Learn baking secrets on how to make cakes moist or make a cake even more moist and flavorful, how to keep cake moist after baking, and moisten a dry cake. Discover easy tips and tricks to accomplish these goals.
Have you ever admired how a bakery can make such moist cupcakes and delicious-looking cakes with the simplest ingredients?
Cake baking can be challenging, but it is worth the effort. To start with, you need to measure out your ingredients, mix them in the proper order, and bake.
When your cake turns dry and dense, the most common mistakes are using the wrong ingredients, over-mixing, over-baking, or baking at the wrong temperature.
This article will answer most of your questions, for example, what makes a cake moist and how to make it less dense and dry.
It will also provide tips and tricks on how to make a cake fluffy and soft and improve your cake recipe to make the texture even more moist.
The secrets to a moist cake are choosing the right ingredients and techniques, which I will share today. So, the future is here, and it is all about knowledge.
Ingredients for moist cake
There are a few magic ingredients for making moist cake, also called wet cake or juicy cake, from vegetable oil to buttermilk to instant clearjel.
While most cakes are made with butter, moist cakes are oil-based. This Oil Sponge Cake is an excellent example of how you can make the moistest sponge cake with oil instead.
Butter and oil are two different creatures. So when it comes down to making your cakes moister and softer, use vegetable oil or grapeseed oil in place of butter. They both have a neutral flavor.
You can also replace butter with sunflower, canola, or mild olive oil or use a combination of butter and vegetable oil in your cake recipes.
To substitute the butter for oil, calculate 20% less. For every 100 grams of butter, 80 g should be oil.
Oil cakes have an interesting texture due to how different oils behave scientifically. Such cakes have a beautiful crumb and velvety texture and stay moist and soft at room temperature and from the refrigerator.
On the contrary, butter cakes are more flavorful, but they firm up in the fridge. So to enjoy the best slice of the butter cake, you should bring it to room temperature 30-60 minutes before tasting.
Most yogurt cakes are made with plain yogurt, which is a mistake. Instead, the best yogurt cakes are made with high-quality dairy products to produce a soft and fluffy texture.
You can't go wrong if you replace yogurt with cottage cheese, quark, Greek yogurt, or ricotta or add a tablespoon of fresh cream (crème fraîche in French) or sour cream.
With more fat content, your recipe will result in an airy and fluffy cake perfect for any celebration.
Mayonnaise is another ingredient that moistens cakes. Homemade or store-bought, it has oil and eggs that are already on the ingredients list for a moist cake. So no wonder why mayonnaise improves the cake's texture.
Mayonnaise becomes a secret ingredient for chocolate cake since they tend to become dense. It also makes a boxed cake moist and gives tenderness to the crumb of the cake. Plus, the vinegar in the mayonnaise enhances the flavor and prolongs the shelf life of your cake.
What's the best? As a surprise, you will never detect the taste of mayonnaise when tasting. It only gives a slight touch of appreciable salt. You can replace butter with mayonnaise or add a tablespoon to the cake batter.
While both milk and buttermilk make cakes moist, the latter is superior. Buttemilk-based cakes have a lighter texture, finer crumbs, and a tangy taste and flavor than those made with milk.
Even more important is that the lactic acid of buttermilk breaks down the long strands of gluten in the cake batter or dough. Thus, this makes your bakes even more tender.
Don't have buttermilk on hand? No problem. Just pour one tablespoon of vinegar into a one-cup (236 ml) measuring cup, then add milk to fill the cup. Wait 10 minutes; your buttermilk replacement is ready.
What is the deal with sugar? Does it provide moisture to cakes? Well, it is a hygroscopic (water-attracting) substance.
That means when you add less than your cake needs, you reduce the cake's ability to retain moisture. So it is essential to keep that in mind when making your recipe.
While white sugar is the most common cake ingredient, brown sugar is what makes your cakes moist. Due to its molasses content, it adds extra moisture and tenderness to your bake.
You can replace white sugar with brown sugar as 1:1, or half of the white sugar if you are concerned about the cake's color (brown sugar makes the cake darker).
It is a miracle product at home and especially in the kitchen and a secret ingredient for ultra-soft cakes.
The baking soda will react with the acidic buttermilk and create a fluffier crumb.
Mix the leavening agents and flour before stirring, then sift a couple of times. This way, you can be sure that the chemical leaveners will be evenly distributed in the batter and rise evenly.
Another effective trick is to cut the regular all-purpose flour, the same as plain flour, with some part of cornstarch, potato starch, or ground almonds (⅔ of flour, ⅓ of the rest).
But don't replace any more than 40% of the flour with the starch; otherwise, the cake will crumble when cut. You can also use cake flour instead of all-purpose.
