This Surprising Trick Guarantees a Tender Cake

published Oct 15, 2022
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caramel chip cake with one slice cut out
Credit: Dan Langan

We’ve all heard the classic advice when it comes to baking cakes: Never overmix your batter, bake until a toothpick comes out clean, and cool your cakes completely on a wire rack. I think it’s time that we revisit some of these baking “rules” and adopt some more modern-day techniques. I’m here to tell you that you are losing out by letting your cakes cool completely before wrapping them up. I’d even say that wrapping your cakes while they are hot is one of the easiest ways to immediately improve your cake baking game.

I started using the hot wrap technique about 10 years ago and now use it with nearly every cake that I bake. In the cake decorating world this tip has been around for years, and I adopted it to ensure that my wedding cakes stayed fresh despite the cycle of chilling and decorating that happens before delivery. But even for casual cake bakers this tip is gold because it helps ensure that your cakes stay soft and moist.

Credit: Dan Langan

As cakes cool they lose moisture by way of steam evaporating from the cake. While some bakers rely on adding liquid in the form of  simple syrup after a cake has cooled, I favor skipping the syrup entirely and just preserving the moisture that was in the cake to begin with. By wrapping a cake while it is warm you are trapping any liquid that was initially a part of your cake batter. At this point you may be asking yourself if this technique will make your cake soggy, but I can definitely say that I haven’t had that happen. 

I use the hot wrap technique with layer cakes, sheet cakes, Bundts, and loaves. It’s especially helpful for any thick layers of cake that bake for long periods of time and develop crusty edges. Overbaked your cake? This tip becomes even more useful by preventing any further drying out and will be your saving grace. The only time that I skip this step is with cupcakes because steam can make cupcake liners separate and act funny. 

Give this trick a try the next time you bake your favorite cake recipe. Cool your cake in the pan for about 15 minutes and then turn the cake out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap it up. Better yet, just wrap the cake pans directly, cake and all (if you don’t immediately need the pans for another bake). This makes storage and chilling even easier because you can cram cooled cake pans into your fridge or freezer without damaging the delicate cake layers. Just make sure to actually let those wrapped cakes cool before stashing them in the fridge or freezer.

For another take on keeping cakes tender, try this Texas sheet cake recipe, which calls for frosting the cake while it’s still warm.