Does Listening To Your Cake As It Bakes Actually Work?

If you ask a seasoned baker about their preferred method for testing a cake's doneness, some might say that they like to gently poke the middle to see if it bounces back, while others may swear by using an essential cooking tool like a thermometer for specificity (via The Kitchn). And while a majority of bakers — professional and novice — swear by the skewer method, in which a toothpick or skewer is inserted into a cake's center to see if it comes out clean, some have developed a more unusual, yet skillful method: listening to the cake as it bakes to know when it's done.

In an article with The Takeout, "The Great British Bake Off" contestant Peter Sawkins shared his unique method for judging whether or not a cake is ready based on the noises that are coming from inside the oven. There are key steps to this process rooted in science, but in the simplest of terms — as Cook's Illustrated put it — "a cake sings as it bakes, and stops singing when it's done."

It's true, cakes can provide a symphony of sounds

According to certified executive pastry chef Rhonda Stewart, some ingredients in cake batter (such as whipped egg whites or chemical leavening agents like baking soda) react in such a way that air bubbles are formed and/or trapped within the rising batter as it cooks (via The Takeout). These bubbles eventually expand and pop during the baking process, and the sounds that bakers like Sawkins rely on is actually that of carbon dioxide escaping at the surface as a crust is formed and the baked good becomes less porous. 

As LifeHacker explains, an undercooked cake will give off a fervent boiling sound in the oven as the water content within the raw batter turns into vapor. Once the water has been either absorbed by the starches in the cake or evaporated at the surface, the baker will hear significantly less noise coming from the oven. Just as sounds of a roaring boil suggest an undercooked cake, however, silence (or no popping sounds at all) points to a cake being over-baked (via The Takeout). Testers in the Cook's Illustrated kitchen found that at the same moment when a cake is deemed thoroughly cooked (via the toothpick method), just a slight crackling can still be heard. For this reason, removing a cake when you hear just a light simmer may ensure perfectly moist and fluffy results, as it will continue to cook slightly once it is out of the oven.