Let there be cake. A party without cake is just a meeting. Marie Antoinette and Julia Child may have had a couple of hundred years between them, but they had a point. Cake is fun. It livens up the ordinary. What would a birthday be without a birthday cake?
Don’t fear baking cake.
Whether you are looking to tackle a weekend baking project or want to whip up a chocolate cake with a sweet powdered sugar frosting to enjoy after dinner during the work week, there’s a homemade cake recipe to fit your timeline (and your tastebuds).
View what the experts say regarding how to bake cake (plus a short video and picture instructions on how to line a pan with parchment paper).
- What Not To Do When Baking a Cake?
- What Can You Do if You Are a Distracted Baker?
- What Does It Mean to Preheat an Oven?
- How to Prepare a Cake Pan
- How Do You Put Parchment Paper in a Cake Pan?
- How Do I Bring Ingredients to Room Temperature Fast?
- What Does It Mean to Cream Butter and Sugar?
- What Does a Cake's Crumb Mean?
- Does It Matter What Order You Add Wet and Dry Ingredients?
- What Should I Do If My Butter Is Too Soft?
- Is There a Right Way to Add Eggs to Cake Batter?
- What's the Difference Between Mixing and Beating?
- Should I Use Real Vanilla Extract or Artificial Vanilla Extract?
- Do I Need to Use Cake Flour or All-Purpose Flour?
- What Does the Recipe Mean When It Refers to Dry Ingredients?
- How Do You Put Cake Batter in Cake Layer Pans?
- Can I Put the Cake Batter in the Refrigerator?
- What Are Cake Baking Times for Pan Sizes?
- How Do You Adjust Baking Time for Cakes?
- Where Should a Cake Go In My Oven?
- How Can You Tell When a Cake is Done Baking?
- Can I Put an Underbaked Cake Back in the Oven?
- How Long Should You Leave a Cake in the Pan After Baking?
- Do You Know How to Bake the Best Possible Cake?
- Cake Recipes and Resources:
- Related Resources:
What Not To Do When Baking a Cake?
The biggest cake blunders are the easiest to avoid.
- Always heat the oven before you begin.
- Use metal cake pans, not ceramic, glass, or stoneware.
- Check expiration dates on your leaveners (baking powder). Old leaveners won’t work as expected, and your cakes could end up flat.
- Use too many ingredient substitutions or strange substitutions. Follow the ingredient list or find a different recipe for your first bake.
What Can You Do if You Are a Distracted Baker?
Distractions happen. Someone is asking a question, or you are working on three things at once, and the cat needs feeding. If you sometimes get lost during a recipe, Elizabeth Alston has a few tips from her cookbook below:
Have lots of measuring cups and spoons available (yard sales are often a good source). Take the spoons off their ring; keep them handy in a pot on the kitchen counter. When you are inspired to bake, quickly read through the recipe, making sure you have not only every ingredient but enough of each.
Before mixing the batter, measure every ingredient and leave them in their measuring cup or spoon. (Butter you can leave in the wrapper.)
Elizabeth Alston, Elizabeth Alston’s Best Baking (2000), page xxiii.
For example, 21/2 teaspoons baking powder would occupy two 1-teaspoon measures and one 1/2-teaspoon measure. (If you don’t have enough spoons to do this, put measured baking powder in little heaps on a piece of wax paper to easily see you have measured correctly.)
If you get distracted, you’ll know where you are.
I’d suggest using a cutting board rather than using wax paper to lay out your dry ingredients. It’s one less thing to replace and buy. A quick rinse will typically suffice to clean off the items.
What Does It Mean to Preheat an Oven?
Heating your oven to the correct baking temperature should be your first step before you begin doing anything else involved in baking a cake. Why should you turn on your oven first thing?
It takes time to get your oven up to the right temperature.
Getting your oven ready to bake a cake doesn’t mean turning it on, throwing a cake together, and shoving the pans in there. If your range, like mine, doesn’t let you know when it’s heated and ready to go, here’s an excellent way to check if it’s reached the right temperature: note the time.
A couple of factors affect the preheating time. The higher the desired temperature, the longer it takes to get there (say 450° F vs. 350° F); a bigger oven may also take a touch more time because there’s more air to heat up.
But because the majority of baking projects usually happen between 350°F and 375°F, 20 minutes is a good average time to get your oven up to speed.
