Has Your Cake Batter Curdled? Here’s How to Fix It

published Feb 16, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Imagine this: You’re mixing up a homemade cake batter and everything seems to be going well. The butter and sugar have creamed together perfectly — but after adding your eggs the batter suddenly turns into a curdled mess with lumps sitting in pools of liquid. What was once a glorious cake batter is now a chunky disappointment.

The phenomenon is called breaking (or curdling), and is fairly common. Luckily it’s not that big of a deal, and there are ways to salvage it — so don’t freak out if this has happened to you!

Credit: Melissa Ryan

How to Prevent Your Cake Batter From Breaking

To prevent your cake batter from breaking, use room-temperature ingredients. Why? Cake batter is an emulsion of fat and liquid. The fat source is the butter or oil, and the liquid comes from the various wet ingredients: water, milk, or eggs. Cake batter breaks when the ingredients you are attempting to emulsify are too cold and unable to combine.

The most common cause of broken cake batter is cold eggs. When cold eggs are added to room temperature batter they bring down the temperature of the entire mixture and cause it to break. The fat solidifies and turns into little chunks. The same thing can happen if you add cold milk.

The ultimate way to prevent your cake batter from breaking is to bring all of your ingredients to room temperature. This is why recipes specify “room temperature” in the ingredient list. A good rule of thumb is to take all of your ingredients out of the fridge one hour before you plan to prepare the cake batter. As long as your ingredients are at the same temperature, they should be able to emulsify together.

Credit: Lauren Volo

How to Fix Curdled Cake Batter

One way to fix broken cake batter is to add a bit of flour, one tablespoon at a time, until it smooths out again. The flour helps the liquid and fat come back together and creates a smooth, lump-free mixture. The only thing to keep in mind is that it is possible to add too much flour to the batter and negatively impact the texture of the cake. If your batter does not come together after a few tablespoons, don’t keep adding more.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Cake You Bake Curdled Cake Batter?

Yes! Broken cake batter can be baked, and it will typically result in a cake that’s totally useable. The texture of the cake may be a bit denser than a properly made batter, but it should bake and taste just fine. If you’re in a pinch you can bake the broken batter as if nothing happened. It isn’t the end of the world, so there’s no need to freak out if it happens.