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Can Cake Batter be Mixed Ahead and Baked Later?

Noreen asks: Is it possible to mix a cake batter and put it in the refrigerator to bake it off later? How will that affect how the cake rises?

Baking S.O.S. says: This question is particularly interesting because I don’t have any actual experience to draw on–all I can do is guess what might happen.

Typically, for any baked good that is leavened with baking powder or baking soda, the leavener will start acting as soon as the batter is mixed. To get the most leavening effect, the batter should be placed in the oven immediately after mixing.  Otherwise, the leaveners will lose their effectiveness the longer they sit in the batter without being baked (double-acting baking powder takes effect in 2 ways–hence the name “double acting”–first, when the baking powder is moistened by mixing it in the batter, and secondly, when it is heated by placing it in the oven).

I have successfully mixed up muffin and scone batters the night before and placed them in the frige to bake the next morning without any noticeable loss of leavening. So it could be possible to do the same with a cake. However, cake batter also tends to be much lighter and fluffier–more fragile–so I don’t know if cake batter will rise as well if it is allowed to sit for too long before baking.

Here is what I would suggest: Bake the cake batter straight from the frige–do not allow it to warm up to room temperature before baking because this will probably cause additional loss of leavening. Before baking the cake, though, place the batter back in the mixer and beat or whip it on high speed for a couple of minutes. This will incorporate some air into the cake batter which should help it rise better once baked.

Good luck, and keep me posted on how it turns out!