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How to make a moist cake

moist chocolate cake bite  “So, what kind of cake does he want for his birthday?”
  “Hang on, I’ll ask…. He says he wants a ‘moist’ cake.”

  Pause while I process this. “Like a pudding cake?”
  “No. Just a moist cake.”
  “A moist cake. As in a cake that isn’t dried out?”
  “When I said ‘what kind of cake’ I actually wanted to know what flavor he wanted, not instructions for baking.”

The most prized feature of cakes and cupcakes is moistness. It can really make or break a cake, even one that otherwise has an excellent flavor. It is also a sticking point for a lot of home bakers who find that their cakes turn out to be too dry or somewhat dense, rather than tender and moist.

Moistness is not the same as being “wet.” Wet would be an undercooked chocolate cake with a “molten” cake-batter filling, or a cake that had so much applesauce added to it that it is actually mushy. Moist is a term that is descriptive of the freshness and softness of a good cake. In general, baked goods get their moisture from liquid ingredients and retain it best when fat and sugar are present, as both tend to hold on to moisture and prevent it from slowly leaving the cake.

Unfortunately, there is no one magical secret to getting a moist cake every time you slide a cake pan into the oven. If there were, every single cake out there would be perfectly moist and this question wouldn’t arise – nor would there be so many cookbooks published on baking cakes. It is possible to get a moist cake every time you bake, however. You simply need two things: a good recipe and to not overbake the cake. The recipes may come along via trial-and-error, from a particular source you like or on recommendations from friends and family. Not overbaking requires a good oven thermometer so that you can regulate the temperature your cake bakes at (and lengthen or shorten baking time accordingly) and a willingness to check a cake for doneness a few minutes before the baking time is up just to hedge your bets.

Practice makes perfect and, while we can all have a “dud” cake from time to time, if you bake a lot and are attuned to your oven and to the recipes you use, you should have very few problems. Store all your cakes in an airtight container unless specifically directly to do otherwise to minimize exposure to the air. And if all else fails, you can always throw some softened ice cream into the bowl with the cake to cover up a hint of dryness if absolutely necessary.

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  • DAve
    January 1, 2008

    I believe the answer is mayonaise in the ingredients…

  • Jamie
    January 1, 2008

    I find the cake mixes are the easiest way to get a moist cake. My attempts at cake in the past have been difficult. Although I have found that cake flour works much better than all purpose flour and also not overmixing is a helpful thing as well. I am actually going to be making a cake from Cake Mix magic 2 by Jill Snider which is a baking book completely devoted to cake mix recipes. The cake I’m gonna make is called butterscotch fudge torte which calls for a devil’s food cake mix and butterscotch chips (the recipe also calls for 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce, although I don’t have any unsweetened variety) so I’m going to probably use the sweetened kind. My only problem is when I make desserts, I’m the only one who ends up eating most of it because my family is not big on sweets like I am. Of course I just love to bake and I also love to share it too but unfortunately everyone is on a diet so it makes it hard to do that. I am also going to be making a dark chocolate cheesecake this month too. Dark chocolate is soo good. I never realized this before but I am sure dark chocolate is much better than milk.

  • Michelle
    January 2, 2008

    Hmmmm. This is not something I have an issue with too often (dry cake, that is), but the two hints I use most are:

    1) Where there is a “dome” in the middle of your cake, use a clean kitchen towel (or oven mitt) to push (gently) the middle of the dome down, evenly pressing across the top. (You don’t want to sink the darn thing!) The air kinda “seeps” out of it and the result is an even topped, much more dense cake (and hence moister.) I will often do this and then flip the cake over onto a cake sheet, effectively trapping in the moisture. Letting it cool down much slower, and allowing most of the moisture to stay in (rather than steam off the top) does the trick.

    2) Where possible, I freeze the cakes for a day or two before decorating. So I’ll do the trick above and then when the cake is just warm, wrap it well and freeze it. I’ve actually tested this theory out and it is true that the frozen and defrosted version is somehow always moister than the fresh version (even when stored airtight.)


  • Ann
    January 2, 2008

    Freezing cakes does help to make a cake more moist.
    I find that adding 6-9 oz of sour cream will guarantee a more moist cake.

  • Leah
    January 8, 2008

    I agree with the sour cream addition Ann mentions. Any recipe that includes sour cream always turns out moist for me. I have to add a recommendation for Martha Stewarts Devils Food Choc cake recipe that includes 3/4 cup sour cream and her one bowl chocolate cupcake recipe which uses vegetable oil instead of butter, both from her baking handbook. These are my failsafe recipes and are always both moist and freeze well.

