Cake Bakers?????

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by slsh, Jan 10, 2010.

  1. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    OK, I'm a complete klutz in the kitchen. No imagination, no motivation, just do what I have to do and be done.

    So... it's husband's b-day today and I want to make him a cherry chocolate layer cake - don't be too impressed, it's good old Duncan Hines mix. My problem is, my layer cakes never come out flat. This time I even smoothed the batter more towards the edges than the center, and still I get Mt. Ranier coming out of the oven.

    He doesn't care - said just frost it and we'll eat it, but... this is frustrating me. I told him I'll just put mountain to mountain and it'll be an hourglass since his time *is* running out (mean I know but... typical of husband and me, LOL). I won't share his suggestion on how to decorate them - it was 100% male.

    So - million dollar question. How do you bake a layer cake so that the layers come out flat and will fit nicely on top of each other, rather that teetering precariously? I know I should know this by now but obviously I remain completely clueless!
  2. ctmom05

    ctmom05 Member

    By doctoring your cake layers you can end up with a flatter layer.

    The part that rests on the bottom of the cake pan is flat. So, for layer one(bottom) - invert it, so that the flat side will be resting against the next layer. I don't think it will be noticed that the bottom side of the bottom layer is a teensy bit curved, skillfully applied frosting will take care of that:)

    You might like having the top layer flat on both sides for visual effect. One side is already flat; make the other one match by carefully cutting a little off.
  3. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    Is your oven level?
  4. donna723

    donna723 Well-Known Member

    That's what I do too. In fact, if I use one of the mixes where the batter comes out very thick, I try to shoosh a little more to the sides from the middle. And if you still end up with a "Mt. Ranier" on the top, just get a knife and slice it off. Then you can eat it! Then put that layer top-side down on the cake plate. I always put the two flat sides together (what was on the bottom of the cake pan) but if your top layer has a little peak on it also, just whack that off too! There's all kinds of ways to cheat.

    My oven (or more likely, my kitchen floor) is not quite level and I always end up with one side of the cake layers higher then the others. I just put the thicker side of one on the thinner side of the other one and it comes out perfectly level.

    Actually, I remember reading somewhere what makes a cake layer peak like that and darned if I can remember it now! Oven a little too hot, maybe?
  5. Josie

    Josie Active Member

    I took a Wilton cake decorating class and found out there is actually a tool that they use to slice the top of the cake off to make it flat. So, apparently, it is a common problem.

    Maybe try to flatten it yourself with a knife and then fill in with frosting.
  6. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    Oven is level. This is more than a hump. I swear, the sides of the cake are about a quarter inch thick, and the center is 2 inches. It's ridiculous. I'm trying again now with another box. We'll see.

    I even called Mom - she was trying to tell me my 9" cake pans are too small. ARGH!

    What I wanted to do was alternate layers of cherry chip cake with- chocolate cake, kind of like a torte. If I cut off the hump, I'm not going to be left with- much to work with. I probably should've just done a sheet cake marbled.

    That's it - I officially retired from making layer cakes. It's sheet cake or cupcakes from now on - or store bought.

    by the way, how come my sheet cakes don't get so fat in the middle??? They're always nice and smooth. I'm so confused, LOL.
  7. Suz

    Suz (the future) MRS. GERE

    YIKES, Sue. That's a pretty dramatic difference. I have no idea what to tell you.

    I haven't baked a cake in years but they weren't like what you described. More like molehills than mountains. I just smoothed out the top with icing so it was thicker on edges of the top than the middle. :D

  8. donna723

    donna723 Well-Known Member

    If you have a bigger cake pan than 9", it will be even flatter! I usually use an 8" cake pan because it makes the layers a little higher and it just looks nicer.

    Are you very sure that your oven isn't too hot? Oven temps can vary and maybe yours is off a little bit.
  9. GoingNorth

    GoingNorth Crazy Cat Lady

    have you tried rotating the positions of the cake pans during cooking? A lot of ovens, especially older gas ones, have wide variations in temps depending on where in the oven you check it.

    It's possible that one or more zones is too hot/cold for the cakes and that is causing the problem.

    I'll tell you one thing. I saw husband, who was a chef, "cheat" on a cake too. It something that can happen.

    Take a level and check again that your range is level, especially if it's been there for a while.

    You, if you have another person to help, can insert wooden shims at the front or back (or both) ends of the ranger. Just keep checking that level (from length and width) until you get things right.

    When husband and I lived in Chicagoland, we had a Viking commercial range (big boy's toys, I guess) that went out of level every two years or so. It was a very heavy range, and being we had such an old house, the floors would shift a bit fairly frequently.

    Our range was installed by Viking themselves, so it wasn't something they did. With a standard household range, two people can do it easily, just turn the gas off before fooling with it and you'll be fine.

    Our monster took a team to sort out.

