Testing for Doneness - Toothpick Test

Cake toothpick testTesting a baked good for doneness can be confusing, and it's easy to overbake a recipe in just a few minutes or even seconds. With all of our CraftyBaking.com recipe, we include descriptions on how to tell when a recipe is done baking, including a color photo with any baking recipe tutorial for more accuracy.

Each LEARN SECTION - BAKED GOODS also includes some information about testing for doneness, so search the website for more information. I have included a quick summary of the types of baked goods for your review below.
SARAH SAYS: Know your oven; some ovens bake faster or slower than others. However, it could be because of the type of pans you are using (shiny pans reflect heat; dark pan retain heat); oven shelf placement (too high or too low); age and how well your oven holds and circulates heat (oven too crowded or not vented). Your oven may be off, and need to be calibrated.

There are several ways to test for doneness:
SARAH SAYS: When testing recipes for doneness with a long skewer or toothpick, use a wooden one because the crumbs will grab onto it. A metal skewer will typically come out clean because it is slippery; the crumbs do not adhere to it very well, so it is not an accurate implement to use for recipe doneness testing.

When testing a recipe using my fingertip to test for doneness, I like to touch the top of a cake, for example, very lightly in the center with my middle and index fingers; I try not to press hard and make dents in the cake, otherwise the cake will no longer rise in that area if further baking is needed.

When using an Instant Read Thermometer to test for doneness, make sure you do not touch the tip of it to the pan, otherwise you will get in inaccurate reading. Pierce the baked good and insert the tip of the thermometer about half way.

How to tell when the bread is done baking:
Always insert the Instant Read Thermometer or probe into the center of the loaf through the bottom. It is the last place to receive heat from the oven and will be the coolest part of the bread. You can also tap the bottom of the loaf and listen for a hollow sound, and the sides should be firm and golden brown. But, the thermometer test is the most reliable.

  • Hard, crusty bread is baked until the center of the loaf registers 200 to 210 degrees F (212 degrees F when steam is used).
  • Soft bread, such as enriched dinner rolls and sandwich bread, is baked until the center of the loaf registers about 180 to 190 degrees F.

Bread color varies, depending on the recipe and can also be the baker’s choice.

After baking, some recipes instruct you to apply finishing touches, such as olive oil or butter, to the baked bread to add flavor and help soften their crusts. This technique is used with the Fougasse Bread Tutorial.

How to tell when the cake is done baking - shortened (butter) and unshortened (foam) cakes:
SHORTENED CAKES ~ CraftyBaking.com's test for doneness: If you insert a WOODEN skewer or toothpick in the middle and remove, there should be a few moist crumbs attached, but not batter. A metal cake pick or plastic toothpick will slide in and out of the cake and crumbs will not stick to it as readily, but will stick to a WOODEN skewer or toothpick, my preference!

Testing should be reserved for the last 5 to 7 minutes of baking, and done as infrequently as possible. Opening the oven door causes drops in oven temperature and may even cause the cake to fall in the middle.

In addition, when cakes are nearing doneness, they start to "wrinkle" at the pan edges. They should be removed before a gap forms between the cake and the pan. Another way to test for doneness is to touch the top of the cake lightly with a fingertip. You will hear a few air bubbles popping and it should spring back a little bit, indicating the cake is done. But, the skewer / toothpick test is the most reliable.

UNSHORTENED CAKES: The unshortened cake is baked when its surface is lightly browned and springs back when touched or feels firm. Using a toothpick to test for doneness does not work. Some will sound when tapped on the side of the pan with the handle of a wooden spoon.

Cheesecakes (See custards, below)

How to tell when the cookies are done baking:
Cookies bake in a short time, generally 8 to 15 minutes usually at 350 to 375 degrees. They can burn very easily, and they can be deceptive by looking underbaked when in fact they're perfect. Many cookies rise a little bit, but usually collapse a bit when pulled from the oven.

Check cookies for doneness at 5 minutes before the first time in the range specified in the recipe. Keep checking every minute or so. Cookies burn quickly.

If you want soft and chewy cookies, take them out on the early side; for crispier cookies, bake a little longer, being careful not to burn them. (Some recipes already make soft or crispy cookies, so just follow the recipe). 

Thick or moist cookies are done when pressed lightly and leave a slight imprint. Thin, crispy ones are done when firm to touch and slightly golden around edges.

When done, remove cookies from the oven and let cool in the pans for 3 to 5 minutes. As cookies continue to cool they will become firm enough to remove, otherwise they will fall apart if they are too hot. If cookies are left on the sheet too long, they will be very difficult to remove.

To cool, transfer each cookie gingerly to a wire cake rack with a flat, metal spatula. Do not pile cookies on top of each other and leave a bit of space around each. If you do not have enough space on the cooling racks, putting the cookies on flat, brown paper grocery bags placed on the countertop.

If you bake cookies on parchment paper, let them sit on the pan for 3 to 5 minutes and then slide it with the cookies to a wire cake rack to cool completely. Then, remove the cookies from the parchment paper. They'll break less easily this way.

Make sure that there is at least a 3-inch clearance between the rack and the countertop. I have found that if the cooling rack is too close to the counter, condensation forms underneath the cookies, causing them to have slightly soggy bottoms. To do, place upside-down glasses on the countertop and use them to support each corner of the wire cake rack.

