The question 'why my cake is wet in the middle' is a valid concern for most new cake bakers. A well baked cake should be well risen, level, moist, evenly baked and not overly browned.
You probably found a good recipe on the internet with rave reviews, and you think you have followed the recipe to a T. But for some reason it just does not turn out well for you, leaving you with a cake that is unevenly cooked (wet in the center). When underbaked, cakes can sink, leaving it with a dense texture.
If you can relate to this, I hope this post will help point out some of the common mistakes that bakers make when baking cakes which cause their cakes to be uncooked in the middle as well as tips to avoid it.
Common problems that relate to wet cakes and uneven baking are:
1. Cakes that are wet in the middle – the cakes looks like its well baked and the sides are baked, but when you cut it, you realize the center is still wet and gooey.
2. Cakes that are overall uncooked – the cakes are baked according to the time indicated in the recipe, and the top of the cake has browned well. But when you remove it from the oven you realize the entire cake is still undercooked. And you are left with a dense and sunken cake.
3. Cakes with a wet or soggy bottom – The cake rise well and brown perfectly, but when you turn it out of the cake pan, the bottom is all soggy.
Contributing Factors (Common Reasons)
There are many factors that can cause your cake to fail to turn out as expected. This is because there are certain points or tips in baking cakes that are not typically listed out in a recipe. Often, there is a correlation between the oven temperature, baking time and tin sizes.
Here are some of the more common reasons why cakes remain wet in the middle, uncooked or soggy.
Using lower than indicated baking temperature
- This is the most common problem. Baking cakes in lower temperature than that indicated in a recipe card can result in underbaked cake and wet center.
- For example, the recipe requires a cake to be baked at 180 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes, but you bake yours at 160 Degrees Celsius for 40 minutes. There is a high chance that your cake remains wet in the center due to the low oven temperature.
Incorrect cake tin or pan size
- Cake tins filled too deep can result in underbaked cakes, especially in the center. This can happen if you use a smaller cake pan than that indicated in the recipe. Or if you have doubled the recipe but used the same cake tin size as indicated in the recipe.
- When a cake tin in filled with more batter, you will need to increase the cooking time accordingly. This is to allow the extra batter sufficient time to cook. If not, there is a high possibility of your cake remaining wet and uncooked in the center even when the sides of the cake is all cooked.
Insufficient bake time
- This is another common reason for cakes to remain wet in the middle. Typically, when baking cakes, the sides bake at a quicker rate than the center. This is because the sides are closer to the heat from the cake pan. Hence those sections bake at a quicker rate.
- If you remove your cakes from the oven earlier than the time indicated in the recipe, there is a risk of your cake being underbaked in the center.
Cakes baked in large tins (cake tins with diameter of 10 inches and above)
- Generally, in typical round or square cake tins, cakes tend to bake on the sides first and the centers last. This is because the edges of your cake is closer to the sides of the baking pan or tin. The heat from the metal helps the batter that is close to it to bake at a quicker rate. The center of the cakes, therefore requires a much longer time to bake.
- You wont normally have this problem with Bundt or tube cake tins. This is because the cake batter in these tins have exposure to the cake tin metal even in the center, and therefore, they tend to bake more evenly.
Wrong rack position in the oven
- If you are using large ovens with multi-level racks, refer to the oven user manual for your ovens to see the best rack position to bake cakes.
- Placing them on the top most rack may result in overbrowned tops. Placing them on the lowest rack might result in the cakes requiring a longer time to bake.
Inaccurate liquid measurement in the recipe
- This is not a very common problem, but if you add more liquid into the cake batter than what is indicated in the recipe, there is also a possibility for your cake to take a longer time to bake, especially in the center. And if you remove the cake without adjusting the baking time, wet cakes can happen.
Inaccurate oven heat
- This is a technical issue, where the problem is contributed by the oven itself. Sometimes, after long periods of usage, or due to other technical reasons, ovens can lose the ability to accurately heat up to the temperature displayed.
- When this happens, even though you set the correct temperature, the oven may be underheated. If you are not aware of this and continue to bake your cake, there is a risk that your cake is underbaked, especially in the middle.
Baked cakes are left in the cake tin for too long
- This does not cause your cake to be wet in the middle but rather will cause the bottom and sides of your cake to be soggy due to the steam condensation in the cake tins.
Tips to Avoid Wet Cake Centers (Underbaked Cakes)
Here are some tips to help you avoid underbaked cakes, cakes that are wet in the middle and soggy cakes.