    The shims are available at any home improvement store. You want those and a good level. The shims come in a bag of various sizes. They're just little scraps of wood.
  10. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    Well, it's done. I got the giggles and just couldn't stop laughing. Carefully sliced each layer in half to alternate them, then iced each layer.... OMG, the chocolate layers shredded when I tried to put icing on them. Not just the topmost layer of the cake coming off, I mean fell apart. :rofl: It's truly one of the most hideous things I've ever seen in my life. Poor husband. He knows I put the effort in, listening to first the cursing and then the hysterical laughter. Fortunately, in this house taste counts for far more than looks.

    What a mess. Definitely, cupcakes from here on out. Thanks for the suggestions.
  11. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    I do flat to flat. Sadly, my oven is not level, so the cakes come out lopsided to start with.
  12. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    For next year, they sell a cake pan belt (I forget the real name but you can find them at Michael's). You soak it in water and then wrap it around the pan before you put it in the oven. It works great to keep cheesecakes from cracking too.
  13. GoingNorth

    GoingNorth Crazy Cat Lady

    You can buy parchment paper and cut that to size as well. Just follow instructions for use with your pans.
  14. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    I was going to suggest what JJJ recommended -- the belt is made of some kind of muslin-type fabric on one side, and a heat-reflecting coated side on the other, similar to an ironing board cover. They do work pretty well to help keep the heat more even on the pan. I've seen them at Michael's and other craft stores that sell cake supplies. Failing that, I've done what someone else recommended by inverting the top layer so the bulge is upside down. You just use frosting to fill in the gaps around the sides.

    Oh, and you all may not know this but our member Serenityprayer makes AWESOME decorated cakes. Hopefully she'll post some to share one day! :D
  15. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    Sounds stupid, but works. I used to sell decorated cakes on the I promise it helps...

    Take an old towel (but one that can still soak up some water...) and cut it into a strip the depth of your pan and long enough to go around your pan at least once. Completely soak it in water and wrap it around your pan and pin in place and pop it in the oven.

    You will still have a little rise in the center, but nothing like you do without it. I have no idea why, but it works great.
  16. donna723

    donna723 Well-Known Member

    Something else I just thought of ... when you prepare the pan before baking the cake, only do the bottom of the pan, not the sides. If you grease and flour it, just put it on the bottom, never the sides. Or just use parchment paper or wax paper on the bottom. The cake will rise better if it can 'get a grip' on the sides of the pan as it bakes and raises. It will come loose from the sides of the pan as it cools, or you can run a knife around it to loosen it.
  17. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    My easy child, who is a pastry chef, says that aside from making sure your oven is level, using parchment paper, or those other tricks, what professionals do is cut the cakes in layers and the end up with flat pieces. easy child can take an ordinary 8" cake and cut it into 3 layers - she discards the rounded top (or we all devour it before she can).

    The best method is to sit the cake up on a cake dish on top of a lazy susan and use a very large bread knife. Slowly cut into the cake and turn the lazy susan around so it's evenly cut.

    If you watch the Food Network, there are several cake programs and you will always see them trimming the cake tops to make them flat.

    Don't give up on baking yet! There's always next year!
  18. Mattsmom277

    Mattsmom277 Active Member

    My layer cakes come out like deformed UFO's. They are truly awful looking. My oven is garbage. It cooks too hot no matter what I've tried. Basically, no matter what you want to cook, you just set it to 300 Celcius. Higher, everything burns. Lower, all sorts of problems. Yuck. It is also so far from level it isn't funny.

    Yet, S/O can make layer cakes. Same pans, same oven. They come out great? Whenever I make them, I get him to frost them ;). I keep calling him cake boss.

    He does cut off the top a bit to take away my mountain ranges. He does invert them so the bottoms are meeting in the center. He also mixes tub frosting well and puts an initial layer on when the cake is still warm. It melts the frosting a bit, but not too much. It prevents the cake from lifting up into the frosting (the crumbling issue etc). Then once its cooled properly, he finishes the frosting job without worrying that the cake will lift apart. He is the cake King lol.

    For me? I just try to stick to cupcakes and sheet cakes. The tips for parchment paper are good ones. I'm a total convert and use parchment in all my baking. Even my wonky oven and well used cookie sheets produce amazing cookies if I use parchment. I use it for everything I can now.
  19. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    This cookbook has incredible tips that truly result in cakes that need no trimming. The tips work with cake mixes as well as with cakes from scratch. I highly recommend reading it.

    Cakes from Scratch in Half the Time: Recipes that will Change the way you Bake Cakes Forever by Linda West Eckhardt

    It is available used from .

    I have used this and her other books, Dessert in Half the Time and Bread in Half the Time. They truly DO change the way you cook and do cut the time in half. I have yet to try a recipe and not have it work. I have done every recipe in the Dessert book at one time or another, so that is saying something.