Desperate to deflect a dry cake disaster? Here’s our 10 top tips on how to make a cake moist every time!
Love it or hate it, the word moist is both unavoidable and inevitable when it comes to cake making. If you have a decoration disaster, you can still pull it back with a deliciously moist sponge. So, if your cake isn’t moister than an oyster, it can be totally devastating.
Don’t fret, pet, Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft magazine is on hand with our secrets to moist cake! You’d be amazed at what ingredients make a cake moist, so read on for our top tips and ensure your sponge is perfect every time!
How To Make A Cake Moist
Oh Sugar, Sugar
It may seem really obvious, but with the modern day aversion to sugar, the importance of the sweet stuff to cake mixtures needs shouting about!
Sugar us a hygroscopic (you learn something new every day!). This means that it attracts water and then holds onto it. So, having sugar in your cake means that any moisture you add is less likely to evaporate away because your sugar will be hanging onto it for dear life.
As with all things in life, everything in moderation is absolutely fine! So chances are that when you’re baking and worrying about the mountain of sugar you just threw in, you’re not going to be consuming all of it!
(I mean, you might do, we don’t judge!)
What we’re trying to say is, don’t let the anti-sugar brigade put you off of adding sugar to your cake. What makes a cake moist often comes from the use of sugar, so without it or even by reducing the sweet stuff, your cake’s moistness will suffer.
Flour is, obviously, a pretty key ingredient when it comes to baking. Interestingly, when it comes to how to keep a cake moist, flour is an essential addition of fat.
Yes, that plain, boring, stodgy white powder is surprisingly fatty (we’re delving into baking science here!). Fats react with gluten by shortening the gluten strands. This means that foods like cinnamon rolls are more tender than baguettes, as the fat content is far higher, therefore the texture is far more tender. When fat meets flour, it coats it and becomes a kind of barrier between the proteins and water, which slows down the gluten development.
So what does this mean for moistness? Well a soft, tender textured cake is simply more moist than one that isn’t! We go into this in more detail in our post on Oil Vs.Butter In Baking.
How you add flour to a cake is important as well. Our key moist cake tip would be to always sift! Sifting your flour means a lighter, smoother cake batter which will combine better and avoid any pockets of ingredients not properly mixed. A properly mixed cake will almost always be a moist cake, trust us on that one!
Read more on why and when you should sift flour here!
Finally, don’t be afraid to try something new. Coconut and almond flours typically have an even higher fat content than regular flour, so if you’re struggling with keeping your cake moist, a new flour might be what you need. These two flours in particular are also really handy in making beautifully moist gluten-free cakes too!
We’ve got a gorgeous Gluten Free Lemon Polenta Cake Recipe if you’re looking for something a bit different!
Build Me Up, Buttercup
We cannot stress this enough… use real butter! While margarine may seem like a quicker and easier option (no waiting for it to soften), it comes at a cost. Marg has a higher water content than butter (hence the softer texture), so this will totally alter the consistency and texture of your whole cake.
“But” we hear you say “water is moist, therefore more water = more moisture?”
Ah, when it comes to baking science, nothing is what it seems…
The problem with water in an oven is that it will simply evaporate. So, if you use margarine, you will always end up with a more dry texture to your cake, as all of the water in the marg will simply disappear in the hot oven.
So we implore you, if you want to know how to keep a cake moist, make sure to splash a little extra cash to get good quality, proper butter. Put it out on the worktop at least a few hours before you need it. Ideally, give it overnight to come up to room temperature.
We promise, if you’re looking for what makes a cake moist, this is totally worth the little bit of extra effort.
Mix It Up
So while we’ve all been taught to make sure that you mix your batter a-plenty to ensure as much air gets into it as possible, there is absolutely such a thing as overmixing.
If you overmix your cake batter and incorporate too much air into the mixture, the cake will collapse in the oven. The texture will become gummy, dense and no ingredient makes a cake moist again once you’ve got a dense texture.
But what do we mean by overmixing? Overmixing can happen when you add flower to a cake batter and then mix and mix and mix until everything is combined, then add milk/eggs etc and mix again. At this point, the creamed butter and sugar have had 3 good mixes, the flour two and then once with the milk. By overmixing the flour, you will create too much air and cause the texture of the cake to become chewy once cooked.
