Have you ever wonder why cakes dome on you? Why do cakes dome in the middle first of all? That is just physics! When the cake is being baked in the oven, heat conducts faster near the periphery of the pan, making the sides of the cake set faster. The center of the cake is still baking and continues to rise and grow. It can only push upward as there is no room for it to grow sideway. The result is a domed cake that is higher in the middle than the sides. If your oven is hot, making the surface set rapidly, the cake may even crack or rise up like a volcano!
For muffin and quick bread it would be nice to have high domes and cracks in the middle. In fact I even do that on purpose for my muffins by setting a higher initial temperature (read about my high dome muffins post here or here). But for layer cakes you will want them to be as flat as possible. Less trimming means minimal wastage. I’m glad my kids love to snack on the scrap cake pieces. In this post I am sharing with you one trick that allows you to bake flat layer cakes. It involves the use of heating core or flower nail. It solves the problem by facilitating the heat distribution of the cake pan. Heat will be transferred through the core into the center part of the cake, which is exactly what a chiffon cake pan is doing. Let me show you how.
How to Bake Flat Cake Layers
Prepare your cake pan by placing a parchment paper round on the bottom. Brush the entire heating core or flower nail with oil or butter to prevent sticking then place it flat side down in the pan. For smaller cake like the 8” in the picture below, one core will be sufficient. For larger or oblong cakes, you may need two to three. Just space them evenly in the pan.
My stainless steel heating cores are from Ateco. They look like flower nails and come in a set of 4. Flowers nails would work as well.
Your setup is done. Now preheat your oven, prepare your cake and fill the pan with batter. Tap the pan against the countertop to get rid of any air bubbles and to distribute the batter evenly. Make sure the heating core stays in the middle. Now pop the cake into the oven. For larger cakes, I set my oven temperature 25℉/10℃ lower than usual and bake a bit longer so my cake won’t brown too fast or crack on top.
My cake is done! It has risen evenly in the oven. The top didn’t brown much as I have lowered the temperature.
Let the cake rest for about 10 minutes in pan then unmold. Peel off the parchment paper from bottom of cake and remove the heating core. Continue to cool cake on the cooling rack.
Side view of my cake. Look how flat it is.
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