How to Make Sure Your Cake Always Comes Out Moist

Learn how to make a moist, bakery-level cake of your dreams—plus the best way to doctor up store-bought mix so it tastes like the real deal.

There's nothing like enjoying a big slice of homemade chocolate cake on your birthday (or any day, for that matter). But have you wondered if there's something you can do to make your cake more moist and delicious? To start with, you need to measure, mix, and bake it just right. Fortunately, that's easier than it sounds. A dry cake is usually the result of one of the following pitfalls: using the wrong ingredients, making mistakes while mixing the batter, or baking the cake too long or at too high a temperature. Once you understand how to avoid the common cake-baking blunders, you'll bake a moist cake every time.

How to Make a Cake Moist

There are many steps in the cake-baking process where things can go awry. Follow these three simple guidelines for a moist cake.

Yellow Cake Salted Chocolate Ganache
Jason Donnelly

1. Use Ingredients Called For and Measure Carefully

What makes a cake moist? Precision, for one. Baking requires using exactly the ingredients called for. For example, some cakes use milk, buttermilk (or an acceptable substitute), or sour cream for liquid. These ingredients are not interchangeable. The same goes for oil, butter, or shortening; use exactly what's called for. When butter is listed be sure to use real butter and not a substitute; substitutes contain water, which will not give the same tender crumb as the fat from the butter.

What about baking soda and baking powder? Nope, they aren't interchangeable either. Following the ingredient list to the letter is the key to making a moist cake. Measuring your ingredients properly can also help you achieve a moist cake. For example, too much flour can cause a dry cake.

Buy It: OXO Angled Liquid Measuring Cup, 2-cup ($11, Target)

Alternately adding flour and liquid to cake batter
Kritsada Panichgul

2. Follow Exact Mixing Steps

Another secret to a moist cake is to follow the exact steps in the recipe (we know, it sounds like a no-brainer). That means following all beating times given and using the utensil called for. Some cakes are beaten with a KitchenAid Artisan 5-qt. Stand Mixer ($400, Bed Bath & Beyond) or a handheld mixer ($35, Bed Bath & Beyond) while some are simply stirred together with a wooden spoon. For a moist cake, follow the recipe to the letter!

3. Avoid Overbaking

Baking a cake for too long or at too high a temperature can also cause a dry cake. Follow these baking steps to avoid a dry cake.

  • Preheat your oven at least 10 minutes, and use an oven thermometer ($7, Target) to make sure that the oven reaches the proper temperature.
  • If you're using dark cake pans, reduce the oven temperature called for in your recipe by 25°F.
  • Start checking cake doneness after the recipe's stated minimum baking time.

How to Make a Box Cake Moist

All the secrets to moist cake mentioned above also apply to boxed cake mixes. Following those tips should result in a tender, moist cake from a box. Our Test Kitchen put some other tricks to the test and found one more tip to make your boxed two-layer cake mix turn out especially moist. Add ½ cup of mayo (yes, mayo!) to the batter when mixing. The mayo doesn't replace anything, it's just an addition. And don't worry: The flavor wasn't impacted by this small amount being added. It gave the cake noticeable moistness. The only difference we find is the volume of batter in the pans was a little less high and fluffy. Alternatively, some recipes (like this butterscotch marble cake recipe) call for adding pudding to a boxed cake mix to make it even more rich and moist.

Blueberry Lemonade Poke Cake

How to Make a Cake More Moist: Poke Cake

There are moist cakes, and then there are poke cakes (which are some of the moistest cakes ever!). Sometimes called poke hole cake, a poke cake has holes poked in it after baking, usually with the handle of a wooden spoon or skewer. Then, a liquid is poured over the baked cake to soak into the holes. Follow our step-by-step directions for making poke cake and then experiment with your own fillings like caramel, melted peanut butter sweetened condensed milk, pudding, or pureed fruit.

With each of these must-have cake tips, you'll never serve another dry cake. Moist chocolate cake recipes, red velvet cakes, pound cakes—you name it—you now know how to make all of them stay tender and moist through the whole baking process.

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