Toothpicks versus cake testers

metal cake tester from C&BToothpicks are the gold-standard of cake testing. Most, if not all, recipes call for them and even though there are other ways to test for doneness (for instance, lightly pressing the top of a muffin/cake to see if it springs back into place), checking to see if a toothpick inserted into the center of a baked good comes out clean is consistently reliable. But many cookware and kitchen stores stock actual “cake testers” – are these better than old, reliable toothpicks?

The answer really is no. Performance is similar, and it’s unlikely that you’re going to have any real problems from using a metal cake tester, but the reason why the idea of toothpicks as cake testers has been around so long is that it works extremely well. The slightly textured wood of the toothpick makes it easier for the toothpick to “grip” little crumbs, giving you a fairly accurate idea of doneness, while a metal cake tester can be too smooth to do so. Arguments for cake testers say that they’re cleaner because you can wash them. Toothpicks are disposable and are only used once, so that doesn’t hold up. They also say that they’re longer and work with a wider variety of baked goods – which is true, but you can just as easily use a bamboo or other wooden skewer for a deep cake in place of a toothpick.

It comes down to personal preference, but you’re not going to get drastically better outcomes with a cake tester. I’ll stick with toothpicks, myself.

8 comments

  1. So… when I was growing up, my mom would just pull out a piece from our wooden broom, turn it around and test with the end that hadn’t been used for sweeping.

    That’s probably horribly unsanitary, and I don’t know if it was a common thing or just a weird thing my family did.

    Ideas?

  2. I’ve been known to use a strand of dry spaghetti to test deeper baked goods. Works wonderfully, and I ALWAYS have pasta on hand!

  3. I use a piece of raw spaghetti, myself. I like the way the heat of the cake just softens the outside of the spaghetti, I don’t have to worry about sustainability of the bamboo I’m using, it’s long enough to get into the deepest cakes and we always have it on hand, but mostly it’s just how my mum did it.

  4. I use a shishkebab skewer sometimes, but more often I just push down on the top gently, and if it bounces back the cake is done. That’s never failed me, as far as I remember. It also works for meat — different texture, but once you know how much give to look for it’s pretty foolproof.

    (I haven’t forgotten your cookies! Life’s been busy…)

  5. Wow a raw spaghetti is a cool idea. I’ve always used a cake tester or metal skewer to test a cake’s doneness. I like that the toothpick is of a different material and is able to pick up cake crumbs more easily. Just one concern, that it might be too short for larger cakes. Thanks for this post!

    Amelia

  6. My family has always used a knitting needle for this, maybe it’s an Irish thing.

  7. In France, recipe books call for a small knife blade for cake testing.
    Toothpicks are good, but I don’t like that you have to trow it away afterward: it’s wood, it comes from a tree…

  8. My brownies have just made a “Cake Skewer Tester” using a kebab skewer which hangs from a wooden spoon, for a Mothers Day Gift. Does anyone know a little verse or a cute saying that could be attached to this gift? Thanks, Heather

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