If you put your cake batter in a too-cold oven, you risk baking the heck out of the edges while the interior remains undercooked. It would be a bad mix of dry cake and gooey cake.
How to Prepare a Cake Pan
The best recipes tell you how you should prep your cake pan. Do this step before you start baking your cake but after you begin heating your oven. If you don’t grease your pan, your cake will stick. It will be a sad day.
There are a few ways to prep a pan for cake baking. You might need to line the pan with parchment paper, use shortening or butter to grease the pan, sprinkle with flour, or spray with a baking spray (like Pam for Baking with Flour).
If you choose my favorite, a baking spray, opt for a canola oil-based spray. Olive oil can add unwanted flavor to your baked goods.
After you prep your pans (detailed instructions below), set the pans aside and begin your recipe.
Should I Use Baking Spray or Parchment Paper?
Parchment paper will NEVER let your cake stick. You may occasionally miss a spot or not get quite enough baking spray on your round cake pan, and experience sticking.
Is Wax Paper a Good Parchment Paper Substitute?
Unlike parchment paper, wax paper is not heat resistant. The waxy coating can melt and potentially cause a fire (depending on the application), or add that wax-based coating to your cakes as it heats in the oven. So, no. Wax paper is not a substitute for parchment paper—but a greasing spray, such as Pam for Baking with Flour or Baker’s Joy, is.
How Do You Put Parchment Paper in a Cake Pan?
I don’t remember when I started using parchment paper, but I do know that it changed my baking forever. Parchment paper prevents cookies from spreading and keeps your cake from sticking to the bottom of the baking pan (you still need to grease the sides of your pan).
It’s convenient if you are making a sheet cake or a layer cake. You can’t use parchment paper in a Bundt pan.
But not everyone knows how to use parchment paper or when. I use Reynold’s Wrap Biodegradable and Compostable Parchment Paper. It was available in my previous “Amish paradise,” so it can’t be hard to find at your typical grocery store.
Here are a few parchment paper facts:
- Parchment paper may darken in the oven.
- Parchment paper is oven safe to 425* per Reynold’s Wrap.
- Reusable (Reynold’s Wrap brand is reusable up to three times when you’re baking cookies).
- Unbleachable and compostable parchment paper is available in the same size and lengths as nonbiodegradable, works the same, and is the same price (it costs less in my grocery store).
Should you spray parchment paper for baking?
You don’t need to use baking spray on your baking pan if you’re using parchment paper. Some people like to spray a small blob in the middle of the cake pan to give the parchment paper something to hold onto. It isn’t necessary.
Parchment paper is nonstick.
What Are the Steps for Greasing Sheet Cake or Loaf Pans Using Parchment Paper?
Most recipes call for greasing a sheet cake pan (9 x 13 pan) or loaf pan with baking spray. If that’s the case with your recipe, hold the pan over the sink, push down the nozzle on the greasing spray, and spray the pan as you move the spray from one end to the other.
Go too slow, and you’ll create puddles of grease. It takes no more than one second to grease your pan.
But if your recipe asks you to cover the pan with parchment paper, here’s how:
- Grab your parchment paper. Compare the length of the paper to the bottom of your cake pan. Tear the paper.
- Flip over the cake pan so you are looking at the flat bottom. Set it down on the parchment paper.
- Using a pencil, trace the bottom of the cake pan.
What Are the Steps for Greasing Sheet Cake Pans Using Greasing Spray?
Greasing Round Cake Pans
- Grab your parchment paper. Compare the length of the paper to the bottom of your cake pan. Tear the paper.
- Flip over the cake pan, so you are looking at the flat bottom (the part that would make contact with the counter).
- Set the cake pan on the parchment paper.
- Using a pencil, trace the bottom of the cake pan.
- Grab scissors and cut out the circle.
- Flip your cake pan right-side up. Put a spritz of Pam for Baking with Flour or Baker’s Joy in the middle of your cake pan. Then spray the rest of the pan. It’s unnecessary to spray the entire middle section of your pan (since you’re using parchment paper), but it will help keep your parchment paper from sliding around.
What are the Steps for Preparing Cake Pans with Shortening and Flour?
I don’t like to add flour to my cake pans. I think it makes them too crusty and taste “off.” I use baking spray or parchment paper.
Coating a greased cake pan with a thin dusting of flour creates a barrier between the grease and the cake batter, which prevents the grease from melting and disappearing into the batter as the cake bakes, allowing it to do its job in the end, after the cake is baked.
