Bundt cake mix-ins: 10 tips for perfect results

Have you ever made a Bundt cake, cut a slice, looked at that large expanse of blank real estate (i.e., plain cake), and thought, “Hmmm, I could have added butterscotch chips.” Or blueberries. Or chopped pecans. Bundt cake mix-ins are a great way to add visual excitement and complementary flavors to your favorite cake; but there’s a trick to using them.

Actually several tricks. Maybe you’ve had this experience: you take your favorite yellow sheet cake recipe and decide to bake it in a Bundt pan for a change. “And while I’m at it, how about making it a chocolate chip cake?” You stir in a couple of cups of chips, bake, carefully turn the pan over — and lift it off to reveal a yellow cake crowned with a messy glop of semi-melted chocolate.

Bundt cake mix-ins via @kingarthurflour

What happened to your vision of cake studded with chocolate chips? Simply put, it fell victim to one of the basics of physics: gravity. The chips sank to the bottom of the pan as the cake baked. Not a pretty picture.

Bundt cake mix-ins: how to avoid that sinking feeling, and other handy tips. Click To Tweet

When using your favorite Bundt cake mix-ins, how can you set yourself up for success, rather than unhappy failure? Here are 10 quick tips for adding flavor and interest to Bundt cakes by using mix-ins.

For even dispersal of Bundt cake mix-ins, choose an appropriate recipe

Makes sense, right? The thicker the batter, the less likely your mix-ins will sink. Some cake recipes start with batter thin enough to pour easily; others, with thick batter that needs to be scooped into the pan, not poured. Choose the latter for best results: Lemon Bliss Cake and Classic Vanilla Bundt Cake are two good examples of thicker-batter Bundt cakes.

Bundt cake mix-ins via @kingarthurflour

Adding chopped walnuts to Chocolate Fudge Bundt Cake: at left, batter made with Instant ClearJel; at right, without Instant ClearJel.

“Strengthen” your batter

For the best chance at keeping those chips, nuts, and berries where they belong — suspended in lovely symmetry throughout your baked cake — turn to Instant ClearJel. Unlike cornstarch, which needs to be cooked before it thickens, this starch-based product thickens thin batters instantly — and lends added “holding power” to thicker batters.

I’ve had success using 1/4 cup ClearJel with thin batters, and 2 tablespoons ClearJel with thicker batters. To prevent lumps, combine the ClearJel with an equal amount of some of the sugar from the recipe before adding. If the recipe calls for creaming butter with sugar, hold back the ClearJel/sugar until the end of the creaming process before beating it in.

Bundt cake mix-ins via @kingarthurflour

Consider the weight and shape of your mix-ins

Chocolate chips weigh 6 ounces per cup. Pecans, 4 ounces per cup. Chocolate chips are smooth and round; pecan halves, larger and flatter.

Q: Which do you think is more likely to sink to the bottom of the pan? A: The heavier, more streamlined chocolate chips will sink more readily than the pecan halves. Thus chocolate chips probably aren’t a good choice for thin-batter cakes.

Bundt cake mix-ins via @kingarthurflour

When in doubt, start Bundt cake mix-ins at the top of the batter

If you suspect your mix-ins might sink — if the batter’s just on the edge of being thick enough, for instance — take this step to help keep them in place. Pour batter into the pan, sprinkle the mix-ins on top, and use a spatula to just barely submerge them in that top layer of batter. With any luck, some will stay near the top while others sink.

Bundt cake mix-ins via @kingarthurflour

Don’t overfill your pan

If you’re adding 2 cups of cinnamon chips to a cake recipe whose batter already filled your Bundt pan nicely, don’t fool yourself that those extra 2 cups won’t make a difference. Always leave at least 1 1/4” of free space at the top of your Bundt pan (for more, see our blog on Bundt pan sizes). And use any extra batter to make cupcakes.

Bundt cake mix-ins via @kingarthurflour

Don’t go overboard

About 1 1/2 to 2 cups mix-ins are sufficient for a standard-size Bundt cake. More than this makes it difficult to slice the cake easily, and exacerbates any potential problems with sticking chips or oozing fruit.

