Whenever I bake a cake from scratch it turns out dry and crumbly. What am I doing wrong? —K.M., Reidsville, North Carolina

There could be several reasons that your cakes turn out dry and crumbly:

  • Using too much flour can cause a cake to become dry. When measuring dry ingredients, gently spoon the flour into a measuring cup for dry ingredients and level off with a flat spatula.
  • Adding too little shortening or liquid can also cause dryness. Measure liquids in a liquid-measuring cup placed on a level surface like your kitchen counter. Read the liquid measurement at eye level while the cup is on the level surface.
  • Batter that is improperly mixed or undermixed can cause the cake to be crumbly. Careful mixing to evenly distribute the ingredients throughout the cake batter will give it a uniform consistency. Frequently use a plastic spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl, and don’t forget to scrape the bottom of the bowl for any pockets of flour or other ingredients. (Be careful not to overmix once the flour is added, as this can cause the cake to be tough.)
  • Overbeating the egg whites or using too many of them can lead to a dry cake. Egg whites act as a drying agent, so you could try eliminating one of the whites.
  • Too much sugar can cause a cake to crumble when cut, while too little sugar can make a cake tough. The best cake recipes have a good balance of ingredients.
  • Using a pan that is too big for the amount of batter you have can cause it to overbake and become dry. The pan should be filled from half to three-fourths full.
  • Finally, check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer. If the oven temperature is too high, your cake could be dry. Overbaking could also be a culprit. Check your cake for doneness at the lower end of the baking range.