In my books there really isn’t anything better than a cake off-cut sandwich, so if you don’t get a perfectly flat cake all the time go on and eat the evidence!
However, I know how frustrating it is to have that cake volcano that erupts in the middle of your cake, leaving short sides and a huge mountain that has to be cut off and
eaten discarded. It is also a question that gets asked all the time in classes “How do I get a level cake?”
First off, some recipes bake flatter than others. My chocolate fudge cake recipe is very wet and seems to rise more evenly than my vanilla cake, presumably something to do with the liquid and keeping a constant temperature…
Line those tins! This is the job I hate the most (well, maybe second to the washing up!) but lining tins means that your mixture can rise up the tin more easily, stopping those edges from sticking and ending up shallow. I have hated lining tins for years, until one day I stumbled across these Bake’O ‘Glide tin liners on Amazon. Wow, I am in love. Truly, these liners are fantastic. They are reusable and available in loads of different sizes and save me a huge amount of time, especially when baking a four tiered cake!
Once your tin and batter is ready, make sure you fill the tins and level your mixture. I do this by swivelling the tin backwards and forwards and then use the back of a spoon or spatula to spread the mixture evenly in the tin.
Low and slow is key, this keeps the temperature more constant and lets the cake rise evenly. Those volcanoes happen because the middle of the cake gets too hot and rises really quickly. My 8″ cakes bake at 150 degrees centigrade for about 1 hour 15 minutes, sometimes longer. I tend to bake two deep cakes per tier (so they can be split in half for a four layer cake). These take longer to bake as they are deep cakes, so if you prefer to bake sandwich layers then they will need less time to bake but always lower for longer than most recipe books say.
If you still find that your cakes aren’t as level as you would like, a tray of water in the bottom of your oven can help. I especially do this with large cakes as it also keeps them moist. Do check it half way through baking to make sure it hasn’t all evapourated!
Upside down for this one. Let your cake cool in the tin until it is cold enough to handle (no burning hands please!) then turn it out onto a cooling rack upside down. If you want to avoid any ridges on the top of your cake you can turn them onto greaseproof paper on a worktop. I do find using a cooling rack means (surprisingly enough) that the cake cools quicker. Remove the tin liners too, this also lets more heat out.
Once cooled you should have a pretty level cake. If you do need to trim any excess off then use a sharp serrated knife to cut it off and layer your cake as normal.
Have I missed any tips? What do you use to keep your cakes level? Let me know in the comments 🙂