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Top 10 Common Mistakes Made While Baking Cakes

Updated on May 28, 2014

Oh man!

I made so many mistakes when I first started baking cakes and they were all simple mistakes too. I forgot to add this ingredient or that ingredient. I over baked my cakes a few times, which resulted in a hard, dark cake. I turned the heat up on the stove hoping to bake faster to no avail and the list goes on.

Come to find out after speaking with my mother, sister, and various other bakers, they made the same exact mistakes while they were learning to bake as well. It was good to know that I wasn't the only one that had made these simple mistakes, they were surprisingly common among new bakers.

So, below, I have compiled a list of simple mistakes that apparently most new bakers make along the way of their learning process. Hopefully this list will come to use for you and help you in your own baking journey.

10 Common Mistakes

made while baking a cake

1. Over mixing the cake batter

Any lumps left in the batter are fine. If a recipe states to mix until wet, then do just that. There is a reasoning behind it. Over mixing will activate the gluten found in flour. Gluten is a protein that gives baked goods a firm and elastic structure. So, if you over mix your cake batter then you will get a firm and elastic structure. It's delicious in a pizza crust, but not so much in a cake.

2. Turning the heat up on the oven to bake your cake faster

My sister took up the duty of being the cake baker for a friend's birthday this year. My sister thought that if she turned the heat up on the oven that it would help to speed up the baking process. Instead, this caused the cake to become slightly burnt and hard on the outside while the middle was still a little runny. So, instead of speeding up the process, she had to start all over.

Learn from her mistake and don't turn the heat up on the oven, it'll only double the time spent baking and double the ingredients used.

3. Taking your cake out of the oven too soon

Taking the cake out too soon will make the cake collapse because of the gooey, raw batter that will be left inside. Always insert a toothpick into the middle of the cake before taking it out of the oven. If the toothpick comes out clean then that means that your cake has finished baking. If there is batter on the toothpick then bake the cake longer (time depends on how much batter was on the inserted toothpick). Go for five minute increments of baking time, inserting a clean toothpick into the center of the cake each time.

4. Placing the cake back in the oven after it has been taken out

This is a big no no. The cake will collapse if you do this. I took one of my cakes out before it was finished baking, and even though I knew better, I placed it back the oven. Big mistake. It collapsed and was still runny in the center and the edge became hard and crusty. Not appetizing at all.

To check to see if the cake is done, simply pull the rack out just enough to be able to see the toothpick that you will insert into the center of the cake. Be careful not to burn the top of your hand while doing this.

5. Over Baking

Over baking, of course, results in a dry, crumbly, hard and/or burnt cake. This can easily happen, I've done it more than once. I hear the timer go off while making icing or doing some other task and say to myself "I'll get the cake out of the oven as soon as I'm finished with this, it shouldn't take long", but I quickly forget and end up over baking my cake.

I highly suggest using a timer that has a continuous beep/alarm when the time runs out. I use the timer on my microwave, which only beeps three times and that's it. I need to invest in a kitchen timer myself!

6. Not greasing and flouring the cake pans

Skipping this step leads to your cakes sticking to the bottom and sides of your baking pans. It's best to lightly grease the bottom and sides of your pans and then dust them with flour. It will help the cakes to come out of the pans easier and in one piece. I learned this lesson the hard way.

7. Taking cakes out of the pans too soon or too late after baking

Trying to take the cakes out of the pans too soon or too late will result in the cakes sticking to the pans and, inevitably, breaking. This is a horrible thing to happen. Your cakes not coming out of the pans and eventually breaking will definitely put you in tears, especially if you are making a cake for a special event and your running out of time or are just extremely tired.

After greasing and flouring your pans, place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom (cut to the size and shape of your cake pan). This one small added step will help your cakes from sticking to the pan and breaking. Your cake will come right out of your pan in one beautiful piece. Just be sure to take the piece of parchment paper off before you start icing the cake.

