4 Ways to Confidently Tell That Your Cake is Finished Baking

This article will share the 4 tips to ensure your bakes are always done right.

+ Bonus Ideas for Overbaked Cake

There’s nothing more frustrating than spending your whole afternoon baking only to realize that you’ve under or over baked your cake or cupcake layers. If it’s happened once, it’s happened 1,000 times and it’s the worst! You take your cake out of the oven thinking it's finished baking, walk away to let it cool and come back only to find that it’s sunken in and slightly gooey in the middle. Or maybe, you want to make sure it’s good and done and instead leave it in the oven for too long, resulting in a dry and crumbly cake.

It can feel like such a waste.

All that time and effort to create something special, and you're left feeling frustrated and defeated. Forget about trying to bake another cake. You’re done!

Never fear! With these four tips, you’ll be able to confidently pull those baked goods out of the oven, knowing that your time in the kitchen was well spent!

Four cues that your cake layers are finished baking: 

Springy top

One of the easiest ways to tell that your cakes or cupcakes are finished baking is to lightly touch the top, center of your cake. If your finger leaves an indentation in the cake, it isn’t quite ready to come out. Give it a couple minutes and check again. 

You’ll know that your cake is ready to come out of the oven when you press gently in the center and the cake bounces right back resulting in what I like to call a “springy top.”

Pulling away from the sides

Have you ever pulled a cake out of the oven and noticed that the sides are pulling away from the pan, almost as if it’s shrinking around the edges? This is a visual cue that your cake has finished baking. As long as you’ve greased the pan well, you can count on this being a sign that your cake is ready to come out of the oven. 

If you pull the pan out of the oven and the cake is still mostly connected to the sides of the pan, give it a couple more minutes and then check again. 

Is it talking?

This is one of my favorite tricks! Next time you pull a cake out of the oven, pull it up to your ear (very carefully, my friend- we don’t want any burnt ears!) and give it a little listen. Do you hear a little crackling sound, almost as if the cake is talking to you? If you do, it’s telling you that it wants more time in the oven. 

If you don’t hear anything- you guessed it- your cakes are finished baking and ready to be pulled out of the oven.

Toothpick trick

If you have toothpicks handy, this is the simplest way to know without a doubt, that your cake or cupcakes are finished baking. Carefully insert the toothpick into the center of your cake and pull it back out. Is it wet? Does it have any crumbs? 

If it’s wet, you can set your timer for 4-5 minutes, then check again. If your toothpick has only a few wet crumbs, try setting your timer for 2 minutes, then check again. As soon as your toothpick is crumb free, those cakes are ready to come out of the oven! 

Pro tip: You want your vanilla cake toothpicks to come out completely clean, but chocolate cake toothpicks can have a couple, little crumbs (as long as they aren’t wet crumbs).

What if I’ve over baked my cake layers?

Friend, I own a bakery and I still have days where I get distracted and leave my cake layers in the oven for too long. Or, another thing I forget to do on the regular is set my timer. All that work, and I forget the easiest part!! So what do we do when we’ve overbaked our cake? We can’t use the layers for a cake- it would be too dry and crumbly. Are we really out all that time and money? 


Whew, I don’t know about you, but that was the answer I was hoping for. 

There are plenty of things we can do with over baked cake, and here are a few ideas for you…

Dry Cake Save #1: Cakesicles or Cake Pops

Have you ever had a cake pop or a cakesicle (the same thing as a cake pop, just in a different shape)? The first time I had a cake pop was when I was in high school. My mom and I went to Starbucks and I saw this cute, little round sweet treat sitting there all “please choose me!” So, I complied, obviously and bought it and thought it was amazing! 

Turns out, they’re super simple to recreate at home and there are so many fun molds available to make them in. All you have to do is…

  • Crumble your cake, which is easy since it’s dry. Ha.
  • Add enough buttercream that you can scoop the mixture out and it holds its form. Press mixture into your molds, then refrigerate until firm.
  • Melt some white or dark chocolate wafers or candy melts in a microwave safe bowl. Take your cake mixture out of the molds, and gently dip them into the melted chocolate, shaking off any excess chocolate. Set them on parchment and allow chocolate to firm up. 
  • Once firm (you can even pop into the freezer for 10-15 minutes to speed up the process), you can decorate with a chocolate drizzle and sprinkles or however you like!
Pro tip: If you want to color your white chocolate, be sure to use oil based or candy specific food colors. Standard food gels will cause the chocolate to seize, resulting in chocolate you can’t work with. 

Dry Cake Save #2: Trifle Time!

Dry cake, providing it isn’t burnt beyond the point of redemption can be repurposed into a delicious trifle! There are hundreds of trifle ideas out there for inspiration, but it can be as simple as…

  • Dice up your cake into bite size pieces and set aside.
  • Squeeze a little lemon juice and sprinkle a few Tablespoons of granulated sugar over berries of your choice. Set aside for 30 minutes.
  • Whip up some heavy whipping cream with a little powdered sugar and vanilla extract until you have pretty peaks (not too long though, or you’ll make butter!)
  • Take a trifle bowl, a serving bowl, or individual bowls/glasses and layer cake - whipped cream - berries as high as you want, being sure to end with those beautiful berries! 

Between the sweet, juicy berries and the delicious whipped cream, no one will be the wiser that your cake layers were slightly over baked.

I hope you these baking tips help you feel more confident as you pull your cakes out of the oven. I know I’ve had my fair share of cake fails over the years, but as I’ve grown in my baking skills these tips have served me well. I’m so excited to share them with you. And remember, there are always ways to re-purpose over baked cake and no-one will be the wiser! 

Happy Baking!