(Essentially, the cake will slide out of the pan without a hitch.) However, flouring a cake pan after you’ve greased it is not absolutely necessary, and some bakers opt to simply grease their cake pans because the flour can contribute to a thicker, drier crust on some cakes, which some consider unpleasant.
If you want to flour your pans, here’s how:
- Lightly and evenly coat the inside of the pan’s sides and bottom with vegetable shortening (use a paper towel you’ve folded or a brush or even your fingers, but it’s harder to get a light coating that way). Don’t leave chunks or glops of shortening, or you’ll affect your cake.
- Sprinkle a tablespoon of flour into your pan. Shake the pan, and tilt it around to move the flour across the bottom of your pan. Get all the shiny shortening areas covered in a light dusting of flour.
- Tap out the remainder of the flour into the trash can.
How Do I Bring Ingredients to Room Temperature Fast?
When your schedule suddenly opens up, or you feel in the mood to bake a vanilla cake, waiting for cold ingredients like eggs, milk, and butter to come to room temperature is a pain. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Unfortunately, it is important. Don’t use cold products from the fridge. Consider the tips below to help speed up the process instead.
• Soften cold or frozen butter quickly by grating on a coarse grater or, with a sharp knife, cutting the butter into small pieces. Let it stand at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before using.Susan Kosoff, Good Old-Fashioned Cakes (1989), Page 1.
• Bring unshelled eggs to room temperature by soaking them in hot tap water for 3 to 5 minutes.
• Warm dairy products in a saucepan over very low heat for one minute or until tepid; or place in a microwave-safe bowl or container and heat for about 20 seconds at high power.
With those tips to speed along the “bring ingredients to room temperature” process, you’ll return to baking in no time.
What Does It Mean to Cream Butter and Sugar?
Read a few cake recipes, and you’ll notice a common theme. The instructions often tell you to cream the butter and sugar together.
Here’s what this cake-baking step means and why it’s important.
The purpose of creaming is to incorporate air into the butter. As you cream, the volume of the butter should increase, the color become lighter, the texture smoother, yet the butter should retain the ability to hold its shape.
At this point, it has reached the proper consistency, or plasticity, to accept the sugar. In butter-style cakes, bringing this fat to this stage is the single most important step toward successful cake baking.
However, there are multiple ways to combine cake ingredients. Home bakers typically recognize three creaming methods.
- The Creaming Method
- The Blending Method
- The Combination Method
But there are a few more techniques out there. The type of method you choose will affect the texture of the cake, or crumb.
What Does a Cake’s Crumb Mean?
Watch a food-centered TV show or two, and you’ll hear someone gushing about the crumb of this cake or the crumb of that cake.
A cake with a fine crumb has individual particles of cake (the crumb) that are small and delicate (fine). Almost a velvety texture. I find this more with scratch butter cakes, where the butter content of the cake gives you a “melt in your mouth” sensation when you eat it.Cake Texture–Why Don’t I “Get It?”, Cake Center, Updated August 20, 2007, Accessed May 15, 2023.
A standard boxed cake mix, for example, has a less delicate and larger crumb (although it may be moist and delicious). Much of this is determined by the chemistry of the cake – amount of acid, type of leavening, freshness of batter, type of flour, temperature at which cake was baked, etc. . . .
Does It Matter What Order You Add Wet and Dry Ingredients?
You measure your cake’s ingredients, mix them, and bake. Does it matter if you add the wet ingredients (such as butter, granulated sugar, eggs, milk, whipping cream, maple syrup, and vanilla extract) to your dry ingredients (such as your flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, or cocoa powder) or is it the other way around?
The reason that wet and dry ingredients are often first mixed together in separate bowls before being combined has everything to do with evenly dispersing ingredients. Without following this initial step, it’s fairly easy to get batter that has unappetizing concentrations of salt or slightly metallic-tasting baking soda, or egg whites and yolks that are still separated, and will behave differently in the oven.Julia Sklar, Does It Matter In What Order You Add Wet and Dry Ingredients?, AllRecipes, December 21, 2020.
But from there, there is actually much debate about which order of combining is best. Some say that adding dry into wet leads to clumps of dry ingredients floating in the batter, while others say that actually the opposite, adding wet to dry, leads to, well, clumps.
But there are different ways to go about it, depending on the type of cake you’re baking.
The order you add wet ingredients to your flour mixture varies among mixing methods.