In these cases, your cake will retain moisture that will not dry out when baked.
If you have never heard of instant clearjel, it is time to discover. Instant clearjel is an unflavored pregelatinized starch, known as modified starch, that makes cakes moist and tender.
According to the study "Effects of Utilization of Modified Starches on the Cake Quality,"
...the addition of 10% pregelatinized starch had a positive effect on the quality of cakes.
Clearjel, also spelled as Clear Jel, should be mixed with dry ingredients. The cake batter with instant clearjel will hold the moisture before and after baking, giving that lovely texture to your bake.
Instant pudding mix
Interestingly, instant pudding mix contains modified corn starch as one of the ingredients also benefits cakes, making them moist and tender. It is an excellent alternative to clearjel.
Dr. Curtis Luckett of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, one of the world's food science researchers, reveals another secret to moist cake - the pudding powder. Watch this short video where the professor explains why and how the pudding mix improves the texture of cakes.
Just replace 10% of the flour with the instant pudding mix to make your cake extra moist.
Although clearjel and instant pudding mix represent modified starches, not all starches, including modified ones, retain moisture in cakes.
Made with rice starch and vegetable fats, the cake enhancer is called the "miracle ingredient" by the King Arthur company. It works as a stabilizer and makes the cakes and bread moist and soft.
So how to moisten cake? The King Arthur's bakers suggest adding 2 to 4 tablespoons of cake enhancer to your batter or bread dough to be delighted with the baking result.
Making an apple-flavored cake is much easier when adding applesauce to the batter or mixing a grated apple. The resulting texture of your finished product will be light, soft, and moist.
Another ingredient alternative to making moist cakes is replacing eggs with pureed flax seeds.
Then pour it into the batter, mix with a whisk, and bake. You will be surprised at how moist your cake will be, even without eggs.
The cake will be ultra-moist with a few more extra tips. For example, replace water with whole milk, milk for heavy or whipping cream, or use real butter instead of margarine or shortening to achieve the perfect texture of the cake.
Sweeteners like honey, corn syrup, and molasses help retain moisture inside the cakes, so they stay fresh longer. Plus, these sweet flavors will make your baking taste better.
Adding extra egg yolks to the batter allows the batter to retain extra liquid. Add the number of eggs required in the recipe, plus add two more egg yolks.
Or, try to replace two whole eggs with three egg yolks or use 3 to 4 whole eggs instead of two. You will be pleased with the result: your cake will be given an even more rich and more fatty taste.
Finally, a small splash of mineral water can work wonders. The carbonic acid provides an extra portion of fluffiness.
How to make a cake moist
What else makes a cake moist and soft? Are there any other tips for creating an even moister cake?
While ingredients (buttermilk, yogurt, oil, clearjel, etc.) play an essential role in enriching cakes and making them moist, there are other secrets to make a cake more moist:
- Decide on the right recipe
- Don't double the recipe
- Choose the right ingredients
- Have the correct ratio between wet and dry ingredients
- Get ingredients to room temperature
- Keep the order of ingredients
- Use the proper mixing method
- Don't overmix
- Choose the right cake pan
- Set the oven to the right temperature
- Don't overbake
- Don't open the oven door
Decide on the right recipe
Choosing the right recipe to make a moist cake is not easy. First and foremost, pay attention if the cake recipe already contains ingredients that make cakes moist.
If you are a beginner baker, choose a moist cake recipe to start. As you grow, you will experiment with changing the recipe ingredients, but be prepared to go through trial and error.
Don't double the recipe
To ensure the best taste and texture, never double a cake recipe: make the cake batter twice. That means you can be sure not to under or over-mix and avoid uneven distribution of leavening agents.
Choose the right ingredients
Using the right ingredients is the key to making a moist cake. Baking requires precision in choosing the ingredients and measuring them.
Even if you have multiple charts for substituting one ingredient with another in baking recipes, it doesn't always work out. A great example is the difference between baking powder and baking soda - they are not interchangeable.
If you are new to baking, stick to the recipe until you learn the baking basics, especially how ingredients work.
Have the right ratio of ingredients
A cake turns out dry with the wrong wet-to-dry ingredients ratio. With dry cake, flour comes out of balance with wet ingredients. Simply, you should use more liquid content such as buttermilk, oil, and eggs to avoid dry cake.
The same applies to a cake that tastes too wet. For the runny cake batter, you should add a little more flour. So, finding the correct ratio of ingredients is one of the key factors in making moist cakes.
Room temperature ingredients
To ensure that your cake becomes a delicate and enjoyable treat, using the ingredients at room temperature is essential. Take them out of the fridge at least an hour before starting the preparation.
If you have forgotten to do it and cannot wait any longer, warm up the milk while microwaving it for 15-30 seconds. The same thing goes for yogurt and ricotta.
