FOOD

How to Bake a Cake

January 31st, 2020

Need a surefire way to stress out your inner baker? Google the term “cake recipes” and watch as more than 900 million results pour in. In the pursuit of more baking with less overwhelm, we’re keeping things simple today. Baking a cake isn’t complicated, so don’t let any internet rabbit hole make you feel as though you can’t make the best cake ever—you can!—especially when you start with the basics. Stick with us for baking tips, foolproof recipes, and secret ingredients that’ll impress your guests.

All Your Cake Questions, Answered

We have recipes and tips galore in this post, but let’s tackle some common questions and concerns first.

How to Bake a Cake Evenly

A lopsided cake isn’t exactly putting its best foot forward. To keep your layers flat, keep these simple tips in mind. First things first—before sliding your pans in the oven, use a small offset spatula to even out the batter. In lieu of popular cake baking strips (which attach to the outside of the pan for insulation), you can also try a DIY solution using a towel and a safety pin. Another trick is to lower the cake’s temperature. Many recipes call for an oven heat of 350°F, but dropping it to 325°F helps ensure your leavening agent (such as baking soda) doesn’t rise too quickly—just increase the baking time a bit and check the cake frequently for doneness.

How to Bake a Moist Cake

Nobody likes a dry cake. Make sure you’re following the recipe. When you start improvising or eschewing measuring spoons, you’re not doing your cake any favors. Overbaking may also cause your cake to taste dry, but you can help avoid this by ensuring your oven is the right temp (a great reason to have an oven thermometer!) and checking for doneness close to the recommended baking time.

How to Bake a Cake in a Crockpot

We haven’t tested crockpot cakes in the test kitchen yet (though we’re putting in a plug!) but The Kitchn rounded up eight cake recipes you can make right in your slow cooker, including a Chocolate Lava Cake and Banana Nut Cake.

How to Bake a Birthday Cake

Just add candles, and any cake can be a birthday cake! But if you’re really talking about a batter studded with colored sprinkles (aka, a “funfetti cake”), Food Network star Molly Yeh has the perfect recipe.

How Long Does It Take to Bake a Cake

How long it will take to bake a cake depends entirely on your recipe, pan size, and oven temperature. As we mentioned above, be sure to follow the baking times in your recipe, and check for doneness when the timer is getting close going off.

How to Make Cake Pops

Cake pops are a fun birthday treat that involves mixing crumbled cake with frosting to form balls, then dipping them in frosting. We happen to have a recipe on the blog featuring everyone’s favorite gluten-free cake mix from Simple Mills!

Banana Bread Cake Pops

Yield: 20 to 21 pops
Active time: 10 minutes
Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients
3 eggs
½ cup water
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted and cooled, divided
1 box Simple Mills Banana Muffin & Bread Mix
2 ½ jars Simple Mills Organic Vanilla Frosting (about 3 cups)
Gluten-free vanilla wafers, finely chopped

Instructions
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line an 8 x 8-inch pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on both sides. Whisk eggs, water, and 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a large bowl. Stir in banana bread mix until incorporated; pour into prepared pan. Bake 25 minutes, or until center is set and doesn’t jiggle. Cool completely.

Line a large sheet tray with parchment paper. When cake has cooled, crumble it into a large bowl. Add ¼ cup frosting into the crumbled cake (you want it moist but not too wet). Using a 1-tablespoon scooper, add mix to the palm of your hand and gently roll until a ball forms; place on sheet tray. Repeat with remaining cake, then refrigerate balls until ready to frost.

Add remaining frosting and remaining 2 tablespoons coconut oil to a small bowl. Microwave in 20 second intervals, until pourable, stirring as you go. Using a fork, add 1 ball to the bowl and gently roll it around until coated with frosting. Pick up ball with the fork and allow any remaining frosting to drip off. Arrange on a parchment-lined sheet tray, then sprinkle with crushed cookies. Repeat with remaining balls. Refrigerate until frosting has hardened, about 30 minutes.

