I know, I know. When you saw that picture, you probably thought "ouch". Cos we've all experienced the curse of fallen cupcakes (or cakes), right?
But here's the good part: if your cakes constantly fall, there may be a good reason for it. Here are some common causes:
Here are some possible causes:
Insufficient moisture: Did you just dip the cup into the bag of flour before dumping it in the rest of the batter? The flour may have been tightly packed, and you used more than you needed to. Be sure to properly measure and sift your flour (don't say "close enough"!). This may cause the cupcakes to fall during baking (while still in the oven).
Too much moisture: Yep--too much moisture can be bad, too. If your cake rises rapidly in the oven, has been tested for doneness, but then falls a few minutes after being removed from the oven, it could be a result of too much moisture. This is a common problem in humid conditions, where the flour may pick up excess moisture from the air before it’s added to the mix. Keep flour in an airtight container if you live in humid conditions. Note: If the cake falls in the center but is completely baked through, you may still be able to use it by leveling the cake to the lowest point.
Under-baking: The cakes looked done, but immediately after removing from the oven, the middle sinks and is slightly sticky inside. To ensure doneness, insert a cake tester or skewer in the center of the cake before removing icakes from the oven. If it comes out mostly clean, you’re done.
You opened the door of the oven early in the baking process: You shouldn’t open the door of the oven until the cake is more than halfway baked. And even then, it’s problematic if you keep opening the oven door every couple of minutes to check. (It’s tempting, I know!) By opening the oven door, you can interrupt the reactions that are kick-started by heat, which cause a cake to rise correctly.
If my cakes fall, can I still use them? It's possible that you can--it depends on what you're going for. I personally have found that if I spoon a filling of sorts in the hole, such as ganache, it generally can level the surface of the cupcake and make it suitable for frosting. Or you could stick a candy in! Why not? Even if they're ugly I betcha they still taste good.
Want more causes for common cake baking pitfalls? Check out my recent post on the subject on Craftsy.