The Creaming Method
It’s a classic. Pound cake, coconut cake, and butter cake typically use the creaming way of mixing. Coffee cakes and other quick bread do too.
“Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Alternate wet and dry ingredients to the batter,” you know the drill. You’ve read these instructions before.
The best results come from beating the ingredients together until the mixture is pale in color and fluffy—how long this takes depends on the strength and speed of your mixer.Nancy Mock, How to Cream Butter and Sugar for Your Best Baking Yet, Taste of Home, Updated January 26, 2021.
In some cases, the step will take about 5-7 minutes, but more powerful mixers may only take 2 or 3.
Yes, it will take that long. If you don’t cream together the butter and sugar for long enough, your cake will be heavier than you’d like. If you cream your ingredients for too long, the cake will end up rubbery and tough.
The Reverse Creaming Method
Rose Levy Beranbaum is credited with sharing the reverse creaming method with the masses. Although she mentioned it in a 1982 issue of Cook’s Illustrated, the technique didn’t gain traction until her masterful work, The Cake Bible, was published in 1988.
She found it in commercial baking books using a high ratio of shortening. With a few tweaks, Rose made it her own, according to Epicurious.
It’s the intriguingly named “reverse creaming” method, also referred to as the “paste” method. To use this technique, you beat softened butter directly into the dry ingredients, rather than creaming it with just sugar alone (the way you do in more common recipes).
The reverse creaming step leads to a crumbly, sandy mixture that doesn’t really look like the first step to a promising cake batter. But trust the process.
Next, you beat in the liquid ingredients, then eggs, and that sugary sand coalesces into a thick, smooth batter that’s ready to bake. Voilà!Rossi Anastopoulo, What Is Reverse Creaming, and Why Does It Make Great Cake?, King Arthur Flour Company, March 9, 2022.
People love this type of creaming method. It’s about the crumb here (see above to learn the term). Oh, and speed. It’s fast to throw together.
Reverse creaming also produces a slightly finer and more delicate crumb that Senior Food Editor Lauryn Tyrell goes crazy for. “The dry ingredients get more evenly coated in fat, which helps minimize the gluten development,” she says.
The result is a cake that is not too dense, and not too fluffy.
When using the regular creaming method, you are essentially beating lots of air into the butter-sugar mixture, which in turn gives the cake a significant amount of volume and a more open crumb structure.Riley Wofford, Here’s Why You Should Be Using the Reverse Creaming Method for Cakes, Martha Stewart, March 29, 2022.
If you despise lopping the tops off your cakes, the reverse creaming could also be for you. It results in a flat cake. You won’t have to saw off the tops of your domed cakes. That’s a real time-saver.
The Blending Method
Oil-based cakes use the blending mixing method. Unlike a butter-based cake, an oil-based cake using the blending method will be thin and watery. Unlike the usual cake recipe where you place the cake batter into your baking pans when you have an oil-based cake, you’ll pour the batter into the pan.
Common oil-based cakes include carrot cake. Even some chocolate cake recipes use oil.
The Melting Method
If you’ve ever baked a gingerbread cake, you’ve used this method to combine ingredients. We love gingerbread. Chilly mornings are made for a solid hunk of the stuff.
Melt the butter in a pot with the sugar, then add the eggs and the rest of the dry ingredients. It’s simple (and you don’t have to wait to bring the butter to room temperature).
The Whisking Method
Whisk eggs and sugar together. Yes, you will want to use a whisk. A long-pronged fork is not the same thing as a whisk. You want air to get in that mixture.
Chiffon cake, angel food cake, and sponge cake use the whisking method.
This is where the ribbon stage may come into play.
How Does Rippling (Ribbon Method) Make a Lighter Cake?
For a cake with better volume and a better texture, it starts with how you add eggs to the batter. Rippling or ribboning, it doesn’t matter what you call it. The idea is the same.
If you read old, vintage cookbooks as I do, you’ve likely seen the “ribbon method” or “ribbon technique” mentioned a few times. It’s most frequently associated with baking sponge cakes.
Gourmet has a tip for you.
The simple step of ribboning goes a long way toward ensuring the lightness and volume of a finished cake. When your egg mixture forms a ribbon that takes two seconds to dissolve into the batter when the beater is lifted, you are right where you want to be. It should drop in a wide, flat band that folds in on itself, as a heavy satin ribbon would. (If it falls in a thin column, keep beating.)
