Loaf cakes are the perfect weeknight baking project. They come together with just 20 minutes of Work Time and are so moist and flavorful on their own that no frosting is required. Many loaf cakes keep well at room temperature. They taste even better the day after they’re baked, with flavors that deepen the longer they sit.
Despite all these great weeknight baking qualities, I didn’t always love baking loaf cakes. Although I’ve always found loaf cake batter a breeze to mix together, it was a completely different ball game once I placed it in the oven. Most loaf cake recipes tend to bake unevenly—the edges will brown far quicker than the center, leaving the baker to choose between a cake with a slightly burnt bottom and sides versus one with perfect edges but an underbaked center.
It became my mission to solve this issue. I made many different loaf cake recipes to showcase on Hummingbird High
, experimenting with oven temperatures and altering Bake Times, all with no luck. One day, I failed to follow my own advice on prepping ingredients (see page 44
) and found myself missing a half stick of butter for a pound cake recipe. Instead of running to the store, I decided to reduce the rest of the ingredients in the recipe to match the amount of butter I had on hand. Doing so would make a smaller loaf, sure, but one that would be enough to satisfy my craving. When I pulled it out of the oven, I was surprised to find that I’d baked the perfect loaf: moist and flavorful in the center, and more important, with no burnt bottom or edges.
I realized then that the loaf cake recipes I’d previously tried produced more batter than what was actually needed for a reasonable size loaf. That excess batter was causing the bottoms and edges of my loaf cakes to burn, since all that batter took too long to bake in one pan. I decided to apply this theory to some of my favorite loaf cake recipes, reducing the ingredient quantities to make less batter. It worked! All came out perfectly, with no overdone edges in sight.
Along the way, I also discovered that the right cake pan is crucial in delivering a perfectly baked loaf cake. Enamelware, glass, and ceramic pans don’t perform as well as more traditional bakeware like professional, insulated metal cake pans. These are pans made from two layers of metal with a layer of air sandwiched in between them. The layer of air acts as an insulator, preventing the bottom and edges of your loaf cake from burning.
Alas, I know that professional cake pans are a luxury. So there are ways to hack it at home without having to buy a new set. You can place your loaf pan on a sheet pan when baking; the extra layer of metal helps insulate the bottom of the loaf cake. Even better, if you’ve purchased your loaf pan as a stackable set of two, you can double them up to re-create a “professional” insulated pan. Cool, right?
After I figured out these tricks, my loaf cakes came out perfect each time. Loaf cakes quickly became one of my favorite weeknight baking projects—and I hope they’ll become one of yours, too.