40+ Cake Baking Tips & Tricks {Happy Homemaker Notes}

Here is a large assortment of notes I’ve accumulated over the years for troubleshooting problems and improving results when baking cakes. Keep in mind different recipes will provide different results, but overall I’ve found these do noticeably improve most recipes or make things easier.

Enhancers

  • Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of meringue powder to your mix to help it rise a bit higher and make it a bit lighter in texture.
  • Add 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin to the batter, helps prevent the surface from splitting or cracking.
  • First add a teaspoon of lemon juice to the butter and sugar called for before mixing the rest of the ingredients. Helps make the cake lighter.
  • Take your time creaming the butter, beat/cream for at least 5 minutes to get lots of air into the butter. Add the sugar and beat/cream really well again.
  • Separate eggs first–beat yolks till golden and creamy then add to the butter/sugar mixture. Beat the egg whites until light and frothy before folding them into the butter mixture.

Keep in mind: Some recipes success depends on a specific ingredient or action. If one of these tips contradicts your recipe, your best bet is to follow what you have.

Moister

  • Chocolate: Before adding the bicarb required, mix it with a teaspoon of vinegar.
  • Dense or Fruit Cakes: Keep a heatproof dish full of water in the oven while baking (replace water if needed to keep it topped up).
  • Substitute oil for unsweetened applesauce or plain yogurt. Your measure can be 1:1 or 50/50. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup oil, use 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce. Different types of cakes will offer different results for texture and taste, but a good start would try the 50/50. Not only helps for moister results, also cuts fat.

Sifting

  • Measure all ingredients to exact amounts first, then sift.

Prepping Tins

Homemade Magic Pan Grease: You can buy Magic Grease but how about making your own, it’s so easy! This is used as a substitute to greasing then dusting with flour when directed to do so.

Keep unused portion in an airtight container and refrigerate to use next time.

  • First Version: Mix 1 cup shortening (like Crisco), 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup vegetable oil and apply evenly with a pastry brush.
  • Second: 2 cups of Crisco and 1 cup of flour

More greasing tips:

  • Apply with a cupcake wrapper, a paper towel, a piece of wax paper, the butter wrapper or a plastic baggy. You could also use a pastry brush.
  • Try dusting the tins with a bit of the dry cake mix or cocoa (for chocolate) instead of flour.
  • Apply shortening then line with a piece of wax paper to fit the bottom. Re-grease the top of the wax paper. Pour in the batter. To get the wax paper to size, you can either trace the bottom of the tin and cut it out, or after greasing, smooth a sheet of wax paper into the pan (pressing all around the creases), remove the wax paper and cut out along the crease. This is kinda messy though, better to trace then cut it out.
  • To cut fat, try skipping greasing the pans even if the recipe instructs to do so. You can just place a waxed paper liner to fit the bottom, then pour in the batter. This will also help remove the finished product cleanly. For high varieties, you’ll want to still grease and flour sides of pans if specified.

Getting It Level

  • Fill tins no more than 1/2 to 2/3 full to allow for even rising.
  • Once you’ve poured the batter in, wobble the pan sideways a bit so the batter reaches up along each side (with the middle being slightly lower). As it bakes the middle and edges will meet and rise more evenly.
  • If it rose high and uneven in the middle, you may need to slice a bit off across the top so it’s level.

Oven

  • Preheat the oven first before starting, make sure the rack is in the center (unless directed differently) and keep tin in the center of the rack. If you’re baking more than one at a time, keep them at least 2″ away from the walls of the oven and from each other.

Check For Doneness

  • Using a toothpick, wood skewer or a piece of raw spaghetti, test for doneness by placing the toothpick into the middle. If it comes out clean, it’s done.

Problems With Sticking To Tin

  • Place a thick, clean towel in the kitchen sink and pour a kettle of boiling hot water over the towel to heat it (don’t plug the sink to retain the water, allow it to drain out). Set the pan on the hot towel and leave it for a minute or two, the cake should turn out easily.
  • Turn pan over on a sheet of wax paper or a cooling rack. Place a clean, thin cotton towel on top and using a hot steam iron, heat the bottom for a few minutes. The tin should lift off cleanly.
  • Cool cakes completely in the pans before trying to remove them. Don’t cool on the stove where there’s heat, they’re best cooled on a rack placed on the counter. Gently insert a knife between the outside of the cake and the inside of the tin. Run it along the edges to loosen things up before turning over.

