How to Make the Perfect Cake

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Have you ever wondered how to make the perfect cake? Today I’m sharing some simple tips and tricks that will help you achieve success each and every time you bake a cake. The days of dry, tasteless, failed cake recipes will be no more if you follow each of the tips I have laid out for you.

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Angled view of a cake covered in chocolate frosting on a marble cake stand.

Make the Perfect Cake

Always read the entire recipe before you begin. Make sure you have all the ingredients and tools needed to bake the cake.

Make sure the ingredients are room temperature. Ingredients that are room temperature are easier to combine. Butter must be softened in order to cream it with sugar. Cold milk will turn perfectly softened butter into a clumpy mess. And cold eggs are almost impossible to thoroughly mix into cake batter.

High angled view of vanilla cake slices with chocolate frosting on bamboo plates.

Cream the butter and sugar together for a full 5 minutes. When creaming the butter and sugar, aim for a light pale color and fluffy texture. If creamed properly, the butter and sugar will be almost double in volume. This process alone will ensure a moist, tender cake.

Measure the ingredients properly. If weight measurements are included in the recipe, be sure to use a scale and weigh the ingredients correctly. If no weight measurements are given, always measure the dry ingredients by spooning them into a dry measuring cup and level it off with the back of a knife.

Overhead view of two slices of yellow cake with chocolate frosting on bamboo plates.

Sift or whisk the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl before adding them to the wet ingredients. Doing this ensures the leavening agent is evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Take care not to over mix the batter. Over mixing causes the top of the cake to dome or crack and creates tunnels throughout the inside. Gently mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Close up overhead view of a slice of vanilla cake with chocolate frosting.

Prepare the cake pans with nonstick spray and a piece of parchment paper cut to fit in the bottom of the pan.

Wrap the cake pans with a wet tea towel or use bake even strips to make sure the cakes bake evenly across the top and do not rise higher in the middle.

Use an oven thermometer. Your oven calibration may be slightly off which can affect the way the cake turns out.

Three layer yellow cake with chocolate frosting on bamboo plates.

Take care not to overbake the cake. The cake is ready once a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few dry crumbs on it. If the toothpick comes out completely clean, the cake is overbaked.

Cool the cakes in the pan on wire rack for 10 minutes before inverting them out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Make sure the cake is completely cool before frosting.

I used my basic vanilla cake recipe for this post.

I have some delicious cake recipes that turn out perfect when utilizing these baking tips to make the perfect cake. Enjoy!

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33 Comments

  • Herman

    Hi Jen,
    I made your cake and it was perfect!! Thank you so much for your advise and help. I never made a cake before and it turned out great. I would like to make the cake pink though for a Minnie Mouse themed birthday party. Can I add food coloring to the cake mixture to make it pink? And if so, at what point during the process would I add the food coloring and how much would you suggest adding? Would I use pink or red food coloring? Sorry for all the questions but I really am a nubie…

    • Jen Sobjack

      Adding food coloring shouldn’t be a problem. Use gel food coloring and red works best for dying white batter pink. It’s hard to say how much to use, that really depends on how dark you want the color to be. Start with a couple of drops, mix it in, then add more as needed.

  • Dominik

    Hi Jen!
    The basic vanilla cake recipe is the best I’ve come across so far ! It is just like my grandmother used to make! I have a couple questions and hope you can help.

    1. I used the exact amounts and made a 3 layer cake using 9 inch pans (I like thinner layers)… I’m trying to increase the recipe to get a 4th layer. In theory, it should be increasing the recipe by 1/3, right? Help! Lol

    2. I had a lot of difficulty layering. One layer literally broke in half and another created a few crumbs around the side. We still devoured it but the cake wasnt pretty. Lol. What are your suggestions?

    • Jen Sobjack

      Hi Dominik! I don’t have a lot of experience converting cake recipes to add extra layers. All my cakes are two or three layers which can be baked interchangeably. I often refer people to this guide on how to convert pan sizes. It gives a good visual for how to adjust a recipe to fit the pans you desire. Also, you could just make a 2 layer cake with 9-inch pans then slice the layers in half to give you four layers.

      When it comes to layering cakes, I find it’s best to freeze the layers before assembling them.

  • Ashley

    Hi Jen: Love your blog, but I have tried your basic vanilla cake recipe twice, and I have not had the results I had hoped for. The cake doesn’t have much flavor and is a bit dry. In an effort to figure out where I am going wrong, I am hoping you can answer the following:
    1. How does one know when ingredients like butter and eggs are at room temperature? Should the butter be soft? Should the eggs feel warm?
    2. How can I ensure there is a really good vanilla flavor? Could I add more vanilla extract? Maybe use vanilla beans in addition to the extract?
    3. My family and I love cupcakes, but how can I ensure fairly evenly sized cupcakes? How full should the paper cups be?
    Thanks for all of your help, Jen, I appreciate it!
    -Ashley

    • Jen Sobjack

      Hi Ashley! I’m sorry you haven’t been satisfied with the recipe. To answer your questions: 1) To bring ingredients to room temperature, just set them out for about an hour before you need to use them. The butter should be soft but not melted and the eggs will probably not feel warm but they won’t be super cold like you just pulled them from the refrigerator. 2) Make sure you are using a pure vanilla extract from a quality brand. It’s completely up to you if you want to add more than the recipe calls for. If one tablespoon isn’t enough, you can try 2. Vanilla paste is also more potent than extract, so that’s an option. 3) As long as you put the same amount of batter in each cup the cupcakes will be uniform in size. The general rule of thumb is to fill the cups 2/3 of the way full.

      • Ashley

        Thanks, Jen. I am thinking it was more UE (user error) than the recipe. I will definitely try the tips you listed. I appreciate you taking the time to respond!

  • Gabriella

    These are perfect tips for my sister! I love baking so I am rather good at it,but my sister tends to mess up everything she bakes! Some tips were even very helpful for me as well. Thank you very much!
    I cant wait to try out the vanilla cake!

  • Kailey Fitzgerald

    Do you ever use simple syrup in your cakes to keep them moist? Most recipes always offer it.
    These tips are so helpful!! Thanks 🙂

  • Lisa

    This explains why my cakes always dome and crack sometimes. Thank you! I was wondering if you plan to post the recipe for the beautiful yellow cake? I’ve been looking for a good recipe.

  • Sheila

    This cake looks great! I would like to try to make it but I don’t see the recipe for it in the posting. Am I missing something?

    • Jen

      There is no recipe for this particular post. This post is about tips and tricks to help you achieve a perfect cake no matter what recipe you are using.