The Secrets 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.
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All-star ingredients for extra moist cake
Oil. Many chefs agree that oil-enriched cakes are more moist than butter-enriched cakes. Vegetable oil, canola oil, and extra-virgin olive oil all work well.
Buttermilk, sour cream, or yogurt. Tangy dairy products produce an undeniably tender crumb. If you don’t have any of these dairy products at home, you can recreate one by squeezing fresh lemon juice into milk, thereby souring the milk. If you’re making a recipe that doesn’t call for one of these acidic dairy products, you can sub one in for part of the regular milk called for in the recipe.
Egg yolks. In addition to whatever eggs your recipe calls for, add a few more egg yolks to further enrich the batter.
Baking tips and tricks
Sift ingredients for a more delicate texture. To avoid clumps in the cake batter and give the cake a finer grain, sift the dry ingredients in a large bowl prior to mixing in the liquid ingredients.
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.
Use the precise amount of flour called for in the recipe. Weigh your flour using a digital scale, or fluff the flour bin to loosen the flour before gently spooning and leveling it into your measuring cup; this will ensure you are not adding too much flour to the recipe.
Avoid over-mixing the batter. Doing so introduces too much gluten to the batter and produces a tough, chewy, dense cake.
Preheat your oven to the temperature indicated in the recipe before the cake goes in the oven. Putting the cake in prematurely could result in a dry cake and could be more difficult to remove from the pan. An oven thermometer is an affordable must-have tool to make sure your oven is reporting the temperature accurately; adjust the oven controls as necessary to reach the desired temperature.
Position the cake 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 over-bake! That’s the cardinal rule for a moist cake. To avoid over-baking, 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; check the oven thermometer to confirm.
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.
Storing the cake to preserve moistness
The best method for keeping a cake moist can depend on a few different factors, including type of frosting, and also if there is no frosting at all!
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.
Moist cake recipes
Wow your guests with one of these deliciously moist cakes
This ultra-moist cake, a Yummly original recipe, uses mayonnaise as the secret weapon for its dreamy texture. Lemon curd and strawberry lemonade buttercream fill the pretty pink-colored strawberry layer cake for a unique, yet familiar dessert.
This classic (bright red!) cake, popular with kids and adults alike, uses a cup of buttermilk for an extra tender crumb. Cream cheese frosting provides the perfect tanginess. If you can part with a few crumbs of cake, crumble them even smaller and sprinkle them atop the white frosted cake for a little red and white flair.
Topped with a simple American-style buttercream frosting, this easy recipe is perfect for last-minute cake emergencies.
This spectacular recipe has a couple of surprise ingredients to help keep it moist (and knock it out of the park): crushed pineapple and flaked coconut.
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!).
You can use either fresh or frozen blueberries in this buttery cake with a tangy cream cheese frosting.
Buttermilk and a whopping 5 large eggs come together to make a super moist, iconic birthday cake with chocolate frosting.
Another mayonnaise cake? Yes! 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.
While beets might 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.
Cinnamon applesauce is the secret ingredient to replace the eggs in this classic cake gone vegan. And as a no-fuss sheet cake, you won't have any cake layers to mess with, making this a great starting recipe for first-time vegan bakers.
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.
This sour cream-based coffee cake has a seriously tender crumb, and the cinnamon filling and heavy-handed streusel topping are what dreams are made of.
The moistness in this apple cake is thanks to an unabashedly indulgent pouring of cream over the batter just before it goes in the oven. This will become your new go-to apple cake recipe.
Bananas are inherently a moistness contributor, but add a cup and a half of buttermilk to the mixture and you might just go bananas. A cream cheese frosting adds the sweet and tangy topping this simple cake needs.
More baking tips and recipes
Check out these handy Yummly articles for more sweet treats and ways to improve your baked goods: