How to Make a Moist Cake and Avoid Dry Cake

Moist cake is the most desirable texture. Sometimes, you start out with a recipe that should come out moist, but you end up with dry cake either because of the way you baked the cake or inadvertently altered the recipe. Here are ways to combat dry cake after the fact and avoid dry cake by starting out with a moist cake recipe:

moist chocolate cake

Why Isn’t My Cake Moist? Common Dry Cake Causes:

  1. Oven too hot – Older ovens tend to be off in temperature. To find out whether your oven is actually at the temperature you set it at, you can buy an oven thermometer that hangs from the oven rack and check it when your oven says it has reached the temperature it says it’s at.
  2. Over baking – Most cake recipes will indicate a 350 degree Fahrenheit (177 degree Celsius) temperature for baking, but some ovens bake at hotter temperatures, either because they are more powerful or because they are faulty. My KitchenAid oven bakes hotter, so I always bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit (163 degrees Celsius). The pan used to bake your cakes can also affect the cooking time. Darker pans heat up higher, so if using a darker pan or a glass pan, lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius).
  3. High Altitude – Baking at high altitudes causing more air bubbles to be released from the liquid, causing the cake to rise too much and then fall flat. Recipes should decrease the amount of sugar and leavening (to balance the flavor) and slightly increase the amount of liquid. Reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius).
  4. Pan size – If you are making a recipe that calls for 8” pans and decide to use 10” pans, remember that the height of the batter in the pan will be lower. The batter will cook more quickly and require less baking time. If you switch up your pans, just remember the batter won’t take as long to bake. Be sure to test the cake for doneness using a toothpick and remove it from the oven when the toothpick comes out clean.

Chocolate cake recipes tend to be drier. If you make a vanilla cake recipe into a chocolate cake recipe by adding cocoa powder, inevitably, you will make the batter drier. You will need to reduce the amount of flour to compensate for the added cocoa powder.

Ensuring the Cake is Moist

Here are a few ways you can alter a cake recipe to make it come out moister:

  1. Add pudding to the mix – you can do this with a homemade or cake mix recipe by adding 1 box of instant pudding mix plus per recipe plus 1 egg and an additional 1/3 cup water.
  2. Sour cream – sour cream will not only make the recipe moist, it will make the cake dense. If you are planning to carve the cake, sour cream will give you a better texture cake to work with that won’t fall apart as easily. Here is a good sour cream cake recipe.
  3. Applesauce – to make a moist carrot cake, try substitute the amount of water called for in the recipe for the same amount of applesauce.
  4. Mayonnaise – adding mayonnaise to the recipe will make it moister but the flavor is less detectable when used for chocolate cakes since the cocoa masks the mayo flavor. Mayonnaise is made from eggs and oil, so using it will substitute for the oil or butter in the recipe. The amount of mayonnaise used is ½ the amount of flour used, so if your recipe calls for 2 cups of flour, use 1 cup of mayonnaise.

Dry Cake Help

Once you end up with a dry cake, there are still remedies to resurrect it. If you poke holes in the top of the cake and then brush on a simple syrup, the cake will be moister. Don’t over do it as you will end up having a puddle surrounding the cake. If you plan on freezing the cake, don’t apply the simple syrup beforehand as it will freeze and change the texture of the cake. Wait until the cake is completely defrosted to apply it. The simple syrup can also add extra flavor to the cake, i.e. this is a great way to infuse alcohol such as Grand Marnier or rum.

Simple Syrup Recipe:

    1 cup water
    1 cup sugar
    Flavoring options: 1 tsp vanilla, ¼ cup Grand Marnier, ¼ cup rum

  1. Place water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and allow the liquid to reduce. The larger the cake and the more tiers you have to brush with the simple syrup, the more you’ll want to make ofthis recipe.
  2. When cool, add flavoring. You are not limited to the flavoring suggestions above. Try other liquers or extracts, too.
  3. Apply to cake with a pastry brush.

Always keep in mind that the key to moist cake when you start out with a good recipe is watching the baking time and measuring the ingredients exactly. Baking is chemistry and changing the measurements by adding too much flour or too little fat will alter the texture of the cake.

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