Don’t try to rush things. . .ribboning can take a good ten or fifteen minutes. Ribboning is a sign that the sugar is completely dissolved and the eggs are well aerated, which will help them disperse evenly throughout the batter.
A cake that hasn’t been ribboned correctly won’t rise as high as it should, and may have a dense, rubbery layer on the bottom when baked. Volume is also lost if you let a ribboned mixture sit around before baking.
Yes, it’s important. Rely on your senses to get this one right. You can do it! It sounds more complicated than it is. Truly.
Here are the things to look for:
Usually it takes anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes of beating eggs and sugar using an electric mixer to reach ribbon stage. But don’t rely on time. Instead, use some key visual clues to recognize when you’ve succeeded:Rossi Anastopoulo, What Does “Ribbon Stage” Mean?, King Arthur Flour, September 16, 2020, Accessed May 6, 2023.
• Texture: The mixture should have thickened significantly, becoming almost foam-like. This is where the “ribbon” part comes in: when you lift the mixer attachment or whisk from the mixture, the batter should fall back in thick trails. The ribbon lines will stay suspended on top of the batter, remaining clearly visible on the surface for a few moments before slowly disappearing.
• Color: The mixture should also have become considerably lighter and be a very pale yellow.
• Volume: The eggs and sugar will have noticeably expanded, increasing the volume of the batter (often triple the original size). This is because of all the (super-important) air that’s been added to the mixture from beating.
I know you’ve experienced that weird bottom-of-the-cake texture too. Isn’t that the worst? Ribboning is a simple way to help solve it.
- Rip off a small square of wax paper.
- Dip the wax paper into your shortening. Spread the shortening evenly around the pan and to the edges.
The Combination Method
We love pound cake in our house. Scratch that. My oldest son LOVES pound cake. My other son and I love pound cake. To make that kind of cake, you use the combination method.
Also known as the ‘Flour batter’ method it is often used for making old-fashioned pound cake. Flour is creamed with shortening to form a soft and light, fluffy mass. At the same time in a second bowl, the eggs and sugar are whipped at medium speed to form a semi-firm foam. The egg whipping is not as thorough as that needed for sponge cake.
The two mixtures are then gently combined by folding the whipped eggs and sugar into the creamed flour and shortening. The maximum aeration is the basic means of leavening; little, if any, other leavening is used. This method is also used in cheese cakes and marble (wonder) cakes.
A lot of care must be taken with folding in ingredients. Over mixing results in the formation of large holes in the cake and uneven grain, as well as a loss in volume.
Combination Method, Baking Industry Research Trust, Accessed May 20, 2023.
If adding egg whites, whip them only to ‘wet peak’ (shiny) not ‘dry peak’ as they are more easily folded in and do not break apart which makes them difficult to fold in. The excessive mixing then required leads to loss of volume and possible toughness in the mix and resulting product.
What Should I Do If My Butter Is Too Soft?
That half hour of leaving butter on the kitchen counter sometimes turns into two hours. When baking a cake, you want softened butter, not a puddle of butter.
There is a potential fix.
If the butter is too soft, the milk solids will separate from the butterfat as you cream it. As the butter begins to deflate and becomes oily, it loses its ability to incorporate maximum air. If you continue to mix at this point, you will produce a flatter, heavier cake.
You can correct this problem by refrigerating the bowl containing the butter for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it feels cool and begins to firm up. (Do not allow it to become too cold.) You can now continue with the creaming process.
That’s easy enough. While it chills, you can prep your pans and gather your ingredients.
Is There a Right Way to Add Eggs to Cake Batter?
Always crack your eggs on the countertop — not on the rim of a bowl or a pan. Cracking open eggs anywhere else results in a broken eggshell and increases the chances of getting the eggshell into your batter.
It’s easy to test for yourself. Crack one egg on the rim of a bowl and another on the flat surface of the countertop. See the difference? I did the same experiment to show my oldest son that there was a reason to choose the counter over the edge of a bowl when you crack eggs.
If you want to up your chances of a lighter cake, take a look at the following tip:
First, start with room temperature eggs. If they are cold, the batter will separate, resulting in a heavier cake.
Second, do not add them directly to the mixer bowl. Instead, crack them into a separate bowl, break them up with a fork, and, with the mixer on medium speed, drizzle them in slowly, stopping frequently to let the batter absorb them.
