Learn why your cupcakes are sinking in the middle and how to fix them! Get perfect cupcakes every time!
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As much as I love to bake, there is nothing more frustrating when the timer goes off and I open the door to find instead of light and fluffy perfect cupcakes there are sunken disasters. #cupcake fail
Baking is a science, so unfortunately that means every time you go to bake it’s like starting a new experiment. Things like temperature, mixing time, and the way the ingredients react all play a role in how your baked goods end up.
So when it comes to your cupcakes sinking, it boils down to a few possible reasons.
Reason #1 Your Cupcakes Are Sinking In The Middle: You opened the oven door early.
It’s so tempting to sneak a peak into the oven to see how things are doing. But if you open the oven too early before you cupcakes have had a chance to set up. So resist the urge, and don’t open the oven door until your time goes off. If it’s the first time you are trying a new recipe, I always set my timer a few minutes earlier than what the recipe calls for to ensure I don’t overbake them.
How To Fix This: Well this one is easy right? NO peeking. I know it’s tough. If you really can’t help yourself, turn your oven light on and take a peek through the window instead.
Reason #2 Your Cupcakes Are Sinking In The Middle: You over-mixed your batter.
When mixing your batter, you are incorporating air into it. If you over-mix, you incorporate too much air. And when those cupcakes bake, that air will escape creating that sunken effect. So pay attention to how long you mix for if you are using a stand mixer and don’t put your mixer on too high.
How To Fix This: Well I guess the obvious answer is don’t overmix right? But sometimes you just don’t know when that is. I always recommend when adding your dry ingredients, to finish the last bit of mixing by hand. You’re less likely to overmix when mixing by hand. And stop mixing as soon as the dry ingredients have been incorporated.
Reason #3 Your Cupcakes Are Sinking In The Middle: Your leavening agents have expired.
Meaning your baking soda and baking powder are no longer fresh. Baking is a science and that means chemical reactions are happening in your bowl. The baking powder and/or baking soda called for in your cupcake recipe is what is causing your cupcakes to rise. If your baking powder or baking soda has expired, then your cupcakes definitely will fail.
How To Fix This: Test your baking powder and baking soda before you start if you are unsure!
To test your baking soda: Mix a 1/2 teaspoon in a bowl with a 1/4 cup vinegar. If it bubbles, then they are good to use. If not, then throw it out and start fresh!
To test your baking powder: Mix a 1/2 teaspoon in a bowl with a 1/4 cup hot water. If it bubbles, then it’s good to use! If not, throw it out and buy new!
Reason #4 Your Cupcakes Are Sinking In The Middle: Your oven temperature is too high.
If the oven temperature is too high, it will cause your cupcakes too rise too quickly, causing them to then fall flat later. Try baking them at a lower temperature. It might be also that your oven isn’t calibrated correctly either.
How To Fix This: One of the tips I give in my Oven 101 post is investing in an oven thermometer. Not all ovens are running at the temperature it says it is. The only way to tell is to get an oven thermometer.
Reason #5 Your cupcakes are sinking are in the middle: You took them out too early.
Just like reason #1 with NO peeking. Same goes if you take them out too early. When they cool, they will sink in on themselves. So be sure to let your cupcakes cook through!
How To Fix This: I use a toothpick inserted in the middle to see if any wet batter clings to the toothpick. I also use the touch test, but gently pressing on the cupcake to see if it springs back.
Reason #6 Your cupcakes are sinking in the middle: You didn’t follow the recipe.
If you are making a chocolate cupcake, your recipe will most likely call for cocoa powder. The problem is you might not know which one to use. Or use the wrong one. Natural and dutch processed cocoa powder are very different and not to be used interchangeably. In other words, follow the recipe.
Same thing goes with dairy. If the recipe calls for buttermilk. Don’t use regular milk instead. When you swap one ingredient for another, you are altering the chemical balance of the recipe and this can affect the overall outcome.
How To Fix This: Stick to the recipe. Baking is a science. So if the recipe calls for a certain ingredient, use that and give yourself a piece of mind that your cupcakes will come out as planned.
More Cupcake Baking Help!
- Ultimate Guide To Baking Cupcakes At Home
- Ultimate Guide To Making The Best Buttercream Icing
- Ultimate Guide To Decorating Cupcakes For Beginners
- 15 Tips For Perfect Cupcakes
- 6 Cupcake Decorating Supplies You Need To Decorate Like A Pro
More Baking 101
Easy Vanilla Cupcakes
For the cupcakes
- 1 1/2 cup (180 g) all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick, 113 g) unsalted butter melted, slightly cooled
- 1 cup (198 g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 egg white
- 1/2 cup (120 mL) whole milk room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the buttercream
- 1 1/4 cups (283 g, 2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter softened
- 2 1/2 cups (283 g) confectioners sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- pinch table salt
For the cupcakes
- Prep oven and pan. Position a rack in the center of the oven preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. Set aside.
- Combine dry ingredients. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt until evenly combined. Set aside.
- Combine wet ingredients. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugar. Whisk in the egg and egg white until incorporated. Whisk in the vanilla.
- Alternate dry ingredients and milk. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and milk into the wet ingredient mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. I do this in 3 additions (flour, milk, flour, milk, flour). Stir just until the last of the flour has been mixed in. Do not overmix.
- Bake. Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 3/4 of the way full. Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
For the buttercream
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer but the time will take longer to cream) cream the butter until light and fluffy about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add powdered sugar. Add the powdered (confectioners sugar) a half cup at a time with the mixer off. Mix on low speed until incorporated.
- Add remaining ingredients. Add in your heavy cream, salt, and vanilla extract, and mix on medium to high speed for 7-8 minutes until light and creamy. Once cupcakes are cooled, fill the piping bag and pipe the frosting on top. If not using immediately, store in a container in the refrigerator until ready to use, mix again until light and fluffy.
- Make Ahead: These cupcakes can be made ahead 2 days in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. The frosting can also be made 7 days in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. If you have leftover cupcakes they also keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days.
- Freezing: You can also freeze these cupcakes, without filling, for up to 2-3 months. Then just thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then fill and frost as normal!
- Be sure to measure your flour correctly by scooping the flour into the measuring cup with a spoon and then level off with a knife.
- Make sure your large eggs are room temperature. Place your eggs in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes before using them in your recipe
- Double check that your baking powder is still fresh. Because this recipe uses melted butter there is no creaming step to incorporate air, so you need to make sure the baking powder is fresh so your cupcakes rise properly. To check the freshness, add a teaspoon of baking powder to some hot water. If it bubbles, it’s still fresh. If it doesn’t throw it out.
- Use an oven thermometer to make sure that your oven is heated correctly.