How to Bake a Cake From Scratch

You can make a basic cake recipe using a few simple ingredients such as flour, eggs, sugar, and a leavening agent such as baking soda or baking powder. Determining the best ratios are where things can get tricky. In Mark Ruhlman’s useful book, Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, he outlines easy-to-memorize equations for creating the perfect recipe every time. For example, this is what a pound cake ratio looks like: 1 part butter, 1 part sugar, 1 part egg, 1 part flour. Even if there’s freedom in knowing a ratio and then experimenting as you wish, there’s also no harm in trusting a recipe to be your guide from the start. Our advice? Try a few recipes, and once you find one you love, stick with it. A vanilla cake base can easily become chocolate or red velvet with the addition of melted morsels, food coloring, and so on.

How to Bake a Gluten-Free Cake

Since the main ingredient in cake is flour, gluten-free bakers should start there. Gluten-free all-purpose flours are readily available, and you can also work with recipes that rely on gluten-free flour blends like almond flour, coconut flour, and arrowroot flour, for example. (Keep reading for our top cake mix picks, including gluten-free options!) To get you started, here’s one of our favorite gluten-free cake recipes for any celebration.

Gluten-Free Birthday Cake Recipe

Yield: 1 triple layer cake
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

For the cake
Coconut oil spray
9 eggs
1 ⅓ cups Thrive Market Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
1 ⅓ cups water, room temperature
3 tablespoons Thrive Market Organic Vanilla Extract
3 bags Thrive Market Almond Flour Yellow Cake Mix

For the frosting
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
3 cups Thrive Market Organic Powdered Sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon Thrive Market Organic Vanilla Extract
Natural food coloring, optional
Sprinkles, optional

Instructions

Make the cake:
Heat oven to 350°F and grease three 8-inch round cake pans with coconut spray. Whisk eggs, coconut oil, water, and vanilla in a large bowl. Add baking mix and use a spatula to combine until incorporated. Divide batter evenly between pans, then bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting:
Add all ingredients except food coloring to a food processor and process until smooth. If the frosting is too dry, add more heavy cream 1 tablespoon at a time until the consistency is thick yet spreadable. If using food coloring, add 1 drop at a time while the motor is running until desired hue is reached. Frost cake, top with sprinkles, and enjoy!

How to Bake a Vegan Cake

Need to bake a cake without eggs? It’s easier than you might think. You can make an egg replacement by mixing 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 2 ½ tablespoons of water. The Minimalist Baker has a simple tutorial here.

Cake Mixes

No shame in using a cake mix! They’re easy, reliable, and no one will be the wiser.

Thrive Market Almond Flour Yellow Cake Mix

Our classic yellow cake mix tastes just like you remember—only every bite is gluten-free. This mix blends almond flour, coconut sugar, arrowroot powder, coconut flour, baking soda, and sea salt.

Thrive Market Almond Flour Chocolate Cake Mix

It’s the same gluten-free option as our yellow cake mix, but cocoa powder is added to make your chocolate cake dreams come true.

Swerve Chocolate Cake Mix

This chocolatey mix is made with Swerve, a popular alternative sweetener. The recipe makes a keto, paleo, and gluten-free cake without added sugar.

King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix

For gluten-free baking, try King Arthur Flour’s popular mix. Lindsay from California uses it to make birthday cake with delicious results!

Namaste Foods Organic Yellow Cake Cup Mix

Cake in a cup? We’re in. Just add oil and milk to this gluten-free, microwavable mix, and in less than two minutes you’ll be enjoying a decadent dessert.

More Easy Cake Recipes

From coffee cake to mug cake, our blog helps you bake your way through some of our most-loved recipes.

Vegan Coffee Cake Recipe

Make enjoying your afternoon brew an extra-special experience with a slice of vegan coffee cake. It’s made with pecans, almond flour, and an egg replacement to keep things vegan.

Keto Mug Cake

Dessert in a cup? We’re here for it—especially when it’s keto-friendly and takes only a few minutes to blitz in the microwave.

How to Bake a Chocolate Cake

For a previous Thrive Market birthday, we whipped up a moist chocolate cake made with … beets! Each slice of this layer cake is gluten-free and dairy-free, and makes a pretty impressive presentation. Watch our video for the chocolate cake recipe!

Banana Cake Pops With Avocado Buttercream Frosting

These treats are perfectly portioned and dressed for a party. Each pop is coated with a frosting that uses avocado instead of butter—pretty genius!

Paleo Flourless Chocolate Cake

Chocolaholics, unite! This paleo-friendly cake is (almost) flourless and uses only six ingredients —including raw cacao powder—for an ultra-rich ending to your meal.

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Nicole GulottaNicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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