Fran Gage (recipes and text), Williams-Sonoma Cake (2003), Page 10.
If the batter begins to look curdled, increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the batter looks smooth again.
When I taught my kids how to crack eggs, I encouraged them to crack the egg into a separate bowl. It’s a simple move to prevent shells from slipping in when you’re learning how to crack an egg successfully.
What’s the Difference Between Mixing and Beating?
We mess with words all the time. In baking, how a recipe reads matters. Mixing and beating ingredients for a cake isn’t the same thing.
Mixing involves simply combining two or more ingredients together, while beating is meant to both combine ingredients and add air into the mixture. While mixing can be done with any utensil such as a fork or wooden spoon, beating is best achieved with a whisk or electric mixers.Types of Whisks, Webstaurant Store, Accessed May 20, 2023.
You could still beat ingredients with a spoon, but you won’t get the same loft as a small appliance.
Should I Use Real Vanilla Extract or Artificial Vanilla Extract?
We covered this topic on Little Indiana Bakes before. The more ingredients in a cake, the less you need to worry about using pure vanilla extract. Go with the artificial flavor for a general cake layer.
Do I Need to Use Cake Flour or All-Purpose Flour?
Cake flour is a light, finely milled flour with a lower protein content than all-purpose flour. Cake flour is milled from soft wheat and contains the lowest amount of protein when compared to other flours, around 5 to 8%.
What is Cake Flour?, Bob’s Red Mill, April 23, 2018.
For comparison’s sake, all purpose flour is usually 10 to 13% protein, which can produce good results for almost any recipe. However, the low protein and high starch content in cake flour helps create the lightest, most delicious cakes possible!
You don’t have to use cake flour, but it’s nice to use cake flour. Rather than keep another bag of flour around, making your own is super simple. I’ve been using “my” recipe for so long that I don’t know where it came from.
I suspect everyone substituting all-purpose flour for cake flour follows the same formula.
To make a cake flour substitution:
- Measure one cup of all-purpose flour.
- Remove two tablespoons of flour (put it back in your bag or container).
- Measure two tablespoons of cornstarch.
- Whisk together.
It’s ready for use.
Not everyone agrees with this trick.
[Stella] Parks calls the idea of swapping out cake flour for a mixture of AP and cornstarch “a life hack that utterly misses the point”—but I must admit to having used it with, as far as I can tell, with at least moderate success. Employ the trick at your own risk and, I would recommend, in recipes that only call for a small amount of flour total.
But when your entire multilayer cake hinges on a large amount of cake flour, buy the cake flour. (It usually comes in fairly small quantities anyway, and, unlike whole wheat flours, will last a good while in your pantry.)
Sarah Jampel, When a Recipe Calls for Cake Flour, Get the Cake Flour, Bon Appetit, March 30, 2021.
A bakery-style cake—tender, moist, tall, sweet, buttery—will make that extra box in the pantry more than worthwhile.
You do you. If you want to buy cake flour, then buy the cake flour. If you don’t, then don’t—but be sure to use the cornstarch and all-purpose flour substitute. Otherwise, you’ll affect the texture of your cake.
Don’t’ swap in bread flour or pizza flour. The high protein and gluten content will make heavy, dense cakes. Stick to all-purpose flour or cake flour.
What Does the Recipe Mean When It Refers to Dry Ingredients?
You may be instructed to combine the wet and dry ingredients. The wet ingredients are the liquids like milk or water, cream cheese, and sour cream. Dry ingredients include flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, baking cocoa, and cornstarch.
How Do You Put Cake Batter in Cake Layer Pans?
When making a sheet cake, pouring or placing the batter into the 13″ x 9″ pan is easy. You smooth the top to even it, give the cake tin a slight bump on the kitchen counter, knock out air bubbles, and pop it into the oven.
You’ll need to divvy up the batter by eye or use a scale for layer cakes. A scale ensures equal batter per pan. It’s not mandatory, but it does help. Smooth the batter, tap the pan to remove air bubbles, and set it into the oven.
Can I Put the Cake Batter in the Refrigerator?
The internet is torn. Some people say you absolutely can store cake batter in the fridge, while others say you lose some of the rise. This one is something you may need to test on your own. If it’s a “this cake cannot fail” type of situation, bake it immediately to be safe.
Here are what bakers had to say about storing batter overnight:
Depends. If your recipe uses baking soda, it should be fine, as baking soda’s reaction that causes rising does not begin until heated.
