Prevent Deflate-gate: Why Did My Cupcakes Sink?

Don’t you just hate it when you follow a recipe to the letter (or so you think) and the result isn’t exactly what you imagined or how the pictures look? As a newbie solo kitchen user, this happens basically every. single. time. The most recent victim was a set of 12 during my first attempt at vegan cupcakes. My first attempt at cupcakes in general. The cupcakes overflowed and then deflated the second time I went to take a look. Not bad for my first attempt right? They only deflated, right? So, why did my cupcakes sink?
I immediately went to my trusty Google search engine to find out the possible causes for this spectacular event I quickly named Deflate-gate. Here goes what I find…starting with the probable causes of my failed New Year’s Eve cupcakes.

Baking Soda and Baking Powder

So..prior to this mishap, I honestly had not wondered about this. Being a scientist this is very embarrassing to admit. But going through all the message boards and fellow food blogs in regards to the extreme importance of baking soda and baking powder definitely opened up my curiosity to ALL the ingredients and their purpose in the recipe.

Measurements and exact reactions

Basically, baking soda and baking powder cause a chemical reaction that helps the batter rise and look beautiful. Both have different purposes and reaction times and are equally important. Lesson learned? Follow the measurements for these two ingredients to the exact degree!
If you had more baking soda/baking powder than required, the batter will overflow and then deflate…….EXACTLY what happened to my cupcakes. Too little baking soda/powder and the batter won’t have enough reaction power to rise and it will stay flat like a plywood. Well, maybe not that flat but you get my point.

Gotta keep them FRESH

It is also very important to make sure that your baking soda and powder are both fresh in order for each one to properly complete the respective reaction. Rule of thumb is to keep the Both ingredients do have a shelf life. Baking soda’s fresh life has come to an end when you see clumps in it. Baking powder’s fresh life is 3 to 6 months (opinions vary). To make sure your baking powder is still reactive, you can test it by taking a teaspoon of baking soda and half a cup of water. If the baking powder fizzes, you’re good. If not? Go get yourself some new baking soda!
I would go as far as to say to make sure you keep both the baking soda and powder airtight. Especially if you live in a humid environment. The baking soda/powder can lose its reactive power just by being exposed to the humidity.

Overbeating the mix

Being the mild perfectionist and borderline OCD with making sure things are properly and evenly mixed, overbeating is a very probable cause as well. What I learned on my google searching and researching is that overbeating the mix will cause too much air to get into the mix. Once the air escapes, this causes the mix to collapse (or deflate or sink). For this reason, I intend to ‘gently fold’ (I can’t help but laugh a bit when I read this in recipes) the wet ingredients into the dry only until they are nicely mixed.


Not the oven per say, but yes the oven. What I’ve come to learn way before I went solo on this trip was that ovens lie. They lie when it comes to the temperature they show on their scale. My current oven usually reaches the desired temperature waaaaayyyyy after the meter says and beeps that it is at said temperature. Only way I found out this was true was by buying an oven thermometer. You can easily find one at your nearest supermarket, Home Goods, and obviously Amazon. If you’re oven temperature is too high, this can cause the mix to rise too fast and then…yeah sink and probably burn if you aren’t paying close attention.

My NYE cupcakes called for an oven temperature of 375 degrees Fahrenheit. I started pre-heating the oven right when I was about to start with all the ingredients. By the time the mix was ready and separated into the twelve cupcake holders, the thermometer was at 325 degrees yet the oven said it was at 375 degrees. I waited another 20 minutes and still the thermometer was not at 375 so I still went ahead and placed the mix into the oven. I don’t think this was the main culprit of my deflate-gate, but it could have been a player. My oven’s temperature wasn’t too high, it was too low.

So. My cupcakes overflowed then sank to the abyss. Honestly, I would bet cold hard cash that I followed the recipe. BUT! The results say otherwise. Did I use too much or too little baking soda or baking powder? Most likely. Did I overbeat the mix? Probably. What is there to do? I shall try again! I will keep everyone posted when I give the recipe a second go around. Hopefully we don’t experience another deflate-gate!


If you’ve had experience with your own deflate-gate or other tips of how to avoid another one, please share in the comments!

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