  • Michelle
    March 21, 2008

    One way to have a moist cake is to add sour cream and mayonnaise to your cakes it works everytime.

  • Cindy
    August 8, 2008

    Can you use the sour cream trick on a boxed cake mix? If so, How?? How do you substitute? Thanks, Cindy

  • ellen
    August 17, 2008

    Make a cake mix moist – best thing I’ve tried (and I’ve tried them all) is:

    1 cake mix,
    2 eggs
    1 can of pie filling.

    You can mix and match, like chocolate W/cherry, spice W/apple, white W/strawberry.
    It works every time – and DON’T OVERBAKE ! ! !

  • larinska
    September 14, 2008

    Hi, I am trying to make my mom a cake. I have always loved baking im just not good at it and don’t really have any one to teach me. =) I have stuck to the box cake however I want this cake to be extra special. I want it to be moist and I want to decorate it. I Read the comments about the sourcream. Should I add it into the cake mix and bake it all together and does it matter how long it cooks for or can i just follow the instructions on the box. Also I bought those little bags to try to decorate the cake exept I havent found an appatizing icing recipe. if i do the cool whip recipe will it work or does it come out to soft. ? thanks for your help and sorry.

  • Taylor
    September 22, 2008

    Adding mayonaise or sour cream to a cake?? thats gross.

  • maggie
    September 27, 2008

    actually … sour cream added to the cake batter is not gross..you cant “Taste” the sour cream…it just makes the cake more moist. why dont you try it? it is what i do every time, i NEVER make a cake without adding sour cream! 🙂

  • Christina
    October 12, 2008

    I always make box cakes and follow the directions to a T, but i add some sour cream- i just take a tablespoon and sccoop a couple of them in there, I check my cake 5 minutes b4 it is time and its usually ready, it stays moist- even if it is left in the pan with some foil over it. 🙂 This has never failed.

  • Christina
    October 12, 2008

    Oh yea, I have added sour cream to all flavors of cake and it has NEVER changed or added any flavor. It’s amazing, super moist cake and you cant taste the main ingredient that makes it super moist. MMMMMMMMM. LOL

  • Dee
    December 14, 2008

    I make the cake from the box, and follow all directions to the T as a few women said. But I also add 2 cups of the snack size pudding cups, vanilla for light colors like strawberry or pineapple, and of course chocolate for chocolate LOL I also add 1/4 cup of apple sauce. Mix well put it in the tins, and bang them a little to remove any air bubbles and avoid dryness.

  • Pearl
    February 6, 2009

    Sour cream can make the cake . How much should I add? Do I have to take some of the milk out if I do add the sour cream? Thanks.

  • Pearl
    February 6, 2009

    Sour cream can make the cake moist. How much should I add?

  • susee
    February 12, 2009

    what also works is adding pudding to the cake

    March 11, 2009

    how much sour cream do I add to my bundt cake to make it moist?

  • Shen
    April 3, 2009

    I used to always make “dry” cakes..My father advised me to use 1 or 2 cups of vanilla pudding to the cake batter..WORKS EVERYTIME! :]

  • Katina
    May 31, 2009

    I recently made some basic cup cakes and added 3/4 cup of sour cream to the mixture, they turned out beautiful and moist. My husband was skeptical but loved them.

  • Nan
    June 5, 2009

    The cakes I made were always dry in a few hours after baking. No matter what kind of cake I made. Thanks for the tips above. Now I have to try sour cream and mayonaise! I guess you just add it to the batter, right? Perhaps,..about 1/4 cup? Anyway, I’ll try it out by myself. Thanks again, everyone. 😀

  • Cynthia Parker
    June 15, 2009

    thanks for the sour cream info. I am going to make two cakes and I have it in the frig. I’ll let you know how it turn out.

  • brittany
    July 7, 2009

    add 1/4 cup of mayo in with the wet ingredients, makes a wonderfully moist cake, whether it be a cake mix in a box, or a homemade cake!

  • B Dugan
    July 9, 2009

    I’ve tried the sour cream also. My daughter and I made an
    Orange Cake together, yummy!! We could not taste the sour cream at all!

    How do you feel about adding mayo?

  • Lan
    August 17, 2009

    When I started baking cakes ad cupcakes for my mom at the age of 13, she told me to add the mayo for moistness. I thought it was gross too until I mixed it in, tasted the batter and I couldn’t really taste a thing but the cake mix. So I kind of thought to myself, well, what is in Mayo? If you really think about it. From there on Mayo is always in my mix and my daughters think that it’s Gross and they swear that they will never eat the cake, but they just can’t resist!