If your cake uses baking powder, however, the reaction is activated by contact with liquid. So it begins as soon as you mix the batter. Once you go to bake it, the reaction will have completed, and a good deal of the gases created will have risen through the batter and escaped.
artscallion, Can Cake Batter Be Refrigerated And Used Later?, Cake Central, Updated February 2, 2010, Accessed May 20, 2023.
Even double-acting baking powder which is designed to react partially with liquid and partially with heat will only give you half the needed rise if you don’t bake it immediately.
The real reason people don’t do this more often is because the main concern is the leavening (ie. the baking powder, baking soda, etc.).
Both baking powder and baking soda have a reaction and produce air bubbles in the batter as soon as they’re mixed in. If you leave it sit for hours, even in the fridge, these air bubbles will probably settle out and you’ll lose some of the rise to your bake. So with baking soda, the process ends there with that initial reaction. With baking powder, however, there’s a second reaction to the heat of the oven, creating even more air bubbles. This is why baking powder is labeled as double acting.
For that reason, it may be possible to preserve a cake batter that relies on baking powder. But you’ll still probably lose some of the leavening.
If you’re not a scratch baker and you use cake mixes, those rely a good deal on baking powder, so in theory you might be able to pull it off.
Cake-Monster, Can I Refrigerate Cake Batter For Overnight?, Cake Central, Updated November 12, 2017, Accessed May 20, 2023.
In practice, I’m not so sure. My cake shop I work at uses both box mixes and larger commercial bag mixes, and none of that cake batter seems very appealing after it’s been sitting out a while. It just gets kind of funky after time.
Our rule is that if you’ve mixed it, you have to make something with it, we don’t save it for later. Usually we make the cakes we need for production, and then kill off the remaining batter with cupcakes.
It does depend. Your cake will almost always rise, but with certain recipes the quality will be compromised. I find its safe to keep oil based cakes (carrot, red velvet, certain chocolates) overnight and often find the texture improves with a bit of a rest.
Sponge cakes are almost always invariably damaged by too long of a rest since they use egg foams to rise. I also don’t like to leave butter cakes to rest too long, although you can. Just personal preference. Genoise and chiffon must ALWAYS be baked immediately. Hope that’s not too confusing.
Can Cake Batter Be Refridgerated Overnight Before Baking?, Food52, April 1, 2015, Accessed May 20, 2023.
Most cake batters can last up to 3 days in the fridge before baking. Some cake batters can even be baked after spending 7-10 days in the fridge. The only way to tell if your batter will bake after a few days in the fridge is to do a test. Some cakes dome less after batter has been chilled, which can be great for decorating!
– Shuna L.
If it’s double-acting baking powder (most commercially available baking powder is) then you can still get a rise from the second action when heat is applied. But you’ll still lose some of the volume and crumb that would normally come from the first rise. Which, depending on the recipe, might be a good thing. But it is a thing, and if you’ve made the recipe before and want the same results, this would definitely change it.
Definitely don’t do that – no matter what your leavening agent (baking powder, baking soda, creamed butter, egg foam or some combination thereof) you need it to go into the oven quickly after mixing the batter.
Can I Make Cake Batter Today, Refrigerate It Overnight, and Bake It Off Tomorrow?, Food 52, October 28, 2012, Accessed May 20, 2023.
You can mix dry ingredients together (less the sugar), pre-measure the rest, and that might save you 15 minutes the next day.
What Are Cake Baking Times for Pan Sizes?
So, you finally received a friend’s homemade cake recipe, but they forgot to include the baking time. D’oh! Or maybe you were baking from a favorite cookbook and splattered batter all over—and can’t even read the suggested baking time for your cake.
We’ve all been there.
The temperature and time you should bake a cake vary by the pan size.
For baking cake in a 350* F oven, follow these general cake-baking guidelines from The Spruce:
|Cake Pan Size||Approximate Baking Times|
|24 cupcakes||18 to 23 minutes|
|Two 8 x 1-1/2 inch round baking pans||35 to 40 minutes|
|Two 9 x 1-1/2 inch round baking pans||30 to 35 minutes|
|Two 8 x 8 x 2 or 9 x 9 x 2 inch baking pans||25 to 35 minutes|
|12 cup Bundt Cake or Angel Food cake pan||35 to one hour|
|10-inch cheesecake made in spring form pan||35 to one hour|
|13- x 9- x 2-inch – 1/4 sheet cake||30 to 35 minutes|
|15 x 10 x 1-inch long jelly roll cake||25 to 30 minutes|
|10-inch loaf cake||25 to 40 minutes|
Always check your cake at the low end of the suggested time range. Ovens may run hot.