Bundt cake mix-ins via @kingarthurflour

Choose fruit carefully

Fresh fruit can break down and bleed into a baking cake, creating sodden pockets of soft fruit and juice. For best results, use fresh (not frozen) firm berries (blueberries), or chopped firm fruit (apples, pears, hard peaches).

Bundt cake mix-ins via @kingarthurflour

Use extra care when removing the cake from the pan

Bundt cake mix-ins may make it more difficult to get the cake out of the pan without tearing, especially if those mix-ins melt and become sticky (think chocolate). It helps to get the cake out of the pan before any sticky bits on the crust turn to permanent glue. Once you take the cake out of the oven, loosen its edges, turn it over onto a rack, lift the pan off, and pray for success. For more, see our post: How to prevent Bundt cakes from sticking.

Bundt cake mix-ins via @kingarthurflour

Do a test bake

If you’re tasked with coming up with a gala Bundt cake for your best friend’s anniversary party, save yourself some anxiety by testing the recipe on your family first. Do the mix-ins stay in place? Were you able to get the cake out of the pan without too much trouble? And, most importantly — does it taste good? You’ll thank yourself for nailing the process before the big day arrives.

Bundt cake mix-ins via @kingarthurflour

Last but not least — don’t use marshmallows!

Tempting as it is to create a chocolate marshmallow cake, mini-marshmallows A) dissolve into a gooey mess as they bake, and B) are so light that they float atop the baking batter. Result? Chocolate cake with a sodden layer of marshmallow goo at the bottom. Yes, experience was my teacher here.

Want to share your special tips for Bundt cake success? Please post them in comments, below.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. ATL Ann

    Awesome post as usual! Have y’all tested dusting the add ins with some of the flour? I’ve always wondered if it was worth the effort.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Hi — I thought long and hard about the flour dusting. But the thing is, when you dust chocolate chips and other slick add-ins, which are the most likely to sink, the flour doesn’t stick. Then I thought, well, you could moisten the chips with water, which would make the flour stick — and also potentially create floury pockets around each chip in the baked cake. Flour does stick to dried fruit pretty well, but dried fruit is usually lightweight, and isn’t prone to sink anyway. Trust me, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about this one morning while walking my dogs! In the end, I just decided not to go there; I think thickening the batter (or choosing batter that’s thick to begin with) is more reliable. Glad you enjoyed the post, though — PJH

    2. She Bakes!

      I have a really tasty fresh apple/ raisin cake recipe which calls for dusting the apples and raisins before baking. No sticking ever.

  2. Lorraine Fina Stevenski

    I use mini chocolate chips and don’t have a problem with sinking. i cut dried fruit into smaller pieces too.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Lorraine, thanks for sharing that — smaller bits weigh less and thus sink less readily. Mini chips and diced fruit also look better, since they’re spread throughout the batter more evenly. Good tip! PJH

  3. Keri

    I often use a bit of reserved dry ingredients to coat the add-ins before adding to the batter. I find it really is helpful, though I’m sure it does depend on the thickness of the batter and type of add-in.

    Reply
  4. Linda Sharrow

    Thank you for your lovely article about cake add ins. I always enjoy adding special ingredients into for example box cake mixes. Your skill level and advice are greatly appreciated. Try it once and have great success.

    Reply
  5. Margaret

    Does the ClearJel work with gluten free baking? I find that when I bake with gf mixes and scratch cakes, the batter doesn’t support fruit very well.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Margaret, while this tip does work for gluten-free recipes, Instant ClearJel isn’t made in a certified gluten-free facility. (It is processed on equipment that also processes wheat.) If this isn’t suitable for all who will be enjoying the cake, you can try tossing the mix-ins in a tablespoon or two of cornstarch before adding to the batter. Happy GF baking! Kye@KAF

  6. Margie Orr

    I have a wonderful buttermilk pound cake recipe that I found online. Thinking about adding coconut to the batter. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Buttermilk-coconut pound cake, yum! We have a Coconut Loaf Cake recipe that calls for added 2/3 cup of sweetened, shredded coconut to be added to the batter. Feel free to use as much as 1 to 1 1/2 cups since Bundt recipes are usually a bit larger than loafs. Stir it in gently right at the end of mixing the batter. Enjoy! Kye@KAF

