Is there some way to check a cake is done without using a toothpick or other penetrative device?

I like the thermometer idea, but no one seems to know how the heck to use them.

  • 2
    Use another utensil :)
    – Kyra
    Aug 3, 2010 at 18:56
  • 2
    Does anyone have any information on using a thermometer? I've seen Alton Brown use a Thermapen, but he didn't say what temperature he was looking for. Aug 3, 2010 at 19:47

8 Answers 8


http://www.baking911.com/cakes/data.htm I found some baking times for specific sized cakes. For me, I just use the toothpick method.

If it's a spongecake, you can check by pressing down on it and if it "bounces" back it's done.


If the reason you don't want to use a toothpick is that it leaves a big hole, you can buy a cheap little item called a cake tester that is just a thin piece of wire with a little handle. It leaves such a small hole that as to be unnoticeable. As a bonus, it is quite useful for checking the doneness of vegetables. This is the one I use.

  • 1
    In the same spirit of using an alternate thing to poke the cake with, I typically either use a skewer (as they're longer, so you're sure they got to the middle), or some uncooked strand of thin pasta (vermicelli, linguini, spaghetti)
    – Joe
    Aug 4, 2010 at 2:41

Touch the center with the your finger. Texture will tell. It should have some spring back and not be gooey or too jiggly. If the center is cooked, so is the rest.

As for overcooking, I use the edges as a guide. If they're starting to brown, (either the over temp is just too high), or the center is probably done too.

Finally, smell. Fresh cake will have a sweetness. Underdone will still be a bit 'doughy'. Overcooked will start to have bready/crusty/burnt overtones.


Use a digital thermometer.

Finding correct core temperatures is a bit tricky though.

Update: Corriher suggests 98 degrees Celsius in her book BakeWise.

  • Can you expand on that please
    – dassouki
    Aug 4, 2010 at 13:55
  • Not all recipes specify the doneness internal temperature. Alton Brown usually include the temperature, so look at his recipes to get a feeling for the correct ball park. In this recipe for carrot cake, the recipe reads: If you have a thermometer, you are looking for an internal temperature of 205-210 degrees. noblepig.com/2010/01/15/alton-browns-18carrot-cake.aspx
    – soegaard
    Aug 4, 2010 at 21:52
  • 1
    The temperature for doneness is 98 degreee celsius. This is the temperature that Corriher repeatedly uses in her book BakeWise.
    – soegaard
    Dec 12, 2010 at 15:48
  • Possibly this answer came in before the answer was editing to specify a non-penetrative method. Jan 9, 2013 at 15:13
  • Yes. The current version of the question even states that "I like the thermometer idea".
    – soegaard
    Jan 9, 2013 at 20:19

I always wiggle the cake a bit to see if the top moves. If it is undone the top with wiggle like it's wet. If done, it should be firm. If you know your oven well, the timing should be a good estimate too, and then use the wiggle method.

  • 3
    The top can firm up, while the center's still gooey, so this isn't always the best method. It's not bad if it's a recipe you've done before, but if the oven's too hot, the top might set up too early.
    – Joe
    Aug 4, 2010 at 2:39
  • As is the case for all eye-ball recommendations, you need to use complimentary methods. That is why I mentioned the time point. But yes, this is definitely an estimate and should be used as a supplement to other methods. Aug 4, 2010 at 21:58

Depending on the cake you are baking you can also listen to it. Some cakes have a slight bubbling sound while undone.


Simply use a fork.

  • Possibly this answer came in before the answer was editing to specify a non-penetrative method. Jan 9, 2013 at 15:12

poke a wooden toothpick into the center of a cake; if it comes out with wet batter, keep cooking; if it comes out clean and dry, contrary to common knowledge, it's probably overcooked; if it comes out with a few crumbs stuck to it, it's probably perfect.

  • 6
    But the question mentioned without using a toothpick...
    – Zeina
    Jan 9, 2013 at 7:49

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