8 Tips You Need To Bake A Cake In Your Air Fryer

Whether you're on the go or reluctant to heat up the kitchen when prepping to bake a cake, the air fryer might seem a simple substitute for the conventional oven. However, some experts caution that traditional cakes are one type of food that you should never cook in the air fryer. The reason? As its name states, your air fryer basically fries your food for a crisp-tastic crunch. But if used for any type of bread — or cake — the fryer can toast the surface, leaving burnt crusty outside while leaving the inside undercooked. Your cake can be a crunchy and gooey mess.

But no need to turn on the oven just yet. The air fryer is actually an excellent kitchen helper for baking cakes, from small cupcakes to a traditional 8-inch birthday cake. If this is your first time using an air fryer to make dough rise, you might need a little testing and experimenting to get it just right. But these tips can help cut down the time, effort, and cleaning while elevating your cake's taste to the next level.

1. Don't fry, air bake

Remember that any kitchen gadget was made with one job in mind. In the case of an air fryer, its main purpose is for frying. This is great for crispy-on-the-outside and chewy-on-the-inside cookies, but a cake's center might be raw while the top gets singed.

One way to keep the cake's top from burning is to cover the cake's surface, preventing it from becoming overly brown, or, at worst, toast. When the timer's countdown is halfway done, open the fryer and check the top. If the surface is done and has the desired hue and texture, wrap aluminum foil over the surface. Be sure you have enough foil to crinkle over the edges of any lining or baking pan within the air fryer drawer. The foil will keep the top from direct exposure to the fryer unit's heating elements. In the meantime, the heat circulates within the drawer, baking the inside to perfection.

2. Replace the cake pan with silicone

Traditional baking ware like parchment papers, cake pans, liners, and trays are centuries old and have withstood the test of time for cake connoisseurs. But for the kitchen chef, all these cake accessories can become a hassle to clean up. In the case of parchment paper, these one-time-use sheets end up in the trash and add to overcrowded landfills.

Try replacing these tools with silicone. You should own silicone liners for your air fryer. They are heat resistant, easy to clean, reusable, and customized to work with the fryer's airflow, allowing for more efficiency and less wear on your unit. Silicone cake pans are flexible and the sides can be easily pulled away from the cake, which allows for easy removal without leaving behind pieces and crumbs.

One caveat: Silicone can end up absorbing flavors that can leak into your food. If you have older silicone kitchenware, you might notice that your food might smell or taste like soap or plastic. Unlike traditional metal cake pans and trays, even the most durable silicone kitchenware needs to be replaced down the line.

3. Take it easy on the oil

One major advantage of baking with an air fryer is that its accessories often have nonstick surfaces. For fried foods, nonstick coating means less grease build-up and scrubbing to get those stains off. Nonstick pans and trays are generally easy to clean, and to accelerate the clean-up, feel free to add a dab of cooking oil to glide the cake from pan to cake dish. Spreading some canola oil into the air fryer basket or pan can also add some flavor and moisture to prevent your cake from drying out.

That said, you shouldn't use cooking sprays in your air fryer. Cooking sprays can damage the surface of nonstick surfaces. The spray can cause your pans' nonstick coating to deteriorate, which will seep into the cake. Your cake's taste will not only be off, but you might get some food poisoning in the process. When baking a cake in a conventional oven, reach for Pam, but for the air fryer, leave the sprayer in the cupboard.

4. Lower the heat

If you can't stand the heat, no need to stay out of the kitchen. Just switch to your air fryer, which uses less energy and heat than conventional ovens. The unit's small size cuts down on the preheat time, which means you can generally roast food much faster in the air fryer. The compact size also means the hot air circulates faster and more evenly than a traditional oven.

Greater efficiency means that the air fryer needs less heat and less time to bake your cake. You can slash the temperature by as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit and the cooking time by as much as 20% than you would if using a traditional oven. Otherwise, if you stick to the recipe's instructions, your cake might end up overcooked or drier than expected. If you were counting on your oven to warm up the kitchen on a cold wintry day, just compensate with a fresh slice of cake straight from the air fryer instead.

5. Batten down the bakeware

One unexpected side effect of using an air fryer is that your unit might cause a micro-sized tempest in the drawer. The air fryer circulates hot air to heat food, which works wonders in a small space. Circulation cuts down on grease and fats for frying, but it can also whip up an unexpected gust. One of the biggest mistakes that you can make with your air fryer is not securing lightweight food. If your cakes have crumb toppings or are simply small in size, such as cupcakes or Bundt cakes, they might be blown over in the wind.

So, secure your food. One way you can keep food grounded in the air fryer is to cover a crumb topping with a cooking rack or tray as a breeze guard. An aluminum foil cover with air holes poked through can do the same thing, and help contain unexpected spills should the cake mold shift. Otherwise, just open the drawer periodically to check the cakes and rotate them as needed.

6. Don't overstuff the drawer

Air fryers come in different sizes. Some of the best air fryers can hold a range from 7 to 10 quarts, with many others coming in between. If you're hoping to make a large wedding cake for a small village in a quick afternoon, think twice before doubling the recipe or otherwise overstuffing the drawer with dough.

Always check your air fryer's instruction guidelines and safety info to prevent cramming. The air fryer drawer might look like it can hold just a little more food if you squeeze it in just right, but keep in mind that air needs to circulate throughout the drawer to cook evenly. If you put too much food in your air fryer, the overcrowded drawer lead to uncooked centers or lopsided cakes. Also, remember that your dough will expand, and without any room to grow, your air fryer can have a gooey mess or, worse, overheat and create a fire.

7. When in doubt, toothpick test it out

Just because an air fryer can bake a cake faster and at a lower temperature doesn't mean that traditional tips no longer apply. Some age-old baking techniques are still recommended to make sure that your cake comes out with the perfect airy and fluffy texture.

One handy tip is the toothpick test. Insert a regular wooden toothpick into the center of the cake. The toothpick will attract moisture, and if the toothpick comes out with wet batter or crumbs, it's not quite done. Just turn the heat back on for five minutes and then check again. If the toothpick is clean, it's ready to move to a cooling rack.

Keep in mind, though, that when doing the toothpick test on some baked goodies, like homemade brownies, the toothpick should come away with wet crumbs attached. This helps ensure that the brownies won't dry out when cooling. If you don't have a toothpick handy, there are a few other tricks to check if the center's ready. Jiggle the air fryer drawer and if the cake's center is wobbly, that means it's not fully cooked. Another insider tip is to gently press the center with your thumb to check its firmness.

8. Make sure one-size cake pans are the right size

When switching from a conventional oven to an air fryer, remember that new gadgets will require new safety habits. For an oven, cooking ware is slid out, but the baking pan in the air fryer is removed from the top. This means you have to get your fingers (or gloves) into the fryer drawer to lift it out.

If you're a rookie in the kitchen, we recommend some tips to avoid burning yourself. First, before you even start baking, make sure you're comfortable taking the mold in and out of the drawer. Remember to not wedge your baking pan too tightly in the cooking space. Your mold should be secure but still have some wiggle room if you need some space to lift the cake out. Or, use air fryer tongs and slings so you don't have to get too close to the hot surface. Even the most succulent cake might not make up for burnt fingers.