Take one misstep when measuring out ingredients, and baking a cake can instantly turn from a sweet, lighthearted endeavor into a baking disaster. Several simple solutions exist if your fruit cake is moist but crumbly, and your cake falls apart when you cut it.
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Reasons for a Crumbly Cake
One of the major reasons why your fruit cake is moist but crumbly is the gluten content of the flour you use to bake. According to a March 2017 review published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, gluten is a complex protein that affects both the flavor and the texture of dough.
Kneading dough when prepping a cake converts the simple proteins of flour into the more-complex gluten, which binds the dough together. Dorsey Schools explains that all-purpose flour can contain anywhere from 10 to 12 percent gluten. Dense cakes result from flours with a high protein content and from using too much flour in the dough.
If your cake falls apart when cutting and you used all-purpose flour in your recipe, the high gluten content is why you have a cake that's moist but crumbly. The same, however, can be said for recipes that are gluten-free, like this LIVESTRONG.com recipe for Gluten-Free Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes.
Read more: How Many Calories Does a Piece of Cake Have?
According to an August 2018 study published in Food Science and Biotechnology, if a gluten-free cake falls apart when cutting, the gluten-free flour used often plays a role. The lack of gluten means the cake is unable to form a firm texture, and you end up with a moist, crumbly cake.
Crumbly Cake Fix Methods
Using the right flour with a lower gluten content will help with your crumbly cake fix. Cake flour that's milled only from soft wheat contains anywhere from 7 to 9 percent protein, which results in a light cake.
Do not use bread flour as a substitute in a cake recipe. Bread flour contains the greatest amount of gluten, from 12 to 14 percent, making it suitable only for recipes that require a firm consistency.
When it comes to baked gingerbread and coffee cakes that have been frozen, the Oregon State University Extension Service recommends slicing them while they're half frozen. This will prevent them from crumbling when fully thawed.
Using butter and oils for high fat content is another solution to a crumbly cake. However, if you want to try a healthier option, both applesauce and banana are effective fat replacements in baking recipes. Purees like applesauce are able to add moisture to the cake and prevent it from drying and crumbling, while also offering fewer calories than oil.
One important key to preventing your cake from falling apart when cutting is not overbaking it. According to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, overbaking a cake, such a cheesecake, will result in a cake that's too firm and which cracks. The same applies to angel food cakes and fruit cakes — follow the recipe's temperature and timing instructions carefully to help prevent a crumbly dessert.
- Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology: "What Is Gluten?”
- Dorsey Schools: "Baking and Pastry Arts School Tips: 7 Types of Flour and Baking Uses”
- Food Science and Biotechnology: "Physical, Textural and Sensory Characteristics of Legume-Based Gluten-Free Muffin Enriched With Waxy Rice Flour”
- Oregon State University Extension Service: “Freezing Convenience Foods That You’ve Prepared at Home"
- Iowa State University Extension and Outreach: "Cheesecake! It’s What’s for Dessert!”
- North American Millers' Association: "Types of Flour"