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Is it wrong to say "to cook a cake"?

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A great quote from the film 'Napoleon Dynamite' - Napoleon Dynamite: Summer Wheatly? How the heck are you gonna do that? - Pedro: Build her a cake or something. –  MVCylon Feb 1 '11 at 21:49
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"Cook a cake" sounds like you're putting it in boiling water. Well, if that's how you make cakes then I suppose that's the correct writing. ^^ –  gablin Feb 3 '11 at 11:24
    
Well, if it's crab cakes, I'm gonna cook 'em. Baked crab cakes just won't do. –  Robusto Jun 16 '11 at 0:09
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Nothing grammatically wrong. But you would probably reveal that you are translating from some other language in your head. –  GEdgar Nov 8 '11 at 15:18
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6 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

It's better to say "make a cake" or "bake a cake". Though you can find a lot of web pages using "cook a cake".

Examples:

He knows how to bake a cake better than anyone else.

Making a basic sponge cake is very easy.

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13,000 cook versus 9mio bake on google. I have personally never encountered cook a cake and it sounds so horribly wrong to my ears –  mplungjan Feb 1 '11 at 14:57
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But it's fine as one of a group of things: "I cooked a ratatouille, a turkey for the main course, and then a cake for dessert". –  Colin Fine Feb 1 '11 at 15:02
    
Plus "bake" and "make" rhyme with cake - so it sounds nice! –  Zannjaminderson Feb 1 '11 at 16:49
    
Is known as a common error? (I wouldn't be surprised if it were not known at all, but "known as a common error" surprises me. Is it true, i.e., is there some listing of common errors that includes this phrase?) –  ShreevatsaR Feb 1 '11 at 19:48
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@Manoochehr: My most sincere heartfelt apologies for being so sure it wasn't in the dictionary! Thanks very much (and I am surprised). I guess it may also be in Brians's book but not on his website… Sorry again. I've deleted all my comments except my first one; thanks for taking the effort. –  ShreevatsaR Feb 8 '11 at 10:12
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I just checked dictionary.com. It says that "cook" means:

  1. to prepare (food) by the use of heat, as by boiling, baking, or roasting.
  2. to subject (anything) to the application of heat.

So cooking includes boiling, baking and roasting. Wich means its not even on the same level of precision. So we can say we "cook" for everything that's been heated but we can't cook a salad or cold food. I guess that something prepared on the stove-up can only be "cooked" but then something baked is also "cooked". The same would be applied to roasted and boiled. If you guys have other sources that say the opposite please share ;)

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It should be "bake a cake" and not "cook a cake". Baking is when you put something in an oven-toaster-griller, and cooking is when you put something on the stove-top.

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Provided that it is an oven based cake you should say "bake".

If describing a cake that isn't made in the oven (eg a fish cake) you could say "cook".

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Also rice cake, potato cake. –  ShreevatsaR Feb 8 '11 at 9:28
    
That's right :) –  Tom Ravenscroft Feb 8 '11 at 10:14
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Baking is done in an oven, cooking is done on a stove-top and typically implies using water.

You can bake pies, roasts, cookies, bread, casseroles, pizza, and cakes. You can cook vegetables and noodles. It is common and acceptable to say "cook a meal" or "cook dinner" rather than "bake a meal" or "bake dinner", even if the meal was all prepared in an oven. It becomes more confusing when you consider certain other food types. Eggs can be fried, scrambled, or boiled, but you rarely hear of anyone baking or cooking eggs.

The bottom line is that bakers bake things and those things they produce are "baked", whereas cooks (or chefs) cook things and those things they produce are "cooked."

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I am told baked (or "shirred") eggs are good. –  Malvolio Feb 1 '11 at 19:49
    
Hmm. I cook a turkey in an oven. I don't necessarily bake a turkey. Hmm. I like the baker vs chef comparison though. –  Jemaclus Nov 8 '11 at 19:44
    
You roast meats and vegetables in the oven so you can say "I'm making roast turkey/beef/pork/potatoes" –  Mari-Lou A Oct 10 '13 at 20:44
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It's not wrong, but it's more common to see 'bake a cake', as that is almost always the cooking method used.

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