  • Bill
    August 25, 2009

    Well I am trying it, sour cream 1/4 cup, they are baking now. Box cake Betty crocker. When they are done I will wrap them, press the dome gently done to get rid of the air immediatly freeze them. I hope it is moist. Bill…

  • Dartania
    September 10, 2009

    My cousin told me bout adding pudding to the cake. She took a wedding cake baking class but i thought she was refering to dry pudding straight out the pudding box, not made pudding.

  • Cassie
    September 26, 2009

    I own my on bakery and I add sour cream to every cake recipe I bake. To this day, I have never had a dry cake (thanks to the sour cream) and my business has tripled in customers and cake requests in over the past 18 months. Even people I know that hate sour cream, eats and buys my cakes and they absolutely love them.

  • Nay
    October 1, 2009

    When I freeze my cakes and let it sit and defrost it always comes out very dry. It taste good, but its always dry are there any other secrets to making a moist cake and how much sour cream do you add to a batter.

  • Sherry
    October 12, 2009

    In reference to a moist cake, how much sour cream should be added??

  • Angie
    October 22, 2009

    would the sour cream change the color of a dark chocolate cake? And for a Bundt cake mold how much sour cream do I put in it?


  • Boy24
    October 22, 2009

    Bascially in an overcomplicated way, Plimer is asking to show that the modern rise in CO2 is not a feedback from medieval warming. ,

    October 25, 2009

    Hi I will be makimg a birthday cake soom but can someone tell me how much sourcream fo I add for each cake mix box, thanks

  • pinkjelybean
    October 25, 2009

    I would like to thank everyone for your helpful comments. Hopefully I will no longer have dry cakes anymore. Thanks again guys!

  • Lee Anne
    November 17, 2009

    Can you use sour cream in a spice cake?

  • trish
    December 2, 2009

    For a moist homemade cake, just add a small box of instant pudding, works well. Especially for pound cakes that tend to be dry.

  • Doreen
    December 13, 2009

    Hi. I did use sour cream but it was not that moist-what could have gone wrong-I used cake flour.pls help.thanks

  • Carlissa
    December 28, 2009

    Hi all of the comments were really helpful. My problem is making good cakes but, dry. I will try the pudding in my pound cake and the sour cream in my other cakes i will tell how they turned out.

  • charpella rolle
    January 27, 2010


  • Julie
    February 2, 2010

    Another suggestion is to add 8 oz of vanilla yogurt…I use Fat free and the texture of the cake always turns out Moist and always tastes great too. You can try other flavors too. to give a white recipe a hint of flavor…my fav is lemon yogurt with white cake.

  • jasmin
    February 28, 2010

    sour cream or yogurt always works!

  • Tammy
    February 28, 2010

    My cakes are always so dry and dense, I make only from scratch…thanks now I know to add sour cream or mayo…first I will try the sour cream and see how it goes!

  • jane
    March 5, 2010

    My cake is always dry but I pour jam on it to it a litle moist. I want to try the mayo or Yogurt but I am afraid if it will make my cake rotten easily beause I dont use preservative.

  • alisha
    March 9, 2010

    ice cream makes it moist. let ice cream melt and at to batter

  • Norliza
    March 10, 2010

    Feel so happy that I found this website & this wonderful tips using sour cream or mayo for cakes and the pudding for pound cake. Will definitely give it a try. Thanks much

  • patty
    May 29, 2010

    thank you all for your help on making cupcakes moist, but how much sour cream, mayo or yogurt should I add to my batch of cupcakes? thanks again!

  • Shawn
    June 27, 2010

    While mayo sounds gross, the ingredients of mayonaisse is oil and eggs which are also common cake ingredients. Because the eggs in mayo holds the oil in suspension it adds body differently than just adding more vegetable oil.

    Sour Cream or Yogurt on the other hand add more milk solids in addition to more liquid which also enhances a cake.

    Almost any additive in which the liquid is held in suspension with some binder will have a similar effect. I have added jam or preserves in place of sour cream to cakes like a spice cake and it does the same thing.

  • Gretchen Baut
    July 8, 2010

    I always use buttermilk and sour cream both. Really really moist cake, and it holds together well when cut.

  • elicom
    July 16, 2010

    the pudding do u add it dry?

  • Marianne
    September 21, 2010

    If I add 3/4 c of sour cream, do I reduce the amount of milk? My recipe calls for 1 1/2 c milk. Also, can you use Greek Yogurt instead of sour cream?

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