Cookies should be (eaten) and stored after cooling. Most cookies are decorated after baking and cooling, but can be done beforehand.

Brownies and Bar Cookies:
Cool bar cookies in pan before cutting to keep them from crumbling.

For bar cookies...easy removal, line pan with foil, allow an overhang and when cookies have cooled simply pull up foil or you can allow cookies to cool 15 - 20 minutes, cut and remove.

Fudge Brownies: The brownies will seem underdone in the middle but will harden as they cool. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Cool in the pan on a wire cake rack before cutting into squares.
Cakelike Brownies: Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes until a wooden toothpick, inserted in the middle comes out with a few gooey crumbs. The top looks dull when baked, but becomes glossier as cools. Cool in the pan on a wire cake rack before cutting into squares.

How to tell when the custard is done cooking or baking

Starch and Non-starch based custards: Go to Custard - Problems and Solutions

QUESTION: Most cheesecake recipes, for example, have you check a custard's doneness by baking for xx to xx minutes or "until knife inserted near center comes out clean." What is a better way?
SARAH SAYS: This is one of the most asked and hardest questions to answer. Cheesecakes are done when they are baked to 150 degrees F when an instant read thermometer has been placed in the center of the cake; baked over 160 degrees F, cheesecakes tend to crack. Or, when a 3-inch circle in its center jiggles (but does not slosh) slightly when its container is tapped lightly on its side with the handle of a wooden spoon. If using an Instant Read Thermometer, check the cheesecake's temperature once, or again through the same hole made by the end of the thermomter; multiple holes made in the cheesecake's center can cause the cheesecake to crack.

Baked custards, such as flan and crème brûlée, should jiggle when gently shaken. This will occur between 170 to 175 degrees F.

How to tell when the pie or tart is done cooking or baking

Custard Pies:
Bake until the custard has set around edges but jiggles slightly in the center when tapped on the side with a wooden spoon, usually around 12 to 15 minutes.
Do NOT pierce with a knife or toothpick to check if done.

Fruit pies: The sign of a fruit pie ready to take from the oven is that it should be juicy and bubbling all over, especially in its center. It needs to bubble if it contains a starch thickener, otherwise the starch is not going to thicken.

What's new is the Baked Goods Internal Temperature Chart. You'll need an Instant Read Thermometer to perform these tests.

Baked Goods Internal Temperature Chart
Fahrenheit and Celsius Cooking Temperatures


Internal Description - These are estimates.
Test the recipe for doneness at the lower temperature range.

Internal Core Temperature
Remember: The baking process continues even after you remove the recipe out of the oven. As the recipe cools, the residual heat on the surface slowly penetrates to the middle.


Quick Breads (Breads, Muffins and Cornbread)

Yeast Breads

Soft Breads/Dinner Rolls


Sourdough Breads

Cinnamon Rolls

Water temperature to add yeast


200 degrees F.
93 degrees C.

200 to 210 degrees F.
93 to 99 degrees C.

180 to 190 degrees F.
82 to 88 degrees C.

200 degrees F.
93 degrees C.

200 to 210 degrees F.
93 to 99 degrees C.

190 to 200 degrees F.
87 to 93 degrees C.

105 to 115 degrees F.
41 to 46 degrees C.

Insert the thermometer from the side of the bread. If the bread is in a loaf pan, insert it just above the edge of the pan directing it at a downward angle.



Cakes - Cupcakes

Carrot Cake

Clafouti (with fruit)

Devil's Food Cake - Red Velvet Cake

Molten Chocolate Cakes

Pound Cake

Tres Leches Cake, Three-Milk Cake

Upside-Down Cakes


205 to 209 degrees F.
93 to 98 degrees C.

205 to 209 degrees F.
93 to 98 degrees C.

160 degrees F.
71 degrees C.

205 degrees F.
93 degrees C.

160 degrees F.
71 degrees C.

210 to 212 degrees F.
99 to 100 degrees C.

200 degrees F.
93 degrees C.

190 to 200 degrees F
88 to 93 degrees C

Insert thermometer in the center of the cake.



150 degrees F.
65 degrees C.

When the internal temperature of a cheesecake rises beyond 160 degrees F. while baking, it will always crack. To prevent this from happening, Take it out of the oven when the cheesecake reaches 150 degrees F. at the center to avoid over baking.




Chocolate Cream Pie

Custard Pie - Cream Pies

Fruit Pies (Blueberry, Blackberry, etc.)

Pecan Pie

Pumpkin Pie

Sweet Potato Pie

Meringue Pies



165 degrees F.
74 degrees C.

170 to 175 degrees F.
76 to 79 degrees C.

175 degrees F.
79 degrees C.

200 degrees F.
93 degrees C.

175 degrees F.
79 degrees C.

175 degrees F.
79 degrees C.

160 to 165 degrees F.
71 to 74 degrees C.


Insert thermometer a couple inches in from the edge of the pie.





Puddings and Custards:

Bread Pudding

Creme Brulee

Baked Custard (Old Fashion)




160 degrees F.
71 degrees C.

170 - 175 degrees F.
76 to 79 degrees C.

160 degrees F.
71 degrees C.

170 - 175 degrees F.
76 to 79 degrees C.


Insert thermometer in the centers. Begin checking temperature about 5 minutes before recommended time.



adapted from whatscookingamerica.com

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