10 Weird Cake-Baking Tricks That Actually Work

No. 5 can make a boxed mix taste homemade.

Bruce Bogtrotter Cake
Jonathan Boulton

Turns out not all wives' tales are lies.

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Peaches & Cream Pound Cake
Ethan Calabrese
Give 'Em The Cold Stove.

Just about every cake recipe calls for preheating the oven ... except this one. At the turn of the 20th century, "" were popular, since you didn't have to light your oven (and waste $$$ on gas) until you absolutely needed to, according to 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.

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Bruce Bogtrotter Cake
Jonathan Boulton
Go Greek.

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. 

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Cinnamon Roll a la Mode Poke Cake Recipe
Joslyn Blair
Get Fizzy With It.

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.

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Robert Redford Cake
Flickr/Tim Hoggarth
Sweeten Up to Sauerkraut.

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 . , make sure your 'kraut's drained, rinsed and finely chopped, so the cake doesn't get a tangy taste — or stringy texture.

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Milk
Milk That Cake for All It's Worth.

To make a boxed cake mix taste denser, like a homemade one, substitute the water in the recipe for milk, suggests Kasey Schwartz of .

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Whoopie Cake slice
Chelsea Lupkin
Butter Up.

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.

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Pumpkin Pie Magic Cake Piece
Lindsay Hunt
Believe in Magic (Pumpkin Pie Cake).

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 .

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<p>To create pretty, slow drips down the side of a cake, let the glaze cool slightly so it thickens a bit. This glaze is shown on a <a href="/recipefinder/chocolate-beet-cake-recipe-mslo0113"><b>Chocolate Beet Cake</b></a>, but would complement any dessert.</p>
<p><strong>Recipe:</strong> <a href="../../../recipefinder/chocolate-glaze-recipe-mslo0113" target="_blank"><strong>Chocolate Glaze</strong></a></p>
Marcus Nilsson
Just Beet 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).

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Cake pans
Flickr/Dave Parker
Stop Playing it So Cool.

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!).

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image
Aimee Herring
Get (Apple)-Saucy.

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. , which calls for a nonfat cream cheese-based ganache, shaves 215 calories and 19 grams of fat off the typical treat.

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