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20 Secret Cake Baking Tips We Learned From Grandma

Grandma knows the best tips and tricks to bake luscious layer cakes, bountiful bundt cakes and more.

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Mashed banana. Step by step recipe. Homemade Banana bread. Top view, white wooden table.; Shutterstock ID 1387758473; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHNata Bene/Shutterstock

Mix in a Banana

Next time you have ripe bananas, bake a chocolate cake instead of banana bread. Reader Mildred Sherer of Bay City, Texas, says, “Adding a ripe banana to a chocolate cake not only keeps the cake moist, but it also gives it good flavor.” Here are 35 more ways to use up ripe bananas.

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pouring vanilla batter into cake pan; Shutterstock ID 1485158234; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHKaren Culp/Shutterstock

Use Parchment Paper


When baking a layer cake, Mrs. Henry Glieb of Lancaster Pennsylvania, says, “I take a double sheet of parchment paper, set the cake pan on it and cut to the right size. Then I put the paper in each pan. When it comes time to remove the layers, they slip out easily.” Avoid these common mistakes when baking a layer cake. 

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Pumpkin bread batter in a loaf pan ready for the oven; Shutterstock ID 130220897; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHZigzag Mountain Art/Shutterstock

Add Some Crunch


If you want a quick topping for an applesauce or banana cake, Mrs. Randy Mohr of Breda, Iowa, says, “Sprinkle the batter generously with granulated sugar, coconut and chopped nuts before baking. The cake comes out with a crunchy topping.” Check out the best cake recipe from every state.

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Making buttercream frosting for decorating a vanilla cake.; Shutterstock ID 1503169313; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHArina P Habich/Shutterstock

Keep Frosting Soft


Mrs. Amos Hoover of Denver, Pennsylvania, says, “I add a teaspoonful of vinegar to my boiled frosting. This keeps it soft and it doesn’t crack when the cake is cut.” These delicious frosting recipes will fancy up any cake.

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Graham CrackersBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Add Flavor on the Bottom


Instead of a tasty topping, here’s a new twist. Ann Chernabaeff of Wasco, California, says, “Try coating the bottom of a cake pan with crushed graham crackers. They prevent sticking and add an interesting flavor.” These yummy cakes can be baked in your 13×9 pan. 

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Mixing with a Hand Whisk; Shutterstock ID 1485243398; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHKaren Culp/Shutterstock

Use a Whisk


Instead of using a hand sifter to sift dry ingredients for baking recipes, Jane Neave of Zion, Illinois, says, “I blend them with a wire whisk. It works much faster than sifting, and there’s less to clean up.” This is the step almost everyone skips when making cookies. (Hint: It’s not sifting.)

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Yellow Cake Mix Spread in Pan; Shutterstock ID 1485217412; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHKaren Culp/Shutterstock

Pour Even Layers


To obtain nice even layers when baking a layer cake, reader Margaret Thelen of Fowler, Michigan, says, “Spread the batter higher around the outside of the pan. The center usually rises more.” Another great tip for level layers? Invest in a set of cake strips ($19) which wrap around the outside of your cake pan to prevent crowning.

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Cake with chocolate and honey; Shutterstock ID 229005178; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHMShev/Shutterstock

Spread Frosting Fast


When you bake a cake but have little time to make frosting, here is a simple way from Mrs. Alvin Martin of Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. “While the cake is still warm, spread it with molasses and sprinkle with coconut or nuts.” These vintage cakes taste just like grandma’s favorite recipes.

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Bundt cake with blueberries; Shutterstock ID 479466706; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHstoica ionela/Shutterstock

Bake a Better Bundt Cake


Melinda Widner of Waxahachie, Texas, says “I often baked bundt cakes but found the cakes always stuck when I used shortening and flour on the pan. Then one day I greased my pan with shortening and sprinkled it with sugar. I’ve never had a cake stuck since! Just let the cake cool 10 minutes and it’ll pop right out of the pan. With the sugar, most of the cakes don’t even need a glaze!” Learn how to make olive oil cake.

