This Simple Oven Hack Will Prevent Dry Cake

Baking desserts with a pan of water in the oven isn't the most unfamiliar concept. You've likely used the water-bath technique — or bain marie — when making flan, crème brûlée, or even cheesecake. Placing your custard-based dessert dish in a larger pan, filled up about halfway with water, causes heat to distribute evenly through the custard, resulting in silky eggs rather than rubbery, curdled ones (via Food52). This water method can also be applied to non-custardy cakes — with a slightly different technique.

"One of the ways you can prevent cakes from drying is to put a pan of water in the oven while the cake is baking," according to Taste of Home. "The heat doesn't rob the moisture this way." To do this at home, place a dish of water on a lower rack in the oven, and bake your dessert on the rack above it. During the baking process, the boiling water will create steam, cooking the cake with moist heat so it doesn't become dry and crumbly (via Group Recipes).

Other ways to avoid making dry cakes

Skeptical of the water method? There are plenty of other ways to ensure a moist cake. Sally's Baking Addiction explains that the best crumb starts with properly applied ingredients: Room-temperature butter results in fluffiness, the right ratio of baking soda or baking powder prevents too much density, and a little extra oil will mend a batter that seems too dry. Don't stop there. Make sure that you don't over-mix the batter, which will cause a dense cake, or over-bake the cake, which will dry it out even after all the work you've done to make it moist.

Sometimes, cakes still turn out dry, but that doesn't mean you have to throw them away in defeat. After your dry cake has cooled slightly but is still lukewarm, brush it all over with simple syrup, cover it, and let it stand for a couple of hours. Even professional bakers do this to add extra moisture to cakes, Foods Guy explains. You can also compensate for a dry cake with a wet filling, such as whipped cream or jelly, or serve it with ice cream so the dessert soaks up a newfound texture. Then you'll have fixed your cake and learned a little bit of kitchen improvisation along the way.