Skip to Content
  • Save
  • Pinterest
  • Email
  • Facebook
  • Print

How to Bake a Cake

Updated October 6, 2020
Your baking skills are unmatched, and these quick tips are just the icing on the cake. We've selected everything you need to know about elevating your cake game to help make you even more unstoppable when it comes to desserts. Here, we'll cover the basics like how to make a cake from scratch, how to frost a layer cake, the best ways to store a cake and more.

Choosing Pans

Pan Size

Use the size of pan called for in the recipe. To verify pan size, measure the length and width from inside edge to inside edge. If the pan’s too big, your cake will be flat and dry. If it’s too small, your cake will bulge or overflow out of the pan.

Metal, Nonstick and Glass Pans

Shiny metal pans are the first choice for baking cakes.  They reflect heat away from the cake for a tender, light brown crust.

If you use dark nonstick or glass baking pans, follow the manufacturer’s directions. You may need to reduce the baking temperature by 25F because these pans absorb heat, which causes cakes to bake and brown faster.

Baking Cakes

Bake cakes on the oven rack placed in the center of the oven, unless noted otherwise in a recipe.

Cakes are done when a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean.

Cool cakes on a wire rack away from drafts.

Storing Cakes

At Room Temperature

Store cakes loosely covered at room temperature for up to 2 days. To loosely cover, place aluminum foil, plastic wrap or waxed paper over the cake without sealing the edges so air can circulate.

Cool unfrosted cakes completely before covering and storing to keep the top from getting sticky. Store cakes with a creamy frosting loosely covered with aluminum foil, plastic wrap or waxed paper or under a cake safe or a large inverted bowl.

Serve a cake with fluffy frosting the same day you make it. Put leftovers in a cake safe or inverted bowl with a knife slipped under the edge to let in air.

In the Refrigerator

Store cakes with whipped cream toppings, cream fillings or cream cheese frostings in the refrigerator.

Put cakes containing very moist ingredients such as chopped apples, applesauce, shredded carrots or zucchini, mashed bananas or pumpkin in the refrigerator during humid weather or in humid climates. If stored at room temperature, these cakes tend to mold quickly.

In the Freezer

To freeze cake, tightly cover and place in the freezer for up to 2 months. Loosen wrap on frozen unfrosted cakes and thaw at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours. Loosen wrap on frozen frosted cakes and thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Number of Servings by Cake Type

Size and Kind


8- or 9-inch one-layer round cake


8- or 9-inch two-layer round cake


8- or 9-inch square cake


13 x 9 x 2-inch rectangular cake


10 x 4-inch angle food or chiffon cake


12-cup bundt cake or pound cake


Removing Cake Layers From Pans

Cool cake layers in pans on wire cooling racks for 10 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the side of each pan to loosen the cake. Cover a rack with a towel, then place it, towel side down, on top of cake layer; turn upside down as a unit. Remove pan. Place a rack, top side down, on bottom of cake layer. Turn over both racks so the layer is right side up. Remove towel. Let layers cool completely on racks.

Splitting Cake Layers

Mark middle points on sides of cake layer with toothpicks Using picks as a guide, cut through the layer with a long, thin sharp knife. Thread trick: Split cake layer by pulling a piece of heavy sewing thread horizontally, back and forth, through the layer.

Layer Cake Frosting

Place 4 strips of waxed paper around the edge of a cake plate. The waxed paper will protect the plate as you frost and can be removed later. Brush away any loose crumbs from the cooled cake layer. Place the layer, rounded side down, on the plate Spread about 1/3 cup creamy frosting or 1/2 cup fluffy frosting over the top of the first layer to within about 1/4 inch of the edge. Place second layer, rounded side up, on the first layer. The two flat sides of the layers should be together with frosting in between. Coat the side of the cake with a very thin layer of frosting to seal in the crumbs.  Frost the side of the cake in swirls, making a rim about ¼-inch high above the top of the cake to prevent the top from appearing sloped.  Spread the remaining frosting on top, filling in the built-up rim.

Success Tips for Baking Cakes

Turn the oven on 10 to 15 minutes before you plan to use it so it can heat to the baking temperature. Ask your local utility company to check your oven control for accuracy. Or judge for yourself. Here are some tips: If your cakes are already golden brown at the minimum bake time in a recipe, your oven may run high. If your cakes are not done at the maximum bake time, your oven may run low Purchase an inexpensive oven thermometer to check the accuracy of your oven temperature. Measure liquid by placing a standard liquid-ingredient measuring cup on your counter. Pour the liquid into the cup and check the measurement at eye level. Beat the batter for the time specified by the cake recipe, using low or medium speed on an electric mixer. If mixing by hand, beat at the rate of 150 strokes per minute.Do not overbeat. Overbeating breaks down the cake structure and causes low volume and shrinkage as the cake cools. Follow the test for doneness indicated in the recipe.