Sunk in the Center

What causes a cake to sink in the center after it has baked and starts cooling? How can I prevent this from happening? —J.B., Lombard, Illinois

There are several factors that may cause a cake to sink in the center after baking. The most important one is oven temperature. An oven that is not hot enough can cause the cake to rise and then sink. Check the accuracy of your oven temperature with an oven thermometer. Too short of a baking time can cause similar results. Use a toothpick to check the cake's doneness. A toothpick inserted near the center of the cake should come out clean, and the sides of the cake may start pulling away from the pan. An incorrect proportion of ingredients may cause a cake to sink. Too much sugar, liquid or leavening or too little flour could be the culprit as well. Other reasons a cake may sink include undermixing the batter, moving the cake during baking or baking in a pan that's too small for the amount of batter.