The Secret to Baking Super Moist Cake, Every Time
If you want to make glorious, super moist, good-without-the-frosting cake from scratch, you need these tried-and-true cake-making tips in your life.
“Moist” might be one of those words that people love to hate — but let’s face it, sometimes it’s just the word you need. Case in point: cake. No one likes a dry, crumbly cake. You want something light, fluffy and yes ... moist. Buttercream frosting entirely optional.
Here are some secrets to help make that happen.
Before you bake
- Sift the dry ingredients in a large bowl prior to mixing in the liquid ingredients. This will help you avoid clumps in the cake batter and give the cake a finer grain.
- Line your cake pan with parchment paper that is lightly greased and floured, to help with the removal process later. (For round cake pans, you can just line the bottom; for rectangular or square pans, let the parchment come up over two sides to help lift the cake out of the pan.)
- Don't use butter that's too warm. "Room-temperature" butter should be just that: about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If the butter is warmer than that, it might melt too quickly into the mixture and affect the overall texture — in a not-so-good way. Also, be sure to use the type of butter specified in the recipe; most will call for unsalted butter.
As you bake
- Position the pans in the center of the oven so that they get the most even heat. They shouldn't touch any sides of the oven during the baking time.
- Do not overbake! That’s the cardinal rule for a moist cake. To avoid overbaking, test the cake for doneness at least 5 minutes before the suggested cook time (a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean). And of course, be sure to use the exact oven temperature called for in the recipe.
How to cool a cake after baking
- Let your cake cool until you can touch the pan without hurting yourself (usually 8-10 minutes).
- Turn the cake out onto a wire rack, bottom-side up, and set aside to finish cooling.
- If you're eating the cake soon (i.e. the very same day), let the cake cool completely and trim the top before frosting with an offset spatula.
- If you're not eating the cake the same day, immediately transfer it to a cake board and trim the cake top, so that you can frost it evenly later.
How to keep a cake moist in the fridge
Most cakes are fine, covered, at room temperature for at least a couple days. But if you must refrigerate — either because it’s hot or humid or because certain other ingredients will spoil — you need to protect the cake from drying out. Here's how:
- Unfrosted cake. Wrap it thoroughly in plastic wrap.
- Frosted cake. Chill for 15 minutes to firm up the frosting, then wrap loosely in plastic wrap.
- Cut cake. A cake that's been cut is the most vulnerable to drying out. You can cover the cut edges with additional frosting, which acts as a natural moisture barrier. An alternative solution? Make cupcakes instead of cake to avoid cutting altogether!
How to keep cakes moist overnight
- While the cake is still hot, wrap it with a layer of plastic wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil, and put it in the freezer. The water created by the cake's residual heat will keep it moist (but not too moist) in the freezer.
- Let the cake thaw in the refrigerator slowly overnight the day before you want to frost it.
The other big secret? Using a tried-and-true cake recipe, like one of these.
Moist Chocolate Cake Recipe
Topped with a simple American-style buttercream frosting, this easy recipe is perfect for last-minute cake emergencies.
So Moist Red Velvet Cake Recipe
Don't swap out the self-rising flour for all-purpose flour or cake flour; it won't come out the same! However, according to King Arthur Flour, you can make your own by mixing 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder (not baking soda!) and 1/4 teaspoon salt for every cup of flour.
Super Moist Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
This new recipe has a couple of surprise ingredients to help keep it moist (and knock it out of the park): crushed pineapple and flaked coconut.
Moist Lemon Cake Recipe
More angel food cake than layer cake, this recipe uses cake mix and lemon pudding for an easy shortcut to delicious (just check out the recipe ratings for proof!)
Moist Blueberry Cake with Light Lemon Icing Recipe
You can use either fresh or frozen blueberries in this buttery cake with a tangy cream cheese frosting.
Moist Buttermilk Yellow Cake Recipe
Buttermilk and a whopping 5 large eggs come together to make a super moist, iconic birthday cake with chocolate frosting.
Super-moist Pumpkin Spice Cake Recipe
Ever heard of a mayonnaise cake? It's a classic style of cake from the depression that allowed people to make cake without vegetable oil or eggs. Add in pumpkin puree and you've got the recipe for an ultra-moist cake.
Moist Chocolate-Beet Cake Recipe
While beets may not be the first thing that comes to mind when making a cake, they're a surprisingly effective ingredient! You won't taste anything but chocolate, while the beets add sweetness and moisture.
Super Moist Vegan Carrot Cake Recipe
Cinnamon applesauce is the secret ingredient to replace the eggs in this classic cake gone vegan. And as a sheet cake, you won't have any cake layers to mess with, making this a great starting recipe for first-time vegan bakers.
Perfect Vanilla Cake Recipe
There's no excuse for cake mix with a go-to recipe in your back pocket. For intense vanilla flavor, use vanilla bean paste in this moist vanilla cake recipe from Kara's Couture Cake. If you can't find any, a high-quality pure vanilla extract will work as well.
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