Few things frustrate me more than domed cake layers with burnt edges. I make cakes QUITE often so you can imagine I like things to go smoothly especially since I’m usually filming and sharing the results. When I first started out my cakes had a very “home made” look about them, the corners were rounded and they often sagged at the edge or even drifted off to one side. The taste was good but appearances matter so I would have to trim the top off of my domed layers to get a flat top but then you end up with extra cake and lots of crumbs! Eventually I realized the problem wasn’t with the recipe but the bake itself.
How to Get Flat Cake Layers
Watch the video above for a full how-to!
When you bake cake layers the outside heats up and baked more quickly than the center, which is insulated by the rest of the batter surrounding it. So basically the outside of the cake layer bakes first; the inside of the cake layer has more time to rise and by the time the inside is set and baked through the outside is starting to dry out and burn. This is why you see so many cakes with dark edges which are not pillowy soft.
The solution to this problem is to cool and insulate the outside of the pan a bit with some water. You can do this by applying wet strips of cloth called cake strips to the vertical edge of the pans. You just soak them in water, wring them out a bit and slide onto the pans. You can totally make your own fabric versions if you’re crafty but they’re pretty inexpensive and last forever so I just bought a set.
If you want to give the cake strip thing a try before investing in them or if you just need them right now and can’t wait for shipping then you can make your own using some tin foil and paper towels. Really easy and you can reuse them five or so times before the tin foil started getting holes. All you do is Measure out how much paper you need for your pan size, wet the towels then wring them out so they aren’t soaking wet. Measure out tin foil that’s about an inch or so longer on each side than the paper and place the paper towel folded to a height of about two inches on the tin foil. Fold the foil around the towel then attach to the side of the pan and crimp the edges together.
When using cake strips you’ll often have to lengthen the baking time a bit as the water slows the baking. You’ll know when the cake is done as the centers will spring back the the touch and the edge will pull away from the pan. Keep a close eye on your layers a toward the end of the bake and don’t forget to move the pans around in the oven halfway through if your oven has hot spots like mine does.
Another tip for baking great layers is to weigh each pan after the batter is transferred. Move the batter around between the pans until they all weigh about the same. You want the same amount of batter in each pan for nice even cake layers and I’ll tell you it’s not easy to do by eye! Kitchen scales are a great gadget to have; it’s so much easier to weigh dry ingredients out than fluffing up your flour scooping it with a measuring cup and leveling it off.
Click here for my basic vanilla cake that was featured in the YouTube video!