Best Baker Tip 9 ~ How to Know When Your Cakes are Baked


Perhaps this is redundant for some of you, but this is my favorite blog post!

I just really want you guys to learn How to Know When Your Cakes are baked!

But just in case it is a repeat for you~ I’ve included some extreme club dancing Jell-O in this new video below so you may want to check that out just for fun!

Excerpt from UNTIL IT’S DONE:

I do understand that question, and the need to have it answered precisely and exactly. I understand this question, because I too asked this very same question in my first semester of Baking 101 at the Culinary Institute of America way back when……

The one thing that was drilled into our heads, quite possibly more than anything else during my time at culinary school, was that in baking the 2 factors that play THE MOST into everything you do, is TIME and TEMPERATURE.

Whether it is the temperature in the oven, the temperature in the room, the temperature of the ingredients that went into the mix. THESE ALL PLAY INTO THE ANSWER OF HOW LONG IT BAKES. How long did it mix, how long does it bake due to these other factors?

Would it be different if it sat on the counter for an hour before baking vs. popping it right in the oven?

So for me to give you guys an EXACT time and temperature with every single cupcake pan, cake pan, loaf pan?

Impossible…… deep did you fill your batter?

How cold was your butter and your eggs?

How old is your oven and is it calibrated properly? Did you preheat it?

Where do you live in the world?

The scenarios are ENDLESS.

So I guess I would have to say that this is my LEAST favorite question because it tells me you have NO IDEA what to look for in a properly baked product. (((That just plain upsets me, not like upsets me in an angry way, but in a sad way because I want us all to look at a cake baking in the oven and KNOW it has a couple more minutes, or it should come out NOW! That to me is a peaceful world. I know I am shallow! ))))

I have learned so much in my many years experience working as both the Pastry Chef leading a crew, as well as a pastry cook inside of a kitchen crew, being led by head chef.

I have learned to value each persons understanding of things as well as their confusion.

I am thrilled when someone has a EUREKA!! moment, as nothing gives me greater satisfaction than when I know a person has just had a breakthrough on a certain subject that until that moment had been just a grey area.
I also find myself going to great lengths to help others who are still lost in that grey fog to find their way out. I understand that each person’s thought process can be just a bit different than the next person, and that not all people learn the same way.

It pains me when I think I am explaining something so very clearly and I get that “deer in headlights” looking back at me. I then rack my brain to try to cover the material from a different angle to shed light on whatever is at hand. I pride myself on being “a pretty good teacher”.

The intention of this article today is to clarify why my answer to the question “How long does it bake?” is often a very short and very abrupt, “Until it is DONE!”

I cannot stress this enough. LEARN TIME AND TEMPERATURE and don’t rely on exacts.

Of course if it is your first time baking this certain recipe, I get it, you MUST know approximately how long it will take in the oven, me too!

If I have never mixed something before in my life, how could I possibly know when it is finished?

So I always give approximate times in my recipes, but I will be the happiest person on Earth if you learn the “Eye for done-ness”.

This means that if the timer rings at 25 minutes because I said, approximately 25 minutes…..You don’t pull it straight out of the oven and then the middle collapses and I get a nasty email saying my recipes don’t work!

But this takes practice and well, what better way to practice a craft but with cake recipes! Yumm!

WARNING: Mistakes May Taste Delicious!

I will love nothing more than if you all could understand that when a cake is fully baked and not OVERBAKED, it has a certain springy-ness to it.

No fingerprint stays indented, but it springs back light a fluffy as if to say! “YES! I am PERFECT!”



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    1. It wouldn’t spring back because it would be kinda dry, you would know as soon as you touched it, it would be sort of dry and not really move at all one way or the other

  1. Gretchen, My question is, How do you know when to use either baking powder or baking soda in a recipe? Some recipes use both, this has always been somethin g I do not understand. I know baking soda with sour milk /buttermilk, but some recipes do not call for either of those.

    1. Hmmm, thats a good question. I do not experience that. Im not sure what baking powder you use, but I like to buy one that is aluminum free. Im not sure that is the problem, but I just dont feel the need to “eat” aluminum *sigh*

  2. Thank you Gretchen. You are amazing. Your teaching tecniques are: Simple, to the point, and fun. Your added humor works with my brain. Thank you again. I am so happy that I found you online. You are my go to person.

  3. Gretchen I love all of your baking tips!

    I have a question about my Carrot Cake sinking in the middle once I take it out of the oven. I use a recipe that is always a big hit but I can’t bake it long enough that it doesn’t sink in the middle. I’ve been baking it in 9×13 pan and baking for 80 minutes at 300 degrees. I’m so afraid to bake it longer. Is it my recipe or do I need to bake it longer? I’ve tried the touch method and the toothpick method comes out clean but it just sinks in the middle! My recipe uses 2 cups sugar, 1-1/2 cups vegetable oil, 2 cups all-purpose flour plus 3 cups grated carrots and 1 cup chopped nuts. Why can’t I get this recipe to not sink in the middle!!

    1. Hi thanks! Can you try to bake it at 350°F for the first 20 minutes then turn the oven temp down to 300?? It needs that higher temperature to give it a proper rise.
      It is difficult for me to comment on other peoples recipes though, since I have never tried it myself, its hard to trouble shoot. Its possible there is something off about the ratios, but I suspect the fact that you are baking at a lower temperature to start is partially the problem, BUT a bigger problem could just be you are over filling the pan. Too much batter causes a rise but then a severe fall since there is no place for the batter to go but down

      ALSO you may want to try MY RECIPE FOR CARROT CAKE 😉

    2. Thanks Gretchen! Next time I make the cake I will try the higher temp! I have your Carrot Cake on my to do list! It sounds so good with the browned butter! Yum!!

  4. Hi Gretchen I tried baking my banana cake on 350 for 20 mins and then turning it down to 300 for last 20 and it sank ever so slightly. Maybe 5 more mins. would have kept it standing tall. Thanks for the tip.

  5. Gretchen I love your dancing jello

    I am amaized at learning something new each time you explain your tips. Keep them coming.

  6. Gretchen this holiday season I have been making a lot for squares. Caramel shortbread and Nanaimo, what is the best way to cut the squares is there such thing I can use to cut them all at once??

  7. Gretchen, I live in a country where the weather is humid at 34°C. I tried your SBMC and used it in with my mango cake. 30mins soon after I took it out of the fridge, the frosting melted down and my cake slided down from the middle. What would be the ratio if i use more shortening than butter? Would the shortening ensure less melt down if i use it more? If i use all shortening, would it vary the taste?My clients love the taste of your buttercream but my problem os basically on the weather temp after chilled. Thank you❤️

    1. its possible there was condensation on the cake itself before you iced it. be sure to always pat the cake dry as possible before icing, so this wont happen. You can adjust the amount of butter : shortening as you wish whatever you take out in butter, add in shortening

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