Once started, beat butter until creamy before adding eggs one at a time, constantly mixing between each addition for half a minute on medium speed (you can also do this by hand).
You want everything mixed well but not rushed - this way, you will get a fluffy cake full of flavor.
Keep the order of ingredients
To make a cake, you need eggs and sugar. But what about the other ingredients?
And how do they interact with each other when being mixed up together at different points during baking timeframes?
Let's break it down. For a soft cake, you must follow the order: put the eggs first, beat them with the sugar, add the melted butter, and the flour sifted with the leavening agent.
Or you have to beat butter with sugar until creamy for 3 minutes. Next, add eggs one at a time, mix for half a minute each, add cream, and finally, the dry ingredients. In general, it takes 7 ½ minutes to smooth the batter.
You can separate the egg yolks from the whites for a soft and fluffy cake. Add the yolks to the preparation while in a second bowl, beat the egg whites.
The good tip is to place the container in the freezer for 10 minutes before beating it. In this way, you will get a very firm snow effect.
Use the proper mixing method
Making moist cakes is all about creating an emulsion. First, you cream the butter and sugar. Then, adding eggs to the creamed mixture is scientifically known as making an emulsion.
So here is one simple trick to implement: add eggs one at a time, stirring each for at least 30-60 seconds.
As per Taste of Home,
If you add all your eggs slowly, it will give everything a chance to get to know each other, mesh together and become one.
So, even in a hurry, don't put all the eggs into the batter at once. It is worth the extra few minutes. Breaking the eggs one at a time is key to making an ultra-moist cake.
Overmixing is the worst. When mixing your cake batter, avoid exciting the gluten by stirring too hard.
You should put all the ingredients except the flour and mix in less than 6 to 8 seconds. Once the flour, baking powder, and baking soda are added, stir very quickly just to combine.
Choose the right cake pan
The material, color, and shape of your baking pans can make all the difference in how you bake.
Metal baking pans are durable and, most importantly, heat-resistant, but they also act as good heat conductors. As a result, your cake will be browned evenly.
With dark-colored metal pans, expect dry and crispy edges because quick heating causes this type of metal pan ware to generate more heat than other surfaces.
One of the best in the market is Fat Daddio's round cake pans which are light-colored and distribute heat evenly.
With baking in dark cake pans, reduce the oven temperature by 25°F (about 15°C) than the recipe suggests.
If you ever need to adjust your baking pan size, use this simple cake pan converter. Or learn how to adapt a cake recipe for different size pans.
The best thing about this method is making different sizes of cakes without having any pans.
The layers are also cut into perfect shapes, with a soft and moist edge on each one. You can use cake rings or even a simple plate as a round guide.
Set the oven to the right temperature
Always preheat the oven to the temperature called in the recipe. The standard oven temperature required to bake cakes is usually in the range of 325°F to 350°F (from 163°C to 177°C) or higher. However, the cake baking temperature depends on the kind of cake you make.
Try to bake your cakes at a lower temperature. Baking at high temperatures dries out the cakes. To ensure your oven is set to the right temperature, use an oven thermometer to test. This makes sense when buying a new oven.
It is essential to know when your cake will be fully baked because the texture and flavor can change if it is over-baked.
Baking your cakes can be tricky, so paying attention to where you place them in the oven is essential. For the best results, set your cake pan in the middle or top rack of the oven.
How to check if the cake is done?
The edges pull away. Look if your cake is slightly pulled away from the sides of the pan. It is the first sign of the cake's readiness.
Toothpick test. About 5 minutes before the end of the baking time, use the toothpick test to check your cake. Insert a toothpick, a thin wooden skewer, a paring knife, or a cake tester into the center of the cake. If they come out clean or with a few moist crumbs, the bake is done.
If the batter or dough still sticks to the skewer, you should add another 3-5 minutes. But continue testing your cake in 1-minute increments. Why? Because there is a 30-second window between the perfectly baked and over-baked cake.
The cake springs back. You can remove the cake from the oven and try to press the cake carefully. If it springs back, instead of sinking with your touch, the cake it baked.
Internal cake temperature. You can check the internal temperature of the cake using a cooking thermometer. Most cakes are fully baked around 210°F (99°C), although it depends on the type of cake.
Don't open the oven door
When preparing a cake, it is essential not to open the oven door for at least half an hour from the beginning. Let the batter rise. This will ensure that your bake is soft and well-risen.
How to keep a cake moist
You may be wondering about how to keep cake moist after baking. Let's unlock a few secrets to keep a cake moist and fresh for a long time:
- Let the cake cool down
- Store the cake in an airtight container at room temperature
- Refrigerate or freeze the cake
Let the cake rest
As soon as your cake comes out of the oven, let it rest for at least 10 minutes in its mold, covering it with aluminum foil.