Refer to the front or back of your cookbook for pan sizing and bake times. Cookbook authors sometimes include that information in their books.
How Do You Adjust Baking Time for Cakes?
Why would you need to adjust baking times? Sometimes, you might substitute cake pan sizes.
I should warn you: there is math involved. Fortunately, it is simple.
Here’s a great tip:
If, for example, your recipe calls for an 8-inch cake pan and you only have a 9-inch, relax, no problem. Just increase the oven temp by 25 degrees F and decrease the bake time by a quarter.
Hedy Goldsmith, How to Adjust Baking Time and Temperature for Different Pan Sizes, Food Network, July 2012.
In this particular example, since your pan is 1 inch larger, more surface area will be exposed. The liquid in the cake batter will evaporate quicker, which means it will bake faster. To compensate, just increase the temp and decrease the baking time.
Are you a little calmer now?
Think of it this way:
• If the pan you have makes the batter shallower than the original recipe, raise the temp and decrease the baking time.
• If your pan makes the batter deeper than the original recipe, lower the temp and increase the baking time.
Where Should a Cake Go In My Oven?
What oven rack do you use for a cake? If you’ve ever made cookies, you know the middle rack is the best place for them. The same goes for cakes. Use the middle rack so your cake bakes evenly.
Try to leave room between layer cake pans. The hot air needs to circulate between the pans.
How Can You Tell When a Cake is Done Baking?
When the cake is fully baked, it will shrink from the sides of the pan. When touched lightly with the finger it will spring back. If the finger leaves a depression, the cake is not done.Edited by Ruth Berolzheimer, The American Woman’s Cook Book, Consolidated Book Publishers (Chicago), 1946, Page 454.
Another test is to insert a clean wooden toothpick into the middle of the cake. If no particles of batter adhere to it when it is drawn out, the cake is done.
You know a cake is nearing the end of the baking process when you can smell the warm scent of baked cake. If you touch the top of the cake and leave an indention, set the timer for five minutes and try again.
I use a toothpick. If there are a few crumbs (not wet streaks of the batter) or zero crumbs, it’s done.
Can I Put an Underbaked Cake Back in the Oven?
If you pulled a cake out of the oven, checked it, and it isn’t done baking, you can safely put it back into your oven.
If you took your cake from the oven and let it cool, you cannot put it back in the oven. By that point, the leaveners have stopped working.
Unfortunately once a cake has cooled it is not possible to re-bake it. The cake would have to heat all the way through again and the outside parts of the cake would become too dry. Also if the cake has sunk in the centre from being underbaked it will not rise again as the raising agents in the recipe will have expired.Is It Possible to Re-Bake a Cake?, Nigella, April 28, 2012.
Consider it a lesson learned. Cut out the baked edges and use them in a trifle, make them into cake pops or truffles, or as the base for bread pudding.
How Long Should You Leave a Cake in the Pan After Baking?
Should you remove the cake while it’s hot or after it’s room temperature? Your recipe should give you some idea of whether your cake needs to sit in the pan for five minutes or 10 minutes.
As a general rule, baked cakes are left in their pans, set on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes after coming from the oven. At this point, you can take a paring knife, or a long thin-bladed knife if the cake is deep, and run it between the side of the cake and the pan, to loosen the cake and to free and sticking crumbs.
Top the cake with a wire rack of flat platter, and invert. Life off the cake pan. If it sticks, tap it gently and try again.
If you have used paper to line the pan bottom, peel it off the cake now, while the cake is warm. At this point, the cake is bottom up on the wire rack. It can be left this way to cool completely, or you may prefer to invert it once more so it cools top up (see diagram).
The wire rack is used for cooling because it permits air to circulate beneath the cake, preventing condensation of moisture on the hot surface.
Remember to run a knife around the edge of your cake. It will loosen any stuck pieces and help ensure a whole cake.
Do You Know How to Bake the Best Possible Cake?
I bet you do now. After all, 6 in 10 Americans make a wish before blowing out birthday candles. Sooner or later, you’ll have a birthday — and what’s more fun than celebrating someone with a thoughtful (delicious) homemade cake?