A dry, crumbly cake when you've been anticipating a moist, delicious one is a very sad thing. Learning how to tell the exact moment when a cake should come out of the oven can take some practice. Luckily, there are a few clues to help us out!
1. When the Sides Pull Away - The cake is usually done when you see the sides of the cake just start to pull away from the pan. The outer edges will look dry and you'll see a gap forming between the edge of the cake and the side of the pan.
2. When the Cake is Pillowy - The middle of the cake should feel springy and pillowy if you gently press your finger against it. One of our baking instructors used to say that the cake was done when it was so pillowy that you could fall asleep on it!
3. When a Cake Tester Comes Out Clean - Any thin skewer can be used as a cake tester, but many bakers just use a simple toothpick. If you insert it into the center of the cake, it should come out clean, with no streaks of batter. A few small crumbs are ok!
4. Take the Internal Temperature - If you're in any doubt, you can always take the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer. The cake is done when the temperature in the middle is about 210°.
If you err on either side, err toward under-baking. Personally, we prefer an overly moist cake to one that falls apart on our plates! (Then again, crumbly cake is a great excuse to make cake pops...)
Do you have any other tricks for telling when a cake is done?