You’ve probably heard that loud noises in the kitchen, such as an oven door slamming or banging pots and pans, can cause a cake to sink in the middle. Is it really necessary to monitor your noise level while baking? Or is this just an old wives’ tale?
Do Loud Noises Cause Cakes to Fall?
Here’s the thing: Cakes don’t have ears. You don’t have to tip-toe and whisper around them to keep them happy. That said, some cakes are delicate—and reverberations from sudden, heavy bangs and thuds could theoretically set a collapse in motion.
Imagine standing in the middle of your kitchen and clapping a giant pair of cymbals together. Even though you’re not touching anything, the noise produced by the cymbals disturbs certain objects and causes them to shake. This is because, even though you can’t see it, sound is reflected and absorbed. Booming sounds (like, say, a slamming oven door) can cause vibrations that affect the outcome of your cake.
Of course, most baked goods aren’t sensitive enough to respond negatively to regular kitchen noise. If you’re baking a particularly fragile cake, like a souffle, you’ll be fine if you just close the oven door gently and turn the heavy metal music down a hair.
Then Why Did My Cake Sink In the Middle?
There are plenty of reasons cakes fall during baking that have absolutely nothing to do with noise. Consider these factors:
Leavening quality and level: It’s important to make sure your leaveners (like baking powder, baking soda, and/or yeast) are fresh and that you’re using them in the right amounts. Too much or too little leavener can cause a cake to fall, as well as using out-of-date baking powder.
Too much moisture: An excess of moisture can cause the cake to rise unevenly, so it’s important to measure your ingredients carefully. This is often an issue in humid climates, where moisture may collect on ingredients left at room temperature.
Overbeating: Try to avoid incorporating too much air into the cake batter. Use a light touch when you’re incorporating the dry ingredients into the wet. If you’re not sure how much beating is too much, it may help to mix your batter by hand instead of using an electric mixer.
Can I Fix It?
If your cake sank a bit during baking, don’t worry too much (after all, you still have cake). Just cover up minor craters with frosting.
For major sinkage, you’ll just have to embrace the imperfection. Try scooping out the center and filling it with candy, fruit, or ice cream—nobody will ever know that wasn’t the plan all along.