8. Icing the cake before it cools off completely

Your icing will just melt and slide off of your cake if you try to ice it while it is still warm. If you are wanting a nice smooth look with your icing then you should wait for the cake to cool completely before placing any icing on it. Your icing will glide right on when the cake has cooled completely.

9. Placing too much icing in between the layers of cake

This is something else that I learned the hard way. I put too much icing in between the layers of one of my 8" round cakes. When I placed the top cake layer on, it made the icing start to ooze out. I wiped off the excess and continued to ice the rest of my cake and it looked wonderful!

Soon after though, more icing started to squeeze out from between the two layers because of the weight of the top layer that had a fair amount of icing on top it. My cake ended up looking like it had a ring around it. The icing was already starting to dry and it would have made it even worse if I tried to fix it, so I just let it be. That is one of the reasons why I only made cakes for my family when I was first learning and I'm glad I did, because it wasn't a very attractive cake after all was said and done.

Only apply a slightly thin layer of icing in between the cake layers so it won't start oozing out on you too. You want enough there to taste, but not too much to ooze.

10. Forgetting ingredients

I have forgotten an ingredient here and there while baking cakes. Depending on the ingredient that's missing depends on the result you will get. I forgot to add salt to my chocolate cake one time and it came out a little chewy and not so fluffy.

Nowadays, I make myself follow a recipe until I know it like the back of my hand and I recommend that you do the same. There's nothing worse than giving a cake to someone that you are so proud of only to find out later that it had a weird consistency because of an ingredient that you left out.

Baking Essentials - to help make your baking easier

Heart Cupcake Timer
Heart Cupcake Timer

A cute timer to use while baking your goodies.

Beyond Gourmet 42  Unbleached Non-Stick Parchment Paper, Made in Sweden, 71-Square-Feet
Beyond Gourmet 42 Unbleached Non-Stick Parchment Paper, Made in Sweden, 71-Square-Feet

Great to place in the bottom of your pans so your cake won't stick.

KitchenAid KSM75WH Classic Plus Series 4.5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer, White
KitchenAid KSM75WH Classic Plus Series 4.5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer, White

The exact stand mixer that I use to make my baked goodies. I absolutely LOVE this mixer and the power that it has!

Wilton Round Cake Pans, 4 Piece Set for 6-Inch, 8-Inch, 10-Inch and 12-Inch Cakes
Wilton Round Cake Pans, 4 Piece Set for 6-Inch, 8-Inch, 10-Inch and 12-Inch Cakes

The same exact pans that I use and I love them! Very lightweight and durable. Perfect to make your next cake.

Wilton Icing Spatula, 13-Inch, Angled Cake Spatula
Wilton Icing Spatula, 13-Inch, Angled Cake Spatula

Perfect for spreading icing on your cake. The angled blade prevents your fingers from rubbing against the icing.

Wilton 570-1121 Easy Flex 3-Piece Silicone Spatula Set, Blue
Wilton 570-1121 Easy Flex 3-Piece Silicone Spatula Set, Blue

Great to scrape your cake batter into your pans with. Heat, stain, and odor resistant.

Norpro Stainless Steel Scraper/Chopper
Norpro Stainless Steel Scraper/Chopper

A wonderful scraper to use to smooth out the icing on your cake


How To Smooth Ice a Cake

I wish I would have seen this video when I first started baking cakes, it would have made learning to smooth ice a whole lot easier. Hope it helps!

A Few Cakes That I Made When Learning To Bake and Ice - you can see where I couldn't smooth ice or write on the cakes very well (they're much better now)

Click thumbnail to view full-size

What is your biggest mistake while baking? - (I forgot to add salt to my chocolate cake and it came out very dense... whoops!)

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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I had made a "Boston Cream" cake once & I didn't hollow out the bottom layer for the pudding. Instead I just spead the pudding like icing, put on the top layer & iced the cake in chocolate icing. Needless to say it slid apart! Luckily it was made for family & not a special event!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Rather than forgetting an ingredient, I've been known to add it twice. NOT a good thing.


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