The steam that rises from the cake pan will stop on the foil, thus forming a condensation. This little trick will help the cake stay moister. Once the cake has been removed from the mold, let it cool on a wire rack.
Store the cake properly
When storing your cake, keep it covered; otherwise, the moisture will disappear.
You can use a simple trick that helps keep your cake moist longer. Just place an apple slice into the container with the cake. Due to the apple's moisture, your cake will stay fresh. However, this doesn't work for yeasted baked goods.
You can store a cake overnight, if undecorated, at room temperature. However, keep your cake away from sunlight during the daytime since heat increases moisture loss.
A fridge is fine for short-term storage, especially for an oil-based cake. Cheesecake and fresh fruit cakes must be stored in the refrigerator.
But if the fat component is butter-based, it will be better to avoid chilling your cake, as it will harden. Instead, store your sponge and yeast cake in an airtight container in a cool and dry place in the house. However, it depended upon the cake filling too.
Storing the leftover cake is trickier since it loses moisture faster. The sliced cake must be covered with plastic film or aluminum foil.
You can try to attach a slice of toast bread to your cake using toothpicks and place your cake in an airtight container. Isn't this trick genius? In the book "Super Tricks for Kitchen and Household," authors know their stuff.
Freezing the cake is better if you need a more long-lasting option. However, remember that cakes freeze differently, so some might get dry after being stored in these conditions.
How to make a dry cake moist
What if your cake is too dry? How to fix a dry cake? The good news is that you can rescue your cake. You can make it irresistibly moist with a few handy hints. But how to moist cake?
Soak the cake
Make a simple sugar syrup by boiling equal parts water and granulated sugar until it dissolves, then let it cool.
Using a silicone or pastry brush, apply a thin layer of sugar syrup to your cake, adding more moisture.
You can even flavor your syrup out of the heat with vanilla extract, coffee, wine, dark rum, Amaretto, wine, or other liqueur.
Have you ever heard about poke cakes? They are moist, maybe even the moistest cakes ever. You should poke holes in the baked cake with a wooden skewer, a fork, or the handle of a wooden spoon and drizzle with some flavored liqueur (apple or orange juice for kids). Then you let it sit for an hour.
But be careful with soaking your pastry: it may become soggy. Moreover, soaked cakes tend to spoil faster. So you should eat the cake as soon as possible.
For the yeasted cakes, you can try to apply a thin layer of melted butter over the crumb. Leave it for half a day and enjoy.
Add moisture with filling
If your cake dried while baking, you can use a simple trick. Try to fill it with cream and decorate it with sliced fresh fruit.
Then, spread jam, whipped cream, buttercream, or cream cheese frosting over the layers. Finally, cover the top and sides of the cake well.
Make sure that the cake harmonizes with the filling. To learn top tips on flavor combinations, look at the dedicated post.
You can decorate your cake with fresh fruit that releases the perfect amount of moisture to keep your cake moist and delicious. Then, store the decorated cake in a cake carrier that has an airtight seal.
Serve your cake with jam or butter
This grandma's tip is simple but effective, and you should try this. Spread room temperature butter, cream cheese, jam, or some preserves on a cake. This way, you bring moisture to your cake or even upgrade the dry cake leftovers.
Moist cake recipes
With all the above must-have cake tips, you are now equipped with the knowledge never to serve another dry cake. So what cake to start with?
Try this best moist cake, French Chocolate Cake, perfect for everyday and special occasions. It is super moist, rich, and decadent, is made with five ingredients, and is ready in under an hour.
Finally, Banana Bread With Mayo is a great way to enhance a simple Banana Bread with more moisture.
Your cake can be dry because of the wrong ratio between dry and wet ingredients, overbaking, or incorrect storage. Instead, choose a moist cake recipe, bake it at a lower temperature, and store it in an airtight container.
Due to a modified starch, an instant pudding mix helps moisten a cake. Just replace 10% of the flour with the pudding mix while making a cake from scratch. If using a cake mix, add one small (3.4-ounce) package of instant pudding.
To prevent a cake from drying and keep it moist overnight, store it wrapped in plastic film and aluminum foil. You can also use a well-sealed cake carrier to hold the cake with or without frosting.
It all depends if the cake is frosted or unfrosted. Store the cake without frosting well-wrapped in plastic film and aluminum foil at room temperature or in the fridge. You should store the frosted cake in a well-sealed cake carrier in the refrigerator.
The proper storage of the baked cake is the key to keeping it fresh. Store the cooled whole cake or cake layers wrapped individually with plastic film in an airtight plastic container. Store the decorated cake in a well-sealed cake carrier in the refrigerator.