Turns out not all wives' tales are lies.
Just about every cake recipe calls for preheating the oven ... except this one. At the turn of the 20th century, "cold oven pound cakes" were popular, since you didn't have to light your oven (and waste $$$ on gas) until you absolutely needed to, according to American Cake, a historical-guide-meets-cookbook. There's an added benefit, though: Pound cakes cook evenly — meaning no domed top — and get a "nice, crunchy crust," culinary historian Gloria Smiley told author Anne Byrn.
Her top trick? Gradually increasing the temperature as the cake cooks. It goes in, the oven's turned to 300 degrees F, then after 45 minutes, ratchet it up to 325.
For a denser, richer chocolate cake (that packs more protein than the typical confection!), use Greek yogurt in place of butter or oil in the recipe. Sour cream works too, but it only has about 1/5th the protein. You can't taste the difference, but you'll feel fuller longer.
That old Weight Watchers trick of using boxed cake mix and diet soda — and only those two ingredients — makes for one undeniably light, fluffy cake. Chocolate cakes and Diet Coke go surprisingly well together, but for the best results, try a yellow or spice cake mix with creme soda (diet or the regular kind). It tastes just like a cinnamon roll, only it won't weigh you down.
Fermented cabbage is the last thing you'd think of putting in a cake, but it works surprisingly well for adding moisture to a chocolate cake. It's a tried-and-true trick among Pennsylvania Dutch settlers, according to American Cake. If you try it, make sure your 'kraut's drained, rinsed and finely chopped, so the cake doesn't get a tangy taste — or stringy texture.
To make a boxed cake mix taste denser, like a homemade one, substitute the water in the recipe for milk, suggests Kasey Schwartz of All Things Mamma.
Take a classic Devil's Food Cake to the next level with melted butter in place of vegetable oil in the recipe. It creates a lighter, fluffier cake without diminishing that decadent, cocoa flavor. The ratios aren't quite 1:1 — you'll need a little more melted butter than oil.
Magic cakes have taken off on Pinterest for their ability to combine the flavors of pie and cake, without any stirring, secret ingredients or witchcraft involved. You simply pour pie filling atop cake batter in a baking dish and cook until the pie has set and the cake portion is lightly golden and springs back when you touch it. There's no stirring or mi, yet the cake gets this marbleized swirl just the same. Here's exactly how to make it.
To really bring out the cocoa flavor — and naturally redden a red velvet cake — add puréed beets to the batter. You won't taste the root, but it will enrich the cake (and add moisture).
You know you've got to let the cakes cool before removing them, but waiting until they're completely room temperature can make them crumble apart. It may sound counterintuitive, but the ideal time is when the bottom of the pan is still warm to the touch. If it's cooled too much, gently warm the bottom of the pan over a low flame (just make sure you don't get it too hot to touch!).
Using applesauce instead of butter trims serious calories from your slice of cake, without sacrificing the moist texture you'd expect from a dessert worth indulging in. This version, which calls for a nonfat cream cheese-based ganache, shaves 215 calories and 19 grams of fat off the typical treat.