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Taste of Home

Give It a Devilishly Delicious Taste


Mrs. Clarence Huss of Hartington, Nebraska, says, “Try grating orange rind into your devil’s food cake batter. It will give it a deliciously different flavor.” Ree Drummond accidentally doubled the butter in her chocolate cake recipe—you’ll never guess what happened. 

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Baking powder being measured for a recipe.; Shutterstock ID 640739113Linda Hall/Shutterstock

Use a DIY Baking Powder


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If you’re out of baking powder—make some! Mrs. Harry Holmes of Davenport, Nebraska, says “Combine 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar and a heaping teaspoon of cornstarch.” Psst—this is how to make apple pie spice at home.

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Hands of woman remove bubbles from batter in the pan before baking; Shutterstock ID 1503064115; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHTatiana Gorbunova/Shutterstock

Pop Those Air Bubbles

Make sure your cakes come out of the oven perfectly. Mrs. Pat Yingst of Covington, Ohio, says, “When baking a cake, rap your pans sharply on the countertop before putting them in the oven. This will eliminate most of the air bubbles.”

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Golden Bunt Cake in Oven ; Shutterstock ID 1191256759; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHDawn Ojan/Shutterstock

Don’t Let Cakes Dry Out


For a moist cake, Mrs. Pat Johannsen of Collins, Ohio, says, “I always put a pan of water in the oven while the cake is baking. The heat doesn’t rob the moisture this way.” Make sure you have these essential supplies on hand before baking a cheesecake.

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Step by step. Removing freshly baked cake layers from the cake pan to be cooled.; Shutterstock ID 1477564001; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHArina P Habich/Shutterstock

Prep It in Advance


Reader Susan Holtz of Ripon, Wisconsin, says, “Unfrosted cake layers can be frozen on a cookie sheet until firm, wrapped separately with plastic wrap and kept in the freezer. When they’re ready to use, just thaw, frost and serve.” These easy tips will help you decorate a cake like a pro.

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Add a Secret Ingredient


Cindi Warren of Algona, Washington, says, “To ensure great moisture and texture in a chocolate cake, add a can of sauerkraut (well-drained) to your cake mix.”

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woman icing vanilla cake with metal spatula ; Shutterstock ID 1485154997; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHKaren Culp/Shutterstock

Keep the Cake Plate Clean


Before frosting a cake, Joy Lepak of St. Albert, Alberta, says, “Place strips of waxed paper under the bottom layer. After frosting, carefully remove the paper. You’ll have a clean plate.” This is the ultimate vanilla cake you should enjoy on your birthday.

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Use this Cleaning Secret

When a cake or cookie recipe calls for corn syrup or molasses, Nancy Goss of Pocahontas, Illinois, says, “First use nonstick cooking spray on your utensils and measuring cups. You’ll be surprised how easily everything comes off later.”

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Sprinkle on Some Sugar


Mrs. N. Dagerin of Levy County, Florida says, “I’ve found that sprinkling confectioners’ sugar on the cake plate will prevent the cake from sticking when you serve it later.”  Check out these expert tips for baking perfect cookies. 

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Make It Better with Butter


To get cakes to pop out of the pan easily, reader Noalene Shows of Inverness, Mississippi, says, “Melt about 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine and pour it into the pan. Then turn the pan around and around until it’s coated evenly on the bottom and sides. Put the pan in the freezer and the butter or margarine hardens in a few minutes. Pour the batter into the pan and bake. The cake never sticks to the pan.”

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sifting flour with flour filter; Shutterstock ID 214900843; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHDarkkong/Shutterstock

Create a Cake Flour Substitute

To substitute all-purpose flour for cake flour, Mrs. Henry Bechthold of Booker, Texas, says, “Use 1 cup of sifted all-purpose flour minus 2 level tablespoons for each cup of cake flour the recipe calls for.” Here are even more ways to use cake flour. 

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