Angel Food

  • When done, take it directly from the oven and place it upside down on the neck of a bottle. This will help prevent the cake from falling as it cools. After 30 minutes, you can turn it over then remove from pan once cooled.

Frosting & Icing

  • Don’t attempt to ice it until it’s completely cool. Dust the surface lightly with a pastry brush first, helps reduce crumbs in the icing.
  • First ice with a thin layer, then refrigerate (covered). After an hour you can do a complete frosting job. This helps keep the crumbs at bay and your outer frosting layer should be crumb free.
  • After frosting, you can use a hair dryer to slightly melt it. This will give things a smooth, glossy look. If you prefer you can use a metal icing spatula or knife first heated by sitting in hot water, wipe dry, then use the heated knife to smooth the icing.
  • Have a bag of chocolate chips on hand? Just sit the whole bag in a bowl of very hot water, and mush the bag up every couple of minutes until all the chocolate has melted and there are no lumps. Snip the corner of the bag and squeeze out the melted chocolate directly onto the surface.
  • Have two favorite frostings and can’t decide which one to use on a layer cake? Try both! Spread one version on one layer, and spread the other on the bottom of the other layer (you’ll want to flip the bottom ‘up’ when frosting). Then put the layers together. The middle will have a delicious two-flavor surprise :). Can also use this technique when filling the layers with a combination of fruit and whipped cream.
  • To help prevent a flaking or cracking, add a pinch of bicarb when mixing the frosting.
  • If icing is a bit too thin or runny, lightly dust the surface with flour then spread the icing. This will help hold it in place.
  • For single layers, turn upside down before icing so that the top is perfectly flat and even. When icing two rounds or squares, place a layer of frosting on one round, then place the other round upside down on top for a perfectly flat surface.
  • Easily Color Shredded Coconut: Shredded coconut can be a nice, decorative touch achieved easily. Simply put the coconut in a clean jar (only one half jar full at a time), add a few drops of food coloring in your choice of color, then cap the jar and shake it until all the coconut is evenly tinted.

Cutting

  • Heat a knife first before cutting for crumble-free slices. To heat the knife, you can run the knife under very hot water then wipe dry with a clean towel.
  • Use unwaxed dental floss to slice (great for the gooey or sticky varieties).
  • See this page for ways to get more servings and creative slice shapes.

Keep Cut Slices Fresh

Once you start slicing, the exposed or cut sides can dry out quickly. Here’s a way to keep things fresh:

  • Wrap any leftovers with a few slices of apple or cubes of sugar or a slice of fresh bread set inside the pan (or in the open space of the plate). Make sure to store it in an airtight container or wrapped well in plastic wrap.

Miscellaneous

  • Dust the holder or platter with a bit of confectioner’s sugar before placing the cake on it, this will help keep it from sticking to the bottom.
  • Use ingredients that are at room temperature, the butter soft but not melted or oily.
  • When mixing sticky, goopy ingredients (molasses, honey, peanut butter), try spraying the measuring cups with non-stick spray first (just lightly). The ingredients will come out easier.
  • You can make your own cake flour if you’re in a pinch (see this page), simply add two level tablespoons of corn starch to a one cup measure, then fill with bread flour. Sift three times then use as needed.
  • Dust nuts and fruit with flour before adding to batter or try toasting nuts first. You can also just sprinkle the nuts across the top of the batter instead of mixing them in, this way the nuts will toast while baking.
  • How To Make Bigger Cakes From Mixes: Add 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1 tsp. baking powder to the boxed mix.
  • To Clean Edges Of Pan: Dip a raw potato into scouring powder to work on the rusted corners and edges. You could also try using bicarb with a few drops of lemon juice. Source.

And finally–sometimes it seems things just never turn out right. Try running through the following list to see if you can spot what the problem may be. A common issue is that the oven temperature isn’t true to what the dial says. Buy a thermometer, preheat your oven and test.

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Comments

    • Pat
    Reply

    Sometime s my cakes go very dry after they have been baked and left for 24hours please help

    • Lisa
    Reply

    What an awesome list of tips! Thank you so much.

    • nina
    Reply

    my problem is after ive cooked cupcakes and peel the wrappers off there seems to be holes around the top all way around any suggestions?

    • Beverly
    Reply

    I’m looking for a good butter cream or frosting recipe that I can use for icing a wedding cake. (one layer devils food cake, one layer banana and one layer carrot cake) It’s a retro cake, with circle shapes on it, planning to use coloured royal icing and cut out the shapes – what would you recommend to stick the shapes onto the frosting? I’m planning to do a complete run-through and create a copy of the cake a fortnight beforehand, so can identify any problems/issues.

