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There's nothing we love more than a folksy kitchen hack. So, you can imagine our delight when Peter Sawkins (the baby-faced winner of the last season of The Great British Bake Off) revealed that he knows his cakes are done baking when he hears them "sing."
Dan Jakes at The Takeout was one of many food writers struck by the idea, so he reached out to the chief cake whisperer himself for a little more insight into the trick.
"It's completely on the feel of it, the intuition," Sawkins explained, noting that it's actually a tactic he picked up from series three winner John Whaite. "I know that a cake is really under-baked if I'm hearing it kind of boiling away, and I'm hearing it too much. I'm just looking for a gentle simmer or sound."
Sawkins admitted to Jakes that that he primarily relies on the skewer test to determine when a cake is done baking but has found that using multiple senses allows him to get a better picture of the final product.
"You can get it to the point where you've baked it and you cannot hear anything. And that's when I know it's over-baked, because I want a bit of that gentle simmer to be running. And then the carryover cooking will finish it and make a lovely moist sponge."
It makes sense. The act of baking is revolved around changing liquids to vapor—a process that makes noise.
So, what exactly are you listening for? Many describe the "singing" as faint crackling sounds.
According to Lifehacker's Claire Lower, you may have to "calibrate your ear the first couple of times." She suggests listening to your cake at a couple of different points, taking note of how it sounds.
The food scientists at Cooks Illustrated also put this intriguing bit of baking lore to the test. And while they found it to be an accurate way of determining cake doneness, they, like us, still prefer the certainty of the classic toothpick test.
"It might not be as charming, but it's easier and doesn't require perfect hearing," they conclude.