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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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.” Trust us, sauerkraut chocolate cake is delicious (as are these other desserts that rely on secret ingredients).
Taste of Home
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.
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.”
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.”
Try this with cooked frostings like our Old-Fashioned Ermine Frosting.
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.)
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, which wrap around the outside of your cake pan to prevent crowning.
Sub Out Frosting
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.”
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 stick 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!” Try out this trick with our favorite Bundt cakes.
Need more tips for mastering Bundt cakes? Check out ideas from our Test Kitchen.
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.”
If you’re wondering, this is the difference between chocolate cake and devil’s food cake.
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.”
Use a DIY Baking Powder
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.”
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.”
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.”
Make sure you know how to freeze cake the right way.
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.”
Learn more cake frosting tips.
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.”
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.”
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.”
dThe only exception? Our Test Kitchen recommends shortening for Bundt pans.
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.”