5 Causes of Dense Cake (And How to Avoid Them)

Okay, go ahead and admit it. Not every cake you have ever made has turned out light and fluffy. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, one will seem to be heavy and almost appear to be not done all the way through. Although I’ve been baking for many years, I still have that happen from time to time.

Here is a list of the five most common causes of dense cake and how each can be avoided. I’ll also provide several ways to salvage a dense cake.

Just baked plain Chocolate sponge cake on the cooking iron grid,

1. Overbeating

One of the most common problems in baking is over-developing the flour’s gluten. This is done when it is beaten at too high a speed.

How to Prevent this Cause: Cream butter, sugar, and eggs with the mixer on medium speed, and after adding flour, beat on low to prevent overbeating.

2. Using Cold Butter

Butter that will be used for baking should always be at room temperature. Starting a cake with cold butter can cause the cake to be dense instead of rising up light and fluffy as it should.

When the butter is at room temperature, it will mix with the eggs and sugar better, producing a creamier mixture that will bake into a light, fluffy cake.

How to Prevent this Cause: Mix your cakes with room temperature ingredients, especially butter.

3. Measuring Ingredients Incorrectly


Another reason for cake failure resulting in a dense cake is improperly measuring ingredients. Recipes should be followed exactly and care taken with measuring ingredients. Too little of the leavening agent, such as baking powder or baking soda, can result in a dense cake.

It is also just as important to ensure you are not adding too much of the leavening agent which could result in a somewhat bitter taste to the cake.

How to Prevent this Cause: Measure all ingredients precisely and carefully.

4. Doubling Recipes

Doubling cake recipes can also result in a cake that is dense instead of light and fluffy. It is better to make two batches. It is a little confusing, but in many cases, when doubling recipes, the doubled amount of certain ingredients, such as the leavening agent, may be too much for the doubled amount of flour.

If you need two cakes, mixing the two batches of ingredients separately is better to avoid issues. Some recipes, however, do provide instructions for doubling.

How to Prevent this Cause: As a rule, avoid doubling cake recipes. Some work when doubled, and some do not.

5. Expired Leavening Agent

Using expired baking powder or baking soda is another issue that can cause your cake to be dense. So be sure to check your baking powder and baking soda periodically to be sure you have the best possible baking ingredients.

How to Prevent this Cause: Make sure your leavening agents are fresh.

How To Salvage Dense Cake


While there is no sure way to fix a dense cake, there is one thing you can try. Otherwise, you don’t have to waste it. There are several things you can do to make dense cake palatable.

The Fix Attempt: Bake It Longer

When the cake first comes out of the oven, if you notice right away that it has “fallen” or seems to be dense in texture, go ahead and slide it back into the oven for about 10 extra minutes to see if it is just a little undercooked. Be sure to watch it closely so that it doesn’t burn.

If this extra baking time doesn’t fix the dense cake, it may reduce the area in the center that is the most dense so that you have more of the cake that can be salvaged.

Enjoy It As Is

Go ahead and enjoy the cake as it is. Your cake will still be good, especially after adding a good frosting or sauce. Just avoid cutting into and serving the very center of the cake where it is the most dense and doesn’t appear to be done.

Make A Trifle

The dense cake will make a superb trifle if you cut it into large chunks avoiding the most dense area in the center. Then, layer those chunks of cake in a trifle bowl with pudding and any type of fruit you have on hand, and add a layer of whipped topping for a dessert so good, your family and friends won’t suspect you were not planning a trifle for dessert to begin with.

Turn It Into Cake Balls

Turning the dense cake into cake balls is another way to use the failed cake to make a special dessert that will result in rave reviews. To make cake balls, follow these simple steps:

  • Crumble the cake and mix the crumbs with frosting until it forms a dough.
  • Roll the cake and frosting mixture into balls that are any size you want them, but usually between 1 and 2 inches in diameter is what most recipes recommend.
  • Insert a lollipop stick into each ball and chill them in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
  • Dip the balls into melted chocolate, place them on a parchment paper lined baking pan or platter, and store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve them.
  • They can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Make Shortcake

An easy dessert to make with dense cake is to cut the cake into squares, avoiding the most dense parts of the cake, top with strawberries or any kind of fresh or canned fruit that you have, and add a dollop of whipped topping. This is another spectacular dessert that will serve a dual purpose: it will salvage a failed cake and delight your family and friends.

Serve With Ice Cream And Toppings

That dense cake can be turned into a delicious ice cream dessert by cutting it into squares, adding a scoop of ice cream, and topping it with your favorite ice cream toppings. Your family will be asking for this dessert even after the failed cake is gone.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss How Far In Advance Can You Make A Cake (So it Stays Fresh).

Anne James

Anne James has a wealth of experience in a wide array of interests and is an expert in quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, mixing drinks (bartending), and making jelly. Anne has a professional canning business, has been featured in the local newspaper as well as on the Hershey website, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is. With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass. Amazingly, she doesn’t need to reference many resources due to her vast wealth of experience. She IS the source. Anne wants nothing more than to pass on her extensive knowledge to the next generations, whether that be family or anyone visiting her website, her YouTube channel, or survivalfreedom.com.

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