There’s nothing more frustrating than spending time and ingredients on baking a cake, and when you come to taste it – it’s dry! Thankfully, there’s usually a good explanation as to why you’ve ended up with a dry cake. In this post I’ll be sharing 5 reasons why your cakes are dry so that you can make some adjustments next time you bake – and hopefully you’re never surprised with a dry and crumbly cake again!
1 – Using a different sized cake pan
The first reason why you might end up with a dry cake is that you’ve used a different sized cake pan, and haven’t accounted for any changes in cooking time.
Say for example, your recipe calls for 8 inch cake pans (which is what most of my cake recipes use), however, you only have 10 inch cake pans so you decide to use those. What this means is that your batter is going to spread out more, and therefore your cake is going to be thinner. Because of this, it’s going to cook faster, and so to ensure you don’t overbake the cake you will need to reduce the cooking time.
If a recipe calls for a bake time of 30 minutes, you would want to check your cake about 5-7 minutes earlier than the stated cooking time to ensure it doesn’t overbake. Believe it or not, but just a few extra minutes in the oven can result in an overbaked cake!
2 – Using a pan that is a different material or colour to the one used in the original recipe
Something as simple as using a pan that has a different material or colour than the ones used in the original recipe can result in a dry cake. Let me explain.
The most common material used for cake pans is aluminium, which is great for absorbing and retaining heat. However, cake pans come in different colours, and darker coloured pans are going to absorb and retain more heat than lighter colored ones. This means that a darker colored baking pan is going to bake your cake slightly faster than a light coloured baking pan, so if the original recipe uses a light colored baking pan and you’re using a dark colored one, then you want to reduce the cooking time slightly to ensure you don’t overbake your cake.
The same can apply when using pans made of different materials. For example, metal pans absorb and retain heat bettter than glass baking dishes, so your cakes are going to cook faster in metal pans compared to glass ones.
3 – Incorrect measurements were used
The third reason why you might end up with a dry cake is that incorrect measurements were used. Now I know I sound like a broken record with this one (if you’re a regular reader then you’ll know I have mentioned this so many times in the past), but I cannot express how important properly measuring your ingredients is when baking a cake.
This is particularly important when measuring dry ingredients. If you have too much flour in a recipe and not enough fat, like butter or oil, your cake is going to be dry and hard. For best results, I would encourage you to use a scale when baking, but if you don’t have a scale, then just make sure you’re using measuring cups correctly.
4 – Oven temperature is too high
The fourth reason is that your oven temperature is too high, and you’ve therefore overbaked your cake.
A simple fix is to simply reduce your oven temperature slightly and see if that fixes the issue. Another reason could be that your oven is on convection mode, but your baking temperature is for a conventional oven.
I have spoken about the difference between conventional and convection ovens before in more detail in this blog post, but here is the main thing you need to know – if your recipe calls for you to preheat your oven to say 180C or 350F in a conventional oven (which means it doesn’t have a fan function), then if you do decide to use a fan function then you will need to reduce the tempertature by about 15 to 20 degrees celcius otherwise your cake is going to overbake. This is because convection ovens bake cakes faster than those that don’t.
So if you are someone who does tend to bake using the fan function, then make sure you reduce the oven temperature if the original recipe doesn’t use a fan function, otherwise your cake will overbake and become dry.
5 – Inappropriate substitutions or reductions were made
You’ve probably already heard the phrase ‘baking is a science’, and it’s 100% true! This means that every ingredient chosen in a recipe has a reason, so changing one or more of these ingredients can result in a dry cake.
For example, if a recipe calls for oil, but you substitute oil with butter, you’re going to end up with a less moist cake. This is because oil has more fat than butter, and is liquid at room temperature.
Another example is substituting plain all purpose flour with whole-wheat or wholemeal flour. Wholemeal flour is more coarse than regular flour and also absorbs more moisture, so using it instead of all purpose flour in a recipe can result in a dry cake.
An example of where reducing an ingredient can result in a dry cake is when less sugar is used than what is called for in the recipe. Sugar is considered a wet ingredient in cake batter, so if you reduce the sugar its going to make your cake less moist.
Now I’m not saying you can’t make the substitutions above, but what I am saying is being aware of the impacts these substitutions have will allow you to amend the recipe in other ways to account for loss of moisture. So for example, if you decide to use wholemeal flour instead of all purpose flour, you might add a little more liquid into the batter so that you don’t end up with a dry cake.
Interested in learning more baking tips and tricks? Check out more posts here.