A pretty cake is usually a symmetrical one. And to achieve symmetry, you need a solid foundation of level cake layers.
We’ve all been there before. You take your baked cake out of the oven and are miffed to find that it’s puffed up and cracked in the center. That dreaded dome will have you spending some precious cake-decorating minutes sawing off bits of cake while aiming for a level cake. Stop the madness, I say!
I have some tricks up my sleeve for baking level cakes and I use ’em regularly. Here are my secrets.
1. Wilton Bake Even Strips
I’ve been using Wilton’s baking strips for a couple of years now and I can’t imagine baking another cake without ’em.
But I did just that to show you the difference baking strips make. See? Magic.
I bought my baking strips at Michaels (the arts and crafts store). I’ve also found ’em at Bulk Barn, Walmart and Golda’s Kitchen, so you have some options for price comparison.
Check out the customer reviews at Wilton.com if you still need some convincing before making this purchase.
A search at their site today reveals that $9 buys you two small strips for 8″ or 9″ round pans. $19 buys you a set of four strips that wrap around 10″ to 16″ round pans.
I’m big on time-management and eliminating frustration so I think they’re worth every penny.
Here’s how to use the baking strips:
- Soak the strips in a bowl of cold water.
- Take a wet strip and, starting at one end, squeeze out excess water by pressing the strip between two fingers and sliding down the length of the strip.
- Wrap the strip tightly around a cake pan and pin it in place. You’re ready to bake.
When cakes are still warm in their pans, place a clean dishtowel over the surface and use your hands to push down and smooth the top.
! Safety first: Take care not burn your fingertips, hands or wrists on hot pans or through the cloth as steam escapes from the cake as you push down. !
To reduce your risk of burns, do this step when the cakes are warm — not hot — or you could use the bottom of a clean cake pan to push down but I recommend using the dishtowel as a barrier to prevent the cake from sticking to the aluminum pan.
If your cake is super moist with a sticky top, use parchment paper as a barrier between the cake and the pan.
3. Use a knife
Using baking strips and a little pressure, I find that I rarely have to do any additional work to level a cake. But if a cake needs to go under the knife, so to speak, here’s what I learned:
- Always use a serrated knife. Position the knife’s blade parallel to the cake board.
- With a gentle sawing motion, use a turntable to rotate the cake as you saw.
- Don’t rush.
- Keep your wrist as straight as possible, and focus on gentle sawing while you use the turntable to rotate the cake, evenly moving the knife’s blade through.
- Keep turning and sawing until your knife slips through the center point all around and you’ve sliced through evenly. Discard the cut piece or smash it into crumbs and use it for decorating.
I’ve never used one of those cake-levelling contraptions but a friend of mine has, with success. Have you used a cake leveller? If so, do you think it’s worth the investment?