Muffin disaster - why?!

Joined Jan 25, 2010
I'm not an experienced baker. Just to get that out of the way. I made some muffins last night that I thought would be wonderful but turned out flat and completely gummy inside. They were definitely not underbaked. I'd greatly appreciate if someone could help me determine which mistake caused this awful mess.

I had 2 wonderful recipes - one for blueberry muffins and one for banana muffins. I used gluten free baking mix instead of flour, which I've never done before with muffins but should in theory be ok. I also added the crumb topping to the muffins midway through baking which took a couple minutes (I realized later that was a grave mistake). Before I added the crumb topping the muffins were puffing up nicely. After leaving the oven door open too long and adding the brown sugar-butter-flour crumb topping, the muffins flattened out and the crumb topping created giant craters in the tops of the muffins. I took them out of the oven when a toothpick came out clean, but after cooling they were densely gummy inside. I even put them back in the oven thinking maybe just maybe they were underbaked, but alas, they were still gummy inside.

So, my question is...what caused the gummy flatness? Was it leaving the oven open too long midway through baking? Or did the crumb topping flatten them out and squish all the ingredients down, leaving them densely gummy? Or something else entirely???

I want to make another batch, but want to figure out what went so horribly wrong so I can correct it.

Thanks very much!:peace:
Joined Dec 2, 2009
Did your recipe call for GF baking mix? What is in your baking it like Bisquick (which contains leavenings and other things)? Can you post your recipe...I suspect you have substituted apples for oranges.
Joined Aug 13, 2006
I;ve color-coded the paragraphs according to the points they talk about:

I think you;ve answered your own questions. Why do you say gluten-free baking mix should be an ok substitute for flour? A little gluten helps hold up the structure of the muffins. Are you specifically allergic to gluten? Someone you;re bakiing for? If so, you need a recipe made for that kind of flour. Otherwise some people get the idea that gluten is bad for you because it's bad for some people. There are very specific diseases that require you to avoid gluten but otherwise gluten is healthy, it's the protein in wheat, and protein is good for you. So if you can eat it, throw out the gluten-free mix, unless you want your beginning baking experiences to go bad.

Secondly, did the recipe call for putting the topping in after the muffins were half baked or was that your idea? (Since you said that was a bad idea i imagine it was something you decided to do). It's not a good idea to go touching anything except bread (yeasted bread, that is, that has been kneaded to develop more gluten and which therefore has way more structure than a muffin that is not kneaded, and certainly more than one made with gluten-free flour.) It's ok to open the oven if you don't slam it or move things around roughly, and if you don;t leave it open so long the temperature goes down. But touching and fooling around with the batter while it's already baking is going to make your cake or muffins come out flat and gummy. And a brown sugar topping is very heavy for that delicate batter once it's begun to heat up. The reason the muffins will come out flat in that case is because the bubbles are forming already and they are holding up in the wet batter simply because of the heat at this point (which makes air expand). Later the heat will cook the flour so they stay as holes and don;t collapse. But if you move them roughly or worse yet, put stuff on top of them, you break the bubbles, and the leavening in the dough has already been spent and will not produce more bubbles. (Try this, mix baking soda with vinegar. It forms bubbles. But it only forms bubbles for a while, then the ingredients have been used up, whatever chemical reactions they created have finished, and no more bubbles form. That;s how leavening or baking powder works, a base mixed with an acid, activated by the liquid in the recipe.)

Which brings me to the last problem. You said you substituted FLOUR with gluten-free BAKING MIX. Not with gluten-free flour. Baking mix would have leavening in it already. So presumably you added baking powder or soda as the recipe calls for but then added the mix with more baking powder. This is a problem because contrary to what intuition might tell us, more baking powder doesn't make cakes higher. There is only so much height that a cake or muffin or whatever can achieve and that depends on what height the structure of the flour can sustain. It would be like using a certain size beam to make a 3 story building, and then saying, "hey, let's make this building 6 stories" but using the same beams. They might hold the weight of 3 stories, but they won;t hold 6. The whole building will collapse, and not just the top three floors, because the weight and height of falling will crush the rest.

It';s good to experiment with different ingredients and all, and there are certain substitutions you can do if you have the experience (as I have, for instance, having baked for most of my 60 years) or the scientific knowledge (which i may have a little of for reading many cookbooks, but which i don't have much of since i never studied baking). But baking is a little more tricky than cooking, and you should probably get more experience baking following recipes pretty accurately, and then begin to get a feel for what works and what can go wrong. Then you can start to play around with your recipes. I'de say, get some basic cookbooks. They will usually have a section where they talk about what substitutions are possible. You should stick to those at first.

Hope this helps. I love baking and wish more people did it. It is my meditation, my relaxation tape, my yoga. And if more people baked, maybe i could eat good things outside my house too!
Joined Jan 25, 2010
Thank you so much. That was very helpful & very thorough! Yes, I think it was a series of things that led to the demise of my muffins.

To answer some of your questions, I've had to go wheat free for health reasons, not specifically gluten free, but there aren't many baking mixes out there made from things that are wheat free but have gluten (ie spelt, oat, etc).

I saw that baking soda was listed in the mix ingredients but since it's a pancake mix i thought the amount might be minimal, so I added the full amt of baking powder the muffin recipe called for, which I now know was a mistake! The original recipe said to sprinkle the crumb topping on the muffins before baking but in the reviews of the recipe a bunch of people said to sprinkle it on midway thru baking. Go figure. I tried to be very gentle while sprinkling, and didn't touch the muffins, but it took me a few minutes to do, meanwhile the oven door was open.

It was an experiment that did not turn out the way I'd hoped, but I've learned my lesson & will stick to tried-and-true recipes for now. Like buying an actual wheat-free baking mix and following their recipe. And not baking things I've never done before when I'm tired, brain foggy & not feeling well.

I really appreciate you taking the time to offer your the input - it was very informative & helpful. I'm used to rustic, homestyle, don't-measure-anything kind of cooking which is COMPLETELY different than baking. Baking is a challenge!
Joined Aug 13, 2006
Thanks, Deleeshy, I guess we like to go on these forums because we like to do this. Plus people have helped me plenty as well.

As bakers go, I tend to measure less than some, and certainly less precisely. Maybe you should get yourself a wheat free cookbook, because i can imagine the techniques are different. Then you don;t have to buy mixes but you can buy flour - rye, corn, spelt (isn;t spelt a form of wheat?).

Don't give up on the intuitive aspect of baking and don't get discouraged from experimenting - just do it when you';ve got the stuff down pat.
Joined Oct 1, 2012

I like your answer. I was googling to find out why my muffin became hard on cooling.

Love your detailed answer

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