Adhere to the correct baking temperature, cake tin size and baking time
- All cake recipes will clearly indicate these 3 factors in the recipe cards. What they don’t normally tell you is that if you don’t follow these requirements exactly, you risk your cakes being undercooked or over cooked. Hence, it is important that you follow them to the T.
- If for some reason you need to adjust the tin size, remember to also adjust the baking time. As a general rule of thumb, deeper cakes require a longer baking time. But longer baking time can result in dry cake sides and overbrowned cake tops.
- To counter this problem, you may have to reduce the temperature of the oven. However, while that can avoid the top of your cake from over browning, it can still cause the sides of the cake to be dry. The best options for baking large cakes is to use heating cores or baking strips.
- This is a small, glass shaped metal tool that is placed in the center of a cake tin. Cake batter is poured into the cake tin, and some into the heating core. You will have to grease the heating core on the inside and outside. This is so that it does not stick to the cake. And the batter that is poured into it can be removed easily after baking.
- Once the cake is baked, you remove the heating core. And then remove the small cake inside the core. Place it into the core that is left in the cake by the heating core.
- The presence of the metal heating core helps the cake center to bake at an equal pace as the sides of the cake.
- These are long strips of cloth that are soaked in water, and then wrapped around cake tins before baking cakes. Baking strips are often used for larger cakes, primarily to help the cake layers bake evenly and to keep these cake layers level. So, if you are baking large cakes or even deep cakes like my light fruit cake here, it is advisable that you use baking strips for best results and perfectly cooked cake.
- When baking larger cakes (i.e. cakes with a diameter of 10 inches and more), it is advisable to use heating cores or baking strips.
- Ensure you position your cake in the correct rack position in the oven. And then position the tray in the center of the oven rack
- The best guide would be to follow your oven manual. If such instructions are not available, you should try to position your cake towards the lower half of the oven. On a 4 racks oven, cakes should generally be placed on the forth level from the top, but not on the oven floor.
- The results may vary depending on the type of oven you use. So it is best to try it out yourself for the best positioning.
Follow exact recipe measurements for ingredients
- Always follow the exact measurement provided in the recipe. The cake recipes I have on this site are all in metric measurement. That will ensure more accurate measuring of ingredients (both wet and dry ingredients) compared to cups and spoons.
- Adding too much liquid or wet ingredients into the cake batter (i.e. more than what is provided in the recipe card) can result in undercooked or wet cakes. Hence, it is always recommended to follow the ingredient measurements accurately.
Make sure your oven temperature is well calibrated
- Most new ovens are often well calibrated. With prolonged use, some will require recalibration. This simply means adjusting the heat level in the oven to the temperature you set it for.
- To test if the temperature of your oven is still accurate, you can use a portable oven thermometer. Simply place it in your oven to see if the heat in your oven is accurately reflected in the portable thermometer. If it is not, your oven requires recalibration. Recalibration would require a technician to perform. If you do not wish to bother with the recalibration, you can simply continue to use the portable thermometer to set your oven temperature instead of using the one built into the oven.
Test your cake before removing it from the oven
- Removing an undercooked cake from the oven can result in it sinking. Hence, it is always advisable to check if a cake is cooked by testing it. There are 2 tips on how you can check is a cake is fully baked.
- The first method is the toothpick test. You will need a toothpick or a long thin skewer or a cake tester. To do the skewer or toothpick testing, once the baking time is up, open the oven door. With the cake still in the oven, poke the toothpick in the center or middle of the cake all the way to the bottom. And then remove the pick.
- If the cake is not fully baked, you will see wet batter sticking to the pick/skewer. But if you do not see any batter, the cake is ready and can be removed from the oven. Ideally, for a moist cake, there should be tiny moist crumbs sticking to the toothpick or skewer.
- The second method is to test the cake with your finger. Gently press the center of the cake with your finger tip. If the cake springs back after you lift your finger, it is baked and can be removed from the oven. If it does not, leave it to bake it the oven for a little longer.
Do not leave the cake in the tin for too long after baking
- Once you remove your cake from the oven, you can let it rest in the cake tin for about 2 minutes. After that, turn the cake out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely to room temperature.
- If you leave the cake in the tin for too long, the steam from the cake will cause the bottom of the cake to turn soggy. Hence, always remember to remove the cake from its tin after baking.
And that’s pretty much my tips and techniques on understanding why cakes are wet in the middle or undercooked and tips for baking the perfect cake.