Have you ever baked a cake only to look in the oven and see a huge dome? It doesn’t hurt the quality of the cake, but a flat, level cake looks better on a serving tray and is easier to stack if you’re doing multiple layers. Follow these steps to get a cake that bakes evenly and stays level.
Follow the directions of the cake recipe exactly. It may seem unnecessary to mix for 2 minutes or add ingredients in a particular order, but those little things can make a big difference in how your cake turns out. Overmixing of undermixing the batter can ruin the texture of the cake.
Spread the batter evenly in your cake pan. Use a rubber spatula to spread the batter to the edges of the pan. Gently tap the pan several times on the counter to make any air bubbles move up to the top of the batter.
If you’re baking a large sheet cake, use a flower nail to help the middle of the cake bake evenly. Spray the flower nail completely with cooking spray so it doesn’t stick to the cake. Put it in the middle of the batter after filling the pan. The metal of the flower nail heats up in the oven and helps cook the middle of the cake.
Cake recipes often recommend 350 F for baking. I find that lowering the temperature to 325 F reduces the doming effect that often happens with cakes as they bake. You’ll need to increase the baking time to compensate for the lower temperature.
Don’t open the door during the baking process. The sudden drop in temperature from opening the door affects the cake. If you open the door before the cake is fully baked, you’ll notice the top falls. You can often tell by looking at the cake if the middle is still runny. I sometimes tap the door of the oven to shake it slightly. If the cake seems jiggly, I know it needs more time.
Don’t overbake the cake either. Baking it too long dries out the cake and can cause cracking. Watch the timer closely. After using the same recipe several times, you’ll get a better sense of how your oven bakes and how long the cake needs in the oven.
Press It Down
Even when you bake at a lower temperature, you may get a slight doming in the middle of the cake. A trick I use to level the cake without cutting it is to press down the dome gently. I lay a clean towel over the hot cake — it works best right out of the oven. I push down gently in the middle of the cake where it is domed. Lift up the towel to see if the cake looks level.
Have Your Cake
Baking is often a matter of trial and error. If you aren’t happy with the way your cakes turn out, test different variables to find out what works for you.