To avoid an overmixing disaster, try to add your ingredients in an alternating fashion. So, flour, milk, flour, milk. This will require less mixing to achieve a smooth batter. Also, if you are using a stand mixer for the part, turn it off once you have added more of the flour and finish by hand. This gives you more control over how much air is going into the cake mix.
This is quite a contentious issue, but bear with us, we promise we’re not trying to start a fight! When it comes to adding eggs, egg whites can be the culprit ingredient that dries up a cake. As whites are drying agents and adding them often reduces the moisture content within a cake.
“But” we hear you say “egg whites are needed for rise!”
And you’re absolutely right. The solution? A bit of extra work for a whole lot of gain! Separate your egg yolk/s from the white/s and add only the yolk to the batter. For extra fluffiness, you can whip up the whites and fold them in just before baking. This decreases the amount of drying effect that the egg whites can have, while still giving you a lovely fluffy texture.
The only con of using just egg yolk is that you will lose the ‘whiteness’ from your baked sponge. However, with a gorgeous decoration on top, a slightly yellow but still totally moist cake is better than the alternative!
You can find out more in our post on What Do Eggs Do In A Cake?
Never Mind The Extra Washing Up
Choosing the right pans for your bake is another essential moist cake tip. Firstly, dark and heavy cake tins can cause the edges of the cake to brown too much and dry up. Opt for lightweight and light-coloured cake tins instead to avoid this problem!
It’s also always better to bake two smaller cakes separately and stack them once cooked, rather than cooking one large, deep cake. By cooking all of your cake batter in one deep baking tin, you’re more likely to need to bake the cake for longer and therefore more likely to end up with a dry sponge.
Which leads us onto our next point…
Beware The Overbake
Overbaking your cake is a surefire way to ensure a dry sponge. This seems really obvious, but always bring your cake out of the oven once it is baked. You can tell its baked, as we all know, by inserting a tester into the centre of the cake. If it comes away clean, your cake is baked. So why are we telling you this? Sometimes you’ll hear the timer go off, eagerly check your cake and see it is finished, get it out of the over and… disaster! It’s overbaked!
So, we recommend checking your cake around 5-8 minutes before the end time. This prevents an overbake and, as the cake should be nearly or completely cooked, there should be no problems with dreaded cake sinkage.
If you do end up with a sunken cake, have no fear! We’ve got you covered with our post that answers all your questions about Why Do Cakes Sink?
It’s Not You, It’s Recip-me
Okay we’ll admit that title is a tenuous one, but we’re still proud of it! Sometimes you can do absolutely everything right and still you can’t keep a cake moist. So is it something you did? Was it is something you said?
Sometimes, you and a recipe just aren’t meant to be. And that’s okay, just hold your chin up high and move on. Maybe that recipe just wasn’t good enough for you…
Okay, we’re going a little off topic here! What we’re trying to say is, sometimes a recipe just isn’t the right one. Perhaps it’s not in line with your slightly dodgy oven temperature (yes it’s dodgy, not quirky or unique, it’s definitely dodgy!)
Or, it could just be a rubbish recipe! While the internet is a glorious place for finding all kinds of recipes you’ve never heard of, sometimes there’s a good reason you’ve never heard of them. So if you’re tearing your hair out trying to figure out what ingredient makes a cake moist and why isn’t it working here? Perhaps the recipe just isn’t that into you…
You can always trust Cake Decoration and Sugarcraft for recipes with guaranteed moistness every time! Check out our Best Chocolate Cake Recipe for a cake that’s full of all the right stuff for a moist cake (just fix your oven first, please!)
Cooling and storing your cake correctly is another hugely important way to make a cake moist and indeed keep a cake moist too! Depending on the recipe, you will need to cool your cake completely either in the tin or, more frequently, on a cooling rack.
If you’re not planning on decorating it immediately and need to store it, there’s some top moist cake tips we have that you should bear in mind every time. Wrap it in cling film and store in a completely airtight container. You can always wrap the container in clingfilm too just in case you don’t trust it’s airtightness (is that a word? We’ve decided it’s a word).
We’ve got loads more top tips on storing cakes right here.
Get Cake Creative
We’re all about cake decoration here at Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft (obvs) and how you cover your cake can really make or break how to keep a cake moist.
The best way to really seal in a cake’s moisture is to cover it in ganache, then sugarpaste/fondant. The ganache will keep it beautifully moist and then the sugarpaste on top leaves you with a lovely smooth base to decorate AND it’s an extra barrier to keep that coveted moisture where it belongs - in your cake!