      • Andi g
      Reply

      Check Wilton site. Their buttercream frosting is awesome and few ingredients. To stick shapes to the cake try fresh frosting to the back of each shape. You could also try using piping gel too, depends how long e buttercream has sat before you add the pieces and how smooth the buttercreamm is before adding the pieces too.

    • Lynne
    Reply

    This is a great site, answered my question and I learnt something new. Thanks.

    • Michelle
    Reply

    Hi, I’ve been making cupcakes from different recipes… But always fail when they started to rise. Even though it’s delicious, they always flood over the line when they rise. But the batter is enough for 12 cupcakes. I don’t add more batter or something. HELP ME !!! What should I do?

    • nandani
    Reply

    when I bake my cake it always flatten in the middle please tell me why it happen like this This is my new oven my old oven havent had like this before please help me..

    • Jacinta
    Reply

    I soak the dryfruits in rum in advance.But whenever I bake a cake the nuts settle down at the bottom.how do I dust the moist nuts in flour.

    • Faith Turner
    Reply

    I have a Gingerbread cake recipe that I have made for many years while living in Texas. It is a family recipe and was made many years before me;however, I have moved to Morgan, Utah, and for the past 3 years, I have had to throw my cakes to the birds, literally. I am wondering whether this could be a result of elevation differences. I am not an avid baker, but love to cook, and this is a family tradition that is dying a slow and painful death. Any recommendations?

    • Sonal Patnaik
    Reply

    Hi! I’m sonal. I face a serious kinda problem. Well, I’ve got individual tart moulds, made up of aluminum. I bake tiny vegan cakes with it, chocolate ones! I normally grease them well with oil and also dust them properly! But the cakes never come out without sticking! Half of the cake sticks to the bottom of the pan. The cakes normally taste great. But I’m unable to understand why they keep sticking! Please help! I follow all the rules line preheating and baking for the required amount of time! I also follow the recipe strictly since I’m not a good baker! I’m only 17 and I try small small stuff like this! Please help! What should I do to prevent the cakes from sticking?

    • nitisha
    Reply

    Hi.. I bake eggless cakes.. I use energ egg replaacer in my batter .. it comes out soft.. how can make it light and fluffy as egg cakes do.. plz help

    • Linda F
    Reply

    I just want to thank you for all these great tips. I sometimes make the cakes for our large family gatherings. One problem I have is the top layer slips off the bottom when we cut it. I usually use raspberry filling and I make a dam of frosting around the edge so the filling does not seep through on the sides. Is there anything I can do to prevent it from separating?

    • donna
    Reply

    where I live,we can not get gel food coloring,can I use Jello?,to color white cake,will it add a lot of flavor?

    • marcie
    Reply

    my cakes always split after they are iced. they look good when I ice them and after they sit they start to have 3 splits like a piece sign on top. the more is sits the bigger the split gets.

    • Denise
    Reply

    Whenever I dust my cakes with a fine powder – icing sugar/confectioner’s sugar, it melts too quickly, before I can even serve it. What do bakers/chefs use to coat their cakes. You see cakes in windows or on serving trays coated with white powder.

    • memem
    Reply

    Can someone please help me? What should I do to prevent my cupcakes sticking to the pan after baking. Do I have to always cool it down before taking it out of the pan and for how long ? Do I have to brush the pans with margarine before putting the batter? Thanks

    • Joshua
    Reply

    I made a cake … It is not sweet.. May I know how to make it sweet

    • neha
    Reply

    hi
    i have baked a chocolate cake , but after baking i realized that i have not put required amount of sugar . Is there any chance to enhance the sweetness of the cake. please help by any valuable suggestions.

    • funke
    Reply

    my cakes come out very yellow, I use margarine and whole eggs, I don’t have a commercial bakery and bake from home to increase the family income. even though they taste nice, the yellowness puts me off. how can I achieve a lighter color without wasting my yolks and sticking to the available margarine.

    • Rory
    Reply

    Whenever I bake a cake from scratch and when sliced, it never crumbles be remains firm; however any boxed cake mix that I’ve used has always crumbled sliced which is a disappointment. I have never attempted to add more flour and if I did so would help to to keep it from crumbling

    • Logan faircloth
    Reply

    Hello! I love baking cupcakes and icing them, but I can never find a frosting that doesn’t taste buttery. I taste butter very specifically in baking, so I was wondering if you had any tips or even a good recipe for my problem!

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