Skip to Content

How long to bake cake?

Baking a cake is a fun and delicious activity, but it’s important to bake it for the right amount of time. Underbaking can lead to a gooey center, while overbaking results in a dry, crumbly cake. So how long should you bake a cake to ensure it turns out moist and tender? The baking time depends on several factors.

What Type of Cake Are You Baking?

The type of cake you are making is the primary determinant of how long it needs to bake. Basic cake batters fall into two main categories: butter cakes and foam cakes. Butter cakes rely on creamed butter and sugar for structure and tend to be dense and moist. Common butter cakes include pound cakes, red velvet cakes, and chocolate cakes. Foam cakes get their volume and texture from whipped eggs whites or yolks. Angel food cake and chiffon cake are foam cakes. As a general rule:

  • Butter cakes take 30-45 minutes to bake.
  • Foam cakes take 45-60 minutes since they need time to set up and cook through.

Here are typical baking times for common cake varieties:

Cake Type Baking Time
Pound cake 45-60 minutes
Chocolate cake 30-40 minutes
Carrot cake 35-45 minutes
Red velvet cake 30-35 minutes
Angel food cake 35-45 minutes
Chiffon cake 50-60 minutes

Cake Pan Size

The size of pan you bake your cake in also affects cooking time. Heat has to conduct to the center of the cake, so a thicker cake will require more baking time. Standard cake pans sizes include:

  • 8 or 9-inch round pans
  • 8×8, 9×9, or 9×13-inch square or rectangular pans
  • 12-cup Bundt pans
  • Loaf pans (either 9×5-inch or 8.5×4.5-inch)

For the same batter volume, a cake baked in two 9-inch round pans will cook faster than a 9×13-inch sheet cake. Mini cupcakes also take less time than full sized cupcakes. Refer to the recipe, but generally:

  • Cakes in 8 or 9-inch round pans take 30-45 minutes
  • Sheet cakes in 9×13-inch pans take 35-45 minutes
  • Bundt or loaf cakes take 45-60 minutes


Higher elevations affect baking times. The air is thinner at high altitudes, which causes moisture to evaporate faster and the cake to cook more quickly. For every 500 feet above sea level, reduce baking time by about 5%. So if a cake recipe calls for baking a cake for 30 minutes at sea level, at 5000 feet above sea level you would reduce the time by 25% and bake it for around 22-23 minutes.

Oven Temperature

The set oven temperature impacts total baking time as well. Most cake recipes are formulated for an oven baked at 350°F. Higher temperatures will speed cooking, while lower oven temperatures will extend the baking time. Generally:

  • Cakes baked at 325°F need 5-10 more minutes
  • Cakes baked at 350°F follow the recipe time
  • Cakes baked at 375°F need 5-10 fewer minutes

Pay attention to how your individual oven runs when adjusting temperature. If you know it tends to run hot or cold, adjust the temperature so it matches the recipe recommendation more closely.

Ingredients and Add-Ins

Dense ingredients like chocolate chips, nuts, and fruit can increase baking time. Moist ingredients like sour cream and oil tend to keep the interior underbaked, so they might add a couple extra minutes too. Eggs provide structure, so extra eggs may reduce bake time. It’s a good idea to start checking cakes early when including lots of add-ins so they don’t overbake.

Cake Size and Thickness

Larger cakes and thicker cake layers require more baking time. A standard 9-inch round 2-layer cake bakes for around 30-40 minutes. A 4-layer version of the same cake will need almost double the time, 45-60 minutes. Likewise, a half-sheet cake takes 10-15 minutes more than a quarter-sheet cake. Increase baking time by 5-10 minutes for every couple inches of thickness added.

Baking Strategies for Moist Cakes

A perfectly moist cake starts with a few key strategies:

  • Bring ingredients to room temperature. This helps them incorporate and set up properly.
  • Preheat oven fully. This prevents the heat from dropping and cake cooking unevenly when you put it in.
  • Use the size pan specified. Cake needs the right ratio of batter to pan size to bake right and even.
  • Follow temperature guidelines. Too low and cake is dense, too high and it dries out.
  • Check for doneness before time is up. This prevents overbaking. Judge by toothpick tests, lightly browned edges, and cake pull away from the pan.
  • Cool cake completely before frosting. Icing a warm cake makes the crumb mushy.

How to Tell When Cake is Done Baking

Visual and touch tests help determine if cake is thoroughly baked without cutting into it. Signs cake is fully baked:

  • It springs back when gently pressed in the center
  • The edges just start pulling away from the sides of the pan
  • The top is golden brown
  • A toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean

Start performing these tests about 5 minutes before the minimum baking time in the recipe. If the cake needs longer, continue testing every 2-3 minutes until finishes baking.

Common Cake-Baking Problems and Fixes

Here are some typical cake-baking troubles and how to prevent them next time:

Problem Cause Solution
Dense, heavy cake Oven temperature too low Increase temperature 25°F next time
Dry, crumbly cake Overbaked Reduce baking time 5-10 minutes
Sunken center Baked before fully risen Allow batter to rest 15 minutes before baking
Cracked top Batter overmixed Gently fold wet and dry ingredients next time
Batter oozes from pan Too much batter for pan size Use pan size specified in recipe

Tips for Moist Cakes

Follow these helpful tips for moist, tender cakes every time you bake:

  • Use room temperature ingredients.
  • Cream butter and sugar thoroughly – 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Gently combine eggs into creamed mixture.
  • Alternate adding dry and wet ingredients in batches.
  • Avoid over-mixing once flour is added.
  • Check for doneness early.
  • Cool cake completely before frosting or sealing in plastic wrap.
  • Store cake tightly wrapped at room temperature.

Cake Storage to Maintain Freshness

Baked cakes stay freshest when properly stored. Here are some tips:

  • Allow cake to cool completely before wrapping for storage.
  • Wrap in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container.
  • Fruit cakes and pound cakes can be wrapped in aluminum foil.
  • Freeze cake layers up to 2-3 months.
  • Refrigerate frosted cakes 3-4 days.
  • Store unfrosted cakes at room temp 2-3 days.
  • Enjoy sliced cakes within 5-7 days.
  • Cut desserts like tiramisu consume within 3-4 days.

Avoid storing cakes in the refrigerator unless needed to preserve icing or fillings. The fridge environment tends to dry cakes out faster.

How to Freeze and Thaw a Cake

Freezing is a great way to save leftover cake or prepare a cake ahead of time. Here’s how:

  • Cool cake completely before wrapping for freezer.
  • Double wrap in plastic wrap, then foil, or place in air-tight container.
  • Label with cake name and freeze date.
  • Freeze unfrosted cakes up to 2-3 months.
  • Thaw overnight in fridge still wrapped.
  • Let sit at room temp 30 mins – 1 hour before unwrapping and decorating.

Cakes with whipped cream or custard-based frostings don’t freeze well. Stick with buttercream for freeze-friendly cakes.


Baking the perfect cake takes finesse. Follow recipe guidelines for bake times and test cakes early for doneness. Adjust for oven variances, ingredients, and altitude to ensure ideal baking. Store cakes properly, freezing when needed, to maintain fresh taste and texture. With the proper time and care, you’ll be rewarded with a tender, moist cake every time.