  7. Carolyn

    Using ClearJel to thicken a batter – that is such a cool trick! It doesn’t change the texture of the cake? I’d love a post on other uses for ClearJel because I’ve only ever used it for thickening pie filling.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Carolyn, it does seem to make the final texture of the cake a bit moister (which makes sense, since it’s starch and attracts water); but that’s not a bad thing. We do occasionally showcase ingredients here, and that’s a good one to focus on, for sure — thanks. PJH

  8. K. Cook

    Figured out how to salvage a bundt cake fail. If your bundt cake sticks to the pan and the pretty rounded top of the cake becomes torn up and, well, not so pretty, you can still save the cake. Take all of the stuck on cake and loose, torn pieces off and crumble them in a bowl. Set aside. Make a batch of icing as you would for a usual layer cake–buttercream works great. Put about half of your icing into the bowl of cake crumbs and mix thoroughly. Then slice your bundt cake in half horizontally… so that you have a “normal” bottom half and the “abnormal” top half. Remove the top half carefully and spread the icing and cake crumb mixture onto the bottom. Then replace the top and spread the rest of the plain icing onto the top generously and decorate as you wish. No one will be the wiser that it wasn’t purely intentional and your guests will love your creativity! Actually, when I did this, it was one of the better tasting bundt cakes I had made. Happy baking!

    Reply
  9. Maria Nerius

    I consider myself a beginner and just wanted to add that I’ve used the ClearJel in a variety of sweet treats and just love it. No after taste at all and I’m picky about “adding” things into a batter, sauce, purée, or jam. So Bravo! King Arthur so giving us such great information, ingredients, and tools that help us succeed!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We haven’t experimented with freeze dried mini marshmallows in the test kitchen, but we assume you’d run into a similar problem that we did here with the regular version. If they’re very light and airy, they’ll just float to the to of the batter. Perhaps you could glaze you Bundt cake and then sprinkle the freeze dried mini marshmallows on top? Kye@KAF

  10. Gayle Schild, WA

    Great info! I love berries in cake, but the Clear gel, will help with the sinking! I’m with Carolyn above, more on how to use Clear Gel, please! Such a great product in pies, why not cake?!

    Reply
  11. Lee

    I always love your posts, PJ; they are both entertaining and educational. I have just started baking bundt cakes this year, thanks to KAF’s Year of the Bundt encouragement. Quick question, I am guessing the beautiful blueberry cake at the top of the post is based on the Lemon Bliss cake? Just want to make sure as it looks amazing and I would like to try it for my next bundt experiment. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Lee- yes, you’ve got it! It’s the Lemon Bliss Cake with fresh blueberries mixed in. Lemon and blueberry is a classic combo that we never get tired of. Enjoy! Kye@KAF

  12. Janet Ligas

    I’ve made a strawberry cake and also learned by experience after experiencing massive craters in the top of the cake. I put about 1/3 of the batter in and half of the strawberries. Then the rest of the batter topped with the rest of the strawberries. My thought was to try to disperse them a little more. Worked much better.

    Reply
  13. Matthew G. Bakker

    Hello PJ,
    My wife and I live in Plymouth, MA, not too far from where you are. We recently went on a vacation to Alaska where she acquired some sourdough starter. I was wondering if she could talk to you to get some tips and techniques on how to make better breads. I bought her the 7 quart KitchenAid stand mixer for Christmas and she uses it all the time. I wanted to buy her a good container for her sourdough starter, do you have any suggestions?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Hi, neighbor! Sourdough is a very involved subject, and there are lots and lots and LOTS of paths to good bread. The starter she acquired in Alaska will soon morph into a “Pilgrim starter” — that is, it’ll take on the characteristics of your own home kitchen in Plymouth. Her best bet is to read and study our complete guide to baking with sourdough; There’s lots of great information and tips there, much more than I could possibly remember if we were to chat. If she has further questions once she’s done that, she could definitely call our baker’s hotline, as well: 855-371-2253. Best of luck! PJH

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