How to Tell When Your Cake Is Done


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Learn how to tell when cake is done with these four easy tips and avoid the most common cake-baking pitfalls.

A perfectly baked cake is tender, moist, and has a perfect crumb. An underbaked cake is dense and gummy when you bite into it, while an overbaked cake tends to be tough and dry.

With these four easy tips, you can ensure a perfectly baked cake every time!

Since you can’t always tell if the cake layers are golden brown, especially if baking a darker cake such as a chocolate cake, these failproof tips are essential.

The Cake Edges Begin to Pull Away

Cake layers ready to cool on a wire rack.

The cake, cake layers, and cupcakes will begin to pull away from the sides of the baking pan as the cake is done, as depicted in the photograph above. This visual cue is one of the first signs to know that your cake is done.

It Smells Fragrant

Slice of chocolate peppermint cake

You’ll also begin to notice that the cake is fragrant. This is always the point of baking that gets my attention and makes my mouth water! The smells of vanilla and sugar are amazing when a cake is finished baking.

The Cake Springs Back to the Touch

Photograph of chocolate cupcakes with white frosting

If the earlier two cues indicate that the cake is done, you can open the oven to test the cake for doneness. The center of the cake, cake layers, or cupcakes will spring back to a gentle touch when done. Carefully touch the center of the cake, and it should have a slight spring in it when touched.

If your finger leaves an indention, your cake is not done baking. Return it to the oven for 5 minutes before checking it again.

Toothpick Test

Photo of Lemon Pound Cake

Use a toothpick or cake tester and carefully insert it into the center of the cake. It should come out clean, with only a few crumbs attached. It should not have streaks of cake batter or have a gummy appearance on the toothpick or cake tester.

Happy baking!
Robyn xo

Welcome to Add A Pinch

About Robyn

Robyn Stone is a cookbook author, wife, mom, and passionate home cook. Her tested and trusted recipes give readers the confidence to cook recipes the whole family will love. Robyn has been featured on Food Network, People, Southern Living, and more.

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  1. Rhonda Jefferys says:

    Hi Robyn I have been cooking your best chocolate cake and the smaller versions for a long time now also the cupcakes and vanilla cake they exceed all other recipes I have the cupcakes in the oven now for my grandchildren tomorrow.
    Thank you so much for your great work and time to share this with us.

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      Thank you so much, Rhonda. Have fun with your grandchildren!

  2. Mary Catherine says:

    I’m happy to hear someone give the advice/tip for using all of your senses (well, almost all) when cooking, even when baking! I taught my son to use his nose when he asked about checking a chocolate cake for doneness.
    Thank you for your wonderful, consistently educational (and entertaining) writing.
    um, the recipes ain’t too bad, either!

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      Thank you so much, Mary Catherine, for your kind words. I remember teaching my son to always smell the cake while it was baking, too.

  3. DEBI says:

    Douglas, I think the cake you are talking about is the peppermint chocolate cake, it comes up at the top of the page with the other cake recipes. Hope this helps

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      Thanks, Debi, for answering Douglas. That is my Peppermint Chocolate Cake at the top of the page.

  4. Douglas says:

    I want the recipe for the chocolate cake at the top of this page Robyn, looks so moist and delicious, hope you can see it also

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      Douglas, that is my Peppermint Chocolate Cake. I hope you try it and enjoy it.