Baking lore says that a cake sings as it bakes, and stops singing when it’s done. We put this legend to the test to see if it was true.
An intriguing bit of baking lore holds that if you listen very carefully, you can hear a cake “singing” as it bakes; when the song stops, the cake is done. We were skeptical, but when we hovered next to the oven door while baking a couple of cakes, we could indeed hear faint crackling sounds as the water in the batter turned to steam and escaped. After 25 minutes, we inserted a toothpick into the center of one cake (our preferred method for testing doneness) and it emerged clean, so we removed that cake from the oven, though the cake was still crackling softly. A quick listen to the other cake confirmed that it was still singing, so we left that one in. To our amazement, that cake stopped crackling just at the tail end of the recipe’s recommended time range, or 4 minutes later. And when we sampled the cooled cakes, we struggled to differentiate them.
Now that we know the trick works (at least for the cakes we tested), will we be listening to all our cakes? No. Our preference for the toothpick test remains. It might not be as charming, but it’s easier and doesn’t require perfect hearing.