Although savory cooking can be a dash of seasoning here and a sprinkling of flavor there, baking requires exact measurements. Every unique baked good comes with a list of baking tips and best practices. According to Kidadl, Peter Reinhart once said, "It’s all about a balancing act between time, temperature, and ingredients: That’s the art of baking."
Since a perfectly moist cake does not just appear on a whim or a wish, many home bakers have sought a simple hack, solution, or secret that will consistently bring them success. Unlike the science experiments from high school, controlling all the variables is just one aspect of perfecting a dessert. While many professional bakers encourage weighing — instead of measuring — ingredients to ensure a better result, there is more to success than just the perfect recipe. And although grandma might have always had a deft hand while sifting and mixing the batter, it is more than just the preparation of the ingredients that matters.
Some ingredients help to make a moist cake
From tweaking a boxed cake mix to improving that classic recipe, sometimes it’s just a simple ingredient swap or addition that can change the result. Better Homes and Gardens breaks down its tips for a perfectly moist cake, and besides the importance of proper measurements, avoiding over-mixing, and the perils of overbaking, another pantry staple can help add some moisture to a store box cake mix: mayonnaise.
While this trick might be well-known, the publication suggests that an additional ½ cup of mayonnaise will help with the overall moisture when added on top of the cake’s other ingredients. While the condiment can make the batter’s texture a little less fluffy, it’s a trick that many bakers, companies, and even brands have used.
Whether it’s vegetable oil, buttermilk, or even a splash of mineral water, there are many cake hacks that bakers use (via Baking Like a Chef). Bob’s Red Mill focuses on using butter and the right amount of sugar to achieve the perfect texture. While the goal is to start with the best batter possible, there are a few tricks that can help keep that cake moist once it comes out of the oven.
Keeping your cake moist after baking
After taking care to measure, mix, and bake that perfect cake, no one wants to see all their efforts fail as it cools. The Kitchn suggests lightly wrapping a cake while it is still warm to help it retain moisture as it cools off. Instead of allowing the liquid inside the cake to evaporate, it’ll stay trapped inside the crumb. This is similar to why you should let meat rest before cutting it — to help keep it juicy.
Another idea that can help prevent post-baking drying out is wetting the cake with syrup. According to Insanely Good Recipes, the idea of a simple syrup soak has even been used on various baking shows to achieve the perfect texture. If your cake has dried out because it has been a few days since it was baked, then you can try microwaving a slice covered with a damp paper towel to bring it back to life.
In the end, the perfect cake texture relies on introducing and retaining moisture. From the ingredients and techniques to the post-baking methods, it is more than just sugar and spice that makes each slice taste nice. A sprinkle of science can make all the difference.