For many bakers, sinking cupcakes may be the most puzzling part of making a cupcake recipe. This article covers some common reasons why this occurs. I also provide you with tips for how to prevent it from happening to you.
The five most common culprits of sinking cupcakes are: underbaking, overfilling/overmixing the batter, baking at too high of a temperature, not using enough leavening agent, and not allowing enough time for them to cool.
Each will be covered in detail below with a solution to prevent it from happening to you so that you can enjoy your cupcakes to their maximum potential. Not only will they reach the perfect height, but they will also be evenly baked on the inside and moist on the outside!
There are two types of leaveners in baking: chemical (baking soda, powder) and physical (air). If either of these does not have enough time to work or react with each other, you'll get sinking cupcakes.
Underbaking may be caused by baking at too low of a temperature, opening the oven door too often to check on your cupcakes, or even having an excessively long mixing time (i.e using a stand mixer for over 5 minutes).
Solution: To avoid underbaking, it's best to stick to the original baking time recommended by the recipe. Promptly check on them at the minimum amount of time required in the recipe, and remember to only open the oven door once!
You'll know when they are done by either sight (cupcakes jiggle slightly in the center when tapped and a toothpick inserted comes out clean), or by touch (a slight springiness when you push down on the center).
Overfilling or Overmixing the Batter
This almost goes hand in hand with underbaking. If the batter overflows its cupcake liner or is mixed too much, it will settle in the center causing it to sink.
Solution: To fill your cupcake liners properly, pour just under ¾ full. You'll know if you've filled them too much by either not having enough batter to cover all the cups in your tin or overflowing cupcake liners.
For a perfectly mixed batter, be sure to mix on low speed with a hand mixer for about 30 seconds, then medium-high speed for another 30 seconds. Don't go too much longer than that or else you might end up with overmixed batter; one to two minutes is all it takes for most recipes!
Baking at an Excessively High Temperature
Over baking may be the most common cause of sinking cupcakes, especially if you're not using fillings. Overbaking is caused by a temperature that's too hot and/or leaving them in the oven for too long.
When cupcakes are overbaked, they may sink because of the excessive moisture loss. Too much moisture leaves, and this may cause the center to collapse.
Overbaking is also more likely to occur if your oven temperature isn't accurate or varies too much. So make sure it's calibrated correctly! You can easily do this by placing an oven thermometer in your oven and adjusting the temperature accordingly.
Solution: To avoid overbaking, always keep an eye on your oven and don't let them stay there for too long, or else you may overbake them. Take them out of the oven as soon as the time is up!
If you're using a thermometer, check the recommended temperature for the recipe and regularly check for doneness. Cupcakes jiggle slightly in the center when tapped and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. They also have a slight springiness when you push down on the center.
Not Using Enough Leavening Agent
As mentioned above, there are two types of leaveners in baking: chemical (baking soda, powder) and physical (air). You need to make sure you use enough to keep your cupcakes from sinking. If the ratios are off even a little bit, they may sink.
Solution: To fix this problem, make sure you have the right amount of each ingredient (flour, sugar, eggs) as indicated in the recipe. Be sure to use an accurate set of measuring cups and spoons to aid you with this.
In baking, using the correct ratios is important. When you're measuring baking powder, always spoon it into your measuring cup and level it off with the back of a knife. Never ever pack it or shake the cup to level it! If you do, you'll end up with too much, which can also make your cupcakes sink.
You should also double-check your baking powder and baking soda expiration dates to make sure they're fresh. Stale baking powder or baking soda won't leaven as effectively because they lose their potency over time. Once opened, store your leavening agents tightly closed in a dry place away from heat and light to extend their shelf life.
Not Allowing Enough Time to Cool
This is another simple mistake that's easy to fix. It's not always easy to be patient when a fresh batch of cupcakes is cooling on the counter. Give them adequate time to cool before you frost them.
During the cooling process, the center will still be slightly warm and the outer edges cool. If you frost them too soon, the weight of the frosting may cause the warm center of the cupcakes to sink.
While they are cooling, you can always prep your frosting or decorations to get them ready for the final (and most fun) step of decorating!
Solution: After baking, allow your cupcakes to cool for about five minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely for 15-20 minutes. Give them 30 minutes or longer before you frost them so the center has time to set up properly. This is important in retaining your cupcake's height and shape.
Check the recipe for cooling instructions, and be sure to follow them carefully!
By following these tips you'll be able to prevent your cupcakes from sinking as well as avoid underbaking them. So go ahead and make those cupcakes, because there's no reason for you not to!
Let me know if this information was useful by leaving a comment below!