case. Still, remove the cake from the oven once the edges begin to brown, and pull it away from the pan to allow it to rest on a wired rack to help ensure a moist, delicious cake. 

Insufficiently greasing and flouring the cake pan

Adding a sufficient amount of flour and butter or shortening to the pan before adding the batter is crucial to removing the cake from the pan after cooling. However, adding too much flour or fat to the pan causes a crumbly edge to the layer.

In addition to allowing an easy release for the baked cake, greasing and flouring the pan also assists the batter as it rises while baking by providing a surface area to cling to as the cake rises in the pan. The flour stops the fat placed around the pan from absorbing back into the cake and producing a drier, thicker crust. 

For some recipes, a thick, caramelized crust is the desired result. For example, when baking a pound cake, the crust that develops around the edge of the cake is part of what makes it so delicious. But for more delicate cake varieties, a hard, dry exterior is not the goal.

Cooling in the pan for too long

Timing is critical with this step of the cake baking process. After removing a cake from the oven, most recipes call for the cake to cool or rest for several minutes before turning it out of the baking pan. If you try to remove the cake from the pan too soon after removing it from the oven, the hot cake may entirely fall apart before your eyes. However, you may have a dry, crumbly cake if you wait too long. 

Removing a cake from the pan as soon as it leaves the oven is not recommended. The starches in the cake use this time to complete the business of holding the cake together. The recipe is the best source of instruction as to when to remove the cake from the pan to avoid the layers drying out, making the cake crumbly.

What makes a Cake fall apart when cutting?

Helplessly watching your delicious cake fall apart as you cut the first slice can be agonizing, but there are steps you can take to prevent this frustration with your next baking masterpiece. Below are some of the most common causes of cakes falling apart just before serving. 

Baked with too little moisture

Following the recipe to ensure that all liquids called for are used and included at room temperature helps keep the appropriate dry to liquid ratio required for the cake to have a moist crumb. 

Cut before cooling 

A warm cake, fresh out of the oven, is quite fragile and should be allowed to set before it’s cut. After removing the cake from the oven, the cake’s interior is still hot and completing the last stages of baking. Cutting the cake at this stage allows the hot air to escape, making the cake dry and crumbly.

Too much flour

Measuring flour mistakes in baking recipes is common and often produces a dry and crumbly cake. Weight is the most accurate way to measure flour, and a cup of flour weighs 120 grams. If you rely on measuring cups, spooning the flour into the cup until complete before leveling the top with a knife will provide the correct amount of flour. 

What makes a Cake moist and crumbly?

Although excessive dryness is usually the cause behind a crumbly cake, this is not always the case. When a cake turns out moist but excessively crumbly, flour is usually the main culprit. There is not enough flour to balance out the sugar, butter, and other wet ingredients in the cake, or the flour’s gluten contents are too high for baking a delicate cake recipe. 

Wheat flours contain different amounts of gluten based on their purpose. Cake flour contains 7-9% gluten, and all-purpose flour has 10-12% gluten. Bread flour, however, contains nearly 15% gluten, or around twice the amount found in cake flour. Due to these differences in structure, a cake baked with cake flour will deliver a very different result from a cake baked using bread flour. Keeping all other ingredients the same, a cake baked with bread flour provides a moist, crumbly product.

How to Fix a Crumbly Cake

So far, we’ve discussed ways of preventing a crumbly cake. But let’s take a moment to discuss fixing a crumbly cake after being removed from the oven and completely cooled. Salvaging a dry, crumbly cake may be as simple as giving the layers a quick brush with simple homemade syrup and giving the cake enough time to absorb the mixture. 

However, if the cake is genuinely beyond repair, the toasted crumbs make an excellent topping for ice cream. Cutting the layers into bite-sized pieces before adding icing to make cake pops is another possibility worth exploring.