The texture of cake is one thing most people can agree on. Unlike cookies which can be delicious crunchy or chewy, cake really needs to be soft.
I have yet to meet the person who enjoys crunchy cake. However, if you have ever made a cake or even just purchased a cake, you know that after a few days the cake gets dry, crumbly and a little crispy- all terrible qualities in a cake.
So how do you preserve that first day freshness and keep your cake soft? There are many ways! Let’s dive into the world of soft, fluffy cakes!
Make sure to check out our post about simple ways to keep your cookies soft as well!
Making Soft Cakes
Of course, before you can keep a cake soft, you need to bake a soft cake. This means following a few simple guidelines when you are baking.
Do Not Over Bake Your Cake
While you may be tempted to keep your cake in the oven for the maximum amount of time (or longer) than a recipe suggests, you may want to start checking your cake earlier.
Now, this can be a little tricky as checking the doneness of your cake too early can result in the cake sinking and if that happens, there will be no saving it.
What I recommend is checking your cake a few minutes before the minimum amount of time that a recipe calls for.
So if your recipe says that the cake will take 40-50 minutes, check it at 35 minutes, just to see where you’re at.
How do you know when your cake is baked? Easy! Use a toothpick or knife to insert into the center of the cake. If the tool comes out clean with no sticky batter, the cake is done!
You can also just gently tap the top of the cake with your fingers right in the center. If the cake springs back and there are no fingerprints where you touched, then the cake is done!
Taking your cake out of the oven when it is just fully baked will let it retain moisture. Keeping it in the oven longer will evaporate more water from the cake leaving you with a dry, crumbly dessert.
Of course burning the cake would also be terrible and those dark brown or black edges will most certainly be crunchy and not soft.
I know it is easier said than done but baking the cake the precise amount of time will really help you. Once you find the exact time your cake recipe needs, makes sure to mark it down so that next time you bake you will know how long to set the timer!
You’re already on your way to a nice soft cake!
Sugar is Always Important
You may look at a cake recipe and think “man, that’s a lot of sugar.” While some people try to cut back on the sugar content in their recipes, don’t do it!
For one reason, you’re making dessert- it’s okay for it to be sweet! The other reason to keep the sugar is because sugar is hygroscopic, which means it attracts water and will hold onto that water while the cake bakes.
This makes your cake stay moist and will even help your cake stay soft after it has baked- sugar will continue to absorb moisture from the air and bring it into the cake.
Thanks sugar for making such soft cakes!
Bye Bye Butter
If you are looking to bake a very moist cake, you can replace the butter in a cake recipe with a fruit puree like apple sauce. The fiber in the fruit puree will absorb moisture and retain it, making your cake extra moist.
Substituting half the butter or even the whole amount will help bake a soft cake but just be aware that replacing the butter will make your cake much more dense.
If you like dense, moist cakes then this is the option for you!
Adding syrup to a cake is kind of a last resort to save a cake that may have turned out too dry.
When assembling the cake after it has baked, you can use a pastry brush to apply simple syrup to the cake layers. Putting syrup directly on a cake will obviously add moisture and make it soft once again.
Soak any crunchy edge pieces extra to soften them up. This is also a great way to add a little more flavor to your cake. Make a simple syrup with vanilla extract or lemon zest to amp the taste.
Hurray for baking tricks to save a dry cake!
Keeping The Cake Soft
Once you have managed to make a fluffy, soft cake, the real tricks are now needed. No one wants to spend the time baking a soft cake only to come back to a hard, dry cake the next day.
It is also nice to be able to make a cake (maybe for a party or get together) in advance and know it will still taste fresh a few days later.
So how will you keep that cake soft and delicious for days and days?
Wrap it Up
Warp it, wrap it, wrap it. I cannot say it enough! If you want your cake to stay fresh and soft, it needs to be wrapped and covered and protected from the air.
Air will suck the moisture right out of your cake before you know it and leave you with a dry, crumbly cake.
Plastic wrap directly on the cake itself works best but if you do not want to wreck your decorations or want to just display your pretty cake, look into a cake stand with a cover- they make great center pieces!
Fruit and Bread
As you are probably beginning to realize, air plays a big part in keeping a cake soft or drying it out so let’s try to control the air!
Store the cake with a slice of plain bread or a few slices of apples. Both the bread and apple contain a good deal of moisture and will make the air around the cake humid. The cake will then absorb the dampness and stay soft!
While the apple slices may also impart a slight apple flavor to your cake (not always a bad thing), the plain bread will not, so choose your weapon wisely!
Ice It and Freeze It
One way to keep cakes soft is to use frosting as a sealant. Once a cake has been iced completely on the outside, the cake itself is completely preserved inside. Buttercream frosting does this especially well.
Wrap a frosted cake in plastic wrap and freeze it until you are ready to eat. Then, simply take the cake out, let it sit at room temperature and then cut a nice big slice.
The cake will be just as fresh and moist as the day you baked it thanks to your protective frosting coating!
Skip the Fridge
While it may be instinctual to store a cake in the fridge, keeping it at room temperature will help the cake stay soft. The refrigerator is a very dry place and will pull the moisture out of a cake very quickly.
Room temperature cakes also just taste better…who wants to eat a cold cake?
Yes, some cakes do need to be stored in the refrigerator, like those that have whipped cream frosting or fresh fruit in between the layers. In this case, be sure to wrap the cake well before placing it in the fridge.
Maybe your cake wasn’t properly stored or it’s just reaching its maximum shelf life of about a week, but either way, it is beginning to get hard.
Slice it and pop it in the microwave for 15 seconds. This will gently heat your cake and soften it up immensely.
If you do choose this method to quickly soften your cake, I recommend eating it immediately. Once you microwave a slice of cake, it will go from nice and soft to even harder than before in a matter of minutes.
However, once you microwave the cake slice, you won’t be able to resist it anyway!
We Love Cake!
Now that you know how to bake a soft cake and also keep a cake soft, you are ready to bake and store! Oh yea, and also eat.
Enjoy that nice soft cake!
Looking for more cake baking tips? Check out our post that covers some of our favorite cake baking tips and tricks.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.