Adding chocolate chips to a cake recipe or a muffin batter sounds like a great idea, but it is one idea that usually does not work out as planned. Chocolate chips often end up sinking to the bottom of a cake, quickbread or muffin batter as it bakes in the oven, creating a finished product with very uneven chip distribution and not delivering the type of chocolate chip dessert that you were hoping to have. If this has happened to you, you have probably found yourself asking the same question as many other bakers: why do chocolate chips sink to the bottom of cakes?
The primary reason that chocolate chips sink to the bottom of a cake or muffin recipe is that the chocolate chips are too heavy to be supported by the batter. This might mean that the batter is too delicate or that the chocolate chips – and this is also true of dried fruits and nuts – are just too heavy. In either case, the result is the same and you’ll end up with chocolate chips at the bottom of your baked goods instead of being evenly distributed throughout them.
Fortunately, there are a couple of solutions to the problem. To avoid the problem entirely, evaluate your cake batter before you stir in those chocolate chips, which should be added at the last minute so they don’t have too much time to sink. Is the batter thin and liquidy? Is if a very airy batter, like a chiffon cake? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” you might want to rethink your pan to stir in those chocolate chips if you don’t want to risk them sinking to the bottom. A stiff batter that is closer to cookie dough than pancake batter is much more capable of supporting lots of chocolate chips.
The easiest way to solve the problem is by using smaller chocolate chips. Miniature chocolate chips, or even finely chopped chocolate, are much lighter than standard size chocolate chips and can remain suspended in most batters much better. You might not get quite as much chocolate in each bite with smaller chocolate chips, but you will still get chocolate in every bite because they will be evenly distributed. The lighter the batter, the smaller the chips will need to be. One trick that is often recommended is tossing the chocolate chips in a little bit of flour before baking. This can definitely help if the chocolate chips only sink a little bit, but if the chocolate chips are far too large and heavy for your batter, that small amount of flour will not prevent them from sinking.