7 Sweet Sensations to Make with a Cake that Didn’t Rise

Baking cakes can be tricky – they don’t always turn out as expected.

Sometimes, you end up with dense, two-inch patties that should have been fluffy, four-inch layers of vanilla cake. Or you’re left with a deflated sponge that looks like someone pulled out its air plug.

Or your cake rounds stick to the pan when you try to turn them out, and you end up with broken pieces.

Maybe you put the baking powder in twice, or didn’t whip the egg whites long enough?

Horizontal image of a stressed woman trying to bake in the kitchen, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

Were you short on flour, but baked your recipe anyway? Did you forget to line your pans? Perhaps you are baking at a higher elevation without making adjustments?

Before you toss out an imperfect confection, learn how to repurpose this potential food waste. Read on for seven fast and easy ideas for transforming your failed baked goodie into a delicious dessert.

Here’s our lineup:

Let’s jump right in!

1. Bits and Bites

Make a tray of bite-sized treats to present to dinner guests.

Cut the cake into manageable pieces and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Drizzle each with melted chocolate. Top with walnut halves, shredded coconut, or fresh berries. Refrigerate before serving.

Horizontal image of yellow and white treats on sticks with decorations.
Photo credit: Nikki Cervone

Homemade Cake Pops – Get the Recipe Now

You can also cut your flatter-than-desired baked goods into wedges if they were originally round in shape, or into squares if you attempted to bake a rectangular cake. Cover the pieces with ganache, fruit syrup, or caramel sauce. Serve warm with ice cream.

Another idea is to make cake pops. Read our cake pop tutorial for all the basics on this fun and easily customizable method. Depending on the season, you can make festive variations with Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas pops.

2. Boozy with Fruit

Cube the baked round or rectangle, place it in dessert bowls, and add bits of fresh, frozen and thawed, or canned fruit. Drizzle your favorite liqueur over the top for a refreshing treat.

Horizontal image of mini chocolate and whipped cream trifles with a cherry layer on a wooden surface.

If you enjoy the combination of vanilla and orange, serve a mix of Grand Marnier or your favorite type of orange-flavored liqueur and fresh orange segments with cubes of vanilla cake. Garnish with curled orange rind pieces.

For a sweet treat inspired by a Black Forest dessert add kirsch and top with whipped cream, maraschino cherries, and grated chocolate.

3. Brown Betty Pudding

Do you remember your grandma’s warm and sweet bread pudding? Was it a Brown Betty loaded with cinnamon, apples, and pears?

Horizontal image of a slice of bread pudding on a plate with apples.

Pudding is a terrific dish to make with an imperfect baked goodie. Just break it up into bite-sized pieces and use it in place of the bread in a pudding or apple Brown Betty recipe.

I can’t think of a flavor that doesn’t work well with this dessert!

4. Filled and Fabulous

If your cake sinks into itself, glaze or frost it generously. Try our recipes for cocoa fudge frosting, Swiss meringue buttercream, American-style buttercream, or a delectably dark ganache glaze.

Horizontal image of a round vanilla dessert on a cooling rack covered in a thick layer of chocolate ganache.

Then, fill the hollow cavity with sliced fresh fruit for an attractive presentation that doesn’t require a smooth, even top.

And for the fall and winter months, use our super easy spiced glaze recipe, made with freshly ground warming spices!

5. Fruity Parfait

One of the easier options on this list is to cube your cake and layer it in parfait glasses with fruit and whipped cream, yogurt, ice cream, or frosting, alternating layers for a beautiful presentation.

Vertical image of mini trifles with berries and whipped cream, with mint garnish.

Make a shortcake-style dessert with fresh strawberries if you baked a vanilla treat. Fresh or canned peaches work just as well for a peaches ‘n’ cream approach.

With a cocoa-flavored confection, try sliced bananas and peanut butter frosting, or a can of cherries like you’d use for pie filling.

Our recipe for spiced orange mousse also works beautifully in a parfait.

Did you make a vegan cake you need to salvage? Spread our thick and creamy vegan avocado cocoa pudding between the layers.

6. Hot Fudge Cups

Here’s another way to create fun individual desserts that works particularly well with classic chocolate or vanilla flavors.

Horizontal image of a hot fudge dessert in a glass dish on a wooden board next to a spoon.

Break the unfortunately baked treat into bite-sized pieces or cube it with a knife for a neater presentation. Place in dessert bowls and cover with a generous drizzle of hot fudge sauce. Top with whipped cream.

Garnish with crunchy toppings like finely crushed toffee, candied nuts, toasted coconut shreds, or granola.

Not a fan of chocolate sauce? Vanilla, gingerbread, German chocolate, macadamia nut, and carrot cakes would be delectable paired with a hot butterscotch or caramel sauce instead! Garnish with crumbled pretzels or chopped honey roasted almonds.

7. Pie in a Jiffy

A cake that is thin because it failed to rise makes an excellent crust for a pudding pie. Place it in a pie plate and cover it with your favorite pudding, like this homemade chocolate pudding or banana cream pudding.

Horizontal top-down image of a single vanilla round base on parchment paper next to tools and assorted ingredients.

Chill, then garnish with whipped cream, fresh fruit, chocolate shavings, or other toppings.

For flavor ideas, seek inspiration from classic cream pies – a banana cream pie can easily be recreated with vanilla cake, banana pudding, whipped cream, and crumbled vanilla wafer cookies.

For a chocolate cream pie, use a base of chocolate cake topped with pudding, whipped cream, crumbled cookies, and shaved chocolate.

Back in the Day

When my mother was growing up, she took a home economics class that required practicing recipes at home.

To my grandfather’s credit, he ate everything my mother cooked, regardless of color, texture, or taste. Nothing went to waste, particularly a dessert made with expensive ingredients like eggs and sugar.

When a baked confection was a little off, my grandmother would bury it beneath pudding and serve it with a big spoon, a treat I loved when I came along many years later.

Horizontal image of a stressed woman trying to bake in the kitchen.

Why not tap into the ingenuity of the ages and try these ideas before tossing out a potentially delicious baked good?

Let us know what you think! Share your secrets for reworking and saving baked desserts in the comments below.

If you found this article helpful, we recommend the following from our collection of guides and tutorials to solve other problems in the kitchen:

About Nan Schiller

Nan Schiller is a writer from southeastern Pennsylvania. When she’s not in the garden, she’s in the kitchen preparing imaginative gluten- and dairy-free meals. With a background in business, writing, editing, and photography, Nan writes humorous and informative articles on gardening, food, parenting, and real estate topics. Having celiac disease has only served to inspire her to continue to explore creative ways to provide her family with nutritious locally-sourced food.

5 thoughts on “7 Sweet Sensations to Make with a Cake that Didn’t Rise”

  1. 1/5/2020
    I made eleven (11)!!! Zucchini Bread loaves for co-worker Christmas gifts that refused to rise properly, leaving me with a dense, unpalatable, heavy, expensive mass. Threw them in the freezer till I could figure out what else I could do with them. Since they tasted okay despite the density, I’m going to attempt to turn them into Rum Balls…!

  2. Thank you for these great tips. I too don’t want to waste my ingredients for a brick-like date coffee cake. Other ideas I had were to 1) crumble the cake and toast under grill as topping to fruit crumble; 2) cut into cubes and incorporate into home made ice-cream as a kind cookie dough ice cream.


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